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.
Islanders get a huge victory over the streaking Capitals tonight, winning 3-0. The Islanders came into the game looking to rebound from a bad game yesterday against Nashville and rebound is definitely what they did. The Capitals who have been hot of late looked like a tall test for the tired Islanders who played yesterday and had to travel to get to Washington.
The game started slow as neither team could keep possession of the puck in the offensive zone. One play that stood out to me during the early going of the period was Nabokov’s handling of the puck. He came out to handle the puck in front of the net, mishandled it and left a great chance for the Capitals. Thankfully for the Islanders they were unable to get a good shot on net and Nabokov was able to recover. Nabokov needs to work on his puck handling as it has become a problem as of late and has cost the Islanders goals at certain points.
The New York Islanders, at least, will have a quick turnaround after one of their worst performance’s of the season. After a dismal 3-1 loss to the Nashville Predators, the
Islanders travel to the nation’s capital to play the red hot Washington Capitals.
Washington, winners of seven straight at the Verizon Center, come into the contest off a 2-1 home victory over the Carolina Hurricanes. They haven’t trailed in a game at home since December 13th. In 22 games since Bruce Boudreau was replaced by Dale Hunter, the Capitals have gone 12-9-1 playing themselves into a 1st place tie with the Florida Panthers in the Southeast Division.
"I didn't know the Predators were this good!" Said many Islander fans who watched Monday afternoon's 3-1 Islanders loss to Nashville. Maybe no one realized that they are so talented because they only play the Islanders once a year. And that is definitely something a realignment can change, but that is a discussion for another time.
If you read my pregame report for this game, you will know that 1 out of the 3 things that I suggested happened. The one being that the Islanders started Kevin Poulin. Poulin had been stellar in Bridgeport, being named AHL Player of the Week stopping 98 of his last 100 shots faced prior to Monday's game.
Nino Niederreiter has been playing with the New York Islanders all season long, but the amount of time he has spent on the ice has become somewhat of a concern amongst Isles fans. The 19-year old winger had a very impressive season last year with the Portland Winterhawks of the WHL. His skill, size and vision on the ice allowed the Islanders to feel that he was ready to make the full-time jump to the NHL with the organization envisioning his development to result along the lines of a top-six scoring winger.
So far this year, Niederreiter has become the exact opposite. His season was plagued by injuries from the get-go, forcing him to miss the start of the year with a groin injury he sustained in the pre-season. He came back gradually, but eventually started to show that he was getting his game back by using his size in the corners and scoring his first goal of the season. But another injury, the infamous concussion that was given to him in a game against the Dallas Stars, became another hurdle for the young forward to leap over in his development. As a result, the Islanders have played a total of 39 games on the year; Nino has only appeared in 16 of them.
(Photo Credit: Official New York Islanders/Flickr)
The Islanders played host this afternoon to the Edmonton Oilers on Ken Morrow night, as the former Isles defenseman was being inducted into the Islanders Hall of Fame. The last player to be inducted a little over a month ago was the team's first captain, Ed Westfall. The home team would go on to lose 6-0 that night to the Boston Bruins. But today Ken Morrow's name would ring with pride as the Islanders would go on to win 4-1 and establish a two-game winning streak.
The first period saw the Isles take a 1-0 lead on the power play as Ben Eager was serving a roughing penalty. And get used to that statement, because Eager made himself right at home in the shameful sin bin with a total of 16 PIMs on the day, not one of them from a fighting major. PA Parenteau would drag the puck through the slot and have it taken away from him, only to land perfectly on John Tavares' stick. With Devan Dubnyk down and out of position after the puck changed directions, Tavares was able to bury the puck with ease. Matt Moulson had the secondary assist.
The Oilers would tie the game later in the period after a fluky shot made it's way past Evgeni Nabokov. Nino Niederreiter was caught out of position, forcing him to dive stick first in order to block the shot from the point. He got a piece of it, allowing the puck to change directions and pinball it's way through the crease. Sam Gagner was credited with the goal with the assists going to Corey Potter and former Islander Andy Sutton.
When you think of the New York Islanders and associate the word "injury" to their name, you automatically think of all the man-games lost by this team over the past few years and immediately think of the infamous Rick DiPietro. But right now, the injury bug is starting to bite in places other than the 15-year man's knees.
Brian Rolston was placed on the Injured Reserve retroactive to Dec 15th due to a concussion he sustained during the team's 3-2 loss to the Dallas Stars this passed Thursday. He left the game and did not return and has not played since.This has allowed Nino Niederreiter to return to the line-up without their having to be any major changes to the roster.
Other players, like Tim Wallace, have been getting extra playing time as well. Although Wallace has previous NHL experience with the Pittsburgh Penguins, he really hasn't been all that impressive.
The Islanders headed into Minnesota to face one of the NHL's best teams, the Minnesota wild.
The Islanders had two players return from injury; one being forward Nino Niederreiter and the other being defenseman Andrew MacDonald. MacDonald being the player making the most noise last night scoring the first (and only) goal for the Isles in the second period.
But the Wild would score just one as well, but a miracle that they did not score more. The reason for them scoring only one was the reason the Islanders ultimately won this game...
The Islanders won a hard fought 5-4 victory over the Dallas Stars on Saturday night, and it can be termed hard fought for many reasons; the Isles saw a three-goal lead get washed away to a tie in the second period; Rick DiPietro pulled his groin, forcing Al Montoya to start the third period; the Stars kept coming back on the score board; and last but not least, Nino Niederreiter left the game with a concussion after a devastating hit from Stars defenseman, Mark Fistric.
Friday night's game against the Chicago Blackhawks was arguably the most exciting game the Islanders have played in all season. The Islanders came into this game looking for their third straight win but came out with a well deserved point.
The Chicago native Al Montoya was the one chosen by Jack Capuano to start for the Isles. Montoya, playing in his third straight game, made some unbelievable saves throughout the whole matchup. Facing the Islanders was the 26 year old Corey Crawford.
But enough about the goaltenders, let's talk about the offense. It was a real positive to see the Islanders scoring creative goals. Poking at rebounds and capitalizing on special teams. In past games, the Isles have used the dump and chase method, which obviously has not been working. It was great to see players go to the next and try to make a play instead of players just throwing the puck at the net and hoping for the best.
Chicago's penalty kill has not been the best this season and the Islanders definitely capitalized, scoring two goals with the man advantage. But the Blackhawks had their share of capitalizing on special teams as well. Chicago was able to score a powerplay goal and a shorthanded goal against the Isles.
The goalscorers for the Islanders tonight were Kyle Okposo, Matt Moulson, PA Parenteau, and scoring his first goal of the season was Nino Niederreiter. Focusing on Okposo, it really seems as if he is in his required game shape. He is making plays and hustling much better than he had in the beginning of the season.
The Blackhawks offense never quits either; with goals coming from Andrew Brunette, Ben Smith, Jonathan Toews, and Patrick Sharp.
So it came down to a shootout. Jonathan Toews was lone scorer and was able to claim victory over the New York Islanders, 5-4.
If the Islanders can play the way they have played in the last week for the rest of the season, they will be in good shape.
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