No Goals For You! Islanders 1 Flyers 0 (SO)
The Philadelphia Flyers have been frustrated all season with their inconsistent performance between the pipes.
Tonight, it was an opponent causing all the frustration.
Evgeni Nabokov stole the show with a season high 45 saves, including 16 in the third period, for his second shutout of the season and Frans Nielsen and John Tavares scored on Ilya Bryzgalov in a shootout, as the Islanders stunned the Philadelphia Flyers 1-0.
The Islanders made waves around the league with their controversial claim of Nabokov. Detroit had already signed a 1-year contract to have Nabokov join the Wings. The NHL, however, had him go through re-entry waivers before being able to sign with Detroit. The Islanders were struggling in goal and took the claim, knowing full well he may never play a game for the organization. Given the opportunity to play this season, after sitting out the rest of 2010-11, he has relished the chance and made the Islanders not regret the move.
Nabokov was solid from the get-go, something Al Montoya hasn’t provided in recent starts. He stymied two point blank shots from Scott Hartnell in the second period and somehow found a way to stop a shorthanded chance from Claude Giroux while laying on his back. In the shootout, he beat Daniel Briere to the left post with his pad and poke-checked Wayne Simmonds to steal the win.
With the victory, the Isles improved to 22-22-8. This is the latest they have been at the NHL .500 mark since March 2008.
Josh Bailey had the Islanders best chance in the overtime session after out-hustling Giroux, but he was unable to find a way past Bryzgalov. After an average effort against the Rangers on Sunday, Bryzgalov was steady in goal stopping all 18 Islanders shots.
Defensemen Dylan Reese left the game during the second period with a lower body injury. The Isles played the entire second half of the game with only five healthy defensemen. One of them, Aaron Ness, was making his NHL debut.
Tonight we start with some great news. Frans Nielsen agreed to a 4-year extension with the team worth 11 million. He is considered one of the best defensive forwards in the game and has been a key contributor for this team the past few years. Quietly, he has scored 25 points this season is 51 games. This signing shows their commitment to their young core and should be applauded.
The next order of business is getting a contract for his line-mate P.A Parenteau. Both Michael Grabner and Nielsen are signed to multi-year deals and both have benefits with the play making ability of Parenteau. If P.A was traded back to the 1st place New York Rangers tomorrow.. guess who is their new leading scorer? He has grown from a shootout specialist to someone that is a big-game player in big spots. His neutral zone plays needed to improve, but there are few players i’d rather see with the puck in the offensive zone looking to feed a scoring opportunity.
I know that John Tavares is their best player and is a world class talent, but how important is Travis Hamonic to this team? Watch the third period and tonight’s game on replay and tell me how big his loss is to this team, even for two weeks. He has played well beyond his years and is the heart and soul of their defense. Look back to the game against Pittsburgh when he received the game-misconduct for not touching Brooks Orpik. Score when Hamonic was on the ice 3-2 Islanders, both Pens goals were gifts off bad clearances. Final score without him 6-3 Pens. Hopefully he will return soon, his presence alone make this a better hockey team.
Nabokov stole two points from the Flyers tonight. All season he has given the Islanders a chance to win. The team as a whole didn’t have any jump and honestly, were outplayed start to finish. He gave them a chance to stay in the game. The longer the Islanders hang around, the more dangerous this team becomes. His compete level this season has been unreal. I would love to see him re-signed for another season to bridge the gap to Kevin Poulin. Montoya can be the back-up and give you a quality 20-25 starts with no problem. I can’t envision a situation where he gets traded at this point, especially with the team now being at .500!
Tonight’s game is something you can get away with for a game or two, but not for an extended period. If Nabokov isn’t sensational, this game could have been 5-0 Flyers. They had no jump in the offensive zone and created few, if any, quality chances on goal. The top-line was invisible for the second straight game. The Bailey line was the best offensive line tonight. If Bailey is surrounded by stronger offensive players, he will be a serious scoring threat for them going forward. Rhett Rahkshani looks overmatched at this level and hopefully we can see David Ullstrom return in his stead.
The Islanders were outshot 45-18 tonight. A 2 1/2 to 1 margin. Everything was stacked against them, no Hamonic, losing Reese to injury, having 1 1/2 NHL defensemen, and playing a team that you have beaten one time in three seasons. Difference tonight was Nabokov and only Nabokov.
Hopefully the fans will show up this week and support the team. Three perfectly winnable games against Montreal, Los Angeles, and Florida. Nine points out of the playoffs, doesn’t seem so far away.
My Twitter- Jmad814
**All photos are copyright of Cassie Madonia and are used with permission.