Hockey From The Blind Side, Islander Recap … Confidence = Consistency
By John Panarese
My apologies to the readers first. A combination of the Thanksgiving weekend and then some internet issues and other nonsense has delayed a few posts I had in mind in writing. I know Gary is tied up quite a bit at work, so it has combined to make it difficult to write consistently.
OK, so to some things up, the Isles have taken 5 points out of a possible 8 in the last four games. This includes a very modest 2 game winning streak. Also, most important in my perspective, there has been an increase in confidence among the team that has led to more consistent play.
As far as I am concerned, despite the shortcoming that might be present on the blue line, if the New York Islanders come to play each night and play with a determined, consistent effort, it will translate into wins. It doesn’t matter who the opponent is on a given night. If you play strong and tough and don’t let up, even the most skilled and talented teams are going to have their hands full trying to play against the Isles. When you compete every night and for 3 periods, you get the kind of results I’m sure Jack Capuano and the coaching staff desire.
Last Wednesday evening, we saw a strong first period, and then a second and third period that seemed to slowly decrease in effort agains the Flyers. Kyle Okposo surely came to play that evening, and had a 2 goal and 3 point effort to give the Isles a 3-1 lead in the opening frame after the Flyers had taken a quick 1-0 lead. However, by the end of the third period, the lead had evaporated, and Danny Briere both tied and then won the game for Philadelphia in overtime.
To me, on Friday afternoon, the big problem was the Islanders failed to capitalize on 3 first period power plays. Overall, though, it really was a well played game. A single goal by the Devils in the second period ended up holding up as the only goal of the game. The Isles had their chances, but they could not find the equalizer. Still, one cannot fault the effort, and Al Montoya played a strong game for the Isles.
In New Jersey on Saturday, a back and forth affair resulted in the Islanders holding on to win 3-2. The Devils nearly tied it with 2.1 seconds left in regulation, but it was ruled that Zach Parise kicked the puck in. It was nice to see the Islanders actually catch a break for a change. Again, Al Montoya was fantastic, though Marty Brodeur made a couple of nearly impossible saves to rob Michael Grabner and Kyle Okposo in one sequence.
Finally, last night, it was a big 2-1 victory for the Islanders over the Sabres. Goals by Matt Moulson in the first period on the power play and then a HUGE third period goal by Brian Rolston after the Sabres had tied it early in that period gave the Isles the win. Frankly, it was one of their best overall efforts from drop of puck to final whistle. All four lines played exceptionally well, and despite only the 2 goals, they all had several good chances. Additionally, defensively, the back liners all did their jobs nicely, with Travis Hamonic and Andrew MacDonald blocking 4 shots each. Al Montoya, though, was the BIG story, particularly coming up with a couple of amazing saves when the Islanders had to kill 1 minute and 34 seconds worth of 5 on 3 power play time against them.
Now, with that all said, here are some thoughts and opinions that come to mind from the four games.
Although John Tavares has not scored a goal since November 5th, the guy has come to play and has shown strong efforts. Last night, on one particular shift, he was a one-man machine, beating the Sabres skaters with strength and stick handling ability and nearly scoring. The goals, as far as I am concerned, will come.
Welcome back Kyle Okposo. The kind of play from #21 Islander fans have come to expect and enjoy has returned over the last four games. The man has become a force out there, and a goal post was all that was between him and another goal last night. Great efforts in the offensive and defensive zones have been put on display by him.
If Michael Grabner could bury even half of the chances his speed enables him to gain, he would be a 50 goals scorer in the league. How many break aways does Gremlin get each game?
Finally, I must agree with Butch Goring’s observation. Al Montoya IS the MAN right now. The Islanders need one of the 3 goaltenders to step up, and Montoya has done it. He should have won the game on Friday afternoon, and he really kept the Islanders in the game last night. When you talk about clutch saves and a calming force, he has typified those qualities. It is what this team needs to compete and have chances to win.
Now, if we could only get some goals …. Scoring 2 goals a game will not cut it in the long run. If I have any real “complaints about this four game stretch”, it has to do with the lack of goal production. The Isles have the ability to score goals and the guys to find the back of the net. They are going to need to do just that in order to keep the progress going. I think this will definitely come, but the sooner, the Better to my thinking.
So, it is a trip to Chicago and then Dallas Friday and Saturday evenings. Neither game will be easy tasks for the Islanders. However, if they keep up the confidence and the consistency, they can earn 4 hard points. I would expect to see Montoya again in net on Friday, but will he get the back to back again, or will Ricky play on Saturday?
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