Kukla's Korner Hockey
by Paul on 04/17/13 at 10:13 AM ET
By Eli Epstein of TiqIQ,
To hockey diehards, from the New York area or outside of it, the New York Islanders are this season’s feel good story. The franchise, which hasn’t been to the playoffs since 2006 and advanced beyond the first round since 1993, was again pegged by many at the beginning of the season to finish at the bottom of the Atlantic Division, behind perennial contenders like the Devils, Penguins and Rangers.
The Islanders never got that memo. After beating the Panthers Tuesday night, they’re 22-16 and sit in sixth place, three points ahead of the eighth place Rangers. A rebuilding process in Long Island that began with drafting scoring phenom John Tavares first overall in the 2009 draft is beginning to reap dividends for the Isles. The Ontario-born center is joined upfront by Brad Boyes and Matt Moulson, who together form one of the NHL’s most underrated lines.,
When talking about the Islanders’ surprising success this year, you’d be remiss not to mention the unexpectedly stellar play of veteran goaltender Evgeni Nabokov, who only came in after “franchise goalie” Rick DiPietro imploded and was sent to Bridgeport. Nabokov has been a rock in net for the team on Long Island, posting a 2.50 GAA and keeping the Islanders in close games with the East’s top teams.
Thursday night, the Islanders engage the Toronto Maple Leafs in a pivotal matchup to move up the Eastern Conference standings as the season dies down. Tickets to the game are currently averaging $239 for the game, according to TiqIQ. Those prices are down 16 percent this week. Normally, Maple Leafs tickets at the Air Canada Centre home average is $247, which makes their skate versus the Isles three percent below average. According to TiqIQ, “get-in” rates are still available to Thursday night’s game for $137.
Going into the matchup, Toronto had been playing exceedingly well, going 7-1-2 before the Capitals handed them a 5-1 shellacking Tuesday night. It helps when two of the team’s young prospects--Nazem Kadri and James van Riemsdyk--have blossomed into bona fide superstars. Additionally, Kadri plays a tremendous game at both ends of the ice, quickly molding himself into a future Selke Award candidate. On the penalty kill, the Leafs have remained stingy, squandering only 16 powerplay goals this year, which makes them the second best penalty killing team in the league.
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