Middletown, N. J. – The Islanders are very much alive in their chase for a playoff berth, which would be the first the organization has seen since 2007. They awake this morning after losing to the Capitals in Washington last night 2-1 in a shootout, a point being made possible by the continued outstanding play of the second unit Frans Nielsen, Kyle Okposo and most certainly Josh Bailey.
After John Tavares continued his slump by stickhandling right into the pads of Braden Holtby, fans were alive on social media lamenting the play of right wing Brad Boyes. Boyes was second to shoot in the ridiculous skills competition and proceeded to deke Holtby back to New York, only to lose the puck off his stick as it slide harmlessly into the corner. Islanders nation is demanding that Brad be removed from the top unit and shipped back to Buffalo in a box containing only one air hole for him to breathe. I disagree.
The entire first line has had its focus shifted directly onto them with the playoff chase heating up, which has caused their play to steadily decline over the past couple of weeks. Franchise cornerstone Tavares continues to be hot on the trail of the Bolts’s Steven Stamkos for the league lead in goals, only two behind at 23 and is coming off a 8-3-11 line in 14 March games.
But you can tell the savior himself has been off his game at both ends of the rink. Matt Moulson had 1 goal in March over 14 games. That’s right, one. He has only 2 goals in his last 17 games. Boyes posted 4-8-12 over 14 March games, his best offensive monthly output in his short tenure wearing the blue and orange and over an 82 game season would be averaging 17-45-62.
Those are pretty good numbers for a player making only 1 million dollars on a ‘prove it’ deal signed before the start of the abbreviated season. In fact, those numbers are comparable to the departed PA Parenteau, who left for greener pastures in Colorado. You could also make the case that Boyes is stronger on the boards and corners than PA, who in this writer’s opinion, had very deceiving statistics that skewed his true overall value.
Boyes is not at fault for the first line’s falter. As the games get tougher and teams are more content to grind it out rather than open it up, attention was predictably going to shift to additional coverage on that unit in every coach’s pre-game speech. The trio has to find a way to fight through it, Tavares included. Last night was a very frustrating game for the Isles leader, getting tossed and harassed all game long by the Caps in what clearly was a well executed game plan. Instead of responding on the score sheet, JT mixed it up with Troy Brouwer and Jack Hillen, then skated slowly towards the bench to retrieve a replacement stick during an Isles power play in the 3rd period. That effectively turned a 5 on 4 into a 4 on 4 for a good 30 seconds.
John is my favorite Islander and will be the face of this franchise for a long time. His work ethic during the off-season is becoming legendary and his desire to get better is unparalleled. He will earn every cent and more of his extension that he signed to remain on Long Island. So this is not to bash him, but to merely state the obvious. The toll of the shortened season, without a training camp, along with extra minutes he has played this season when other lines were not producing, could be taking their toll.
With 10 games to play, and each of them extremely important, it is time for the Islanders leaders to play as such. To step up their game to levels they have never had to before. The belief here at eyesonisles is that they will do just that. This team is ready to enter the dance, grab invaluable playoff experience and jump to the next level. Whether Barry Melrose or the analysts over at ESPN want to take notice or not is totally up to them. But to continue to dismiss this team as doormats is not only irresponsible reporting, it is just not accurate.
View from the Lighthouse
* Good quote this morning from head coach Jack Capuano on what has made the Islanders successful recently in their quest….
Capuano: We’re trying to play basic, high intensity hockey. Trying to tilt the ice and we’ve done a good job at that lately. #Isles
— NYIslanders (@NYIslanders) April 5, 2013
* Isles had their annual picture day today at the Coliseum, a fun time to relax, unwind a little and take a breather before taking the ice tomorrow against Tampa Bay.
* This sums up how every Islanders fan should feel at the present moment.
Whether they make the playoffs or not, you cannot tell me the 2013 #Isles didn’t take a quantum leap. They’ve shown a ton of progress.
— Daniel Friedman (@DFriedmanNHL) April 5, 2013
* In 2 games at Bridgeport, Islanders center of the future Ryan Strome has 1 goal and 3 assists playing on a line with Brock Nelson.
* For all you pugilists out there, here is another look at why Matt Martin is so beastly.
Keep pushing the message out there that we have returned, whether Ranger or Devil fans want to hear it. Look for our pre-game tomorrow right here at eyesonisles and have a great start to your weekend!
Thanks for reading.
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