The Islanders had two leads against the Phoenix Coyotes, doing their best to assure Nathan Lawson a win in his first NHL game. But a late goal in the third period from Martin Hanzal was good enough to tie the game and force OT and then the shootout, where Lawson let up all three chances without the Islanders finding the equalizer.
Despite the loss, Lawson played very well. He made 32 saves on 35 shots and did not make many mistakes. He always seemed to be square to the shooter and was quick with making passes up the ice to his teammates.
“I’ve known Nathan now for a while,” head coach Jack Capuano said after the game. “Nothing surprises me. He’s a competitive kid. He works hard. He competes. Obviously he didn’t have the luck he would like to have in the skills competition in the shootout, but five on five, five on four, they got a good unit on the power play and he made some big saves. I thought he was exceptional tonight.”
And he was, but his competitive nature wouldn’t let that satisfy him as he stormed off the ice in a hurry after Kyle Turris scored a fancy one, dropping the puck to his feet before lifting it over Lawson’s glove to seal the shootout win.
There was a lot of off-ice speculation in regards to exactly why Lawson was starting. He is technically the third-string goalie for the Sound Tigers since Kevin Poulin and Mikko Koskinen have the two goaltending jobs taken care of, and Dwayne Roloson was more than ready to go. With DiPietro given the night off due to some minor knee swelling (he is expected to start one of the two games next week so it isn’t something serious), Roloson appeared to be the obvious choice. But Lawson was called up to start, not to sit.
“It was a decision that we made,” Capuano said. “I couldn’t tell you who’s starting next game or if there will be anybody up from Bridgeport the next game. We haven’t won a lot of games here so obviously something has to change. I thought, Nathan, I’ve seen him play. And you know what I have all the confidence in him to come in here and step in. That’s why we started him. I told him before the game that it was a good opportunity for him to come in here. He was playing well in Bridgeport, and we want to ride him when he’s playing well.”
It led to a lot of trade talk being that the NHL roster freeze begins at midnight. A source had told Katie Strang of Newsday that there wasn’t a connection between the freeze and Roloson sitting on the bench, but that didn’t stop other reporters and bloggers from listening to rumors and listing the endless possibilities.
“I told Rick and Dwayne this morning when they got to the rink that as soon as they got there that Nathan is going to be walking through these doors and I’m just going to give you a heads up that Nathan Lawson is playing goal tonight.”
A simple coaching decision. However, Roloson is an impending UFA that is already 41 years old without a Stanley Cup. He could be a valuable pick up at this year’s trade deadline for a team looking for a veteran net-minder. Maybe this was an audition for Lawson to move up into Roloson’ s position at some point. Who knows? Once again, only time will tell.
But the guy can play and will give the coaching staff and management something to think about as time moves forward.