Penguins vs. Islanders: Evgeni Nabokov continues to struggle through Game 5

Justin K. Aller

Goaltending has not been a highlight of the Eastern Conference Quarterfinal series between the Penguins and Islanders.

With all of the attention focused on the struggles of Pittsburgh Penguins goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury, his counterpart's performance has seemingly hovered below the radar.

No, Tomas Vokoun's performance in his 31-save shutout that propelled the Penguins to a 3-2 series lead against the New York Islanders in Game 5 of the Eastern Conference Quarterfinal isn't in discussion.

Islanders goaltender Evgeni Nabokov's is.

New York entered Thursday night's Game 5 tied with the heavily favored Penguins despite the play of their netminder.

While Fleury has been bad, Nabokov hasn't been much better.

In fact, in a statistical sense, he has been worse.

Nabokov has recorded an .847 save percentage through five appearances this postseason. That number is the lowest of any goaltender who has played at least three games in the playoffs. Prior to competition on Thursday night, it was actually the lowest of any goaltender in the playoffs (Montreal Canadiens goaltender Peter Budaj now claims ownership to that title after allowing six goals on 29 shots in relief of Carey Price).

Nabokov has allowed at least three goals in each game of the quarterfinal and has allowed four goals on three occasions, as well as five goals on 25 shots in Game 3. His save percentage for a single game has yet to be above .909, with the majority of his performances ending with a percentage below .871.

He has yet to face more than 33 shots in any game this series and has faced fewer than 27 shots on three occasions.

Not exactly a stunning performance by any means.

It makes sense why Fleury receives more attention for his poor play. Obviously, some of the goals he allowed in Game 4 were unbelievably bad. With that said, the Penguins are in a far different position than the Islanders.

Pittsburgh has an overwhelming amount of expectation placed upon them. It's literally championship or bust. With so little room for error, Fleury's play was the most noticeable and easily fixable impediment in the series.

However, the Islanders face a situation where they've needed to score at least four goals to remain competitive/win every game this series. No matter how you look at it, that's a daunting task.

To expect New York to supply that much production in two consecutive elimination games seems unrealistic.

Is it possible? Of course, anything is. Especially the way this series has gone. Realistically, with a roster as stacked as Pittsburgh's, the team is going to score goals. With that being said, stronger goaltending wouldn't hurt the Islanders' cause. Whether Nabokov can provide it remains to be seen.

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