Following the New York Islanders 4-3 OT loss to the top seeded Pittsburgh Penguins on Saturday night at the Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum, after the initial shock of defeat, the Long Island faithful chanted “Let’s Go Islanders” with a certain pride that signified the crowd wasn’t officially ready to end the season.
Has it sunk in for you yet? It’s taken 48 plus hours, but I have officially recognized the end of the New York Islanders season. It’s tough to be disappointed after the Isles gave Pittsburgh all they could handle in the conference quarterfinal series, but before we move on, there are a few what if’s that have continued to bug me over the last 2 days:
“Settling” for the 8th seed – I know what you’re going to say: The New York Islanders made great strides this year and just making the playoffs was a vast improvement. This is true, but after clinching a playoff spot with a shootout loss to Carolina on April 23rd, the Isles seemed to take their foot off of the gas. Prior to their last two regular season games at Philadelphia and Buffalo, the team did not have a regulation loss in the month of April and the roster seemed to be firing on all cylinders. Resting Nabokov against the Philadelphia Flyers seemed inevitable and is tough to argue against. Let’s be honest, the guy needed a night off. But there were two other personnel decisions that I still am irked about: breaking up the Lubomir Visnovsky – Thomas Hickey pairing, and inserting Eric Boulton into the lineup. Visnovsky & Hickey were arguably the team’s best defensive pair heading down the stretch, both with the top plus minuses on the team, plus 12 and 9 respectively. Breaking up the pair just didn’t make sense. Was Visnovsky really that gassed heading into the postseason? He only played 35 games, fifth among the team’s defensemen! Bottom line, If it ain’t broke, DON’T FIX IT!
And that brings us to Eric Boulton. I hope you enjoyed your six minutes of ice time. Players like Boulton are dinosaurs and are being phased out of the game. Now that the Islanders know Kyle Okposo can throw down, lets hope Boulton never sees the ice next year.
This may just be me being overly critical, but after watching the Islanders having to play almost perfect hockey to keep up with the most talented roster in the Eastern Conference, a matchup with either Montreal or Washington would have been worth keeping the lineup intact.
The second issue that will linger a little longer than it should into the New York Islander’s offseason is the lack of adequate goaltending in the playoffs. Evgeni Nabokov was an absolute workhorse this year, and it’s tough to bash a guy after the year he’s had. The New York Islanders do not make the playoffs with anyone but Evgeni Nabokov in the net, period. Even the light debating that went on heading into game 6 was tough to support. Can the Islanders really put Kevin Poulin in the net for game 6? Nabokov earned the starts, he deserved the starts, but damn did he suck! Growing up a goaltender, I tend to view the process more than the end product (goal or save). Nabokov looked extremely shaky all series long with the exception of maybe the second half of game 2. His angles were subpar and his positional stability was never comforting. How much weight can you put into the Jarome Iginla game 1 slap shot that dented the Isles netminder’s helmet and clearly stunned him? Who knows, but Nabokov’s lack of a game changing save was sorely missed by the underdog Isles this series.