Top-Shelf – Islanders Daily 10/16/13

Oct 15, 2013; Uniondale, NY, USA; Buffalo Sabres left wing

Tyler Ennis

(63) scores on New York Islanders goalie

Evgeni Nabokov

(20) during a shootout at Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum. Buffalo won 4-3 in shootout. Mandatory Credit: Anthony Gruppuso-USA TODAY Sports Buffalo Sabre

The New York Islanders (2-2-2) homestand opened with a 4-3 OT/SHO loss at the hands of the Buffalo Sabres (1-6-1).

This evening’s contest did come with some off-ice/on-ice ‘drama’, however, as Matt Moulson was relegated (or moved, or shifted) to 3rd line duties–read it any which way you like–and Colin McDonald was out for Eric Boulton. Other notable scratches: Matt Donovan and Brock Nelson.

In all, the Islanders would start the game with concerted energy, carrying the momentum straight toward the opening goal, scored by Frans Nielsen, with assists by Josh Bailey and Pierre-Marc Bouchard.

Bouchard appeared to be motivated by his recent scratch at the onset, jumping up on plays deep in Sabre territory, while showing some initiative away from the puck, something even Coach Capuano highlighted during his post game presser.

But as the game wore on, Bouchard would miss two golden opportunities to score late in the first, one of which was clanked off the right corner of the net. He would finish the evening with a +1 coming from the Frans Nielsen tally, but his own scoring touch is lacking and passing precision is still lacking.

The sliver of ‘silver lining’ regarding Bouchard’s play comes on the several occasions with John Tavares at center and Michael Grabner on the opposite wing, as the former Wild forward seemed a bit more creative and assertive than with other Isles linemates, and with Grabner’s speed, Bouchard had much more open ice in which to create plays. Interesting it will be to see a Grabner-Tavares-Bouchard combination in the near future.

Matt Martin would notch his first of the season off a wonderful combination of forechecking and awareness by Casey Cizikas and Eric Boulton, collectively. Coach Capuano liked what he saw in Boulton last night, and believed did what he was penciled in to do.

But the lead wouldn’t last for too long as John Tavares would take a bad High Sticking penalty a few minutes afterwards, and the Sabres would soon capitalize and tie up the scoresheet at 2.

In retrospect, Matt Carkner and Eric Boulton seemed to be the fit for this evening’s contest, as the former skated at a decent clip–even pinching moreso than usual–while the latter complemented well with Martin and Cizikas, and as mentioned, contributing to New York’s 2nd goal.

Cal Clutterbuck 10:12/16 SHF and had 8 hits for the evening, and his legs are beginning to show signs of lie, while his overall game is regaining some jump and grit. Only a matter of time before he’s at 100% and then the Isles can have him on the ice for pressure situations such as a 1 goal lead late in the 3rd.

Brian Strait continues to play his marks poorly, with Thomas Hickey not too far behind, while Travis Hamonic and Andrew MacDonald looked out of sync, blowing a scoring opportunity on a play that saw them both deep inside the offensive zone.

The Isles would finish regulation with 71 shot attempts and 44 SOG in total, but the glaring scar is the 33 SOG allowed against a much weaker offensive team. After tonight, the Islanders have allowed 92 SOG throughout three matchups. Goalie problems? Think again. Nabokov and Kevin Poulin are, as Stan Fischler mentioned during his talk with Nabokov, doing all they can to “stop the bleeding.”

But tonight Ryan Miller proved to be the difference for the Sabres, stopping the last two shootout attempts, not to mention playing a steady 60:00, enough, anyhow, to keep his club in the game.

On the positive side is captain John Tavares‘s 5-game point streak (resulting from the assist on the Matt Moulson goal), soured somewhat by Buffalo’s Steve Ott and his head-lock–an obvious attempt by him to lure Tavares into drawing a penalty late in the game. After some scuffling, Ott was immediately met by Kyle Okposo and the two would tangle and be sent off, with Ott bearing the extra 2:00.

Matt Moulson would score the only shootout goal, as the snake-bitten Nielsen cannot resurrect his past success with the skills competition.

In all, the Isles have yet to show an ability to close out their opponents, and tonight’s outcome reminiscent of last week’s debacle against the Blue Jackets. And although coach Jack Capuano defended his team’s overall performance, he knows that something must be done to awaken this defensive core and reestablish some semblance of identity.

So the New York Islanders head into Thursday’s contest ‘Deuces Wild’ for the season, hoping to shut down a fast yet not all defensively-minded Edmonton Oilers team.


In Case You Missed It:

Our Latest DUMP and CHASE Podcast now available here, with special guest, the legendary Jiggs McDonald.

Lead Writer Toli Metter from the Hockey Writers with a solid and equally in-depth piece on Ryan Strome.

More on the Sabres Zemgus Girgensons’s injury during the BUF-NYI matchup.

NY Post commenting on last night’s NYI OT/SHO loss, and the Matt Moulson lineup change.

St. Louis Post Dispatch with more on the “Idiot” hit by Maxim LaPierre. 

Two Minutes for Tweeting:

Poignant and equally accurate point, Lisa. The team needs all the support it can find, and the fans showed back in April that concerted enthusiasm can lift a team’s spirits, and, to a degree, their play. If you can, show up and share the love.

Being outshot is obviously a glaring sign of poor backchecking and lack of identity, but a .921% is not a sign of outright poor goaltending. Is it? The Isles need to show up and play a full 60:00. Plain and simple.

Keep this tweet in your pocket. Come the end of the season, take it out and read it. Prophetic? Conspiracy? Inquiring minds will want to know come June.

Mr. Mannucci with the bottomline. Everyone. Is. Accountable.

‘Presser’ Points

Tavares Post Game: Commenting on the let down late in the game

Nabokov Post Game: Takes a bit of the brunt for last night’s OT/SHO loss

Martin Post Game: Talks about Clutterbuck’s improvement and the need for physicality on the ice

Clutterbuck Post Game: Isles need more “teeth” at the end of games

Capuano Presser: Doing what coaches must do after games like last night’s: defend his team. Yours truly asking about the 4th line and Eric Boulton.

Around the NHL:

  • MIN- TOR: 1-4
  • VAN-PHI: 3-2
  • EDM-PITT: 2-3
  • CHI-CAR: 3-2/SHO
  • LA-TB: 1-5
  • COL-DET: 1-2
  • SJ-STL: 6-2
  • FLA-NSH: 3-4
  • MTL-WIN: 3-0
  • DAL-COL: 2-3
  • OTT-PHX: 4-4/OT

Across the Sound:

The Sound Tigers have the week off before facing off at home against the Binghamton Senators on Sunday, October 20th at 3PM.