An independent blog on the New York Islanders and the NHL by a guy from New York.

Thursday, April 23, 2015

2015 Playoffs: Defenseless In Game 5.


Tonight, your New York Islanders are back in Maryland to face the Washington Capitals in what should be a very intense & physical quarter final game 5.  The series is tied at 2-2, so tonight’s winner will take a big 3-2 lead in the series and the Islanders want it to be them for a return home on Saturday.  Mikhail Grabovski has been activated off the team's IR list and will play tonight in place of Brock Nelson, while Lubo Visnovsky remains out indefinitely following a hit from Tom Wilson in game 4.  There is no secret that the Isles took exception to what they feel was a dirty hit, but will need to stay focused on winning tonight’s game.  The Isles PP is the only unit without a PPG (0/10) in the playoffs so far.  That will need to change if they expect to get out of this series.



Griffin Reinhart & Ryan Pulock skated in warm ups and hope to be inserted into tonight’s line up in place of Visnovsky.  Both Reinhart & Pulock are excited about the possibility of playing.  Reinhart spoke about tonight, “Ever since I came up, I was waiting for the opportunity. It's unfortunate it had to happen like this, but whether I get to play tonight or another time in this series, I'm really excited and I came ready for it."  Pulock said he is ready, "I'm obviously excited to be here and I was told to be ready here... If I can get in and help the team, that's my plan."  Just prior to game time, Griffin Reinhart was put on the roster and will make his NHL playoff debut.
 


Bailey-Tavares-Okposo, Lee-Nielsen-Kennedy, Kulemin-Grabovski-Strome, Martin-Cizikas-Clutterbuck.

Leddy-Boychuk, de Haan-Strait, Hickey-Reinhart & Pulock.

Jaroslav Halak is in net with Michal Neuvirth backing up.

 

The bad blood already boiling over in the first minute of the opening period as both teams finish their checks.  The Capitals come out firing pucks in net from every angle on Halak.  Griffin Reinhart opens his playoff debut against Ovechkin.  Anders Lee opens the fight card against Wilson.  Challenge accepted.  Josh Bailey (Tavares & Leddy) snipes one from the circle to give the Isles a 1-0 lead at the 5:48 mark of the period.  The Islanders have finished all their hits on Ovechkin.  Isles lose zone face off & Kuznetsov slaps in a shot on net to even it out at 1-1 a few minutes later.  Both teams continue to play with a noticeable edge to their game.  Halak stops Chimera on a breakaway chance to preserve the tie and then Leddy strips Brouwer on another break way chance shortly after.  Washington has had the better scoring chances in the game so far.  Johnny Boychuk hits Ovechkin hard, but clearly pulls back to avoid a knee on knee.  Shots are 10-8 Caps after 1 and dominating in face offs by a 12-6 margin.



The 4th line has come out to play again in the second period. The Islanders doing a better job pressuring the Caps in their own zone and creating some scoring chances.  Halak comes up with huge saves on Wilson and then on Kuznetsov.   A slow whistle and Calvin de Haan misplay of the puck as Halak tries to cover, and Alzner makes it a 2-1 game for Washington.  I like de Haan, but it might be time for the Isles to give Matt Donvan a game.  Kuznetsov is called for a high-stick, Isles go the PP but fail to generate much including some complacency by Anders Lee, 0 for 11.  Reinhart hasn’t seen much ice time in the period and the defense looks tired and is starting to get outplayed.  Thomas Hickey turns over the puck to Ovechkin, who somehow draws a tripping call off Halak as Nielsen collides with him in the crease, Caps to the PP to start the third.  There has been suspect officiating in the game so far to say the least.  The depleted Islanders defense is looking tired and needs to be ready to answer the Capitals in what should be a hard fought third period.  Halak has been huge for New York in the game.  Shots are 18-8 in the period and 28-16 Caps after two.  Washington dominated in the faceoff circle by a 31-18 margin.
 

 

The Islanders kill the penalty to start the third, but Laich converts on the second rebound against Halak after another miscue at the net, 3-1 Washington.  De Haan goes to the dressing room, Reinhart takes his place.  Cal Clutterbuck called for retaliation slash to Gleason, Isles back to the PK.  4-1, Kuznetsov. Wheels coming off and frustration starting to boil over.  5-1 Washington after a goal by Chimera, Michal Neuvirth will make his Isles playoff debut.  Cal Clutterbuck sent off the ice for a slash and a game misconduct, Caps back to the man advantage.  Isles go through the motions in a meaningless and fruitless PP chance late in the game to seal their fate in a 5-1 loss and go down 3-2 in the series.  This was a statement game and a big opportunity to go back home with a chance to make things happen, but it wasn’t meant to be.  The Capitals won by playing their kind of game, something the Isles couldn't manage to do tonight.  Shots were 13-7 in the period and 41-23 for the game.  The PP was 0 for 2 (0 for 12 in the series) and the PK was 3/3.
 



