BLACKHAWKS 5, ISLES 4 SO 2-0-1 on Road Trip With One to Go

A loss is a loss but some nights the end result which is black and white, doesn’t describe the 60-minute game, which has many more shades of grey. The final result tonight is that the Islanders lost in the skills competition — whatever you can glean from that — but the means they used to get there was 65 minutes that they stood toe-to-toe with one of the best teams in the NHL.

Sure, there were defensive breakdowns. The first Blackhawks goal, the Islanders defense retreated while the offensively gifted Blackhawks made tic-tac-toe passes for a beautiful goal. There was also the Hawks’ third goal, a shortie from Jon Toews, which was the result of Milan Jurcina having a narcoleptic episode in his own zone.

But the positives far outweighed the negatives and, with a better defense or luck in the “skills” competition the Islanders would have walked out winners. They scored first — Kyle Okposo with another goal is back and hopefully here to stay. They came back from 3-2 and 4-3 deficits by playing an excellent third period. We’ve seen this team come out flat in the third period too many times the past few years. As they had in the last few games, they came out ready to go and kept the pedal to the floor as was evidenced by how they out shot the Hawks 23(!!) to 7 in the final frame.

The team now has five of a possible six points on this four game road trip and are 2-0-1 with one to go. This team is down, sure. They’re still nine points out of 8th in the east. How they’ve played the last few games there’s a different team on the ice than we saw in November. How long this new team stays around will be interesting to see.

THE BIG CUBANO’S RETURN HOME
The Islanders telecast mentioned that Al Montoya spent nearly $4,000 on tickets to tonight’s games for family and friends. Is it weird that it is more than John Tavares paid in a fine last week? Montoya stopped 32-of-36 tonight, a rare under .900 on the statsheet against one of the most offensively gifted teams in the NHL. Two goals I would like to credit to Milan Jurcina’s (lack of) defense as mentioned above.

@lombo9: @Schultz88 so I just dialed 1800BIGCUBANO….ummm yeah prob not a # I should’ve called from my work phone.

Oh and folks, I love to joke around and talk about #1800BigCubano getting the call in net but please, it’s not a good idea to actually call the number as one of my Twitter friends learned today. So in conclusion, tweet the meme but don’t follow through on the meme. Ok? Cause that’s how we break the internet (or rack up questionable phone charges).

NINO DOES WELL WHAT NINO KNOWS HOW TO DO WELL
Nedermeyer… Err… Neidermater… I mean Niederreiter had a beauty of a goal in the third period. After Marty Reasoner created a turnover in the neutral zone Matt Martin sprung the circling Swiss with a pass, letting Nino get an open look at Corey Crawford. Watch the highlight again. Doesn’t it just look like something clicked in Nino as soon as the puck hit his stick? It’s was like yes, skating and shooting in open space is exactly what he’s programmed to do and he does it very well. He just hasn’t had the opportunity to do it all that much lately.

On the other side of the puck, he’s had some trouble with defensive assignments thus far but that’s not something to worry about at all with a player his age.

JOHN TAVARES IS SLUMPING BUT YOU WOULDN’T KNOW IT WITHOUT A STAT SHEET
Franchise Savior has not scored since November 5th. Matt Moulson’s 9th of the season tonight gave him the team lead, one ahead of Franchise Savior. But Tavares played like a man possessed on Tuesday night in Buffalo. He continued such play with two assists tonight in Chicago. With about four minutes to go, Tavares broke into the Blackhawks zone off an up pass from PA Parenteau. With only Niklas Hjalmarsson left to beat, Tavares crossed up the Hawks defenseman and sent him falling to the ice. After skating across the slot and taking a few hacks from other backchecking Hawks, Tavares let a shot go that beat Corey Crawford and would have trickled home for a (potential) game winner if not for a recovered Hjalmarsson shoveling it off the red line.

HOW ABOUT ROB SCHREMP FOR SHOOTOUT COACH?
Someone call Shootout Specialist Rob Schremp, these guys need some help. As much disdain as we may have for the shootout, it still counts for points in the standings some nights. The team is 0-for-5 in extra session games this year, 0-for-2 in shootouts. They have yet to score in overtime or the shootout, where they have failed on all five attempts thus far. Small sample size of course, but at some point things have got to fall their way, right?

As for selection in tonight’s shootout, Frans Nielsen is still 55% liftime in the shootout including tonight’s miss. That’s second best in the league among active players with at least 10 career attempts. You can’t go wrong sending him out. Niederreiter, as we saw when he was given space in the above video lecture, is another offensive whiz and guy I don’t mind out there. However, sending out Matt Moulson instead of either of his linemates wasn’t what I would have expected.

Now THAT’S a third period
Outshooting the opposition 23-7. Outscoring them 2-1 (and probably should/could have been more). The Islanders had one of their best periods of the year in the third after the Hawks asserted pressure in the second.