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

Saturday, February 28, 2015

Islanders Snuff Out Flames

R.I.P. Mr. LoFaso
On Friday night, your New York Islanders hosted the Calgary Flames.  The Isles were going for the season sweep of the Flames and needed the two points to get back into first place in front of the New York Rangers.

Lee-Tavares-Bailey, Grabner-Nielsen-Strome, Kulemin-Nelson-Clutterbuck, Martin-Mouillierat-McDonald.

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

Jaroslav Halak got the start with Chad Johnson backing up.

The Islanders meant business in this game and came out hard once again.  The down side was that even though they had tons of offensive pressure and were resilient on defense, they had a sloppy game.  The good news was that they would get the 2-1 win after Ryan Strome (Tavares & Hamonic) and Cal Clutterbuck (Kulemin & Hickey) scored for New York. In addition, John Tavares tied for the NHL lead in scoring in the race for the Art Ross Trophy. 

The officiating could have been the story again in the game.  The Isles saw Johnny Boychuk’s defensive recovery in the Islanders zone resulted in a penalty shot chance for Calgary and Michael Grabner’s breakaway was clearly interfered with but no penalty shot was awarded.  Jaro Halak made the save and is 2/3 in his career by the way.  Cal Clutterbuck clearly scored a legal goal that the officials waved off.  But he would score the ENG to seal the eventual 2-1 win late in the third, so thankfully, everything worked out this time.  Another unfortunate occurrence was that Jaro Halak (26 of 27 with a .963Sv%) was 20 seconds away from a shutout when Jooris scored.  Halak also went for the empty net with just over a minute left in the game, but the Flames, Russel blocked the on target attempt.  The Isles were 1/3 on the PP and 2/2 on the PK and outshot Calgary 39-27 in the game.  Kari Ramo (37/38) was awesome for Calgary and deserves a mention.

Some standouts for New York were the play of the first line as a whole, but John Tavares’ assist put him in the lead for points in the NHL at 64.  Michael Grabner looked good again on both sides of his game and Travis Hamonic continues to improve with less ice time per game and is +11 for the month.  Ryan Strome does all the little thigns right and once again scored a huge goal for the Isles because of his greatly improving hockey sense and on-ice presence.  Jaroslav Halak has been a major story for the Islanders this year and notched his franchise leading 33rd win (Smith, DiPietro, Osgood with 32) of the season already.  The Islanders are 2nd in the east (41-20-2 in 63 gp) at 84 points (MON 85) and back to 1st in the metro division. Eric Hornick mentions, “Isles re-tied Nashville for NHL lead in wins -- 41. Isles first in East to 23 home wins as well. (Preds have 26).”  Halak & Strome were named 1st and 2nd stars of the game.


Isles Notes:

NHL investigated alleged Clutterbuck spit on Sedin.

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Islanders Skin Coyotes

Your New York Islanders will still be looking for win #40 as the Arizona Coyotes visit the NVMC tonight for the final time.  The Isles will be playing their 6th game in 9 nights and even though the Coyotes have lost 6 in a row, it should be a good test for the Islanders.  If the Isles can get back to staying out of the box, it will help their chances of success immensely in the game, as Arizona quietly has the 5th ranked PP.  Another huge hurdle is their struggles on the PP recently.  They simply must improve soon.  Chad Johnson will be in net for the second time in the last three games and thankfully, Frans Nielsen has been OK’ed to play.  Per reports, Kyle Okposo is close to skating & Casey Cizikas is still wearing a medical boot on his foot.  He has yet to get back on the ice.  Former Islander, Dylan Reese will be in the lineup for Arizona.

Forwards:  Lee-Tavares-Bailey, Grabner-Nielsen-Strome, Kulemin-Nelson-Clutterbuck, Martin-Mouillierat-McDonald.

Defensive Pairings:  Leddy-Boychuk, de Haan-Hamonic, Hickey-Visnovsky.

Chad Johnson is in net with Jaroslav Halak on the bench.

In the first period, The Islanders were able to generate some good pressure in the o-zone, but Mike Smith was equal to their efforts.  Capauano responds with mixing up lines to try and generate something.  Grabner with Nelson & Clutterbuck, Bailey with Tavares and McDonald then Nelson with Lee & Strome to name a few.  I’d love to see the kid line get some more shifts moving forward.   The period ends with a 12-6 advantage in shots for New York, but nothing to show for it.  The Islanders forced turnovers, but couldn’t convert. 

Anders Lee (Hamonic & Nelson) scores his 20th of the season with the reunited kid line to give the Islanders a 1-0 lead in the opening minute of the second period.  New York continues to enforce their physical brand of hockey in the game and the defense continues to “activate” offensively.  Chad Johnson has quietly done his job well up to the half way point of the game.  Ekman-Larsson gets called for boarding on Nelson.  Should have been more.  Isles generate some pressure on their first PP of the night, but fail to score.  Coyotes find their legs late in the period and Arcobello converts on a 3 on 2 fast break chance, game is tied at 1-1.  Arizona took the edge in shots for the second period 14-13, but Isles hold the advantage after two, 25-20.

