Pittsburgh, PA – By all accounts, the New York Islanders played one of their worst games – if not the worst – of the season at the worst possible time in their Game 1 loss to the Pittsburgh Penguins on Wednesday.
The 5-0 score was an indication of how one-sided an affair the opening game was, but not even that should discourage the Islanders or their fans before tonight’s Game 2.
The Isles will take on the Pens at CONSOL Energy Center in Pittsburgh at 7:00 p.m. in what New York hopes will be a markedly different game from the one played earlier this week. After being outshot, outworked and outplayed by the no. 1-seeded Penguins in the series opener, the Islanders have made a few lineup changes for tonight.
Out is Game 1 scapegoat Marty Reasoner in favor of centerman David Ullstrom; enforcer Matt Carkner will replace Thomas Hickey on the blue line.
It appears that head coach Jack Capuano wants to upgrade skill (read: Ullstrom) and toughness (read: Carkner) after what amounted to a massacre last game at the hands of a Penguins team better in both areas.
(Side note: Evgeni Nabokov will start between the pipes tonight, allaying some fears that he may have sustained a concussion courtesy of a heavy Jarome Iginla slap shot in Game 1.)
Capuano’s lineup choices have already come under fire from the Twitterverse, as they so often do. It’s hard to disagree with Reasoner’s removal after his last performance, but the addition of Carkner ahead of Hickey – breaking up what many consider to be the Islanders’ best defensive pairing – is a somewhat of a head-scratcher.
Carkner certainly brings a physicality to the ice that Hickey can’t match, and it appears that Cappy is trying to counteract a perceived lack of toughness on his team’s part. For further evidence that the Isles were outmuscled in Game 1, check John Tavares’s stats.
Tavares was minus-one in Wednesday’s game and failed to record a shot on goal for the first time this season. He spent much of the series-opening game being harassed by the Penguins’ defense, namely Kris Letang and Matt Cooke.
The Islanders are hoping Carkner can free up space on the ice for Tavares, since the Pens players might think twice before planting the star centerman without fear of consequence.
On that front, time will tell.
The Penguins will also have a lineup change tonight: Sidney Crosby is returning from the broken jaw he suffered on a deflected shot in a game against the Isles more than a month ago. (James Neal will not play for Pittsburgh tonight, as he’s still feeling the effects of a hit by Travis Hamonic last game.)
Substituting Crosby for Neal in the lineup isn’t any consolation for Isles fans who are again reminded of how deep this Pittsburgh team is.
On the bright side, the Islanders are only down 1-0 in the series – regardless of how it happened – and have the opportunity to prove to the NHL that they’re not going down without a fight.
The question for tonight: will the Isles use Game 1 as motivation to come out swinging? Or will the memory of that defeat be too much to overcome?
If the quotes coming out of the Islanders locker room are any indication as to how the team feels before tonight’s matchup, the team is loose and ready to play. Capuano kept yesterday’s practice session short; the players only spent 45 minutes on the ice.
Reports are that the mood at practice was light; here’s hoping the Islanders are enjoying a Game 2 win by tomorrow morning.
26 Moulson – 91 Tavares – 24 Boyes
12 Bailey – 51 Nielsen – 21 Okposo
41 Ullstrom – 10 Aucoin – 40 Grabner
17 Martin – 53 Cizikas – 13 McDonald
3 Hamonic – 47 MacDonald
11 Visnovsky – 7 Carkner
2 Streit – 37 Strait
20 Evgeni Nabokov
60 Kevin Poulin
Keep it here at EyesOnIsles.com for the postgame report.
Be sure to connect with us here at EYES since we’re always happy to talk about the Isles or the NHL in general. And keep a browser tab open to EyesOnIsles.com on your phone, tablet or computer for daily Islanders news, notes, pre-game reports, post-game reports, columns and occasional ramblings from the EYES staff.
As always, we appreciate all the reader support.