The New York Islanders went from potential playoff contenders to looking towards next season within 48 hours earlier this week.
Having the best team in the Eastern Conference coming into your building after being shutout in their last game, isn’t what the doctor ordered.
After two terrible performances against Ottawa and Buffalo on Monday and Tuesday, the Islanders welcome in their cross-river rivals the New York Rangers on Friday Night.
The Rangers are leading the Eastern Conference with 81 points, 7 points ahead of both New Jersey and Boston. They travel to Long Island after being blanked by the Pittsburgh Penguins 2-0 on Tuesday night. Henrik Lundqvist continued his stellar play making 29 saves in the losing effort. After an 8-1-1 stretch, the Rangers have lost two of their last three games.
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 look to build off their win from earlier in the week and start a second half playoff push with a game against Ottawa tomorrow night. The Islanders are currently riding a hot streak getting 5 out of a possible 6 points in the last 3 games. This has the Islanders only 9 points out of playoff spot with plenty of time left in the season.
A couple of the sparks in the Islanders last win were the Bridgeport call ups of Kevin Poulin and Rhett Rakhshani. Poulin made his contribution playing a great game between the pipes, which showed many fans why he is considered the goaltender of the future. Rakhshani was a great move in my eyes as he was a spark plug on a line with Matt Martin and Josh Bailey. The whole game the line was buzzing around the ice and creating chances. Hopefully they will get another chance in Ottawa to keep showing that they are improving their chances and create more secondary scoring which is what this team needs.
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.
Buffalo makes it first visit to Long Island tonight as they take on the Islanders. With both teams currently needing a win to keep their playoff chances alive this game looks to be a good one. The Islanders, with Thursday’s lost to the Flyers find themselves 12 points back and Buffalo a lot closer with 5 points out of a playoff spot. This is only the second meeting of four between these two with the Islanders winning the first one 2-1 in Buffalo on November 29th. Buffalo is currently struggling on the road with a seven game losing streak in regulation which should hopefully work in the Isles favor for this one.
After a hard fought effort in Thursday’s game I don’t expect to see line changes for tonight’s affair. The only change in the lineup that I can see would hopefully be to give Kevin Poulin a start and rest Evgeni Nabokov. Nabokov has played 10 games in a row now and I know his next win will be his 300th but Poulin was extremely hot in Bridgeport before his call-up and Nabokov did look like he needed a mental break during the game against the Flyers. Secondary scoring needs to start showing its face on the Islanders team if they truly want to start winning a serious amount of games. Moulson and Tavares are great players together and put the puck in the need often but they can’t be counted on to do all of the scoring for this team. The line of Martin, Bailey, and Grabner has had its flashes during the past few games and is creating chances; they just need to start finding the back of the net on a few more of those chances. The 2nd line of Rolston, Neilsen, and Parentau has been doing ok but just doesn’t seem all there, if any line was to get a shake-up this would be it. I would like to see the young Nino finally get some big line minutes to show us something and have him work with Frans and PA. I don’t see that happening for this game but it would be a good change for the future that should hopefully produce some goals. The defense for the Islanders has been good over the past few days and hopefully they can keep that up against the Sabres.
The New York Islanders continued their winning streak against the Red Wings tonight with a 5-1 victory. The Islanders coming into the game have had a 4-0-1 record against Detroit since the lock-out.
The first period started quickly as both teams were up and down the ice exchanging chances. Nabokov, starting in his 9th straight game was up to task along with his counterpart Ty Conklin for the Red Wings. Grabner continued his struggling on the break away early as he was stopped on an early chance that Conklin got just enough of to deflect wide. The first power play of the game went to the Red Wings as Jurcina took a minor penalty for high sticking. This lead to a save of the year candidate for Nabokov as he made a diving cross crease stop with his stick with just about 17 seconds left in the penalty.
In a 1992 article for The New Yorker, the gifted writer Alec Wilkenson quoted an unnamed goaltender as saying “What other job do you now of where, when you make a mistake, a red light goes on behind you and fifteen thousand people call you a jerk?” Bridgeport Sound Tiger goalie Kevin Poulin is suffering from a rare disorder, an inordinate fear and hatred of red lights.
Poulin has now posted 3 consecutive shutouts, each a 4-0 win for Bridgeport. He has not given up a goal in calendar year 2012, approaching 200 minutes without seeing that hated red light. His first shutout in this impressive streak came on January 2nd, a matinee game at the Webster Bank Arena attended by Garth Show and Charles Wang.