I am a firm believer in that title, always have and many agree. As I’ve talked to a few Penguins fans here in Pa both sides tend to agree on the same point: whichever goaltender gets hot from here on out will win this series. But for the Islanders, I believe the mental aspect of Nabokov’s game is not in question. What we’ve seen from the defense of the Islanders are some bad penalties, and yes some questionable if not bad officiating. In my humble opinion to the fans of Pittsburgh, Fleury is still remembering his collapse from last year. In the first game of this series, the Penguins looked like and showed that they were ready for a Cup run. The Islanders never really showed up. Since game one, it’s been all New York Islanders and even the smarter fans in Pittsburgh know it. The Islanders have attacked Fleury at every angle, coming in hard and scoring when they can. These are not the basement dwellers Fleury is used to seeing anymore and with the amount of goals being scored the last two games (7 given up by Fleury), one has to wonder if history is repeating itself and the Islanders have quickly gotten into his head and continues to be out of sync? the answer an unquestionable YES! From what we’ve seen so far, it looks like the offense may have to save Fleury in this series.
Nabokov’s numbers are actually worse. A 4.77 goals against average and a .836 save percentage is not what Islanders fans come to expect from the future Hall of Famer. I would like to defend however that these stats for him are misleading. The Islanders have given the Penguins the opportunity to go 46% on the powerplay. You don’t need to be a season ticket holder to know that percentage will kill you in any series. After game three’s fiasco where the officials basically gave a powerplay opportunity in overtime to the Penguins, the Islanders must play a basic yet effective (hitting included) defensive system to at least enable Nabokov a good view of the puck when it’s being shot at him.
After carefully watching these last two games, it should be fairly easy to tell by the end of the first period which goaltender is mentally prepared for this game. A win by the Islanders who can lean on multiple players like Kyle Okposo, and John Tavares will be beneficial, but if they can lean on there goaltender from here on out, that would be crucial. As always an OLE Barn packed with Islanders fans chanting “Nabby…Nabby” won’t hurt either. For more reasons why this is an important game, just click HUGE.
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