Whether the Islanders pull off the unbelievable and manage to sneak into the playoffs or not, it has been an impressive turn around for the orange and blue since the end of December. Whatever has happened to this team since then has been quite remarkable indeed.
Last night, though it wasn’t their strongest and most consistent game of late, they still managed to beat the Maple Leafs at home 4-3 in overtime. Blake Comeau deflected in a Radek Martinek shot to give the Isles the victory. Frans Nielsen, Michael Grabner and Zenon Konopka also scored goals in the game. Once again, it was a far cry from how this team’s fortunes were turning out earlier in the season.
Al Montoya was, once again, solid and sharp. He kept his team in the game, and despite the Islanders blowing leads to eventually have to go into the extra stanza to win it, you really couldn’t fault the goaltending. Toronto did not take the Isles lightly, so Montoya had to come up big more than a few times to keep his team in the game.
I was a little concerned by the fact that the Isles would take leads only to have the Leafs tie the game up within a minute after the go ahead goal. Of course, the 2 points in the end was the most important outcome, but still, it’s something that will need to be addressed by Jack Capuano and company. Everything is still a learning process, so each game is yet another experience for the team. It’s just something you don’t want to see become a repeated theme in other games down the line.
Obviously, the Devils are the hottest team in hockey and there continues to be so much talk about a “miracle run” for them and if such a thing will be possible. After their equally dreadful start, as a hockey fan, I have found their resurgence to be fascinating and exciting. I believe they’ve now won something like 22 out of their last 25 games, despite losing last night. They are, to this point, 8 points out of the final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference.
The thing that does both amuse and annoy me is the fact that the Islanders are only 2 points behind the Devils and, thus, 10 points out of that same playoff spot. Do the Devils have more experience and a more “developed” team? Of course they do, and having Martin Brodeur playing up to form has helped as well. Perhaps comparing the young Islanders to the Devils is a “stretch” to some, yet the fact remains that the boys from Long Island have hung in there just as much as the boys from Jersey.
In any event, it’s the Bruins again on Friday. Although they have been struggling of late, the Islanders are going to have to bring their A-game. In fact, the rest of the schedule will put the boys against the top teams in the conference, so it will not be a case of there being any “easy nights” for them. It will be interesting to see how this team responds as the last 14 games pass.
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