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.
Detroit Red Wings Goaltender Jimmy Howard has 99 career wins in his young National Hockey League career.
He will look for number 100 against the New York Islanders.
Easier said than done.
The New York Islanders have won three consecutive games against Howard and the Red Wings. In their last meeting on December 31, 2010, a 4-3 overtime win for the Isles, P.A Parenteau scored the game-winning power-play goal in the extra session.
Even with the recent success against the Wings, the 2011-12 Islanders are fading quickly in a tightly contested Eastern Conference. Their most recent road trip started out with a dramatic shoot-out victory in Carolina, followed up by a listless third period in a 4-2 loss at Anaheim and a 5-1 drubbing by the Phoenix Coyotes that saw Shane Doan collect his first hat trick in 1160 career games. Evgeni Nabokov started his 9th straight game for the Isles and took the loss. He allowed five goals, including the 3rd goal by Doan with 0.1 left on the clock.
The Ducks top line of Corey Perry, Ryan Getzlaf, and Bobby Ryan had a coming out party Friday Night.
Unfortunately, it was at the New York Islanders expense.
Bobby Ryan had two goals and Ryan Getzlaf scored the go-ahead goal, his first in over a month, as the Anaheim Ducks defeated the Islanders 4-2.
Ryan started the scoring at 14:18 of the second period only seconds after their first power play of the game ended. Matt Martin answered back under two minutes later tapping home a rebound to tie the game at one. It was his fifth goal of the season, tying his career high.
I wrote a piece back in October entitled, "P.A. Perfect?" that discussed whether or not the first line winger would be able to continue on his hot streak that began at the start of the season. As of now, according to TSN's calculations, he is on pace for a 68 point season. Those 68 points would be spread about 14 goals and 54 assists, a production total that his line mates Matt Moulson and John Tavares are more or less both on pace for as well.
I say that because when you look at the Islanders statistics, those three are the very top in the points category with Parenteau and Moulson tied for 28 for the team lead and JT right behind them with 27. After that, the offense dwindles with defenseman Mark Streit checking in with 18 points and Frans Nielsen being the next forward in line with a total of 15 points in 33 games.
But I am not here to talk about the Islanders terrible offensive production that has plagued them all season long. Parenteau, as stated in the past, is a player that many felt would be the odd man out, seeing himself off the Island by the end of the year
The New York Islanders will welcome the Dallas Stars to Nassau Coliseum this evening to conclude the season series between the teams. Dallas, the current Pacific Division leaders, has exhibited some streaky form of late. Their 35 points, however, leave them eleven points better than the struggling Isles, though New York has played one fewer game.
Fresh off of 1-0 shutout of a the New York Rangers, coupled with some recent unsteadiness in the New York crease makes Dallas a significant favorite tonight.
The Islanders, who are boasting the worst offense in the league with only a dismal 59 goals for (the second worst team is the L.A. Kings with 63), were heavily criticized for one specific thing over the past three months; not scoring enough goals. (Shocking, right?)
After being shutout several times this year, the Isles were becoming a one-trick pony; if the line of Moulson-Tavares-Parenteau wasn't scoring, then there wasn't anything to worry about if you were the opposing team. However, the Isles have been on a recent streak after coming away with points in their past six games played.
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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