Grail Knight of the game goes to Josh Bailey who has played hard and been one of the better guys on the ice over the last few games.
 
 
 
 
Tonight’s game started well, but too many penalties and without Travis Hamonic, losing Lubo Visnovsky and now Calvin de Haan put too much pressure on a thin Isles defense.  Even Johnny Boychuk & Nick Leddy were worn down as the game went on.  The Isles weren’t able to clear the puck very well or maintain any kind of proficiency in their transition game.  These were the primary reasons Washington was able to score 5 unanswered goals.  The Isles power play continues to be missing in action and has really cost them.  A sparsely supported Jaro Halak (30 of 35 with a .857Sv%) was pulled, but was really the only reason the Isles were in the game through two periods to begin with.  Michal Neuvirth finished the game with 6 saves.  Butch Goring has mentioned the Capitals free reign on face off interference and it really showed tonight.  The Officiating was horrible, but the Isles didn’t help themselves by the situations they put themselves in throughout the game. Their PP has finally taken them out of the series and the coaching staff is really starting to show their lapses in management. 

 

Capuano deserved to be given an opportunity to lead this team in the playoffs.  He led the Isles through a great campaign this season, but has the team off their mark since the All-Star break.  I said the Isles would win in 7 and I stand by that as long as adjustments can be made and their defense can hold on.  If de Haan is out for any period of time, you have to think Donovan or Pulock will get a shot.  Griffin Reinhart had a tough night tonight and the big guns for New York were nonexistent.  John Tavares needs to be better in this kind of game.  His lack of impact throughout the night cannot be acceptable.  The lack of an effective physical effort late in the game was a strange development to see unfold.  Mikhail Grabovski looked pretty good in his return to the lineup.  Game 6 is at the NVMC and hope this team shows up and answers some of its own questions with a win wrought by pride and determination.  Then they can go to Washington and answer all doubts away from home in a game 7 scenario.  I am proud of what they have done this season, but if they bow out of the playoffs in the way that they played tonight, there should be some changes moving forward.  Hopefully Friday’s practice won’t be optional.

 

See you Saturday.

 

 

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

2015 Playoffs: Isles Broken & Powerless In Game 4.


Yesterday, I went to the NVMC to see our New York Islanders face the Washington Capitals in game 4 of their 1st round match up.  The Isles had a 2-1 lead on the Caps and a win would have given them a commanding 3-1 series edge before heading back to Maryland.  Over the course of regulation, Ovechkin & Casey Cizikas (Clutterbuck & Leddy) exchanged goals in the second period of what turned out to be a very gritty and physical game. 


In the second period, Cap’s wing, Tom Wilson hit Lubomir Visnovsky behind the Islanders net 20 seconds after leaving the box for serving a kneeing penalty.  From the stands, I observed Wilson go after Visnovsky while he was away from the puck with a shoulder to his head, leaving his feet as he finished the hit.  To me, seeing him accessed with a 2:00 charging call was a joke.  It was clearly an attempt to injure a player with a concussion history.  Visnovsky left the game and his injury status is unknown at this time.  To make things worse, we get to hear Wilson’s team mate, Brooks Laich state that it was "a good penalty to take. Knocks them down to 5 defensemen for the rest of the game,” when he spoke about the Wilson hit on Visnovsky.  If I’m part of this Isles team & I read that no further discipline was handed out to Wilson & see the Laich comment, I wouldn't need any other motivation than the brotherhood of the other guys in the room. It's on.  And by on, I don't mean respond by using your own form of goonery or dirty play. I mean police your ice as a team & protect you own.  Raise your level of play. Winning this series is the real justice, not revenge.


Per Katie Strang, “Tom Wilson won't face any supplementary discipline for his hit on Visnovsky.”

Capuano on Wilson hit, "I don't have an opinion on it."

Tavares on Lubo hit, "we could've hit their guys like that but we play within the rules"

Kyle Okposo on Tom Wilson, "He's an idiot …The guy runs around, hits reckless, leaves his feet. There's no place for that."


New York went 0 of 4 on the PP and broke what seemed to be countless sticks at the worst possible times.  Several scoring chances and strong plays in the offensive zone were thwarted by the Isles continued plague of stick casualities.  After heading to over time with the score still tied at 1-1, Backstrom took advantage of another broken stick by John Tavares to somehow slip in the game winning goal behind a screened Jaroslav Halak.  The shot somehow fluttered through & into the net about half way through the extra session.  Halak was 28 of 30 with a .933Sv% in the loss and played a strong game for the home team.  Holtby also played well, negating the Islanders 37-30 shots advantage on the night.