Capuano continues to mix with Lee, Nelson & McDonald start the third, then Bailey, Tavares & Strome.  However, the Isles having some trouble clearing their own zone.  Matt Martin (Kulemin & Mouillierat) puts it top shelf after seizing a loose puck to give the Islanders a 2-1 lead.  Its Martins 8th of the season, good enough to tie his career high in goals set last season.  Isles break out with a 4 on 2 opportunity less than a minute later, Tavares dishes to Boychuk (Tavares & Strome) and its 3-1 Islanders.  Clutterbuck & Crombeen go off for unsportsmanlike conduct, 4 on 4 for two minutes.  Kael Mouillierat (McDonald & Kulemin) takes a Dylan Reese giveaway and makes it a 4-1 Isles lead.  That’s Mouillierat’s first NHL point.  Things have changed in a hurry.  Brock Nelson (Bailey & McDonald) follows up a huge Bailey rebound to make it a 5-1 Islanders lead.  That’s four Islanders’ goals in less than 7 minutes of play.  Tavares is called for hooking on Vermette.  Isles kill the penalty.  Shortly after, Anders Lee is called for a hooking call (Martinook) late in the game, then Cal Clutterbuck gets a weak cross checking call, but it doesn’t matter.  The Isles PK holds & the Islanders win by the score of 5-1 with a 14-8 third period.  Shots were 39-28 for the game.

So, the game started as a slow and boring, turn over rich environment.  After teams exchanged goals in the second period, the Isles exploded in the third period to suddenly ventilate Mike Smith and the Coyotes defense.  Credit Capuano for changing things up to generate some energy and it worked.  I loved seeing the Nelson, Lee & Strome line reunited and it was cool to see Mouillierat score his first NHL goal.  Colin McDonald now has 8 points in 10 games since being recalled from Bridgeport.  Seeing Brock Nelson continue to get rewarded for his hard work is an awesome thing as well.  Credit the defense and especially Chad Johnson (26 of 27 with a .963 Sv%) for holding the fort.  The Isles out hit Arizona 52-32 for the game.

The Isles overcame some sloppy moments and were able to refocus, especially after giving up the 1 goal lead to score 4 unanswered goals.  Clearly, it was a huge 3rd period and turned out to be a great effort by the Islanders to secure their 40th win of the season, 20th at fort never lose, 82 points and are tops in the eastern conference.

Brock Nelson, Kael Mouillierat, Chad Johnson were named the 3 stars of the game.

The Islanders welcome the Calgary Flames to the Coliseum on Friday at 7pm.

Isles Notes:

Apparently, the Islanders owe Nassau County $3.6M.

Per @NHLhistorygirl, “On this date in 1982, Isles Bryan Trottier reached 100 points in a season for the fifth consecutive season.”

Sound Tigers Notes:

Scott Mayfield has been suspended six games for his actions on Saturday night

Islanders Extend Leddy For 7 Years

Earlier today, the Islanders announced that they had come to terms on a 7 year, $38.5M contract extension ($5.5 AAV) with 23 yr old defensemen, Nick Leddy.  He has helped the Isles in several areas of their game, especially as a reliable defender on the blue line.  Leddy has scored 8 & 7 for 25 pts and a +12 rating after 61 games with New York this season.  It’s another huge success by Garth Snow and the Islanders organization to improve their team and move closer to being serious Stanley Cup contenders.  Oh, and it does NOT contain a no trade clause.

Per Garth Snow, “Nick has proven to be an elite defenseman in this league at a young age.  Snow continued, “He’s the type of player on the ice, in the locker room and community that we’re thrilled to add as a cornerstone of our defensive core."

Leddy was quoted as saying, “We have something special in this locker room and I’m excited to be a part of it for seven more years … From the start of my time here, the Islanders have been a first-class organization.”  Leddy added, “I’m honored by their commitment to me and look forward to challenging for the Stanley Cup for years to come.”

The Islanders acquired Leddy, along with goaltender Kent Simpson, from the Chicago Blackhawks on October 4, 2014 in exchange for defensemen TJ Brennan, Ville Pokka and the NHL rights to goaltender Anders Nilsson.

Sunday, February 22, 2015

Islanders Flat Against Vancouver

Tonight, your New York Islanders welcome the Vancouver Canucks for their final regular season visit to the NVMC before another sellout crowd.  New York wants to get back to their winning ways after a close shoot out loss to Washington yesterday.  Lubo Visnovsky will be back in the lineup for Brian Strait.  The Isles will also be looking to get some payback after losing to the Canucks by the score of 3-2 in January.  Vancouver is currently 2nd in the Pacific division with 69 points. 

Forwards:  Lee-Tavares-Bailey, Grabner-Nielsen-Strome, Kulemin-Nelson-Clutterbuck, Martin-Mouillierat-McDonald.

Defensive Pairings:  de Haan-Hamonic, Leddy-Boychuk, Hickey-Visnovsky.

