PHILADELPHIA, PA– A downright atrocious team effort cost the New York Islanders (24-17-6, 54 pts) two valuable points and the 6th seed in the Eastern Conference, as they lose a yawner to the Philadelphia Flyers (22-22-3) at the Wells Fargo Arena by a score of 2 to 1. The Isles are handed their first loss for the month of April, the last six periods of hockey pale in comparison to the brilliant run leading into this most crucial of weeks.
As of this post, the New York Rangers leapfrogged the Isles in the standings, and if the playoffs were to begin tomorrow, the Isles would see the Boston Bruins, while their cross-town rivals face off against the Washington Capitals. The Isles are 1-2 against Boston this season, and Boston are the bigger and tougher team of the two–a potential 7 game series would mean the Isles would be forced to play size (Matt Carkner and Eric Boulton) over skill (Radek Martinek, Thomas Hickey, Jesse Joensuu). Tonight proved why fighting, or at the most preparing for a overly physical game, or simply relying on brawn, may not always work.
Tonight’s loss may simply be a one-time flub in an otherwise disciplined and hungry New York Islander hockey team–a team tired but looking ahead. Hopefully tonight’s reality check and current standings will awaken them to the opportunities lying ahead.
With the exception of John Tavares‘s 28th notch of the season (and one step closer, in my opinion, to winning the Hart trophy) the Islanders played flat, uninspired, sluggish hockey on both sides of the ice. Frans Nielsen‘s line brought their usual energy, but even they weren’t enough to help pick up the play.
One wonders if coach Jack Capuano had decided to dress Martinek, Hickey, and/or Joensuu, or any combinations therein, the result might have turned out differently, that is to say, less Islander players skating around and/or simply watching the game waiting for things to happen, instead of being protagonists of said action.
The first period was overshadowed by a completely haggard looking New York Islander team, prohibiting Kevin Poulin from easing into tonight’s matchup. Poulin would face 7 SOG within the first 8+ minutes, and his club would be outgunned 13 to 4 at period’s end. His first start in quite some time, Poulin seemed sharper tonight than in his previous occasions with the Isles, and if there’s a sliver of a silver lining, his performance is it.
But the Flyers would take the lead at the 11:41 mark of the first with a Power Play goal by Danny Briere (6):
Noticeable on that particular goal is the open ice afforded the Flyers, as they skated up ice completely unscathed. But more importantly, Matt Carkner‘s failed clearing attempt actually helped the Flyers defense to set up the pass to the high slot area that would allow Brayden Schenn the lane to shovel the puck to Briere for the shot.
The Islanders, as of late, take little time in responding to goals, but with the lack of forecheck and dead legs on display, such a possibility seemed a bit far-fetched. The Isles would have to regroup in the locker room and hoping the other guy sitting to the left or right would awaken this team in time to at least garner a point before evening’s end.
John Tavares would do his best to deliver his team unto victory, as his quick goal to open the second gave the impression that the momentum would shift in New York’s way:
Matt Carkner, as luck would have it, helped quarterback this goal, as his pinch inside the offensive zone offered Tavares the necessary pass he needed to go in deep and make a play on net; Carkner deftly shoots on net and the rebound found Tavares’s stick and then the back of the net–a relieved Carkner able to undo some of the damage.
But this ineffective and equally inefficient team lacked the poise and intensity to which Isles fans have bore witness as of late. The period was thus defined by an ebb and flow that would lull most fair-weathered hockey fans to sleep, plateauing somewhere around mid period; all the way demonstrating an Isles club much too cavalier in attitude for what was at stake come game time.
Some minor penalties, some minor scuffles, and some minor scoring attempts by the Islanders closed out this rather stale period.
While the third saw a bit more pep from the Isles forechecking, with more consistent activity from the Nielsen line than the others, the Flyers proved spoilers in the end, as Oliver Lauridsen would fire a howitzer at the 13:29 mark of the period, sending Poulin and the Isles packing and into seventh place:
The Islanders are fortunate enough to right the wrongs played out this evening rather quickly, as tomorrow they finish the season against a team with which they’ve had some success in the Buffalo Sabres (shutting them out 4-0 in their last meeting Feb. 23rd at First Niagara Center.) Difficult it would be to imagine the same Islander team on the ice tomorrow night, if for nothing more than there’s an understanding that getting into the playoffs is not nearly enough, would even tarnish an otherwise perfect run in April, would also gravely undermine what they themselves and fans come to believe: the mediocrity is over.
There’s a real team wearing blue and orange: a team built to win and to grow and to continue winning. This team was built to improve and last. But all the aforementioned begins with one shift at a time.
The Isles need to simply play their game.
- The Flyers are poised to finish the year one game over .500 after having one of their worst seasons since before the Eric Lindros era
- The Winnipeg Jets have been eliminated; all that is left to decipher, really, is seating. The Isles no longer play a part in all that as this loss allows the Rangers to cash in their critical game in hand that loomed over their cross town rival’s head. If the Isles lose and Rangers win, etc. the Isles very well see the Bruins, worse, the Penguins who have owned them this season.
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