The Islanders deserved better than a frustrating O.T. loss last night.  It had the feel of a heavy weight bout with each team striking hard only to be countered at the last second by the other.  The Isles worked hard and came close several times to scoring the go ahead goal in regulation, but saw pucks go off posts, sail wide and get deflected away from the net. Even more frustrating was seeing their power play & constant flow of broken sticks become a huge factor in the loss. Now they need to focus on winning game 5 & set up a chance to close the series at home.  The fourth line was awesome and guys like Brian Strait & Kyle Okposo had strong efforts in the game.  Casey Cizikas was named 2nd star of the game.


Reactions:

Casey Cizikas: “I thought we did a good job of that tonight, it was just a tough outcome."

Johnny Boychuk: "We have a young team but you can't get down on yourself. You just have to look at it as a best-of-three [series] now."

Capunao on the broken sticks, “I've never seen anything like it. It's frustrating, guys are working so hard."

Grail Knight of the game goes to Matt Martin, Casey Cizikas & Cal Clutterbuck of the fourth line.  These guys were even more amazing to watch in person.  Seeing the way they work as a unit and orchestrate what can happen on the ice was fun to see.


Finally, I had a great time walking the grounds with MaryBeth and enjoyed catching up with friends and followers of my blog.  There were tailgates and great conversations to be shared with several groups of fans that stretched across the parking lot.  I even got a chance to grab a few things at the team store before we left.  It was nice to see another playoff game at the old barn, even if it turned out to be a loss. 




***


Opinion:


It is quite common for rivalries to be built or rekindled from an NHL playoff series.  Sometimes, that rivalry can involve a bitterness or resentment that becomes an obsession to some.  I have seen and experienced my share of loud, obnoxious or inebriated fans at other arenas while attending these kinds of games.  I can appreciate good natured or even unfriendly verbal jousting, but I don't agree with when someone chooses to involve another unwilling fan in a physical altercation.  Pouring a beer on someone or lashing out at them just because they are wearing a different jersey just isn’t cool.


I have met tons of great people at Isles games over the years.  Some have even become buddies that I contact in real life and will see in a social capacity as friends.  I have also met some fans who constantly complain about everything other fans, the organization or specific players do.  Some spew negativity so often, I wonder why they would want to call themselves fans of this team.  Nothing seems to ever be good enough for them.  And even when things do work out, these fans strive to downplay the success by clinging to past failures or scramble for reasons that the player or a situation could have been better.  Do us all a favor and become a rival fan or something.  At least then, your negativity would make a little more sense.


It is also over the line to disrespect a player at the game. Heckling is fine, but you should not throw things on the ice or even worse, at a player or member of the staff.  It just isn’t cool and really has no place at a social event where people come to have fun.  What is even worse, are those who instigate situations like that and come to a game with plans of ruining another person’s good time.


Recently, a Caps fan blogged about how he and his group suffered some mistreatment at the hands of Islanders fans during the Washington loss in Game 3 at the Coliseum.  He was quick to point out all the injustices he & his friends experienced as a result of hostile Islanders fans.  I could feel for anyone who got abused in this kind of situation and quite frankly, we should do everything possible to avoid to be painted like this as a fan base.  But before you think I am attacking Isles fans here, let me finish.


It turns out there is another side to the story.  I have learned from several groups who were at game 3 & tailgating around them, that they were the ones being abrasive and hostile to anyone wearing an Isles jersey.  They were seen by several fans and people at the game yelling obscenities at passing Islanders fans, giving them the finger and playing the part of the aggressors or agitators.  This kind of behavior was witnessed throughout the day and during their tailgate in the parking lot.  What a sad attempt at trying to garner undue attention at the expense of others by playing the victim. 



Isles Notes:



Per Katie Strang, “Capuano said there will likely be changes to lineup for Game 5. Said there's a "real good chance" Grabovski could play.”


Yesterdays’ Line up:

Kulemin-Tavares-Strome, Bailey-Nielsen-Okposo, Lee-Nelson-Kennedy, Martin-Cizikas-Clutterbuck.

Leddy-Boychuk, Strait-de Haan, Hickey-Visnovsky.

Jaroslav Halak in net with Michal Neuvirth on the bench.

On Monday, 4/20, Matt Carkner, Scott Mayfield, Kael Mouillierat, Ryan Pulock and Johan Sundstrom have been recalled from the BST.


Per Daniel Hungerbuhler, “According to an interview with an Austrian paper. Michael Grabner needs another hernia operation this summer! Explains his lost speed.”


Sunday, April 19, 2015

2015 Playoffs: Islanders Answer Caps In Game 3.


This afternoon, your New York Islanders host game 3 of their round 1 series against the Washington Capitals.  It will mark the final playoff opener for the the Islanders at Fort Neverlose and is sure to be a raucous atmosphere right up until game time.  On the NVMC, NBC host, Doc Emrick said, "I'm going to get to see two good teams in a place where it's nuts."  Capitals sniper Alex Ovechkin did his part when he said fans on the Island can’t match those in Maryland, “I don't think it's going to be as loud as Verizon. But we'll see.”  The home fans should prove him wrong.  They had even started a movement on social media to wear their home blue jerseys in a “color the coliseum blue” day.