Jaroslav Halak is in goal with Chad Johnson backing up.

The Islanders come out buzzing again in the first period, giving Miller all he can handle, outshooting Vancouver 4-1 in the first 5 minutes.  On the other side of things, Jaro Halak with a few big saves on Isles turn overs.  The sheer will of John Tavares draws a hooking penalty from Horvat.  New York able to generate some good o-zone pressure & shots, but unable to score on the PP.   Vancouver has returned some of the push in the second half of the period.  Kael Mouillierat trips Sbisa, Isles finish the period on the PK.  Shots were 9-8 in favor of N.Y. who started strong, but faded fast.  No doubt are feeling the effects of their 5th game in 7 nights. 

Kassian puts a rebound off Halak and it dribble over the goal line for a PPG, 1-0 Vancouver.  Ryan Miller is run into by Hansen and looks hurt.  Possibly his knee.  Miller goes off for evaluation.  Lack in the net for Vancouver & is tested immediately by Tavares & Bailey. Clendening called for delay of game, Isles back to the PP.  With 10 seconds remaining, H.Sedin is called for tripping.  Isles with a brief 5 on 3 then another PP chance, but can’t get things going.  Their PP continues to be awful.  Mouillierat called for cross checking, Isles to the PK.  New York is being frustrated and it's starting to show.  Another PP goal for Vancouver from Vrbata, 2-0 Canucks.  Horvat makes it 3-0 against Halak who has struggled along with his team in the period.  Vancouver is the one that calls the time out.  Go figure.  Tavares will serve for a too many men call against the Islanders, but their PK kills it off.  Frans Nielsen hit by Dorsett and goes down hard holding his leg.  Skates to locker room in obvious pain.  The Canucks are called for too many men with 19 seconds remaining in the period.  Isles outshot 10-9 in a horribly played period for them.  Losing Nielsen may be too much for a banged up Isles team.  Cross your fingers.  Bad things happening, but they can do this.

Frans Nielsen returns to start the third period.  Isles finish off their PP chance without a goal, but start to generate some offensive pressure again.  Capuano shuffles lines to try and jumpstart his team.  Thankfully, Nielsen looks to be back to normal.  Matt Martin is stopped, crashing the Vancouver crease and Cal Clutterbuck takes a finger to the eye from Kassian.  Isles back to the PP.  Halak goes to the bench with just under 4 minutes to go, but they can't convert with the extra skaters.  Bailey is stopped cold by Lack.  Weber makes it a 4-0 win for the Canucks with the ENG.  It’s a 2 game sweep for Vancouver.  Shots were 19-6 for the Islanders in the third period and had a 37-24 advantage in the game.   They were only 1 of 3 on the PK and a dismal 0 for 5 on the PP.

Tonight, the Islanders started well, but got tired fast.  Their sloppy play turned into penalties, and those turned into goals against.  The Isles PP look horrible again & even Jaro Halak (20 of 23 with an .870Sv%)  had an off night.  He will have to wait for win #33.  Special teams really need to be addressed.  Again, as good as this team is, it will really start to cost them wins and be a major weakness looking towards the payoffs.  It was just a bad game overall, but not for lack of trying.  The Isles efforts were evident and that just amplified their frustrations.  Two empty nets and nothing to show for it didn't help.  It seemed to be one of those games where every bounce went the other way.  Give credit to Eddie Lack.  He was solid since coming into the game in relief for Miller after his sudden injury.  Start the Nielsen watch and hope he is OK.

Let’s just take tonight’s game for what it is.  One loss.  Hopefully the Islanders can now look ahead to Tuesday’s game & try to bounce back after some well-deserved rest. 

The Isles face the Arizona Coyotes for their only visit to the NVMC on Tuesday, 2/24 @ 7pm.  It will be the 6th game in 9 nights for New York.

Hockey Notes:

Today is the 35th anniversary of the "Miracle On Ice."  The surviving members of the 1980 U.S. Hockey Team has gathered in Lake Placid, N.Y. to remember the historic game in which they defeated the heavily favored Russians by the score of 4-3.  Al Michaels’s also made sports history when he called out “Do you believe in miracles?”

Isles Notes:

Ryan Strome’s stellar play this season has earned him a team leading +20 rating with 4 goals in his last 5 games prior to tonight. 

Saturday, February 21, 2015

Knight of Cups Yes! T-Shirt

Islanders Edged By Capitals

Members of the Islanders Booster Club & Section 329 made the trip to Washington to cheer on their team and see Islander killer, Alexander Ovechkin & the Capitals host your New York Islanders.  Washington sits at the 3rd spot in the metro, just 5 points behind the Islanders and 2 points behind the second place Rangers.  Arthur Staple told me that Mikhail Grabovski could be out several weeks after his placement on injured reserve with what has been called an “upper body injury.”  The injury occurred from a hit delivered by Eric Nystrom on Thursday’s game against the Predators. Kael Mouillierat is the leading scorer for Bridgeport with 8 goals & 40 pts in 51 AHL games has been recalled on an emergency basis.  He will make his NHL debut today wearing #48, centering a line with Martin & McDonald.  Calvin de Haan is in for Lubo Visnovsky.  Arthur Staple mentions Lubo is expected to return to the lineup for tomorrow’s game against Vancouver.

