The New York Islanders went into last night's game looking to pull themselves to a .500 record but failed to do so, squandering a 3-1 first period lead to the Buffalo Sabres and losing by a score of 4-3 in the shootout.
Frans Nielsen would have a three point first period, scoring two goals and adding an assist to help get the Islanders to an early lead despite starting off slow. The Isles were out shot 17-9 in the first period and Al Montoya seemed a little shakey in net. It was only his second start after missing about a month's worth of playing time due to a concussion. His first start was before the All Star break, so it wasn't a surprise that he looked like he needed to shake the rust off. But he would respond well in the second and third periods, continuing to give his team a chance to win the whole night.
“We knew it was going to be a tough weekend,” said Montoya after the game. “[There were] huge points on the line. It’s unfortunate that we couldn’t come out with two points.”
The Islanders made their first visit to Ottawa this season and were able to battle all game and come away with an important victory to keep their playoff hopes alive.
The game started slow with both teams going up and down the ice with not many chances generated. Nabokov was called on early in the period but the defense did a good job making sure most shot were from the outside and easily visible. The Islanders got a power play chance at 10:26 when former Islander Zenon Konopka took a hooking penalty. The first power play unit of Tavares, Moulson, Parenteau, Nielsen and Streit was very good creating several chances but unable to put them away. The second power play unit had some trouble but I like the group Capuano put together, the line was Rakhshani, Bailey, Neiderreiter, Okposo and MacDonald. The Islanders were unable to connect on the first power play but still kept the pressure up. It was a strong first period for the Islanders who outshot the Senators 14 to 8.
22 points in 13 games? Needless to say John Tavares has had a heck of a month, thus resulting in him being named the NHL's first star for January.
Tavares, the 21 year old in his 3rd NHL season, has really shown how well he can compete in the NHL this season. Having already put up 53 points so far this season, there is still 33 games left for the Islanders to play. Meaning on the pace that JT is on, he has a chance to crack at least 90 points.
This past weekend Tavares got the chance to really show the hockey world how talented he really is at the All-Star weekend. Putting on a heck of a show in the skills competition and putting up two points (1G, 1A) in the All Star Game.
(Photo Credit: Official New York Islanders/Flickr)
The NHL All Star game is basically a chance for the NHL to sell itself to the fans by showcasing top level talent for two nights in a row. Fans are treated to highlight reel moves that you don't get to see in every hockey game as well as having the chance to become better acquainted with their on ice heroes. Several players are mic'ed up and provide commentary throughout the two nights, even while they are in game action, as seen with Montreal comedian/goaltender, Carey Price.
Price has become an excellent goaltender for the Canadiens and wasn't shy about showing off his personality, stopping a puck by facing the glass and using the reflection to help him guage his positioning as well as giving Islanders rep John Tavares a "Tim Tebow" as he came in for one of his shootout moves.
Well if there is one thing that can be taken away from the Islanders home-and-home series with the Toronto Maple Leafs, it's that the Leafs' entire roster should be considered as finalists for the Lady Byng Trophy that is handed out to the most disciplined player at this year's NHL Awards Ceremony.
Although the whistle was blown against the Leafs after a scuffle in their end erupted after a tussle between Travis Hamonic and Phil Kessel, not once did the Islanders earn a power play tonight to total 120 minutes of hockey without an Islanders man-advantage going back to last night. The Leafs managed to beat the Islanders 4-3 in over time to complete the two-game sweep.
The season for the New York Islanders is more than halfway over, having completed Game 46 of the 82-game season last night with a 2-1 win over the Carolina Hurricanes in overtime. The win has brought the Isles to a 19-21-6 record putting them eight points out of a playoff spot behind the Washington Capitals sitting in the final, eigth spot.
As John Madonia pointed out in his post-game wrap up, these next two games against the Toronto Maple Leafs are crucial for the Islanders. For the first time in a few years, Islanders fans are able to find themselves in a position where they can start looking at the standings and sharing concerns about the success of other teams in their Conference. Two wins against the Leafs would hypothetically put the Isles at only four points out of the playoffs and see them with a .500 record.
The Isles are not in last in the Eastern Conference; they are currently out of the draft lottery; and John Tavares has emerged as an elite talent in the NHL. Part of the rebuild requires looking for signs of progress in all areas. Although those signs that are mentioned above don't necessarily amount to the hopes and dreams of most Islanders fans, they are still important. Slow and steady as she goes.
For this edition of the prospect report I will look at two college forwards that are currently flourishing this season and how they could impact the Islanders. I am talking about University of North Dakota center man Brock Nelson and Norte Dame center Andres Lee. One was a late first round draft pick the other a late round gem found by Garth Snow.
We will start with Brock Nelson who was drafted by the Islanders in the first round, 30th overall in 2010. When drafted Nelson had only played high school hockey in Minnesota so Garth Snow he wouldn’t make the Islanders for a few years. For the past two seasons Brock has been attending the University of North Dakota and has really made strides in his game. So far this season Brock is leading his team in goals (16 so far) and tied for the lead in points with 25 through 23 games. Nelson is a big forward (6’-3” 205lbs) that is learning how to use his size and use it well. He has a hard shot that gets off quickly and is very strong on his skates. Nelson was truly drafted to become a star on the Islanders and from his development so far, it doesn’t look like he will disappoint. A large body that can skate well and shoot with the best of them is a great asset for any team.