 
The Islanders had a “spirited” practice yesterday and should come out with an improved effort at home today.  John Tavares will need to be a bigger presence if the Isles expect to raise their game to where it needs to be.  Tyler Kennedy is in for Michael Grabner.  There is no timetable for the return of Isles D, Travis Hamonic.  Brayden Holtby is expected to be in net for Washington today after missing game 2 due to an illness. 



Kulemin-Tavares-Strome, Bailey-Nielsen-Okposo, Lee-Nelson-Kennedy, Martin-Cizikas-Clutterbuck.


Leddy-Boychuk, Strait-de Haan, Hickey-Visnovsky.

Jaroslav Halak is in net with Michal Neuvirth on the bench.


 
In the first period, the Islanders open with a great series of hitting and stick work in the Washington zone. A physical message has been sent back to the Caps early by the entire Isles team, especially a shoulder check by Kyle Okposo on Fehr. It was beast-like and sent Fehr to the locker room.  Strong start for Okposo.  Glencross suckered into a penalty by Cal Clutterbuck, Isles generate some good pressure on the PP, but can’t convert.  Frans Nielsen is on his game today and has done a good job starting the rush on several chances.  With less than 5 minutes played so far, the Isles are outshooting Washington 10-0, Holtby has been good.  De Haan goes off for tripping on Glencross, but the Isles kill off the penalty.  The kill included a bad change by New York that lead to a Caps 3 on 1.  Johanssen helped to the locker room for Washington.  The fourth line has been a force for the Islanders through the first by playing the body and creating havoc for the Capitals.  John Tavares slices in and puts a puck between Holtby’s pads that just goes off the far post and going back the other way, Wilson rings his shot off the post.  Halak makes a glove save in the closing seconds and comes up slowly and awkwardly from a split as he skates off the ice.  Shots were 16-5 New York in the period.

 
Jaro Halak looks fine and returns to the Islanders net.  Johanssen is back for the Capitals, Fehr is not to start the 2nd.  Tyler Kennedy is called for hooking on Niskanen who held his stick under his arm, Isles kill off another one.  Orpik called for interference on Kennedy, Isles can’t get any good looks on the PP, generate only one shot.  Another physical period for both teams.  Visnovsky goes down hard after a hit from Brouwer.  The hit looked clean, but there was a little bit of head contact there on the play.  Visnovsky sent to the locker room by Trainer for observation and returns to the bench a short time later.  Halak with a big shoulder save on Backstrom to keep the game scoreless.  Visnovsky takes a big shot from the top of the circle and Kyle Okposo (Kulemin & Leddy) redirects it past Holtby for a 1-0 Islanders lead.  Brouwer off for Tripping on Martin, Isles can’t score on the man advantage.  “Can you hear us,” chants rain down to Ovechkin from the Coliseum crowd.  Strait goes off for high-sticking with less than 2 minutes remaining, Isles on the PK.  Huge desperation play by Johnny Boychuk to clear the puck in the final seconds of the period.  Shots were 17-8 Islanders in the 2nd and are 33-13 after two. 
 
 
The Islanders kill the final 40 seconds of the Washington PP to start the 3rd period.  Nikolay Kulemin does so many things well for the Islanders in his two way game.  Jaro Halak with another big save, this time Johanssen.  The ice has become tilted and Washington has brought a lot of pressure late in the period.  Capuano calls a time out with 7:02 remaining to try and calm things down.  Halak comes up with a few big saves until Ovechkin redirects a Backstrom shot bar down, score tied at 1-1 at 13:54 of the 3rd.  Nick Leddy comes within an inch of regaining the lead for the Islanders.  Washington calls a timeout with for the final 2 minutes.  The game is heading to O.T.  Shots were 12-7 Caps 40-25 New York for the game in the 3rd, each team blocked 24 shots.  Isles PP was 0/3 and their PK was 3/3.  Jaro Halak was 23 of 24 with a .958Sv% in regulation.


Staple points out that the Isles have lost last four home playoff OT games. Last win: April 24, 1993, Game 4 vs. the Caps. @rayferrarotsn at 5:40 of 2nd OT.  John Tavares (Kulemin & Leddy) doesn’t care about stats because he scores the overtime winner just 15 seconds into the extra session with his first goal of the playoffs.  New York takes an important 2-1 series lead.
 
