April 23, 2013; Raleigh, NC, USA; New York Islanders center John Tavares (91) is congratulated by teammates after his 3rd period tying goal against the Carolina Hurricanes at the PNC center. The Hurricanes defeated the Islanders 4-3 in a shoot out. Mandatory Credit: James Guillory-USA TODAY Sports

NEW YORK ISLANDERS CLINCH PLAYOFF BERTH

Use your ← → (arrows) to browse

Raleigh, NC– The New York Islanders (24-16-6, 54 pts) end their 6 year postseason drought at the same arena in which they clinched one of their few playoff  berths back with coach Steve Stirling.

The players have obviously changed since then, but the excitement has reemerged in full force around this young and exciting team, as a late 3rd period tying goal at the PNC Arena to secure the one point, and a Washington Capitals’s (26-18-2, 54 pts) victory over the Winnipeg Jets (24-20-3, 51 pts), secure a playoff appearance for the Isles.

Overlooked by many will be the sloppy, downright dreadful defensive play by the Islanders this evening, who were outmanned and outgunned for the vast majority of tonight’s contest. Evgeni Nabokov was a bit off-center as well, looking a bit insecure at times, due in large part to poor defense: blocking the shooting lanes and clearing screens to name a few. In all, the Islanders showcased a sub-par brand of play for 40+ minutes, but their resolve more than made up for their shortcomings on this most auspicious of occasions.

The New York Islanders have played some gutsy, gritty, and glorious hockey this season, and their ticket to the postseason was well earned–a just reward for an honest, hard-working, talented team destined to make their mark in the NHL. This evening’s festivities will erase all our doubts, our frustrations, and our negativity for a club and organization who were a laughing stock, the whipping boy, the punchline for many. Now this team is a legitimate force with which to reckon.

Mediocrity: that’s all that’s over, people. Done.

 

GAME RECAP

The Islanders began the first period rather sluggishly on the defensive end of things, as their inability to clear their own zone gave Carolina too many scoring opportunities early on. The Isles energy on the forecheck, however, spawned directly from the fierce play of Kyle Okposo and Frans Nielsen, who together carried the entire team on their shoulders this evening.

But the first notch was awarded to the Hurricanes, as Eric Staal and Alexander Semin play a quick give-and-go entering into the Isles zone, neutralizing Thomas Hickey inside the right slot area forcing him into a lame duck position; Staal returns the pass to a streaking Semin who already passed Hickey in the high slot area, fooling Nabokov with a quick, low wrist shot:

But as has been the case these past dozen games, these new New York Islanders answered back within minutes, as Brad Boyes deflects a Mark Streit blueline shot to notch his 10th of the season at the 6:04 mark:

If you look closely at the replay above, you’ll see that this goal only happens because Brian Strait keeps the puck inside Carolina’s zone. Without his forecheck, the Isles may very well have lost the opportunity to knot it up there. Strait’s return to the lineup will only serve to bolster his team’s play on the offensive side of the puck come playoff time.

The Islanders wasted a PP opportunity not too long after Boyes’s goal, as special teams proved non-existent on their two occasions for duty; failing to establish set plays, and continuing the sluggishness that demarcated most of the team’s effort in the contest.

With that said, the ‘Canes wouldn’t take long in capitalizing on the slopshoddiness plaguing their opponent, as Jordan Staal scores his 10th of the season as well, deflecting Jay Harrison‘s point shot, knuckle-balling it passed a screened Nabokov at the 16:20 mark of the first, and taking the momentum away from the Isles and into their lockeroom.

Period two didn’t see much of an improvement on Islander defense, as well. So it would be up to Kyle Okposo to lead the charge back into the matchup and back into relevancy with his relentless forechecking and courageous work along the boards. At the 7:34 mark of the 2nd, Okposo takes on what appeared to be the entire Carolina team, slides into the slot area, takes a shot, and Josh “Johnny-on-the-spot” Bailey sends the puck into the mesh for yet another tying goal:

But the Isles would rest on their heels after that marvelous play by Okposo and Bailey, as the game began to open up some more and the rink seemed to aggrandize for the ‘Canes.

