Kukla's Korner Hockey
by lsefton on 09/12/11 at 07:07 PM ET
What are the Islanders getting from Nabokov?
Nabokov is going to play for the Islanders this season, and he’s showing off his new mask. He’s keeping with the same theme on his mask, with the swamp zombie skull head, only this time the swamp zombie is done up in Islanders colors. The question is, after most of last season off, will Nabokov be fresh, healed, and ready to play, or is he liable to find himself stale?
The Islanders have to know that at some time this season, Nabokov is going to be their #1 goalie. I’m not sure how many parts are left on Di Pietro that can break, sprain, or otherwise sideline him, but one of them is likely going to go "spung" before the season is over. So, what will the Islanders be getting with Nabokov?
His stats say he’s 6 ft tall, and 200 lbs. His stats have said that for the past 10 years. He’s not 6 ft tall unless they are measuing him in his goalie skates, and I don’t know where the 200lbs came from, other than lead weights in his pockets. Likely closer to 5 ft 10 and 180 lbs.
Nabokov likes to direct traffic. He’ll let the defense know where he wants them and when. He’ll give directions for carrying the puck out, how he wants the payers lined up on a faceoff, and typically act as a on-ice sargeant for the rest of the team. He’ll talk to his players, the opposing players, and all the officials. And oh yeah—don’t block the puck. Actually, I can guess that more than a few defensemen will be just as happy that they don’t have play goalie without pads. Nabokov will let any player who suddenly decides they need to get into the line of fire to get out of the line of fire, now.
Nabokov is used to crappy boards. The boards in San Jose were legendary for bizarre bounces, random dead spots, and general misbehavior. I don’t think the Nassau Coliseum can throw anything at him that he hasn’t seen before. See above for ice conditions—San Jose ice conditions were pretty random over the past
He’s also been more than a workhorse, which was great in years when San Jose wasn’t sure about their backup, and not so great in years when there was a reliable backup who needed to be kept fresh. One of the hits on Nabokov that is he was so intent on getting the games and minutes in during the regular season, that he was too tired for the playoffs. There was dedinitely a creep in GAA and save percentage in the playoffs over his last two seasons with the Sharks. One of the reasons he was let go was because it was felt he couldn’t come up with the "big game" n the playoffs. Nabokov now has a chance to prove the Sharks wrong, and if the Islanders manage to make it into the Stanley Cups Playoffs, they’ll be thrilled.
The Islanders are also getting a 36 year old goalie with a history of back issues. As long as you see Nabokov playing with a swayback, he’s probably okay. If his back starts to arch when he goes into his crouch, his lower back is telling him sad, sad stories. Nabokov’s tendency to push his way through to keep his playing time up will keep him from properly healing, which I think has been one of the factors of his "tiredness" in the playoffs. He’s also been more likely to let in that goal—the one you think h should have blocked, and the one that changes the complexion of the game.
Nabokov’s also had difficulty adjusting to playing without his goalie coach, and in a lot of ways, mentor, Warren Strelow. Nabokov is going to need a pro-active goalie coach, and one that understands how to finetune Nabokov into the best goalie Nabokov can be. This means someone who can watch for Nabokov falling slightly out of sync before it becomes a major issue, and who knows enough to not try to fit Nabokov into a specific mold. This may be a fairly tricky endeavor on the Islanders part.
Overall, it’s good to see Nabokov back in the saddle, and the Islanders should be a lot better for having Nabokov around.
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Paul Kukla founded Kukla’s Korner in 2005 and the site has since become the must-read site on the ‘net for all the latest happenings around the NHL.
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