 
It was another response game by the home team is the series.  This time, it was the Islanders who answered a spirited comeback by the opposition with a huge game 3 win of their own at Fort Neverlose.  From the start of the game, New York came out hitting, checking and applying pressure in the offensive zone.  The 4th line took center stage generating several sparks, Johnny Boychuk was all over Alex Ovechkin & Nick Leddy was everywhere.  Kyle Okposo came out and did everything he was capable of doing, including scoring the first goal of the game as well as being physical and dynamic in transitional play throughout.  Lubo Visnovsky, Nikolay Kulemin and Frans Nielsen played well by doing a lot of little things in the spirited win.  Jaro Halak was a cornerstone in the effort today.  He didn’t face a lot of shots until the third period, but he did stop several good chances early that could have changed the pace of the game and altered the direction it may have taken.  John Tavares had been quiet in the playoffs thus far and came up huge when his team needed him the most by scoring the O.T. winner 15 seconds in (an Isles team playoff record).  This win was a huge gut check for the entire team.  John Tavares, Kyle Okposo & Lubo Visnovsky were named the 3 stars of the game.  To everyone who was at the game, you guys were amazing and showed a national audience how awesome Isles fans are in supporting our team. 
 
 
Grail Knight of game 3 goes to Johnny Boychuk who had a huge game on defense for the Islanders.  He was draped over Ovechkin the entire game and never stopped playing hard.  Per Mike Kelly, “Islanders, especially Boychuck, did a great job of neutralizing Ovechkin. Ovie had 14 shot attempts, 3 hit the net, none went in.”  I wonder what Ovechkin thinks of how loud the Coli can get now?


Capuano, “You are going to have adversity. It’s how you deal with it that defines the result.” 
 

Game 4, Tuesday.

 
 
Isles Notes:


Happy Birthday to @NYIslanders superfan @MichaelAlexy!
 

The state Department of Labor has notified more than 40 full-time and 2,500 part-time employees of Nassau Coliseum that they will be laid off this summer per Newsday.
 
 
 
Post Game Isles Locker room:
 



 

 


 

Friday, April 17, 2015

2015 Playoffs: "We Didn't Deserve It" In Game 2


Your New York Islanders are looking to take a 2-0 advantage in their series against the Capitals with a W tonight at the Verizon Center.  After a 4-1 win in game 1, the Islanders know what they can expect tonight from Washington.  That's going to have to raise our game, raise our play, raise our intensity and focus, and the things that need to be done to get a win,” said islanders Captain, John Tavares. Our focus has to be one game at a time.”  That focus will need to be dialed in to beat a frustrated and embarrassed Capitals team again tonight.


Per Mark Herrmann, “Caps Matt Niskanen: `They were a lot better. That sounds simple, but they played a lot better than we did. We think it's going to be a long series, if we respond in the right way.”


G, Phillipp Grubauer has been recalled for the Washington Capitals and will get the start in net.  Braden Holtby is not feeling well, and isn’t expected to play tonight.  Justin Peters is backing up for WSH.  Per Yahoo Sports NHL, “Grubauer will be 8th goalie to make NHL postseason debut in these playoffs, joining Bishop, Darling, Dubnyk, Hammond, Lack, Mrazek, Pavelec.”

 

Kulemin-Tavares-Strome, Bailey-Nielsen-Okposo, Grabner-Nelson-Lee, Martin-Cizikas-Clutterbuck.

Leddy-Boychuk, de Haan-Strait, Hickey-Visnovsky.

Jaroslav Halak is in net with Michal Neuvirth serving as back up.
 

 

In the first period, Casey Cizikas breaks in on a 2 on 1 with Cal Clutterbuck (Martin) who wrists it past Grubauer for a 1-0 Islanders lead.  “Let’s go Islanders,” chants heard quite clearly from the stands.  Green goes off for high sticking on Matt Martin, but the Isles PP stalls again.  Shots are 5-1 New York at the midpoint of the period.  Halak plays the puck behind the net, loses his stick but recovers in time to make the save.  The coaching staff needs to have him make adjustments to his game in regards to how he plays the puck.  Kyle Okposo gets a partial breakaway but can’t control the bouncing puck and sends it wide.  Halak makes a good stop on Carlson going back the other way as the period winds down.  Shots were 7-5 Isles in the period, but Capitals were aggressive, leading 31-13 in shot attempts.  The Islanders have the lead, but need to step it up over the next two periods in order to assert dominance.
 

