Keith Quinn, Islanders Point Blank:They keep finding dramatic and troubling ways to lose despite looking pretty good for significant portions of their game. And there isn’t much relief in sight despite the anticipated arrival of wunderkind Ryan Strome. Somehow, you turn around and the game is spiraling out of control. Tomorrow, the Isles draw the team with the third best record in the western conference; the San Jose Sharks. (They have games in hand though.)
The Islanders got off to a great start tonight bringing some physical play and getting under the Ducks skin. Calvin deHaan hit Corey Perry off the opening faceoff and angered some Ducks and the Isles had some jump in their forecheck and some urgency in their zone exits.
Matt Martin got into a fight with former Islander Tim Jackman after Martin laid a heavy hit on Teemu Selanne and Jackman hit MacDonald. It was a pretty even fight, but Martin left for the dressing room for a while with what appeared to be a hand issue. He did return later though.
The Isles were getting some good chances from the first line as John Tavares appeared to be in high gear. He gathered a Jonas Hiller turnover behind the net and wheeled in front to Okposo who had a wide open shot hit Vanek’s ankle and go wide. Later, Michael Grabner had a good chance created by his speed and crashed the net hard taking Mark Fistric careening into Hiller.
The Islanders got a power play at the 8:57 mark when Fistric got beaten at the blue line by Colin McDonald and took him down. For the first time in a while, the power play moved the puck quickly and effectively. Frans Nielsen passed the puck into the box where Thomas Vanek gathered it took it a little wide, and sent a pass back into the front of the net, off a Duck skate that Tavares smacked home.
At the 15:54 mark, the Ducks evened things at one when the Isles failed to gain the red line on a dump in resulting in a defensive zone draw. Tavares lost the draw and the puck was fumbled behind the net and eventually made its way back to Cam Fowler at the point who fired a slap shot (possibly with a partial deHaan screen) that Anders Nilsson got a piece of, but it landed right on Saku Koivu’s stick for a backhander.
After that though, the Isles, who have recently been described as “fragile”, looked, well, fragile. Their play was slower, more calculated, tentative, and just flubby. But shots were 13-7 (no shots for the Ducks the first 10 minutes) and it was the first period in a while the Isles territorially, won decisively.
And they got off to a great start again for the second and things looked somewhat promising (except for Nilsson’s rebounds…more on that later). Tavares and Okposo had a 2 on 1 early that Tavares whistled wide, and at 4:17 the Isles faceoff resurgence paid off. Tavares won one in the Ducks zone, Okposo sealed off his man and Vanek swooped in and snapped it past Hiller to reclaim the lead.
After a couple of Isles chances, including a partial breakaway by Grabner and another pretty deflection of a Tavares pass by Okposo (that were both close but saved), the Ducks reeled off three unanswered.
The first Ducks goal came at 12:41 after the Isles took an icing when Martin failed to gain the blue line on a dump in. Off the faceoff, the Isles failed to clear and Daniel Winnik whipped a backhand pass through Andrew MacDonald, Thomas Hickey and Tavares to Andrew Cogliano who beat Nilsson easily.
A large scrum started toward the end of the period when Corey Perry crashed the net, and Anders Nilsson got his stick up around his throat, then Perry cross-checked Nilsson. Then there were players everywhere, but the notable wrestling combatants were Dustin Penner and Cal Clutterbuck who both went off for roughing, and Perry went for interference.
During the Isles power play, with :33 seconds left in the period and :16 left in the penalty, Capuano put out the fourth line to finish things off. That somehow resulted in a 3 on 1 against Aaron Ness, who played the shooter…who got the shot off. Nilsson kicked out a big rebound and Cam Fowler buried it.
That opened the flood gates and 31 seconds later, Corey Perry, in a spectacular individual effort, skated through deHaan (who got called for a penalty; delayed) avoided the back check of Bailey, and fired a shot that went through Hamonic’s legs, who was in the crease blocking Nilsson and it bounced in. 4-2 heading into the third.
The start of the period went well with the Isles getting the first five shots of the period and some sustained zone time from the first and second lines, but the shots weren’t very threatening. Momentum shifted when Andrew MacDonald took a tripping penalty at 6:18 though and the Ducks scored on their first PP chance of the game.
With Isles PKers gassed and swimming around a bit, Cam Fowler rifled a one-timer that Nilsson got a piece of, but the rebound went right to Nick Bonino who hit the post sending the puck over to Corey Perry who buried it for his 2nd of the game and 20th of the season. After the Amac penalty, the Ducks outshot the Isles 8-3 by the midway point of the period, and that would essentially seal the game.
The last memorable event was Matt Carkner having a fit and throwing Saku Koivu around a little bit, but for some reason the broadcast really didn’t expand on why that happened. Carkner was given a 2 and 10 for his troubles at 15:05 ending his night a little early.
- Arthur Staple tweeted that Dwayne Roloson is the Ducks goaltending coach and he has Sudsie Maharaj as his consultant in the AHL. Ducks goaltending seems to be in good shape.
- I like how deHaan is handling physicality. He is hitting (tied for team lead with 5 tonight), is stronger on his skates than I expected and he got involved in the scrum with guys who are bigger than him.
- The Isles again did well in the faceoff circle (35-27) which was helpful setting up the power play. The PP had improved movement and chances tonight, but could use a bit more finish still given the movement.
- Still no secondary scoring, but there are chances. That trend has to reverse itself soon, right?
- Anders Nilsson’s rebound control was poor tonight. The rebounds were not only often, they were big.
- Sounds like Nabokov is close to a return. One would assume Poulin would be the goaltender to stay.
- Strome may get in the game tomorrow, but may not. He probably won’t get a chance to practice with the team at all if he does and it’s possible he gets the deHaan treatment.
- Only three Isles didn’t have a shot tonight; Regin, deHaan and Cizikas.
- The defensive TOI is seeing a much more even distribution since the splitting of Hamonic and AMac.
- There seemed to be a bunch of different line combinations and defense pairings out on the power play tonight. There is some experimentation going on obviously, but one incarnation had Aaron Ness and Josh Bailey at the points with Nelson, Clutterbuck and Tavares. Very strange.