The New York Islanders are heading to Chicago having earned 5 out of a possible 6 points these past three games, and command of second place in the Metropolitan Division.
Last night’s resounding victory against the Phoenix Coyotes showcased several Islander players with multiple point performances (Josh Bailey: 3G 1A; Peter Regin: 1G 2A; Michael Grabner: 3A; Frans Nielsen: 3A; John Tavares: 2G), and a third line tandem that seems to be improving each game.
With Cal Clutterbuck waiting in the wings, Coach Jack Capuano has a most difficult decision to make in relative short order, and that is whether Peter Regin or Brock Nelson sits out so as to make room for the former Minnesota Wild forward. These are ‘good’ problems to have if you’re the Islanders, but a problem nevertheless.
Peter Regin made his case last night with some great hockey on both sides of the puck, closing out the evening with 12:00 of TOI and 18 SHF, about the same as his line-mate Brock Nelson (1 A; with 12:03 TOI and 18 SHF, as well.) The aforementioned stats only show that Capuano is testing these players equally, and hoping to see which of the two pulls away and makes his claim for a ‘permanent’ spot.
Safe to assume that last night’s ‘race’ was won by Regin, although Brock Nelson has been nothing short of solid for being such a young player thrown into responsibilities that would otherwise dwarf a less talented individual.
And to make matters even that much more intriguing, Brock Nelson helped set up Regin’s first goal of the season and open up the scoring for the Isles. So the chemistry is there. But is this recent success enough to keep the tandem together, and force Capuano to look elsewhere for Clutterbuck to make his grand entrance?
Hold your breath, Islanders country, because the heart of lineup will soon change.
Nevertheless, the 6-1 victory, as Coach Capuano stated in his press conference, belies the deficiencies apparent to those watching closely.
Noticeable are the Islanders difficulties cycling out of their own zone, and they have yet to master neutral zone play. And although the Isles would score on a 5-on-3 PP opportunity, the unit took considerable time to set up the play. Another important note is that the Isles were outshot 34 to 28, with the PP only mustering 5 SOG, 2 of which went in, but, again, with a steadier, much more confident opposing goalie, the Isles would’ve seen an entirely different outcome. [Full Capuano press conference available in the ‘Post-Game Bits’ section]
But the star of the night was Josh Bailey, who scored his first tally of the season off a wonderful tic-tac play courtesy of Frans Nielsen, and all stemming from the strong forechecking of Michael Grabner.
Evgeni Nabokov had his strongest and most consistent performance of the season last night, stopping 33 of 34 shots, and seemingly gaining confidence with every start. The two-day rest will serve the veteran netminder well in preparation for the onslaught this coming Friday.
With regards to goaltending duties this coming weekend, there’s very little doubt that Kevin Poulin will see his first start this Saturday against Nashville, regardless of Friday’s outcome.
And to say that the Chicago Blackhawks are a ‘test’ or a ‘barometer’ or ‘measuring stick’ for where the Islanders are with regards to talent and potential, is a gross and almost negligible understatement. But to also say that a victory puts them as potential cup contenders is equally irresponsible a statement.
Win or lose, the Islanders must prove pesky, persistent, and productive on as many shifts as they can handle, and with some good fortune, steal a game that most believe has already been won by the Stanley Cup champs.
In Case You Missed It
- The latest ‘Dump and Chase’ podcast now available here. Go to iTunes and subscribe!
- Our own Reagan King with EOI’s “Snap Shots” from last night’s Islander victory.
- Sportsnet Canada with their Devils-Canucks post game report. Spoiler alert: the Devils lost.
- The Detroit News with their piece on Scotty Bowman’s stance on hockey fights.
- More on the Tim Thomas groin injury, and the woes that continue for the ‘other’ Florida hockey team.
Two Minutes for Tweeting
#Isles 2-0-1 start best since 3-0-0 opening to 2001-02 season.
— Arthur Staple (@StapeNewsday) October 9, 2013
By far the most satisfying Tweet I’ve read in quite some time. Mr. Art Staple: giving Isles fans the best news of the season, thus far.
Take this momentum and beat Chicago in Chicago. Wake the league up. #Isles
— IslesBlog (@IslesBlog) October 9, 2013
Frightening it would be heading into Chicago with, say, the Devils’s record, and/or Flyers’s internal issues. Dare you think it and dare we say it: It’s great to be a New York Islanders fan.
— NHL (@NHL) October 9, 2013
Will you look at that?! The NHL actually paying attention to John Tavares. First some interviews and now a Tweet. Note to NHL: Don’t change the channel. More to come.
— Islander Mania (@islandermania) October 9, 2013
Congratulations to Matt Donovan, indeed! Expect great things from this emerging talent.
- Matt Donovan’s post game reaction
- Josh Bailey with a few words on the Isles overall play, and Donovan’s first NHL goal
- Evgeni Nabokov‘s post game reaction. And yours truly asked a question that made the man chuckle.
- Full audio of Jack Capuano post game press conference.
From the Highlight Reel
Across the Sound
Across the Sound is Eyes on Isles’ brief updates on the happenings within the New York Islanders AHL affiliate: the Bridgeport Sound Tigers.
The most intriguing news coming out of Bridgeport involves Kirill Kabonov’s reassignment to the Stockton Thunder of the ECHL. The 21-year old had only 9 pts in 32 games last season.
The Sound Tigers are facing Norfolk this coming Saturday, hoping to redeem their 5-2 L at home at the hands of Wilke-Barr/Scranton. Here’s to hoping Anders Nilsson fares better this time around.