New York silences the crowd at the Verizon Center a few minutes into the second period off a Ryan Strome (Tavares & Visnovsky) goal to give the Isles a 2-0 lead.  Washington responds on the fore check and more aggressive pressure in the Isles zone.  Matt Martin breaks his stick, Washington closes in and Alzner puts it past Halak & makes it a 2-1 game.  The crowd is alive again only to be silenced by a huge goal by Kyle Okposo (Bailey & de Haan).  Okposo breaks a stick and Ovechkin gets a 5 on 4 goal, 3-2 the score.  Capuano calls a time out with just under 3 minutes remaining to scream at his troops.  Washington responds with another good scoring chance but sees Halak cover up.  Huge save off an Isles turnover, Halak comes up big on Backstrom.  Time expires with an 18-7 shots advantage for Washington for the second and 23-14 after 2 periods.  The Islanders continue to battle, but are dominated by their opponent for most of the period.  They need to tighten up here to contain the constant Caps surge.  They have played two pretty good road periods though and still maintain the lead.


The Capitals go to the PP off a bad slash by Strome, generating tons of pressure until Backstrom walks in unmolested past Hickey and ties the game at 3-3.  The Isles pick the worst possible time to be passive and come up short.  Nick Leddy & Frans Nielsen cough up the puck and Chimera scores on the rebound to give the Capitals their first lead of the  game and the series, 4-3.  The Isles top players are looking flat and the team is struggling as a result.  Shot attempts are 78-33 WSH near the midpoint of the 3rd.  Halak goes to the bench with 1:20 to go in the game to try and generate something late, but the Islanders lose game 2 by a 4-3 final after 3 unanswered goals by Washington.  The "lifeless" Verizon Center got loud and stayed that way by the end of the game.  Shots were 12-7 Caps in the period and 35-21 in the game even after New York blocked 27 shots.  They simply spent too much time in their defensive zone to effectively manage the outcome of the game.  Both the Isles PP & PK was 0/1.
 
 
 

The Islanders showed the best and worst of their game tonight.  They were resilient and aggressive enough to regain and momentum and grab a 2 goal lead in the game.  They got pretty good chances and capitalized with some opportunistic goals as a result.  It’s tough when 2 of your teams’ 3 broken sticks result in Washington tallies.  But they also slowed down at different points in the contest until they were almost a passive observer, being badly outshot by Washington at times.  While they were off their game, they seemed to attract bad bounces and broken sticks far too often for my liking.  They were able to skate hard in game 1 and use their speed, so you knew the Capitals were going to be even more physical in game 2.  New York was playing catch up tonight for much of the 2nd & 3rd periods and allowed a 3-1 lead to turn into a 4-3 deficit before the midpoint of the 3rd period which would be enough for a WSH win.
 

 

The Islanders were worn down by the size of their opponent this time and were simply outworked by their desperation in trying to protect a rookie goaltender in net who the Isles never truly tested.  Despite doing some good things in the game, it was a really bad loss.  If the Islanders can’t find a way to build a lead and finish off their opponents, pressure mounts on every PK surrendered and each mistake made on the ice.  When this team gets away from their game and doesn’t play within their system, someone in front of or behind the bench has to be accountable enough to bring them back.  After tonight's loss, Capuano said "We didn't deserve it," when asked about his team's effort.  They will take the series split back home on Sunday and if they can use home ice to their advantage and if they find a way to counter the adjustment made by Washington for game 3, they can change their fortune. 


The Capitals were desperate for game 2.  The Islanders will need to play desperate in games 3 & 4 to have a chance to recapture momentum.
 



Grail Knight of game 2 goes to Kyle Okposo.  K.O. had another strong effort and scored a goal in tonight’s loss.

 

 See you on Sunday at Noon.
 
 

Isles Notes:


Per Rob Taub, “Source: Grabovski "very close to returning" possibly game 3 or 4.”


 

Sound Tigers Notes:


The BST have signed forward Ross Johnston to an Amateur Tryout Contract.  


Wednesday, April 15, 2015

2015 Playoffs: Islanders Wash Out Caps In Game 1


Tonight, your New York Islanders start their bid for the Stanley Cup.  They are in D.C. to face the Capitals without the services of Travis Hamonic.  Capuano on Hamonic: "It's undisclosed and there's no timetable. When there is, I'll let you know."  Expect Calvin de Haan to rejoin the team on defense.  “I’m looking forward to it,” de Haan said, “It's going to be exciting. The atmosphere is going to be good. It's going to be intense.”  #Capslock engaged. 


The Islanders have been good on the road this season with a tally of 22 wins, but they will need to solve their power play woes if they expect to keep pace with the Capitals, whose PP is the best in the NHL.  Staying out of the box is a good idea as well.  While special teams will be big, Isles goaltending will be bigger.  Jaroslav Halak has an NHL career .923Sv% and a 2.42gaa.  He will start the series and will have to play well in net for New York along with his defense to stop Alex Ovechkin.


Kulemin-Tavares-Strome, Bailey-Nielsen-Okposo, Grabner-Nelson-Lee, Martin-Cizikas-Clutterbuck.

Leddy-Boychuk, de Haan-Strait, Hickey-Visnovsky.
Griffin Reinhart is here as an extra defensemen.


Jaroslav Halak is in net with Michal Neuvirth on the bench.