Forwards:  Lee-Tavares-Bailey, Grabner-Nielsen-Strome, Kulemin-Nelson-Clutterbuck, Martin-Mouillierat-McDonald.

Defensive Pairings:  Leddy-Boychuk, Strait-Hamonic, de Haan-Hickey.

Chad Johnson gets the start with Jaro Halak backing up.

After a slow start to the game and a few key saves by Chad Johnson, Travis Hamonic (Tavares & Bailey) puts the Islanders up 1-0 off a nice feed by Josh Bailey.  That is the 100th NHL point for Hamonic.  Just another example of how well Islanders defensemen have contributed offensively this season.  That marks the sixth time that the Isles have scored first in consecutive games.  Shortly afterwards though, Travis Hamonic is crushed between Latta & Chimera behind the Islanders net and skates off slowly to the bench.  Hamonic returns for the next shift and appears to be OK.  The physical edge to this game has definitely been elevated by both teams.  Isles are caught on a bad change and will go to the PK.  Outstanding play by Johnny Boychuk to negate a high percentage shot against for the Caps.  Another strong PK for the Isles.  Hickey was hi-sticked by Kuznetsov, Isles to the PP as the Washington advantage expires.  New York unable to convert on the man advantage.  Niskanen ties the score at 1-1 with 40 seconds remaining in the first.  Another mistake late in the period resulting in another goal against.  Eric Hornick points out that the Islanders have been outscored 8-0 in the final minute of a period.  Shots are 6-4 Isles in the first.

Josh Bailey makes a great play to keep the puck in the offensive zone early in the second period.  Both Bailey & Lee have really risen to the occasion of playing on the first line.  Chad Johnson stops Ovechkin & bails out Thomas Hickey, who was trying to force a pass to Calvin de Haan.  The Capitals pressed hard and took control of the play in the second half of the period with a 10-7 edge in shots for the period and 14-13 mark after two. 

John Tavares goes sliding hard into the boards after a gutless “Dale Hunter-esk” check by Wilson. Tavares is slow to get up.  JT follows up being involved with a nice scoring chance on Holtby. Matt Martin tangles with Wilson shortly after to answer the liberty taken on Tavares.  The Islanders coming up with a strong effort in the final period with the score still tied at 1-1, but Caps have been resilient.  Fehr puts a shot behind Johnson after Isles were beaten 3 on 2 to take the lead with 5:34 remaining.  Isles take their time out with 1:27 remaining in regulation and Johnson stays on the bench.  John Tavares is unable to stuff it in with a stray puck floating in the pile up in front of the Caps goal.  Ryan Strome (Lee & Tavares) snipes it from a minimal angle with 47 seconds left in the period to tie it at 2-2 and force Over Time for the third time this season against the Capitals.  Shots were 18-7 Isles to end regulation with a 31-21 advantage for New York.  Isles were 0/1 on the PP and 1/1 on the PK.  Chad Johnson was 19 of 21 with a .905 Sv% after 3 periods of play.

In the O.T. period,   Chad Johnson made some big saves for the Isles, including a one on a partial break away on Ovechkin.  The Isles were outshot by a 6-1 margin in the extra period.

Kuznetsov scores on Johnson.

Frans Nielsen is stopped by Holtby.

Backstrom is stopped by CJ!

JohnTavares is stopped by Holtby.

Ovechkin is stopped by CJ!

Ryan Strome is stopped by Holtby and Washington wins it 3-2 in the S.O.

Credit Washington for a strong and very well-played game today.  The Islanders had a pretty good effort today as well.  They managed to salvage a point in a game they trailed in the final few minutes.  Their biggest boon was a pretty well played defensive effort.  In addition, they were able to stay out of the box for much of the game and closed out their opposition when they were man down.  John Tavares was awesome with key face-off wins and solid offensive contributions, including 2 assists in the game.  At 62 points on the season, he is just two points behind Backstrom for the league lead.  Josh Bailey had another strong game today.  His all-around play has been really strong this season, especially on the check as well as his hustle to start the Isles on the rush.  Anders Lee & Ryan Strome made an impact as well.  Both players had a point for the game and were instrumental in getting the Islanders back in the game to force overtime.  These are two young guys who continue to get better with each game and are becoming legitimate NHL threats for a good New York team.  Kael Mouillierat played well for the Islanders in his NHL debut.  A showing that included  some offensive chances, some nice defensive plays & the fact that he wasn’t shy about playing the kind of physical game that the Islanders have made their trademark this season.  It must also be noted that Travis Hamonic & Nick Leddy were solid two way players for the Islanders on defense. 
Credit Chad Johnson on another strong effort today. He is obviously working hard with goaltending coach, Mike Dunham to improve his game.  Johnson has stopped 91 of 96 shots with a .947Sv% over his last 3 games.  Quietly, it may have been the biggest bright spot that the Isles can take from the loss.
The Isles welcome a rested Vancouver squad to the Coliseum tomorrow night at 6pm for another big game against another quality team. 

