Hockey From The Blind Side, Islanders Lose To The Panthers, And My Blind Observations From The Weekend
By John Panarese
When you are trying your best to fight and claw your way back into the playoff, points are extremely valuable with each and every game. This is a simple reality of hockey. It doesn’t matter how many teams are in front of you, it comes down to grabbing 2 points each and every night and letting the math work itself out.
Thus, after a very big 2-1 win in overtime on a Mark Streit goal on Saturday over the Kings, the Isles had a chance to come away with a 4 out of 4 weekend. On top of that, they were playing a game in hand they had over some of the teams ahead of them in the Eastern Conference stand gins, who were idle.
Unfortunately, whether it was the intense physical nature of Saturday’s game, or a matter of the Isles just not having it, Sunday’s game against the Florida Panthers was a disappointing turn of events. In fact, to me, the Isles slept walked through most of the game, and when they did appear to wake up, it was a little too late, and still a disorganized effort. They got the first goal of the game, which, ironically, was on the first shot on net for them, I thought that they were going to play a strong game. However, Frans Nielsen’s 10th goal of the season was the only goal the Islanders scored on the afternoon.
The Panthers ended up getting 4 unanswered goals to handily win the game. Although Evgeni Nabokov probably didn’t play his best game in net, I honestly don’t think the team in front of him did him much justice. On one goal, in particular, Milan Jurcina literally just stood there and did not take the man. I don’t think Nabby saw 3 of the 4 goals that Florida tallied.
The Isles did seem to come out in the third period with a lot more jump. The energy was suddenly there, but the hard work just didn’t turn into goals. If they had played all 60 minutes of the game like that, it would have been a different story. In fact, I don’t know why they didn’t play the entire game with that kind of intensity and puck pursuit ….
In any event, here are some “blind observations” that I have gathered from the weekend. As usual, they are in no specific order or relevance;
• It was good to see the Islanders play such a physical game against the Kings on Saturday. I believe they out hit Los Angeles 48-40 in the game. Though Matt Martin ended up ringing his own bell on a missed check, he still played the kind of game the Isles need from him. It was also nice to see the official let things go and allow the boys to play.
• Secondary scoring continues to be a problem. In fact, SCORING overall is now becoming a major concern for this team. Three goals over the weekend and 5 in their last 3 games is simply not going to cut it.
• In order to have a sniff at the 8 spot, the Islanders are going to have to play better against the East. I cannot remember the stat, but they are about 5 games under .500 against the East. Yes, it’s interesting how they have dominated Western Conference teams, but the majority of the games down the stretch are going to be against the East. If they can’t get up the intensity and effort to beat teams in their own conference, they are simply going to fall FAR short of that 8 spot.
• John Tavares has only 1 point in his last 5 games. I got so used to writing praise and raving about his play, it seems quite strange to have to mention this rather troubling stat. At least, JT and the first line were carrying the team. Now, the offense has almost completely disappeared.
• I still stand behind my belief that the Isles can and should ride Nabokov for as far as he can take them. Still, Al Montoya needs to get playing time and to work off the rust. A combination of 2 solid goal tenders will only help the cause. Look at the Rangers.
• There was no excuse as far as being “tired” might go for yesterday. Florida also was playing back to back games. Additionally, the Isles are a young team. Yes, I don’t play the game and I don’t know how it feels after a game like the one on Saturday, but this is crunch time. We are under 30 games to go, and off nights simply cannot be tolerated.
• Hit the blanking net! There was one sequence on Sunday where Mark Streit missed the net 3 times in a row. I am not singling him out, as MANY guys were guilty of this. Again, I don’t play and I don’t know how “easy” it is to put a puck on net, but I believe, at one point in the 3rd period, Howie Rose mentioned the Islanders had 37 shots that missed the net or were blocked. That is not a small number and I can think of, at least, half dozen situations where guys missed the net entirely with very high quality scoring chances were on the table.
• I’ve said it before, but it’s time to see what some of the prospects on offense have to show. We are not scoring with a couple of the veterans in the lineup as it is. This team needs scoring, and, perhaps, a young, hungry forward can be the spark that is needed. It’s also well passed time to take the leash of Nino and let him play on a second or third line for a while.
• Travis Hamonic! Get healthy soon! The defense NEEDS you! Also, Mr. Wishart, use that 6 feet 4, 215 pound frame of yours if you are placed in the lineup.
The Isles head out on the road for two games this week. On Tuesday, they play the Jets and then it’s the Blues on Thursday. Either game is not going to be easy, and they will have to bring their A-game. However, one at a time and let’s get back on the winning and scoring track.
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