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|7 ноября 2006 года.
Isles fortunes tied to Yashin's success
Just watching him on the ice he seems as if he is reborn.
Midway through the first period of Monday night's contest with Tampa Bay, Alexei Yashin had the puck skating into the offensive zone, against the boards, on the left side. We have grown accustomed to the captain taking a stride towards the center of the ice and unleashing a wrist shot, but this time was different. He patiently began his move to the middle, however, this time instead of shooting he began avoiding two Lightning defenders by embarking on a beautiful spin-o-rama, which not only created a wonderful scoring opportunity, but drew the Islander fans out of their seats with oohs and aahs.
Yashin didn't score, but it was more evidence of number 79's resurgence this season. He is playing relaxed. Not gripping his stick tightly and certainly not unloading the puck early because of self doubt.
Yes, the old Yashin appears to be back.
In games that the Islanders have earned points via wins, shootout losses or overtime losses, Yashin has been superb, collecting four goals and ten assists for fourteen points in those contests. However, in six losses, Yashin only has one goal and two assists for three points.
Jason Blake has been great riding shotgun all season, but Viktor Kozlov, who looked as if he could be the perfect fit on Yashin's other wing, has not particularly panned out, as he was benched versus Tampa for most of the game. Chris Simon, who is known more for his brute than for his scoring prowess replaced Kozlov for parts of the last game Monday night; however, despite being set up several times by Yashin, Simon was unable to convert.
The biggest difference affecting Yashin's game is the ambiance Coach Ted Nolan has brought to Long Island. It was quite clear that Yashin was never too comfortable with either of the past two coaches in Steve Stirling and Peter Laviolette, and his play reflected his comfort level.
Nolan's policy of optional game day skates is just a glimpse of how he respects his players. He trusts the team in what they have to do to prepare on the day of a game, but Yashin doesn't take advantage of his superstar status as so many athletes do, and he is there at most morning skates. Even if he is on the ice for fifteen minutes, he is there, fine-tuning his game. Then after removing his equipment, it's not out of the ordinary for him to spend as much as an hour fine-tuning his sticks for that night's game.
"The one thing about Alexei is that what I've heard and what he is, are totally different things. I've never met a classier individual in my life. I've met a lot of sports people but he's top notch," said Nolan.
In a division featuring four of five teams that have played close to .500 hockey, and has failed to produce a team that has developed any superiority over the others, the Islanders have a legitimate chance at winning the Atlantic division; however, the way things are shaking out it seems as if, if they do not win the division, they will be in a dog-fight just to make the playoffs. It will be up to Yashin to lead this team back to the playoffs after missing them last season.
A big plus for Yashin is that his coach has confidence in him in all situations, including killing penalties. In a league filled with penalties, Yashin felt that he was festering on the bench too long while the Isles were killing penalties last season.
"Killing helps me stay in the game. It keeps me ready. Every shift I'm ready to play instead of missing a big chunk of the game. I'm playing more consistently," said Yashin.
Nolan has only been positive in referring to Yashin.
"Alexei is on our number one power play and our number one line," said Nolan.
Yashin, who had only 66 points last season, is looking to have a career-best season this year. He is on pace to have a career-best 99 points, and a whopping 392 shots on goal, However it's still early.
One thing is certain. For the Islanders to succeed, Yashin will have to produce.