Sound Tigers Notes:

Bridgeport Sound Tigers signed (F) Cam Reid to a PTO.

Thursday, February 19, 2015

Islanders Prey On Nashville

Tonight, the first place Nashville Predators are at the NVMC for their final regular season visit before the 15th sellout of the year and an MSG T.V. audience.  The Preds have won 6 games in a row and are 15-5-1 against eastern conference opponents.  The Isles have a 4 point lead in the metro division, winning 6 of their last 10 games with 77 points.  Jaroslav Halak will be back in net while, Lubomir Visnovsky will be in on defense for Calvin de Haan.  Casey Cizikas has been placed on the IR, retroactive to 2/16 with a lower body injury and Matt Donovan is a healthy scratch once again.  I am not quite sure of what to make on the recent scratches of de Haan after he got healthy.  I also think that Donovan should get more games in as well on defense.  We will have to see.

Forwards:  Lee-Tavares-Bailey, Grabner-Nielsen-Strome, Kulemin-Grabovski-Clutterbuck, Martin-Nelson-McDonald.

Defensive Pairings:  Leddy-Boychuk, Strait-Hamonic, Hickey-Visnovsky.

Jaro Halak is in net with Chad Johnson on the bench.


In the first period, Brian Strait (Nielsen & Grabner) makes Capuano look good by putting a nice wrist shot behind the mighty Pekke Rinne.  Its 1-0 Islanders who are 22-12-1 when scoring first.  The Islanders have come out strong and have the Preds scrambling in their own zone to start the game.  John Tavares rings it hard off the post as the Isles continue to press offensively.  Preds, Eric Nystrom puts Grabovski down hard with what looked like a shoulder to the head.  Grabovski refuses to be taken off on the stretcher and skates off under his own power and acknowledges the crowd to a thundering cheer.  The Isles First line forces Preds to ice the puck and after a key face off win, Johnny Boychuk (Leddy & Grabner) rips one from the blue line and gives New York a 2-0 lead just half way through the opening period.  Its Michael Grabner’s second assist of the night.  Jaro Halak comes up with a huge toe save shortly afterwards.  Brock Nelson’s hustle draws the (Bartley) penalty. Isles to the PP.  Josh Bailey with a good high shot, Rinne makes the save.  Travis Hamonic takes a hooking penalty (Nystrom), Isles to the PK.  Halak with a series of strong saves to kill the penalty.  It is announced that Mikhail Grabovski (Upper Body) will not return.  Isles to the PP as McDonald gets Gaustad to lose his cool and take a roughing penalty.  John Tavares (Leddy & Boychuk) puts in a juicy PP Boychuk rebound to make it 3-0 Islanders.  Preds, Filip Forsberg makes it a 3-1 game with just 17 seconds remaining in the first.  Shots are 17-15 Nashville after one, Isles with 14 takeaways to Preds 4.  There will be tremendous push back by Nashville next period.  Let’s see how the Isles answer.

The Islanders come out a little sloppy to start the 2nd and Lubo Visnovsky gets called for hooking just 41 seconds in.  Isles do a good job to finish off the PK.  Visnovsky comes close with a wraparound deflection catching Rinne out of position.  Colin McDonald with Frans Nielsen & Nikolay Kulemin. If Grabovski’s injury keeps him out for any period of time, McDonald really isn't going anywhere soon.  Tonight’s game is a big indication of how good the Isles can really be. If they get this dialed in consistently, there is no reason they won’t contend for Cup.  JT takes a slash from Jones and looks bothered by it enough to get looked at by trainers.  Thomas Hickey rings a shot off the post.  Seems like the Officials are ignoring all kinds of slashes on Isles player tonight.  Both teams have registered 47 shots just over the halfway point in the game.  Nikolay Kulemin draws a holding penalty (Fischer) and send the Isles to another PP.  Nick Leddy hits the third post for New York, then Neal makes it a 3-2 game with 6:38 remaining the period.  Isles finish another strong period with a 14-8 advantage in shots for the period and hold a 29-25 edge after two.  NY has a 19-3-1 record with a 2nd period lead.

The third opens with some good Islanders pressure against the Nashville net.  Grabner draws a penalty from Forsberg to give the Isles another PP opportunity.  Isles fail to register a shot with the man advantage.  Nick Leddy (McDonald & Martin) converts on a sweet pass from Colin McDonald to give the Isles a 4-2 lead.  Soon afterwards, Josh Bailey shows patience, drawing Rinne off the post and tucks it off the Pred’s goaltender and in.  5-2 New York.  It’s only 2nd time (Minnesota) Rinne has allowed 5 goals this season & won both games (7-5 & 6-5).  Isles return to the PP from a roughing call from Riberio on McDonald.  Clutterbuck evens things out with a crosscheck penalty on Fisher to make it a 4 on 4 for 47 seconds, but it matters not.  The Islanders win 5-2 and were perfect on the PK with a 3/3 effort.  They led in takeaways 28-12 and in shots for the period (11-7) and the game (40-32).  They have averaged an impressive 40 shots over the last 5 games.

