UNIONDALE, N. Y. — The New York Islanders move within three points of a possible playoff spot yesterday, behind the Philadelphia Flyers, with an OT shootout win over the struggling but nevertheless persistent Ottawa Senators.
Before we delve into the game recap, let’s quickly remind ourselves that if the Islanders are to learn anything about this frenetic and protean season in the time that’s left, it can be epitomized up by those same Flyers they’re chasing down. Two weeks ago, right around the time Claude Giroux (pay attention Mark Streit) called out his team, the Flyers were cellar dwellers in the Eastern Conference; if not definite residences of it, very close to being dead last in the standings.
Fast forward to today, and we have a Flyers team poised to make a run if they can continue to string together some wins.
Another lesson soon to be learned comes in the form of the Chicago Blackhawks, a catch-22 sort of team at present, because it’s either a case of plateauing early and thereby becoming a one-and-done post-season team, or steam-rolling their way to Lord Stanley. Either way, the Hawks must decide who they are pretty soon, but rest assured carrying the weight of a point streak in any direction is a burden most teams could do without. (Before you lambast me, let it be known that EVERY team would rather have the onerous task of upholding a winning streak than the opposite, of course. But a streak is a streak is a streak, and it weighs heavily upon one’s conscience.)
So, the Islanders have some glaring examples of just how to behave or just what to do exactly in order to make a post-season run: Philly teaches them that anything is possible, even a good road trip that puts one atop or within striking range of a viable spot within the conference, while the Hawks demonstrate what it takes to keep a streak alive, the cost of which has yet to rear its head. If the Isles are paying attention, they’d come to the conclusion that they’re in a better position than they might think. Believe it or not.
Better to play under the radar and sneak into the playoffs, then have the entire hockey world staring at you or coming at you with all they got simply to knock you off, awakening you from the stupor only a points streak such as the Hawks’s engenders.
Lastly, two important facts about the Hawks’s current run:
- To quote my Fansided brethren Billy Bryson (over at Causeway Crowd), there are no shootouts in the playoffs. The Hawks, from a purist standpoint, aren’t even close to resembling the brilliant play of Pete Peeters (remember him, Isles fans? ha. I’m going somewhere with this…pay attention) and his Flyers of 1979-1980 and their 30+ point streak that saw them the heavy favorites to win Lord Stanley that season. No shootouts or regular season OT that year.
- In 1979-1980 the New York Islanders won the cup. Food for thought. (I’d rather not have a team streak, just win enough to gain entrance and the necessary confidence to do what the Isles did in ’79-’80 OR what the L.A. Kings did just several months ago.
My hat goes of the Senators, who although sluggish and sloppy most of the evening have earned my respect as one of the more resilient teams in the NHL. They are down, count them, SEVEN players as of last night; the latest being Mike Lundin, concussed by the Flyers’s Harry Zolnierczyk, who has since been suspended four games for the hit.
John Tavares played sick yesterday, but his linemate Brad Boyes answered the call early, notching his 5th of the year at the 7:48 mark of the first, coming off an odd-man rush started by Mark Streit deep in the Islanders’s zone; Boyes caught goalie Robin Lehner cheating a bit in the crease enough for the Isles’s forward to snap in the first goal of the contest:
The period would end with the Isles leading on the scoreboard, hits, and SOG, and taking full advantage of a weary Senators squad who were playing their 3rd game in 4 nights.
But the Senators would quickly capitalize on miscues and poor backchecking by the Isles’s defense in the second, as Mika Zibanejad ties it up on a clever line change while his team was deep in the offensive zone–a charging Zibanejad glided into the slot area and scooped up an incredibly poor clearing attempt by Travis Hamonic, giving the Sens the tie at the 8:36 mark of the second:
Hamonic would commit another grave error later in third that would also cost the Islanders the lead, as this defenseman is hoping for better days in the near future. And in his ‘defense’, he’s shown himself to be a valuable asset on D earlier in the year, but when you’re plumb out of luck, you’re going to have days like this one.
Period 2 would remained tied, and by the close of it, the Islanders showed very little creativity and gumption on their Power Play, finishing 0-5 for the day. Something of a issue coaches are sure to address before the Habs pay them a visit tomorrow; if not, what with the inconsistencies on 5-on-5, the Isles aren’t leaving themselves many options from which to build confidence.
Michael Grabner would break the deadlock at 16:31 of the third, with a goal that almost mirrored that of Zibanejad’s, positioning the Islanders within 3m+ of a regulation time victory at home.
But as mentioned earlier, a Patrick Wiercioch point shot was deflected by Hamonic, beating a stunned Evgeni Nabokov; Sens were on a power play at the time, due in large part to the unnecessary tripping penalty caused by Kyle Okposo. Kyle, if you’re reading this, unless you’re on the Kobra Kai’s never “sweep the leg,” especially if you’re team is up by 1.
Overtime saw some great 4-on-4 action, and the Sens were impressive with their brand of energy and fight. The Isles brandished 5 SOG in OT, but to no avail, setting up the drama for an OT shootout. And I don’t know if it’s bias or what, but of all the teams in the NHL I want the Islanders in a shootout if I were a betting man.
Frans Nielsen continues to be cold-blooded in these circumstances, as he notches the first goal; Boyes missed; but it is John Tavares with the game winner. Can you say Datsyuk? (Forsberg more like it)–Good day to you.
Follow Rich Diaz @eyesonisles
- Keep an Eye out for Scotty Bonner’s pre/post game commentary for the upcoming Habs matchup at the Coliseum