Top Shelf – Islanders Daily (The ‘Morning After’ Edition) 10/30/13


Oct 29, 2013; Uniondale, NY, USA; New York Rangers forward

Chris Kreider

(20) celebrates a goal scored by

Benoit Pouliot

(not pictured) during the third period against the New York Islanders at Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum. Rangers won 3-2. Mandatory Credit: Anthony Gruppuso-USA TODAY Sports

The sole Nassau Coliseum regular season matchup between the New York Rangers (4-7-0, 8pts ) and New York Islanders (4-5-3, 11pts) goes to the Broadway Blueshirts, as the Isles fall victim, yet again, to just plain sloppy defensive zone coverage, while the PK faltered during key moments.

The opening minutes of last night’s contest saw plenty of high-paced, open ice hockey from both squads, and the thought was that if the Isles could keep their legs moving, it would only be a matter of time before they could convert the effort into a most important early lead.

But that wouldn’t be the case, as the Rangers used a negated Islander PP as a momentum shifter. With 43 seconds left to Carl Hagelin‘s slashing penalty, the Isles Kyle Okposo would go to the box for hooking, giving the Rangers a minute and change with a man advantage.

Brad Richards would shoot from the point, and Chris Kreider was able to sneak behind Andrew MacDonald in front of the Isles net and swing the puck around, catching Evgeni Nabokov out of position, beating him low stick-side for the first tally of the evening.

From that point on, the Rangers owned the boards and most of the neutral zone play for the period, while also remaining strong on the puck throughout. The necessary battles to be won, therefore, be they hits, speed, high-percentage opportunities, belonged to the Blueshirts. And if not for Evgeni Nabokov‘s strong play through most of the evening, the score would’ve been much more lopsided.

In fact, the score undoubtedly belies the events that took place on the ice last night, as the Islanders never had a stake to claim in this game, even when Peter Regin tied it up at the 19:19 mark of the second.

Reason being? No sense of command with the puck, an inability to win the necessary faceoff battles (NYR 34 to the NYI  23) to breakout of one’s zone, or to setup inside the opponent’s end, and lastly, and most importantly, hesitation with the shot.

The Isles played like a team completely devoid of an identity at present, and this particularly nagging issue is an on-going one, and not a result of the Matt Moulson trade.

Because the Islanders couldn’t win their faceoff battles inside their own zone, they’d find themselves hemmed in for a given time; when the rare occasion presented itself, and the Isles would clear through the zone, they’d resort to more dump and chase then set drives that powered through an emerging, but nevertheless vulnerable, New York Ranger defensive core.

And that’s the key to the loss: the Islanders didn’t lean on their strengths, which could’ve easily overshadowed the Rangers last night, those being speed and persistence. The Rangers were ripe for the picking, as their three stars in Ryan Callahan, Rick Nash, and goaltender Henrik Lundqvist were all out of commission. But it was the Islanders on the short-end of another lackluster performance.

The Rangers would add another PPG to their sheet, as a Too Many Men call at the 4:29 mark of the 3rd would all but stifle the anemic momentum coming the Isles way, sealing their fate. Ryan McDonagh would score the tying goal at the 4:59 mark of the period and his team never looked back.

Ryan Pouliot scored the game-winner, which was largely due to a horrendous mistake on the backcheck by Radek Martinek, who bunched up with Matt Donovan on the right side, exposing the high slot.

The defensive breakdown on the Pouliot goal symbolizes the fundamental lacking and, thus, plaguing this New York Islanders club:

If you look closely, Martinek expected Donovan to switch off, but the rookie D-man actually did the right thing by staying put, and Cal Clutterbuck was caught a bit flat-footed because, he too, expected the switch. And to top it off, Nabokov was just plain weak on the attempt.

Speaking of which, the aforementioned mended Clutterbuck was one only a few silver linings to emerge last night, as his own speed and strength in and way from the play allowed coach Jack Capuano to consider him for the top line on late-game shifts, since Kyle Okposo had one of his worst performances of the year last night.

Clutterbuck would score his first of the season, which would tie the game at the 3:40 mark of the first; Matt Carkner would assist on the goal, also his first point of the year.

From a purely objective standpoint, Clutterbuck appears to be the healthiest he’s been since before the injury. And his shifts with John Tavares and Thomas Vanek showed that when asked, he can skate and pass with the best this team can offer.

Other notable Islanders, if not the two most consistent and hard-working ones of the night, were Casey Cizikas and Matt Martin, both who skated well and showed tenacity on forecheck and against the boards.

The Cizikas and Martin tandem were the PK unit for the 3rd Ranger PP opportunity, coming in the second period, and at one point, Cizikas single-handedly shaved off 30 seconds of PP time simply by sacrificing his body, smothering the puck behind Cam Talbot‘s net, all while three Ranger players tried relentlessly to loosen the puck free.

And to continue with Martin and Cizikas, Brock Nelson had himself a solid game away from the puck, skating better than he has the past two games, matching Casey’s speed. With two strong skaters on that line, in Nelson and Cizikas, Colin McDonald‘s temporary absence isn’t that noticeable and/or hurtful.

Thomas Vanek played 19:49 and 24 shifts, 1:00 and 1 shift shy of captain John Tavares, who himself looks completely lost at the moment. The line juggling appears to be taking a toll on Tavares’s concentration and ability to assemble his own chemistry and balance. And with a struggling Okposo, the future isn’t any brighter.

This weekend spells even more possible difficulties for this now under .500 hockey club, as they faceoff against the Ottawa Senators and Boston Bruins, teams that are on the uptick.

Now is the time to consider the following:




In Case You Missed It

Episode 7 of the Dump and Chase podcast now available. (EOI)

Reagan “South Side” King with EOI’s Post-Game Snap Shots. (EOI)

The Score’s Dave Lozo will his take on the Vanek-Moulson trade. Did Garth Snow get fleeced? (The Score)

Patrick Reusse from Minnesota’s Star Tribune with an intriguing look at the Nino NiederreiterCal Clutterbuck swap. Must read. (Star Tribune.)

Kevin Schultz with a quick piece on Thomas Vanek’s remaining contract obligations with the Buffalo Sabres. (Islanders PointBlank)

Tony Stabile with his view concerning the Moulson-Vanek trade, highlighting the more important points missed in the shuffle. (Hockey This Week).

Two Minutes for Tweeting

It wouldn’t be an NYR-NYI game without just a little bit of trash-talk. Sometimes the chirping is much more entertaining then the game itself. 

Matt Moulson scored two goals Monday evening against the Dallas Stars all in a losing effort. All eyes on the former Isles forward, as some speculate his stay in Buffalo may be a short one.

Happy Birthday to the greatest Isles defenseman in franchise history. (Well, then there’s Stefan Persson, who was none too shabby, either.) 

Ah yes, the fickle fandom. In the end, all anyone wants here is a champion. Rest assured that GM Garth Snow has made important moves these past three seasons. Again, and for always, patience is key.

Ah, shaddup! No, Joe is good people, and probably the objective Ranger fan in my proximity. Hey, his team was better. Plain and simple. Moving on…

‘Presser’ Points

Around the NHL

  • ANA-PHI: 3-2
  • DAL-MTL: 1-2
  • TBL-NJD: 2-1
  • OTT-CHI: 5-6
  • WIN-STL: 2-3
  • TOR-EDM: 4-0
  • LAK-PHX:1-3

Across the Sound

Ryan Strome: 6 GP, 1 G/5 A, 6 PTS

Anders Nilsson: 5 GP, 1W/3L, 18 GA, 237 MIN, 105 SAVES