Nick Leddy, John Tavares & Michael Grabner were named 3 stars of the game.

At times, The Isles struggled on defense and faltered on the PP (1/5), but tightened things up & played a very good game against an elite opponent with a hart & vezina candidate goaltender (2nd in NHL with a .932Sv%, had an .875Sv% tonight).  The Islanders hit three posts and still beat the top team in the west by a score of 5-2.  The Isles reached the 39th win plateau to tie Nashville for most wins in the NHL.  There was a big effort throughout the lineup tonight with notable showings by John Tavares, Johnny Boychuk, Josh Bailey, Michael Grabner, Nick Leddy, Thomas Hickey and Jaro Halak to name a few.  Halak (30 of 32 with a .938Sv%) ties the Isles single season franchise wins (32) record with tonight’s victory.  It was another great game to build on.  Hopefully, Mikhail Grabovski isn’t hurt too badly.

Isles are in Washington to face Alexander Ovechkin & the Washington Capitals for a 12:30 pm start on Saturday.


Isles Notes:

Agent: No extension talks between Isles and Visnovsky, who wants to continue NHL career.

On this day in 1979, Islanders Mike Bossy scored his 100th career NHL goal in just his 129th career game.


Sound Tigers Notes:

The BST have acquired Carson McMillan from the Toronto Marlies in exchange for Peter Sivak.
The Isles have reassigned Kevin Czuczman and Jesse Graham from the Sound Tigers to the @FL_Everblades.

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Islanders Weather Hurricanes

Your New York Islanders are in Raleigh to face the Carolina Hurricanes tonight who sit 8th in the metro division & 15th in the eastern conference.  The Isles will be looking for their third straight win against the struggling Canes, who have gotten points in 7 of their last 10 games.  Michael Grabner has been removed from the team's IR list and will be in the lineup tonight for Casey Cizikas - who is out with a lower body injury.  Colin McDonald remains with the team as an emergency call-up.  Calvin de Haan will be in for Lubo Visnovsky on defense.  Chad Johnson will get the start in goal.  Look for Brock Nelson to try and make something happen tonight.  He was 3 & 3 for 6 pts in the home at home opener with Carolina to start the season.
Forwards:  Lee-Tavares-Bailey, Grabner-Nielsen-Strome, Kulemin-Grabovski-Clutterbuck, Martin-Nelson-McDonald.
Defensive Pairings:  Leddy-Boychuk, Strait-Hamonic, Hickey-de Haan.
Chad Johnson is in net with Jaroslav Halak backing up tonight.
The Islanders come out fast in a slow period and get a handful of chances, but fail to convert.  John Tavares with a nice takeaway and scoring chance late in the period, but. Khudobin with an even nicer save.  Ryan Strome follows up with a shot that goes off the post.  The offensive pressure results in a PP (Liles tripping on Nelson) chance for New York.  Anders Lee (Nielsen & Tavares) gets his 19th of the season & gives the Isles a PPG and a 1-0 lead in the closing minutes of the first.  Travis Hamonic is called for delay of game with 6 seconds remaining.  The Islanders manage to keep the lead in a pretty sloppy period and outshoot the Canes 14-7.
Isles go to the PK for 1:53 to start the second period and complete the kill.  Chad Johnson is doing a good job in net so far.  Michael Grabner is looking good & has come close on the break away a couple of times tonight, picking up where he left off after returning from the last injury.  Brock Nelson (Martin & McDonald) scores his first goal in 18 games to give the Islanders a 2-0 lead at the 6:58 mark.  Terry goes off for boarding against Boychuk, Isles back to the PP to finish the period.  Isles are being dominated in shots by Canes, 18-8 in the period and now trail 25-22 after 2.  New York better pick up the pace. They are being outplayed by a weaker team and got badly outshot. They need to have the killer instinct & close these games out early.
The Islanders start the 3rd period with 52 seconds on the PP.  Anders Lee gets a hooking penalty on Dwyer to negate the remainder of Isles PP time, allowing Carolina 1:15 of PP time.  The Isles kill off the Canes PP chance.  Michael Grabner nearly converts on another turnover.  Kulemin heads up with Grabovski on a breakaway chance, but fires it over the net.  Travis Hamonic gets hit by a shot and heads to the dressing room.  Michael Grabner (Hickey & Nielsen) gets another breakaway, but buries it this time, 3-0 Islanders.  Tlusty gets the Hurricanes on the board, 3-1 Islanders.  Gut check time.  Carolina uses the goal to mount another large offensive push and have a goal waived off on a Gerbe high sticking call.  Officials rule it non-reviewable with the war room in Toronto.  No goal.  Travis Hamonic is back on the bench, but his hand is still clearly in pain.  Carolina pulls Khudobin with 4:30 remaining and John Tavares makes it a 4-1 game with the ENG.  The Islanders were 1 for 2 on the PP and 2 for 2 on the PK.  They finished off the Hurricanes, got the win and the 2 pts.
Chad Johnson, John Tavares & Anders Lee were named the 3 stars of the game.
So let’s talk about the difference in tonight’s effort.  First liner, Anders Lee continuing his dominant play.  Brock Nelson finally breaking through on the score sheet.  Michael Grabner looked good again after returning from injury.  Again.  John Tavares played a heads up game and sealed the deal with the empty netter with just under 5 minutes remaining.  Colin McDonald continues to look seamless in relief and Calvin de Haan looked good after returning for being out a few games.  Chad Johnson (37 of 38 with a .974Sv%) looked very comfortable and was solid in finding his groove.  It was another good effort (Boston) for Johnson and it should be a huge boost to his confidence.  Per Chris King, Tavares on Chad Johnson: "he earned that one tonight...we've given him some tough efforts." 
But most importantly, while they dodged a bullet with the no goal late in the third and didn’t play their best game, they eventually dug deep, got it together and finished off their opponent as a team by controlling play to end the game. 
The Islanders welcome the Nashville Predators to the Coliseum on Thursday.  Huge challenge and a good gauge, especially for the offense for how good they really are.  The biggest point on interest: Lee vs Forsberg.

