NHL Thoughts & Theories 2/9/12
NEW YORK– By Daniel Friedman
1) If Rangers goalie Henrik Lundqvist is the best goaltender in the Atlantic Division, I’d say that Islanders netminder Evgeni Nabokov’s right behind him. Nabokov was lights-out against the Flyers on Tuesday night, making 45 saves and literally stealing a hockey game for the Islanders.
I’m of the opinion that, as long as the Isles aren’t too far out of the hunt, Nabokov’s not getting traded anywhere. That’s not what the media seems to think, but it wouldn’t be the first time they were wrong about something. Between Rick DiPietro’s health issues, Al Montoya’s recent concussion and the fact that youngster Kevin Poulin needs to get his starts down in Bridgeport (AHL), the Isles are better off keeping Nabokov than trading him for a second or third-round pick, which is less than he’s worth. And besides, the Islanders are in this playoff race, whether anyone wants to believe that or not. When you have a hot goaltender, you ride that wave as long as possible, and right now that’s the best course of action.
2) Yes, the Rangers were screwed over by the referees the other night. Marian Gaborik’s late-late third period goal should have counted because he was pushed into goalie Martin Brodeur by Devils defenseman Anton Volchenkov. Having said that, it doesn’t excuse the fact that, until the final five seconds of the game, New York could not find a way to score on a subpar defensive team like New Jersey. The Rangers were sleepwalking until the third period and, quite frankly, were lucky to only trail by a single tally. Offensive production has been pretty hard to come by for the Blueshirts these days, and if they aspire to go anywhere past the first round of the playoffs, they better engineer a solution to this problem, and fast.
3) This upcoming Winter Classic will either be a smashing success or a colossal failure. The prospect of 150,000 fans at an NHL outdoor game is very exciting and has to have the league and network brass salivating uncontrollably. However, including the Leafs could negatively affect NBC TV ratings. Given that the event’s generally been a hit, this is an experiment both sides can afford to try. Worst case, it doesn’t work and next year, they go back to staging the Classic between to American-based teams. It all depends on how many people tune in to watch.
4) Sam Gagner’s eight-point night for Edmonton came out of nowhere and the kid hasn’t stopped producing since. Fantasy owners snatched him up faster than free samples in an ice cream shop, but expectations need to be severely tempered. It would be irrational to demand that Gagner keep scoring at this pace, because he’s just not a star-caliber hockey player. He will level off. I do, however, believe that Gagner can be a top-six forward in the NHL and a good one too. He’s not Wayne Gretzky, though. Let’s not get carried away.