First let me just say that my colleague, Paul’s post on his assessment of the New York Islanders at the halfway mark is a great read. He did steal some of my “thunder” that I was going to insert into my “blind observations” part of this post, but he only confirms many of my own thoughts and reactions to how this season has gone. Yes, therapy is, indeed, something I feel we, as Islander fans, often need following and supporting this team.
Yesterday afternoon, the Washington Capitals came into town, and they had been scoring goals a plenty. I will admit that I had my concerns about this potentially turning into a 6-5 or 7-6 affair. Alex Ovechkin has certainly lit up the Isles in the past a few times, so I approached this game with a bit of apprehension as to what to expect.
The Isles got the first goal of the game from Josh Bailey, who has been playing pretty well since his return from his knee injury. In fact, the line of Bailey, Okposo and Nielsen has been getting their offensive opportunities and cashing them in as well. I think Bailey ended up with 5 shots on net and Kyle had 3 by game’s end.
The Caps would tie the game in the second period on another of those unfortunate deflections that sometimes occur when a defenseman ends up scoring on his own goaltender. Travis Hamonic seems to be going through one of those stretches in which his shin pads and skates are his own worst enemies, as the goal from the visitors bounced off of his skate. It’s one of those things that happens, though I’m sure that it probably does bother a guy who takes pride so much in his game as Hamonic does. However, as my father is fond of saying, this too shall pass.Casey Cizikas gave the Isles a 2-1 lead by the end of the second period, but the Capitals would knot the game up again in the third. I guess, at that point, I found myself holding my breath as the, “here we go again” feeling started to rise within me another time. Yes, the Islanders went into the final period with a lead again, only to have the opposition tie up the game. How would the boys respond this time?
Well, John Tavares took over on the power play. Without a doubt, the Caps proceeded to take some foolish penalties, and the Isles took advantage of those mistakes. JT got the next two goals, though the second one wasn’t initially counted and play continued for about 3 minutes before Matt Moulson scored to then have Tavares’s goal reviewed and awarded to him. Moulson lost his goal, but he did pick up a helper on JT’s 2nd goal of the game. Frans Nielsen would give the Islanders a 5-2 lead shorthanded to solidify the home team the victory.
It was, as far as I am concerned, a Huge win for the Islanders, who closed out their 7 game home stand with a 3-2-2 record and a 3-0-2 record over their last 5 games. It was certainly a nice rebound considering how the home stand started to look for the blue and orange after dropping the first two games.
As for some “blind observations”, I offer the following:
• John Tavares scored his 100th career goal. Not only is this a great accomplishment simply because he is an Islander and a truly gifted and talented hockey player. It is also Well Deserved because of the classy and good guy JT is. For a 22 year old, he possesses a poise and maturity that is quite impressive, and his low key nature when it comes to personal achievements is commendable. He is a guy you want as the “face” of your organization, and I cannot express in words, as a fan how fortunate I feel that we have him in the fold. Congratulations, JT, as I know you will have several more 100 goals to add to that total.
• I mentioned how well the Nielsen, Bailey and Okposo line has been playing, but let us not forget the “energy” line of Martin, Cizikas and McDonald. Those guys have been doing all the little things and, more importantly, the Right things. Contributions on offense only is icing on the cake.
• What a great interview between Evgeni Nabokov and the Maven after the game. Beside the fact that Nabokov played extremely well, he gives great interviews. My my …..
• Did Alex Ovechkin have a truly bad game or was it just me? I certainly don’t like to “criticize” a guy of that talent and I believe Alex to still be among the best in the NHL, but he was victimized quite a bit by the Islanders.
• It is nice to see Andrew MacDonald and Travis Hamonic starting to recapture their forms from last season. They went through a bit of a rough patch, but they are, indeed, the “shut down” pair of the Islanders for years to come.
• The Isles reached the .500 mark with their win, 11-11-3, and are just a point out of a playoff spot. Yes, it is “Ground Hog” day again, folks. Once again, they are knocking on the door to taking steps forward and breaking out of mediocrity. It is all about confidence and …. dare I say … Consistency. The Isles need to keep learning to win and doing so when it counts. They bounced back from a horrible start to the home stand and could have beaten the Rangers on Thursday. When they play their system and put in a sixty minute effort, they can beat the best of teams and can run with the 8 pack at the top of the conference. However, it is a matter of establish that consistency and confidence and earning the 2 points each night.
• To turn for a moment to the Ranger game, I must slightly disagree with Butch Goring. I don’t think the officiating in the Ranger game was “fair”. I am all for allowing teams to play, but the officiating must be like the ice … the same for both teams. If you are going to let the guys play and, for example, Rick Nash take down Kyle Okposo with what should have been a blatant call, Michael Grabner should not be called for a questionable penalty in the overtime of a hockey game. I’m sorry, but I’d have been using my share of colorful language after the game as well … this on top of a crappy officiated game prior to that against the Canadians.
Tonight, the Islanders face the Penguins in the Steel City. The Penguins played last night and won in overtime, beating the Leafs 5-4 and almost blowing the contest in the third period. This will be another test for the Isles. However, with a team like Crosby and Malkin This is another of those “must win” games, and 2 big points they can earn. and company, if the Islanders don’t come to play, they can be embarrassed. The Islanders played a solid 60 minutes in Pittsburgh on national television once before, so I believe they certainly can skate away breaking the .500 mark by night’s end.
Please follow me on Twitter, @hockeyblindside