Monday, February 16, 2015

Islanders Succumb To Rangers

Tonight, your New York Islanders face the New York Rangers at the NVMC before a sellout crowd.  The Islanders are 3-0-0 against them this season by 3 goals per game (6-3, 3-0, and 4-1) and lead them by 4 points in the metro division, so it is another huge “4 pt” game against a motivated, major rival close behind the Isles in the standings.  The Rangers are 19-1-2 if they lead after the first period, so a quick start by the Islanders may prove useful and help them extend their winning streak to five games.

Forwards:  Lee-Tavares-Bailey, Grabovski-Nielsen-Strome, Kulemin-Nelson-Clutterbuck, Martin-Cizikas-McDonald.

Defensive pairings:  Leddy-Boychuk, Strait-Hamonic, Hickey-Visnovsky.

Jaroslav Halak is in goal with Chad Johnson on the bench.

It only took John Tavares just 11 seconds to make it 1-0 Islanders off a Cam Talbot miscue.  The Rangers respond with several shots on the Isles net, but Jaroslav Halak equal to the task.  Bailey hits the crossbar behind Talbot.  Nelson draws the hooking call (Stepan) and the Isles go to the PP, generate pressure, but fail to score.  Colin McDonald comes close on a turnover in the slot, but Talbot makes the save.  Halak and his defense with a couple of miscues, but he makes the stops necessary.  Frans Nielsen (Hamonic & Grabovski) puts in A Travis Hamonic rebound for a 2-0 Isles lead.  Casey Cizikas can’t convert on the breakaway.  Potential game buster for the Isles there.  The Islanders have been relentless so far in the period.  The Rangers work the puck in the Islanders zone & McDonagh puts one past Halak through traffic to make it 2-1 Islanders.  Isles dominate the first period and outshoot Rangers 22-11, but only lead 2-1. They need a better effort against a very good and very bitter team in the second to gain back the momentum.  

Less than 2 minutes into the second period, Johnny Boychuk one times a Rangers clearing attempt at the blue line to make the score 3-1. Just when all looked well in Uniondale, Halak lets up a soft one from Kreider, 3-2.  And just 22 seconds later, Visnovsky accidentally tries to block the shot and accidentally deflects the puck past Halak.  Suddenly, the game is tied at 3-3.  Martin and Glass off for unsportsmanlike conduct minors.  4 on 4 for two minutes.  Stepan called for tripping on Hickey, Isles to the PP.  Nick Leddy leaves the game for the locker room after taking a puck to the face.  Travis Hamonic puts a shot on net as the PP expires and Ryan Strome (Nelson & Hamonic) jams in the rebound to make it 4-3 Islanders.  Islanders with a 32-17 shots advantage by the halfway mark of the game, but only lead by one.  Nick Leddy returns to the bench wearing a full face shield with a huge welt on his face.  Lubo Visnovsky pulls out a miracle to break up a Hayes & Miller 2 on 1.  Rangers called for too many men, Isles to the PP.  Rangers very aggressive on the PK and the Isles unable to generate much pressure.  Strait with a terrible play on Miller.  He is called for interference, Isles to the PK.  Halak makes a couple of big saves on the PK.  Lubo Visnovsky somehow negates a rush by Kreider.  He has had a strong game thus far.  Travis Hamonic called for tripping on Zuccarello, Isles to the PK with seconds remaining in the period.  The Islanders lead in shots 15-11 for the period.  Arthur Staple mentions, “Every Isles player with at least one SOG tonight through two periods. Tavares/Boychuk/Strome/McDonald each with 4.”

