PENGUINS 3 ISLANDERS 0Pluses and Minuses for A Tough Loss

Obviously a loss of any kind is bad, a shutout worse and when it’s the third loss in a row to a division rival, well, pretty awful. But given the Isles recent play there are some positives to take away from this game. The third and fourth lines showed flashes of quality play putting shots on net and delivering hits as Jack Capuano has been preaching since the beginning of the season. They threw 33 shots at a remarkably solid Marc-Andre Fleury and had another 26 blocked by a Penguin team defense that seemed to be positioned in every passing and shooting lane all night.

Before a sparse crowd announced at 10,681 at NVMC, things got off to a decent start for the Isles with the Grabner/Nielsen/Okposo line generating a great scoring chance with Grabner using his speed on the forecheck to force a turnover that landed on Nielsen’s stick. He fluttered a shot at on goal that was redirected by Okposo but easily swallowed up by Fleury…it was a sign of things to come.

The Pens first goal was a symphony of errors. During a great cycle by the Bailey/Comeau/Rolston line (possibly the best they’ve looked this season), Mark Streit pinched up the left boards to keep the puck at the top of the circle. As he fired the puck in, he and Rolston tangled, the shot ended up on Brooks Orpik’s stick on the far boards, Blake Comeau went to play that man and left Streit’s coverage assignment. Orpik put the puck on Pascal Dupuis’ stick and he blew past Staios on a breakaway and beat Evgeni Nabokov for a 1-0 lead they took into the first intermission.

In the second period, another defensive breakdown led to a goal by former Islander Richard Park. John Tavares lost the puck on a stick check by Arron Asham at his own blue line towards the right side boards. Asham walked in, drew Staios down and out of position and got the puck to Park wide open in the slot. Using Streit as a screen, he fired a wrist shot off of Nabokov’s left shoulder and into the net for a 2-0 Penguin lead that they would take into the third.

Early in the third, Marty Reasoner was given a double-major for high sticking Jordan Staal and drawing blood. The Isles had a fantastic penalty kill with Mark Eaton making several diving blocks (one with the palm of his hand) and Jay Pandolfo playing effectively for about a minute without a stick . The Isles weren’t able to build much momentum off of the kill though, which led to Capuano curiously pulling Nabokov with about 3:30 left in the third. A minute and a half later, the Pens would ice it with an empty net goal by Jordan Staal and that’s all she wrote.

On to some of the positives and negatives in the +/-

+ Better effort, more skating, more shots, more hitting by the guys who most needed to do so; Josh Bailey and Blake Comeau.

– Seeing a better effort thwarted by a strong Penguin defense.

– The defensive foot speed; particularly the bottom pairing. This team is having a hard time generating rushes and shots because the wings and center are having to support down low leaving the D nobody to pass to as an outlet. The D is not quick enough to carry the puck, so the puck goes up the boards and down the boards. This is not an easily rectifiable problem especially with the youth at Bridgeport struggling right now.

+ Nabokov made a number of great saves in the game. It appears that he has ‘it’ back. The goaltending continues to be impressive which will be necessary with the current state of the offense.

– John Tavares trying to do too much tonight. He had several turnovers, but honestly, so did everybody. A lesson that the Isles might want to take away from this game is, having your stick on the ice and toward open lanes will bring good things.

– According to Islander statistician Eric Hornick, the 14 goals generated by the Islanders in their first seven games is the lowest total the team has had since the ’73-’74 season (12) and third lowest all time (11 in ’72-73).

+ The penalty kill continues to be impressive and held the Penguins without a goal

And probably the biggest plus is the Isles get another crack at this on Thursday in Pittsburgh. As bad of a loss as this was, they did do some of the things that Jack Capuano has wanted to see and far better than the efforts in Florida. If they can build off of this, they should have some success against some of the lesser teams in the league.

Keith Quinn is also a contributor to Lighthouse Hockey. He will be providing game reports.