10/28/14 Postgame: Jets Soar, Isles Sore

The Islanders (6-2-0) have proved to be a confident bunch and the high scoring offense looked to flex their muscles early on against Winnipeg (3-5-0) at the Coliseum. The upstart Isles team has played well and beaten teams that were challenging cogs on their opening schedule but haven’t faced an inferior opponent since Carolina.

The Jets came into 2014-15 without any lofty expectations to burden them. Now they are expected to do even less with an injury sidelining premiere player Evander Kane. Struggling to score goals and without any reliable sources of sustainable offense, they should be dominated by the Isles on any given night.  The Isles are clearly the better team at this junction of the season in every facet of their game.  

But as every fan and analyst knows, projections and predictions mean nothing when the teams step on the ice. Hockey is a game with its ups and downs built on emotion, momentum and grit. On any given night, the NHL provides a stage for teams to upset supposed better teams.

This game was a unique test for the Isles completely different from tough tests in Pittsburgh, New York and Boston. It is a completely different mindset trying to stay focused on a game with a lesser foe. This is especially true with an extended 5 game West Coast road trip looming. As Mike Flannery had said in the pregame, this had trap game written all over it…

The Isles opened the 1st period looking like the dominant team. They were faster, stronger in corners, and smarter with the puck. Winnipeg took an early penalty which saw Boychuk fire a shot from the point that hit the post as the power play began. Brock Nelson was there to net the rebound.

The early 1-0 lead set the tone early and the Isles did not relent as the 1st period progressed. The hustle and hard skating of the Isles drew penalties and frustrated the Jets. Most of the action was in front of Pavelec who had to be sharp early in the game. He was able to keep the deficit at 1 as the first period ended.

With the 2nd period starting, the Isles saw Kulemin take a 5 minute major after boarding Stuart. This sent Kulemin to an early shower after being ejected.  He is almost certainly going to miss some time for a suspension. It will be interesting to see how the NHL punishes a first time offender like Kulemin.

It also provided an opportunity for the Jets to hop back into the game.….

This penalty kill saw the many shades of Jaro Halak in 2014-15.

Even the Jets’ goal scoring isn’t pretty this year. The Jets have had a total of 2 goals on the power play all year and their play with a man advantage has been absolutely pathetic early in the season. Halak gave up a goal on a puck that should have been corralled.

Halak then made two brilliant saves that kept the game tied.  These absolutely amazing saves were negated after he let another soft goal go in after failing to cover the area near the post. Luckily for the Isles, they were able to hold the damage of the Jets’ extended PP there and trailed 2-1.

Just as they looked like they were going to get momentum back. Martin was held and was mystifyingly called for diving that negated a period changing power play.

Instead they went 4 on 4. Halak failed to stop a whistling wrister that went off of his glove that made it 3-1 half way through the 2nd period. He continued to look shaky and definitely uncomfortable.

With about 6 minutes left in the 2nd, Thomas Hickey was boarded and it was decided to be a 2 minute penalty instead of a major. The Isles took to the power play looking to cut into the 3-1 lead. The game turned into a very physical affair at this point.

The Isles’ power play started a little sluggish but set up shop. They got to work and got a huge goal to cut the lead to 3-2. John Tavares was able to get on the score sheet for the first time in the last 9 Islanders’ goals. His frustrated, angry play resulted in a beautiful goal that was roofed on Pavelec.

Not long after, Grabovski was able to tie the game at 3 an impressive individual effort. Fans saw him knife through the Jets defense after a rejuvenated Isles team took the ice to hymn of chants of their beloved fans. After getting to the front of the net, Grabo’s patience paid off and the Isles tied it on his shot over Pavelec’s blocker.

The Isles weathered the storm of the major and looked to get back into front from that point on. This game continued to be a game dictated by momentum.

Butch Goring noted during the broadcast that this 2nd period displayed the Isles growing level of maturity. This is evident in watching them respond quickly to adversity. They were able to calmly collect themselves and play the same game that made them successful in the first.

As the 2nd period ended, they were tied at 3 which had to be considered a win for the team. It could have been much worse considering the circumstances.

As the 3rd period began, the Isles came out looking to have a solid start but a little under 4 minutes in, they saw the tie game disappear.

Andrew Ladd pounded a juicy rebound home for the 4-3 lead and immediately put the Isles on their heels.

The Isles continued their sluggish play throughout the 3rd period and looked listless for the majority of the period. They had trouble getting the puck out of their own offensive zone as the Jets safely played the puck away from the Isles.

The only offense the team saw came with Grabovski finding a way to deke defenders and get alone. He drew a penalty and hit the post.

The Isles power play was stagnant and they could not pot the equalizer. They eyed pulling Halak with the clock dripping away toward triple zero.

It was a furious finish with Halak pulled but it was not enough. The Isles could not find the net after numerous chances. They fell at home to Winnipeg 4-3.

New York moved to 6-3-0 and Winnipeg bumped their record to 4-5-0.

The Islanders start their 5 game road trip in Colorado on Thursday night 10/30/14. The game will start 9 o’clock Eastern time. They look to rebound in a big way.

-Steve Giangaspro