Islanders’s Game Plan Simple: BEAT THE RANGERS…Everything Else Can Wait
By Rich Dias-Rodrigues
UNIONDALE, N. Y.– Forget about the poor home stand, winning streaks, who’s hot, who’s not, etc. All that is irrelevant tonight. All of the aforementioned is wiped away come 7pm this evening. Tonight the Islanders must simply play team hockey. Forget that John Tavares is on the ice and each player step up, play their position solidly, and capitalize on every opportunity. Just play team hockey.
When players like Matt Martin, Casey Cizikas, Michael Grabner, and Travis Hamonic are successful, the chances for victory are almost secured. For in the recent past, some of the aforementioned have either been flat or so unlucky that they’ve single-handedly cost us leads.
In Martin we have an emerging 4th-liner with edge and an eye of the net, a rarity for this club in recent years. Rarity with regards to consistency, which Martin displays on almost every shift and in every game. He’s quite frankly emerging as a leader, and it showed in the last matchup for sure.
Cizikas is finding his stride, grinding away and fomenting scoring opportunities while on his line duties.
Hamonic hasn’t been playing all that well, but his recent showing against the Habs exhibited a defenseman returning to his form. I mentioned to someone earlier this week on Twitter that for all intents and purposes Hammer is playing injured, and with this truncated season, hasn’t been able to heal. And what with the long shifts, a bruised and battered ankle will effect your concentration on the ice. (I honestly believe he hasn’t been the same since his injury back in early February against the Penguins.)
Whatever the case, Travis Hamonic is showing some of his grit and edge, and with time he will bring to the ice the necessary components to make him the blue line defenseman the Islanders most desperately need.
This game may also be a starting point for many players who are struggling (or simply need to breakout) regardless of injuries:
- Mark Streit, who is having tremendous amounts of issues taming the puck on an given moment, but especially at the point. He coughed up two shooting opportunities deep in the offensive zone this past Tuesday night against Montreal, one of which shaved off valuable time on the Isles’s PP.
- Michael Grabner is built for a game like this one: his speed on the PK is always a threat and all the teams know it. And regardless of their current winning streak, the Rangers are a terrible Power Play team. Tonight is Grabner’s night for a breakout game on the PK, in other words, because, rest assured, there will be penalties tonight. And with 8 goals this season, suffice to say that a breakout game is in order, and by that I mean a hat-trick or multiple assist kind of night. And if he can alleviate JT’s scoring duties, the Isles will be in much better shape…obviously.
Don’t expect too much open ice tonight at the onset, as to be expected from such a tense matchup. Hopefully the Isles will be even more physical than on Tuesday, take Ryan Callahan out of the mix, for he’s, in my opinion, the best NYR on the squad: a complete hockey player, and quite frankly, a born leader. And I wouldn’t say much is ‘riding’ on tonight’s game, as in like: this is a ‘make or break’ game for either team (lest we forget the Rangers have games-on-hand on the Isles.)But I will say that the Islanders need as many momentum-building games under their belt and in the W column as possible. Again, forget the playoffs, Isles. Just win games and worry about the standings later. Just win and win like a team.
Follow Rich Diaz @eyesonisles
- Matt Martin is on a tear, people. This game can also a breakout moment, as well. Instigate, Matt, don’t retaliate. That’s the key.
- Look to see Roman Hamrlik in a blue shirt tonight, as he was picked up on Waivers from the Washington Capitals this past Tuesday. And unlike most commentators, there’s no speculation from my end that this move has everything to do with Marc Staal‘s gruesome injury (more on this unfortunate incident in a moment.) Whatever the case, this waiver pick up could very well be a vital piece to help the Rangers strive for the post-season. Tonight’s matchup will most definitely test this theory.
- Radek Martinek is slowly coming into his own, responsible for an important tally against the Habs on Tuesday. Cannot wait to see he and Brian Strait playing together. Cannot wait for Strait return.
- Marc Staal’s injury was absolutely jarring, much like seeing Clint Malarchuk‘s injury back in the early 90s. Terrible. Awful injury. I pray that he makes a speedy recovery and returns to the Rangers next season. BUT it is now time to face reality, NHL. The game has changed: it’s faster, wilder, and stronger than ever, and with it new types of injuries or injury opportunities than before. Make it mandatory that all players wear shields. Stop with all that macho BS and wear the damn shield. Staal is IN NO WAY at fault, and my heart goes out to him. (I was hit squarely on the eye with a fastball and was blinded for three horrific days. It was no one’s fault. It’s the game.) I want him and the rest of the players to wear their damn helmets and shields at all times. That’s it. There’s no discussion in NCAA with hockey players, for it’s the cage or you don’t play. The same must be handed down to NHLPA. Shield or don’t play in the NHL.
- John Tavares has 27 points on a supposedly bad team. That’s impressive.
- Thanks to @r_gatt for informing me of David Ullstrom’s scratch for Eric Boulton. (Earlier I had mentioned that Ullstrom needs to step up his game whenever he’s given the greenlight to play. My point still stands, nevertheless!)
- The Chicago Blackhawks streak is impressive, but they haven’t won anything. Again, ask the 79-80 Flyers, current points streak record holder, who won the Cup that year. If you can’t find them, call up Bob Nystrom. He’ll tell you. Good day to you.