The second period was three minutes or so from ending in a 2-2 tie, but a severe miscalculated bodycheck by Andrew MacDonald on Tuomo Ruutu allowed for Carolina to enter the Isles’s zone and create a quick scoring opportunity. Jordan Staal‘s shot is partial blocked in front of Nabokov, but a driving and unmarked Patrick Dwyer finds the loose puck and buries it inside a virtually empty net, as Nabokov was unable to reposition himself in time.

For 40+ minutes, the combined efforts of Okposo, Nielsen, Bailey accounted for most, if not all, of the Isles’s energy and puck cycling tonight, and although the Isles were anything but lackluster, they were very much off their game. And we all must thank lady luck for the third period and its fortuitous outcome.

The Isles would pick up their intensity in the third, but Dan Ellis and his defense proved stingy throughout, as New York would come knocking but to no avail. Ellis would face 39 SOG at the end of it all, and played one of his better games of the season. But as time rolled on, the momentum began to go in New York’s favor and opportunities and a bit of good karma paid the Isles a much needed visit.

Tuomo Ruutu could’ve ended the Isles’s chances of clinching the postseason 12 and half minutes into the third, as he clanked the puck off the crossbar, the glaring and yawning open net standing there agape, staring as if mocking the hapless ‘Canes forward. The story of the Hurricanes season summed up in one colossal miss: a day late, a buck short. Good that these types of misses and misfortunes visit other teams for a change.

Suffice to say that Ruutu’s miss (a la the infamous Black Cat for the ’69 NY Mets) proved to be all the luck the Isles needed, as five minutes later, John Tavares, with help once again from Kyle Okposo, as well as Matt Moulson, (and back in their own zone, Nabokov, who’s sprawling save started it all) ties it up and sends the Isles to the OT and then to the Stanley Cup Playoffs:

The Islanders would lose in the shootout, and go to the locker room to await the result of the Caps-Jets game.

Several minutes later the news came that Washington had scored the empty netter, and the die was cast.

The New York Islanders return to the grand stage of hockey.

Kudos, boys. Kudos.

–RD

NOTES

  • Arthur Staple, Newsday reporter for the Islanders, was on MSG+ for the pregame. And he talked trophies: [paraphrasing here]: Consideration for Frans Nielsen as Selke recipient; Tavares as strong candidate for Hart; Casey Cizikas [darkhorse] for Calder; Capuano should be considered for Adams
  • Brian Strait is my unsung hero for the evening. His work along the boards produced a timely goal. Great to see him back.
  • The New York Rangers lost tonight; thus far my predictions (check my articles and see if I’m lying) have come to fruition: I said to you all “Watch the Caps” and they now sit in 3rd awaiting what looks like the Isles themselves. I now say, watch and see how the Devils get their revenge on the Rangers by the close of the week.
  • What do you think Islander country: shall we take Nabby for that steak dinner or what?

——————————————————————————————————————————————————————————————-

EYESONISLES will be rolling out some solid pieces on the playoffs this coming weekend, as well as two new dedicated posts–‘Dump & Chase’ {released today–here it is for your reading pleasure D&C} and a post dedicated to stats for all you number theory junkies out there. Keep it here.

Go to the Android store and download our very own APP; for iPad and iPod users, check out the official FANSIDED app and get all our updates, etc.

In addition, EYESONISLES will release a reading/posting schedule so you don’t miss a minute, a syllable, anything Islanders postseason.

Again, thanks for reading us. We loved writing every bit of it. NOW ONTO THE PLAYOFFS!

Use your ← → (arrows) to browse

Tags: Frans Nielsen John Tavares Kyle Okposo New York Islanders NHL Playoffs

comments powered by Disqus