In the first period, both teams came out with a tight defensive game and a physical edge.  Brock Nelson (Bailey & Boychuk) gets one 6 minutes into the period off a Caps turnover for the first goal of the NHL playoffs.  Definitely one Holtby wants back.  That’s one for the Islanders speed & transition game.  Calvin de Haan draws a weak holding call off Fehr, but the Isles fail to generate much on the PP.   Halak has made a few good saves so far in the game, including an Ovechkin shot from the slot.  In the final minute of the period, Jaro Halak misplays the puck and turns it over for a Capitals goal by Johansson.  Not the first time the Islanders goaltender has cost his team with a mishandled puck around his net.  So, it’s another late goal surrendered in the final minute after a mostly well-played period on the road. It brought the Caps and the fans right back into this game.  Could be a major mistake.  Shots were 11-7 New York.



The defense rebounds in front of a motivated Halak. Ryan Strome (Tavares) scores just 5 minutes into the second period off a John Tavares face off win in the Capitals zone good for a 2-1 Islanders lead.  Michael Grabner called for interference against Backstrom.  The Isles PK is tested and comes through by limiting Washington to only 1 shot against.  Huge kill for New York.  The Capitals respond with more physical play in front of the Isles net and the Islanders give it right back.  Several players answering the grit bell tonight.  Josh Bailey (Okposo & Nielsen) slams one home off the post and behind a sprawling Holtby for a 3-1 Islanders lead midway through the second period.  The Islanders are starting to create confusion for Washington.  Exactly what they need to do.  Matt Martin saves a goal with a huge block in front of an open net.  Chimera called for roughing at the buzzer for a late hit on Boychuk.  Isles will start the third on a PP.  Shots were 10-6 Caps for the period, tying the shots at 17 for the game.  Boychuk & Leddy have been all over Ovechkin so far tonight.  Great rebound period for New York.


The Islanders generate some good pressure on the opening power play chance of the third period, but fail to score.  Ovechkin lays a cheap hit on Boychuk into the boards from behind.  Boychuk is not pleased.  Clutterbuck is called for high-sticking.  The Islanders go to the PK and do a good job making saves, blocking shots and clearing the zone to kill off the man advantage for Washington.  Then they do a great job creating turnovers & crashing the Caps zone to generate pressure.  Holtby to the bench in the final 2 minutes after Halak makes a huge save late in the game.  Brock Nelson gets the ENG for a 4-1 Islanders lead and eventual win.  Shots were 10-8 Isles in the 3rd and 27-25 for the game.  New York was 0/2 on the PP and a huge 2/2 on the PK.  Definitely the difference in the game.

 
The team was prepared to bring a fast paced, quick transition, physical game against a bigger Caps team.  I was worried about Jack Capuano’s plan for tonight, but he had it right and should be recognized for it.  The leadership on the ice was spot on. The Islanders started well, gave up a potential game changing goal late in the first period off a misplay by Halak and still managed to come out firing for the rest of the game to keep things in hand.  Boychuk and Leddy were all over Ovechkin and did a great job on defense, even with the injury to Travis Hamonic.  The Cizikas, Martin, Clutterbuck line had 16 hits and definitely set the tone. Guys like Josh Bailey, Nikolay Kulemin and Brian Strait were doing all the little things to help the team win.  It was a solid road playoff game that was actually able to adjust and out maneuver Trotz, his line adjustments and momentum killing glass maintenance.  Jaroslav Halak (24 of 25 with a .960Sv%) settled down after a bad giveaway in the first and made the saves when he had to.  Josh Bailey & Brock Nelson were named 1st & 2nd stars of the game.
 

With tonight’s game 1 win, it marks the first time the Islanders have led a playoff series since April of 2009.  Home ice advantage has returned.
 

Grail Knight of game 1 goes to Brock Nelson for his 2 goal performance.  He was good all night long and played his first NHL playoff game like a seasoned veteran.



Isles Notes:


Calvin de Haan, Anders Lee, Brock Nelson & Ryan Strome are making their NHL playoff debut tonight.


The NHL Network said #FortNeverLose: The story of the @NYIslanders and Nassau Coliseum will replay this Sunday at 3 ET following Game 3 of #NYIvsWSH.  If you haven’t seen it, you should make the time to watch.  It is the best documentary on the Islanders that I have seen.


Per Randi Marshall, “Here's our story on today's Coliseum news. #isles #iftheybuildit #hope with @BrodskyRobert."


Monday, April 13, 2015

KoC: 2015 Islanders Playoff Preview


Your New York Islanders will face the Washington Capitals in the first round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs for the eastern conference.  The Islanders finished 3rd in the Metropolitan Division with a 47-28-7 record.  The Capitals finished the season 2nd with a 45-26-11 record & claimed home-ice advantage with an Islanders’ loss against Columbus on Saturday.


