Keith Quinn, Islanders Point Blank:
The Islanders played their most complete game of the season and finally strung two wins together by beating the defending conference champs. They got goaltending, controlled rebounds and, soties were absent. They skated, they hit, they kept the pedal down and didn’t let the score dictate how they were going to play. You’d have to think that Coach Capuano is pleased with this game.
The Isles kept a large contingent of Bruins fans at NVMC relatively quiet throughout the first. There was a noticable crispness to their defensive zone breakouts and their forecheck gave Boston fits at times and created some turnovers that were turned into scoring opportunities, but nothing breached the goal line for either team.
The blue team outshot the Bruins 9-6 on the period, and John Tavares, and Michael Grabner had notable scoring opportuinites. Grabner had a breakaway off a Boston turnover and came in fast down the left wing boards. He just missed a slapshot short side. (Updated breakaway counter here). Tavares had a great setup from Vanek early in the period and later he tipped a shot on net from Hamonic that created a big rebound that was just out of Vanek’s reach. The chemistry is developing.
Kevin Poulin looked sharp (despite not being heavily tested) for a goaltender that hadn’t played in a week.
Boston started the second with the first three shots and the Isles came out a little bit slower than in the first, but the fourth line put up a monster shift. They created scoring chances negated only by some deft tackling by Bergeron on Martin and a well-timed cross-check by Seidenberg on Casey Cizikas. There was a lot of personnel down in the crease/slot area, and that seemed to wake the Isles up.
They got on the board at 6:15 when Kyle Okposo carried the puck behind Chad Johsnon’s net. He back passed it (not really well) and it deflected off a couple of Bruins. Thomas Vanek was in the vicinity and swatted at the puck which fluttered in on Johnson, bounced off of him high and Tavares drag-bunted it out of the air for the 1-0 lead.
By the 10 minute mark, the Islanders were beginning to take over and were outshooting the B’s 9-3. The Bruins were looking objectively slow tonight and they were conceding odd man rushes often. Okposo and Tavares missed one when Tavares got a little fancy with a pass (he had a more than adequate opportuinity on the shot).
At 13:13, Andrew MacDonald extnded the Isles lead off a seeing-eye slapshot made possible when Patrice Bergeron was waved out of the faceoff circle leaving Tavares against Marchand. After a couple of passes around the offensive zone, Travis Hamonic found Amac for his first of the year.
Of course, it was 2-0 at that point, so, the Islanders, by law, had to take a penalty. Brock Nelson was whistled for a holding the stick at 13:30 and the Isles looked to be killing the penalty fairly well. Then, they got a breakaway from Michael Grabner and Grabner wasn’t able to get a shot off. He was somewhat caught behind the play, and the Bruins set up and made several consecutive cross-ice passes, the last leading to Frans Nielsen own goal when, Dougie (call yourself Doug already) Hamilton passed looking for Carl Soderberg.
The Isles stormed right back to re-claim their two goal lead just :41 seconds later when Okposo and Vanek walked in on a poorly played 2 on 1.5 or something. Vanek one timed a perfect pass and the Isles never looked back.
It was a sleepy first couple of minutes for the Isles to begin the third, but the penalty flood gates opened in this period. Torey Krug hooked Brock Nelson on a partial break to put the Isles on the power play. John Tavares negated that and put the Isles on the PK when he got two minutes for hooking (weak) and two minutes for talking back, but the Isles were able to kill it off.
Grabner continued to use his speed to put himself on partial breakaways in the third, (another miss), and Clutterbuck drew a late penalty on Chara to help seal it at the end. In essence, just about everybody played to their strengths tonight and minimized mistakes.
- It was fun watching Lucic whine to officials when Hamonic finally put him down (after Ham had been felled by Lucic multiple times).
- Boston looked slow to me tonight…or the Islanders looked pretty fast. I can’t tell which it is, or a combination of both, but if the Isles move their feet like that and keep looking for those short passes and can gain the zone like this against Boston, they should be able to do it against many others.
- I’m not sure that the Chara in front of the net thing works for the Bruins power play. I mean, can’t Lucic sit up there so that Chara can take the 100+mph shot? Seems like a big weapon to concede.
- The Isles had more hits and takeaways than Boston despite having an edge in the possession stats. Here are the fancy stats via Extra Skater.
On Vanek: John Tavares has never had a linemate like this. Parenteau could create a shot and space for other people, but his own shot was generally meh. Moulson needed a player to get him the puck but his shot was awesome. At times could thread a needle, but couldn’t create space, etc. Okposo has flashes of bulldog, but has been inconsistent. Watching Vanek make moves through traffic and not seeing Tavares anywhere in the frame is just, wow.
As that line plays together a little more, we’re going to be treated to some really beautifully played hockey.