This was a Big Game for the New York Islanders. Make no mistakes about that fact. Whether it was game #46 and being played in January or not, in order for the Isles to give themselves a shot at playing meaningful games in February and March, they had to skate away with the 2 points.
No, it wasn’t the sort of “statement” game I would have liked to see. In fact, the Islanders came out rather sluggish and slow, as the Hurricanes carried the play and out shot the Isles. They also got the only goal in the period from Jeff Skinner, who, after just recently returning from a concussion, hadn’t scored since December 7.
However, the alarm clock seemed to go off in the locker room between periods, and the Islanders came out with a lot more fire and desperation. They put 23 shots on Cam Ward, and though a lot of those shots were from the perimeter, they were crashing the net and it was only the size of the Cane defense that probably helped Ward more than anything else.
Jon Tavares tied the game in that second frame, putting in a Mark Streit rebound. Kyle Okposo and Matt Moulson helped make the goal happen by providing solid net front presence, but it was JT getting himself to where the puck was going to be that enabled him to take out the trash.The third period was a much more conservative period. Both teams clamped down on the offensive chances and, to me, the Isles didn’t come out with the intensity they showed in the second period. There was no scoring, and the game went to overtime tied at 1.
It is amazing to me how a guy can single-handedly make a difference in a game. Yes, teams, to me, win and lose by a group effort overall, but sometimes, one guy can do it all with pure effort. John Tavares battle away in front and then ended up batting in his own rebound out of the air to win the game for the Islanders. It was the first victory for the Islanders in overtime, and an important 2 points.
As for some “blind observations” that come to mind from the game;
• JT now has the longest point streak in the NHL with 12. He has 21 points over that span, and now has 48 points in 46 games. It was nice to hear the Carolina TV broadcast, during Friday evening’s game against the Capitals, say several complimentary things about JT, acknowledging his development and skill.
• What a great rant by Howie Rose during the second period in regard to the ESPN “article” about the top 25 players under 25 in the NHL, which left out John Tavares. You can check out IPB or do a youtube search for the clip, and I don’t want to try to paraphrase his brilliant comments. However, he hit it right on the money, and the fact that he wouldn’t even mention the “writer’s” name was even more fitting … “homebound agoraphobe” ….. just good stuff, Howie.
• Matt Martin continues to impress. He rang a post on a shorthanded effort in the first period, and was, as usual, throwing the body around. It’s always entertaining to me to hear the obvious sounds of someone getting pasted into the boards and then hear Howie Rose indicate that Matt Martin just “finished his check” on some poor soul.
• The PK and power play continue to do well. Although they didn’t score a PPG, the puck movement, relentless pursuit, puck possession and shots on net were still noticeable.
• Evgeni Nabokov is simply getting the job done. Particularly in the first period, he came up Huge. Despite the juicy rebound he gave up that led to Skinner’s goal, he stopped a few break aways and kept his team in the game.
• Mark Streit is starting to look more like the Mark Streit we have come to expect and enjoy. He is skating, taking shots and making better decisions out there.
• Although Matt Moulson’s 6 game point streak ended, he was still getting in front, taking shots and contributing in the tangible ways he always brings to the game.
• The officiating was rather poor in the game. This was reflected on missed calls on both sides of the puck.
• Yeah, yeah, yeah. I know I’ve said this many times, but if we could just get a second line going even half as hot as the first line. One of the major reasons why the Islanders had so much success the last half of last season was because they got scoring from more than the JT, Moulson and Parenteau line. They desperately need that to happen, and if it does, this team will give the 8 spot a good, competitive run.
• I already mentioned JT above, but just in addition, is he simply an exciting player when he is on the ice? Behind the back passes, batting in pucks out of the air and skating through defenders. I literally find myself getting out of my chair when I hear his named called as he starts to carry the puck.
The “big games” only continue for the Isles. It is a back to back, home and home set with the Maple Leafs Monday and Tuesday nights. First, the Isles go to Toronto, and then it’s back home. We will most likely see a return of “big Cubano” for one of those games, I’m sure.
For the Islanders, they cannot let up. The must come with a start to finish, 60 minute effort and play the Leafs like they are going up against the Caps or Flyers. These are two games that are winnable, and they cannot let any of the potential 4 points get away.
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