Their series will begin on Wednesday.  Games 1 (4/15) & 2 (4/17) will be played at the Verizon Center, 7pm starts before coming home to Nassau Coliseum on Sunday, 4/19 at noon for game 3, and game 4 on Tuesday, 4/21, with a 7:30pm starting time.
 

If necessary, game 5 will be in Maryland on Thursday, 4/23.  Game 6 would be back home at the NVMC on Saturday, 4/25 and game 7 on Monday, 4/27 back with Washington.  Times TBD.




The Isles and Capitals have met several times in playoff competition.  In 1993, the Islanders defeated the Capitals in six games and have won 5 of 6 playoff series between the two teams.  The Isles had 2 O.T. wins against the Caps this season while Washington won the other two meetings.



This year’s playoff is a huge one for New York.  It will see the NVMC hold its final rounds of competition as the home of the Islanders.  The fans will want another big post season performance by their squad.  Two years ago, the Isles had a strong series against the Penguins that went six games, but they want to build on that appearance and start changing their playoff culture by winning this series against the Capitals.  That will come down to relying on an improved goal tending situation, a better defensive game that can jump in on the rush and a balanced scoring attack that can roll with all four lines.  Special teams must perform efficiently on both sides to help the team reach the next level in the post season.

 
 
Eric Hornick had a few stats that might explain a lot about the way this team finished the season:

The Isles were 41-20-2 in their first 63 games, but finished the regular season 6-8-5 in the last 19.

The Isles have allowed 8 goals in the last 10 seconds of a period this season, none to the empty net.

The Isles were 6-0 in shootouts prior to Christmas, but lost six of their last seven shootouts, including the last five.

 

The Isles are 25-14-2 on Coliseum ice, while they finished 22-14-5 on the road, including 6-2-4 in their last 12. So this team is capable of winning anywhere if they can find consistency in their game and play to their strengths.  The ability to dictate play is limited without home ice by way of match ups, but the depth of roster should benefit the Islanders as it has all season.

 

What that might mean in a series against Washington is in short, their deficits must be addressed and their advantages must be pressed.  Here are a few factors I have isolated as keys to the series:



Offense:  While the Islanders can win without John Tavares, it is always better to have one of the best in the NHL on the ice when possible.  JT’s 86 points in 82 games had him in the running for the Art Ross trophy until the final hours of the race.  Beyond the stat sheet, Tavares is a Captain who leads by example and makes the guys around him better.  Players like Ryan Strome, Brock Nelson and Anders Lee have followed JT’s example and have really taken strides this season.  They, along with all the usual suspects, will need to score goals and put pressure on the Capitals’ defense. 


 

Defense & Goaltending:  Jaroslav Halak had a great season for the Islanders.  His ability to carry the team in the playoffs will factor in on how deep the team can go and he has had success in the play offs before.  In 2009, Halak helped the Canadiens defeat the Capitals and defending cup champion Penguins, before losing in the conference finals to Philadelphia.  And as a former Washington keeper, he is sure to need no extra motivation to help his new team beat the Capitals.  Michal Neuvirth is a good safety net for the Isles in goal.  He has playoff experience (4-5 record with Washington) and will likely want to make an impression if called upon to increase his chances of being re-signed in the summer.  Johnny Boychuk & Nick Leddy will have to raise their game even more with the devastating loss of Travis Hamonic on defense for an unknown period of time at this point.  Griffin Reinhart has been recalled on an emergency basis for defensive depth.  Containing Alex Ovechkin, the 2015 & 5 time Maurice “Rocket” Richard trophy winner will be a huge task for the Islanders defensive corps, especially on the PK.
 

 

On the other side, Braden Holtby was 41-20-10 in the regular season with a 2.22gaa, a .922 Sv% and 9 shut outs, ranking 1st in minutes played by a goaltender.  Holtby is a good goaltender, but has a very average 10-11 career record in the NHL playoffs.  The Islanders will need to put shots on net and interfere with his ability to track the puck.
 

 

Success on special teams will have to factor in for New York.  The Capitals have the best PP in the NHL.  The Islanders will need to stay out of the box.  When the need to kill off the Caps man advantage is called upon, it will mean the improved Isles PK will need to rise to the occasion.
 

 

The Islanders will need to score goals, enforce their game, use their speed and put up a strong, aggressive fore-check against Alex Ovechkin, Niklas Backstrom & a red hot Capitals’ team.  Their special teams will have to be dialed in on both sides of the ice & Jaroslav Halak will need to play to the level that helped him set the regular season record for wins (38) by an Islanders’ goaltender.   


Going into the playoffs as the underdog may indeed be the best thing for the Islanders. 


 

Islanders in 7.

 

 

NHL Notes:

 

The Draft lottery is set for Saturday.