Tonight, your New York Islanders (4-4-3 11pts) faced their rival, New York Rangers (3-7-0 6pts) for their first meeting on the season. Newly acquired Thomas Vanek will play along side John Tavares & Kyle Okposo on the Isles top line. The Rangers will start rookie, Cam Talbot in net.
Forwards: Vanek-Tavares-Okposo; Bouchard-Nielsen-Bailey; Grabner-Regin-Clutterbuck; Nelson-Cizikas-Martin.
D-Pairings: Hamonic-MacDonald, Donovan-Martinek, Carkner-Hickey.
Evgeni Nabokov will get the start with Kevin Poulin on the bench.
Vanek and Nelson in, McDonald and Boulton out of the lineup tonight.
In the first period, both teams come out looking a little disorganized. Clutterbuck with some good pressure. Isles get the first few shots on net, but Nabokov would come up big in close on two Ranger chances. Casey Cizikas is active in the offensive zone and irritating the Rangers. An early Isles PP is neutralized and becomes a Ranger PP & a Kreider rebound goal, 1-0 Rangers. Isles need more physicality in their own zone in front of Nabokov. Donovan with some good wheels and involved early. Vanek with some good pressure in close, but Talbot makes the saves. Rangers outplaying Isles. Islanders missing the net on several shots, Talbot barely has to move. Isles out shoot Rangers 9-4, but trail in the game. The Ranger's take a rare lead into the intermission.
Kyle Okposo victimized again in the second period, Rangers to the PP. Isles look shakey again. Trouble settling the puck down, winning face offs and dictating tempo. Isles with a good kill, Nabby took a shot off the mask but looks ok. Isles being outplayed again so far in the second. Big fan of how Donovan's game is improving. Cal Clutterbuck (Carkner) with a nice steal off Staal, breaks into the zone and roofs it. Its his first goal as an Islander. Game tied at 1-1. Matt Martin goes after Derek Dorsett to stir it up for the Isles. Bailey breaks in close, Talbot equal to task. Josh Bailey is really showing some maturity this season. Isles starting to force Rangers into turnovers as period goes on. Both teams with an energetic back and forth in the final two minutes of the period. Isles came close a few times there. Casey Cizikas is a penalty killing, offensive pressure wielding monster. Peter Regin (MacDonald & Hamonic) puts it in off Girardi for the go ahead goal, 2-1 Isles. Rangers out shoot Isles 15-7 in the period and 19-16 in the game thus far.
Nabokov comes up big again to start the period after the Rangers pressure the Isles net on a broken play in the Isles zone. Isles get called on a too many men penalty, McDonough scores through a screen, game tied at 2-2. Okposo cant seem to stay out of the box. Martinek way out of position, Pouliot scores to give the Rangers a 3-2 lead at 13:46 mark of the third period. Isles net is empty with 1:00 remaining. Isles out shoot Rangers 8-5 in the period, tied at 24-24 for the game. Richards and Clutterbuck throw down as time expires.
Isles have some bright spots in the game, but lose 3-2 with tons of Rangers fans in the lower bowl cheering on their goals in all the game highlights for the world to see. Talbot (22-24, .917Sv%) gets the win. Rangers get the two points.
Its not that they lost a close game and made a few mistakes in the process. It was they way they lost and were unable to come out and show something. Not the kind of statement game the Isles needed to make after the trade. They were and have been unable to play a complete game on a regular basis. They failed to play physical, fore-check, move the puck and cant finish consistently. The team is never ready to play. They sometimes just go through the motions instead of fighting through those challenges. To me, that's what the head coach is there for.
Their winning streak, comeback and lockdown mentality of last season is missing. Instead of taking the next step, they seem to be uncertain of what to do next. Vanek should make the team better. His chemistry will come with JT. Help on defense is need and its needed now with their injuries on defense. Waiting for the deep pool of prospects probably wont cut it. Will more trades come? Who would they add and at what price? Is it time for a gut check? A players only meeting to call out those who need to improve?
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More on the Moulson-Vanek trade:
Per Bob McKenzie, "BUF retained approx $1.4M, give or take a few thousand $, or roughly 20 per cent of Thomas Vanek's remaining salary, as part of NYI trade."
Per Pierre LeBrun," Another wrinkle in the Vanek deal: if the 1st round pick NYI sent Buff ends up top 10 in June, Isles have option to defer the pick to 2015."