If there was a part of the game of the New York Islanders from last season that needed to be “fixed”, it was their home record. The Isles were a much better road team and honestly looked different when they played at home. As my colleague, Paul, indicated, they did get better later in the season, but the bottom line is home is where the points should be collected.
So, a 3-2 lead was blown in the game against Buffalo to a team that hadn’t won a game this season. Yes, the Islanders did get an important point, but that should have been 2 points. As mentioned before, too many times last season, the Islanders blew leads, and I have been getting that reoccurring nightmare feeling this season a bit too much. As I have often mentioned, the Islander teams of old had that “killer instinct”, as Al Arbour used to term it. The Isles of today need to somehow gain that trait and keep it for good.
Fortunately, though, last night, the Isles played a solid 59 minutes and 52 second game. For 8 little seconds, they had a lapse, and that cost them two goals by Taylor Hall. The end result didn’t reflect this fact, but that game could have been a case of that lapse costing them 2 points in the standings. Unlike Tuesday, though, they played a strong third period, and both outshot the Oilers and outplayed them.
What also is a positive sign to me is the offense. It has not been a case of John Tavares being counted on to do everything. I will get a bit more into this in my “blind observations”, but contributions are coming from others in the lineup.So, without further delay, here are some of my “blind observations” from both Tuesday and Thursday nights games:
• If Cal Clutterbuck and Matt Martin play their style of hockey every night, it is going to be an added dimension for the Isles that will significantly help them, especially in their division. It has been good to see the physical play return. It was, as Gary pointed out, probably the major reason why they kept the speed of the Oilers in check. You have to slow down fast teams with hitting, and even though the Isles lost in the shootout on Tuesday, I was happy that the hitting tempo had picked up and continued last night.
• Islanders Point Blank did a
great story on Frans Nielsen.
It has been something I have said a number of times in how Nielsen is underrated and under valued by a lot of hockey people. His goal he scored on Tuesday was simply a fantastic shot. The combination of Nielsen, Grabner and Bailey has been a solid one for the Isles.
• JT keeps on doing what …. JT does best. Another game winning goal and another on the power play. It is Exactly what the Isles need from him.
• Some ask the question who is that guy wearing #12 for the orange and blue out there? I have always believed that Josh Bailey had the talent and skill to be a scorer and a valuable part of the core of the Islanders. He just needed his confidence to build. I believe we are seeing just why the Islanders traded down to grab him.
• Special teams will help or hurt a hockey team in the long run. Right now, the PK and the PP are working well for the Islanders. These are factors that need to continue. A team does not have to have the #1 power play or penalty kill in the NHL to win it all, but being able to score the timely goals and kill off the important shorthanded situation will go a long way towards being a winner.
• Evgeni Nabokov is looking like the Nabby at the top of his game. The key, as I suggested earlier on is finding the balance. Kevin Poulin is going to be needed to start games, and if he gets some playing time in, it will Keep Nabokov fresh and enable him to maintain the form we have been seeing thus far.
• I, like Gary, am a Matt Donovan fan. I want this guy to succeed and I am happy to say that he played well last night. I stand by my earlier opinion that he will be an important part of the blue line for the Isles for years to come.
• I think it is fairly safe to say that Kyle Okposo will not be suffering from the early season slumps of previous seasons. Again, I do not hide the fact that I am a fan of Kyle’s, and I feel that he will be an important contributor to the offense this season.
• I often seem to fall out of the proverbial tree when I go out on a limb with my opinions, but I will dare to say that the signing of Pierre-Marc Bouchard will show its value to fans as this season passes. I recall how good this guy was on the Wild when he was healthy, and I think as he plays more games and adjusts to the Islander system, he will demonstrate why he was a 60 plus point guy in the past.
• Andrew Mac-Donald HAS TO be signed for the long term here. It’s plain and simple.
The home stand continues on Saturday with a visit from the Hurricanes. The Isles need to pick things up where the left off from the third period last night. Will we see Nabby between the pipes again, or will Jack Capuano turn to Kevin Poulin? I am not really sure who we will see, but regardless, it is another valuable 2 points the New York Islanders shoot be aiming to earn.
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