The New York Islanders and Columbus Blue Jackets were heading in opposite directions this season with twelve games remaining in the 2013-14 season. A Sunday afternoon at Nassau Coliseum in Long Island where the home team has a 10-18-8 record coming in. Everyone could have predicted the outcome and all would have been wrong.
The Islanders played a very disciplined defensive game and took advantage of the Blue Jackets looking dull and uninspired as they came away with a 2-0 victory before 15,088 very satisfied spectators.
Evgeni Nabokov picked up his third shutout of the season and 58th of his career as he stopped 41 shots but most were of the ‘mild’ variety as Columbus clearly looked to missing sniper Marian Gaborik, who they shipped to Los Angeles at the trade deadline prior to him hitting unrestricted free agency.
You could not have blamed the Blue Jackets if they came in and underestimated the Islanders, given New York’s record, place in the standings and penchant for giving up third period leads. But there would be no quit in Jack Capuano‘s squad on this night as the team looked to have learned their lesson from a 6-0 thrashing they suffered at the hands of the Minnesota Wild just four nights prior.
Nabokov spoke post-game about the Islanders willingness to fight to the finish and play the role of spoiler for teams trying to secure a playoff berth. “The last game we got embarrassed and everyone in this room has plenty of pride. We are playing for our fans and we found a way to win. That is the most important thing. These people pay good money to see us play and we want to put on a fight for them. There is no quit in this room”.
In the first period, Cal Clutterbuck gave New York the lead after Johan Sundstrom (first NHL point) centered the puck from behind the net that was intercepted in the slot by Jack Johnson. But intense forechecking pressure by Frans Nielsen forced a turnover that ended up right on Clutterbuck’s stick and he made no mistake, firing past Sergei Bobrovsky for his 10th of the season. As bad as things have turned out this season, Clutterbuck has made the impact he was expected to since arriving in the off-season from Minnesota.
Travis Hamonic scored the Islanders second goal, at the end of the second period on a power play, taking the puck behind the net and racing through the neutral zone. The Columbus defense played pass on both wings, exposing the middle of the ice and Hamonic took advantage, firing a snap shot from between the circles that beat Bobrovsky.
“Things have not gone in for me easy this season so it was nice to see the ice open up. They took away Strome on my right, which was my first play. The shutout is the most important thing and feels much better than the goal to be honest. It was one of the better defensive games we have played all season.” Hamonic told Eyes in the locker room post-game.
Stan Fischler took the time to also needle Hamonic, telling him that Nabokov took credit and comparing him to the infamous Bobby Orr goal. Hamonic handled it with class, laughing it off and turning the conversation onto more realistic tones. Stick around for the end of the interview as he also mentions the Bob Bourne goal against the Rangers from way back.
One of the most impressive Islanders on the ice yesterday, in what was my first opportunity to see him play live, was 23-year-old rookie Kevin Czuczman, recently signed right out of Lake Superior State in the NCAA. Showing great mobility and a touch of offensive flair, he certainly made the most of his 18:26 of ice time in just his second professional game.
“I think that is how I kind of play, I have pretty good feet and like to use them. If I see the opportunity, I am not going to pass up on the opportunity to jump in on the rush and help out the forwards” Czuczman told Eyes On Isles after the game. “I think the rest and practice time helped tremendously. Broke down video, learn when to go and when not to go. Defensive zone coverages. We play a totally different system in college”.
Czuczman also took exception to some of the Jackets veterans trying to introduce the youngster to the NHL game. Listen to Kevin explain to Eyes how prepared he was for that challenge.
With New York in the business over these last eleven games of developing and seeing just what they have in their youth, expect Ryan Strome, Anders Lee, Matt Donovan and Czuczman to see plenty of ice time as they learn the speed and physicality of the National Hockey League game in anticipation of training camp come September 2014. One would have to assume that Brock Nelson and Calvin de Haan are just about as certain as you get of claiming a roster spot on the 2014-15 roster.
View From Above
- Columbus out-shot the Islanders 41-32 and out-chanced them 63-47.
- Matt Donovan struggled in taking 3 penalties but as proven once before this season, has been put into a real tough spot paired with Matt Carkner. Donovan played his best hockey in January alongside de Haan.
- Mike Halmo played a forward low 5:29 but was influential in dropping ex-Islander Blake Comeau during a third period fight.
- Kyle Okposo missed two days of practice with a lower body injury but returned to play 17:45 and looked fine.
- Matt Martin delivered 7 hits in 11:27 and rocked Jack Johnson a number of times on the afternoon.
- Arthur Staple of Newsday is now reporting that Lubomir Visnovsky is indeed suffering a relapse of concussion symptoms after taking a big hit against Minnesota. He will most likely be shut down for the year.
- Brock Nelson lost 10 of 12 faceoffs on the day.
- Islanders power play is 9-55 (16.3%) and penalty killing 46-57 (80.7%) over the last 14 games. The penalty kill has shown some life lately, going 14-16 over their last 4 games.