The Isles on the PK for the first 1:50 on the third period.   Jaroslav Halak comes up big again for the Islanders on the Kill.  Ryan Strome (Nielsen) gets his 2nd of the night and makes it his first multi-point game of his career off a Boyle turn over.  Its 5-3 Islanders.  Stepan with a one-timer to make pull within one, 5-4 Islanders.   Shots are 10-1 Rangers with 7 minutes remaining in the period.  Score is tied at 5-5 off a nice Stepan to St. Louis top shelf goal thanks to a Kreider trip on Johnny Boychuk.  No call on the ice.  Credit the Rangers for outshooting the Islanders 13-3 at this point.  The non-call aside, that’s the real reason for the comeback.  Klein gives the Rangers a 6-5 lead with under 5 minutes remaining.  Halak (35 of 41 with an .854Sv%) goes to the bench, Josh Bailey hits the goal post and the Rangers beat the Islanders for the first time this season, winning 6-5 in an exciting metro division clash.  Shots favored the Rangers 18-5 in the third and finished up at 42-42 in the game.  Isles were 0/3 on the PP and 2/2 on the PK.

Hamonic, Strome, Visnovsky & Nielsen had great games for the Islanders.  The Isles had put up a great effort and controlled a good Rangers team for much of the contest, but couldn’t close it out early in the game.  Their defense was way too soft in the 3rd period, they made too many mistakes and that led to too many shots against once again.  After they no longer dictated the pace of the game, they were overwhelmed by the constant Rangers pressure in deep.  That caused them to blow three, two goal leads in a tight, but very winnable game.  Credit the Rangers for outplaying the Isles when it mattered most and getting 6 goals against this team, but its only one loss.

It wasn’t on Strait, but Capuano needs to put de Haan back in the lineup and let the bad taste of this one sink in tonight.  Capuano mentioned Chad Johnson could be in net for tomorrow as well.  The streak ends at 4.  The Islanders should respond tomorrow night in Carolina. 

Isles Notes:

Matt Carkner has cleared waivers and has been loaned to the BST.

Sunday, February 15, 2015

Is Jack Capauno The Right Coach For Your New York Islanders?

I’m still not sold on Capuano as the guy that can take the Isles to next level and, at times, I would swear that the team wins despite him as coach. This could also be due to the more improved roster the Islanders have to work with this season.  What isn’t for sale, however, is that he has everyone on the roster playing better in 2014-15. They have well balanced scoring and an improved defensive game on most nights -- all showing that this team has pretty consistently been able to overcome much adversity. That's a fact.

Capuano has gotten better, along with the team around him. We are told that players like and respond to him as their guiding leader.  Several players have matured as pros under his watch & Garth Snow has supported him enough that he is now the second winningest Isles coach behind the legendary Al Arbour. Snow has made it clear to me that Capuano should be the guy, at least as long as he calls the shots.  Consider that the team’s depth is beneficial to the organization for injuries or underperforming players and that their deep and maturing prospect pool is an even bigger bonus. That has never been more evident than the past two seasons with guys like Lee, Strome, Nelson & de Haan contributing as much as they have. Not to mention the Isles injury issues over the last several seasons have probably impacted their record more than we care to admit.  The team’s defensive lapses and their struggling special teams should evolve as the season goes on.

Watch the maturation of teams like the Blackhawks, Kings and even the surging St Louis Blues. They all took time to mature and grow into consistent winners.  That included finding the right coach and allowing him to play his system and find synergy with his squad.  As with Garth Snow’s master plan, the Islanders are doing things the same way. Jack Capuano has the Islanders in control of their own destiny. 

When you check out the NHL stats at the time of this article, the Islanders are:

2nd in the NHL in wins with 37.

3rd in NHL scoring with 172.

5th in goals per game with 3.07.

1st in 1-goal game winning percentage (.815%).

1st in OT/SO wins with a 12-1 record.

5th in plus/minus at +21. 

They have a 13-6-1 record (.650%) when leading after 1st, 18-2-1 record (.857%) when leading after 2nd. 

The Isles are 21-11-1 when scoring 1st and an impressive 16-7-0 when they yield the first goal to the opposition.

Special teams and team defense have struggled this season:

The Isles are 23rd in goals with 2.77 against on defense and while they are ranked 11th with a 19.1% on the PP, their PK is 29th in the league at 73.6%.  Only Buffalo (16-36-3 w 35pts) is worse at 73.5%. 

When trailing, the Isles have a 7-7-0 record (.500%) when trailing after 1st, 4-11-0 (.267%) when trailing after 2nd.

So while there are more positives, than negatives, Coach Capuano has the Isles going in the right direction.  We all need to be realistic and have even more patience.  This team has a good thing going and have become the envy of many around the NHL.  The chronic shortcomings have been frustrating, but we all need to have a little well deserved faith and practice even more patience before complaining about how good we really have it as fans of this team right now.  The glaring missteps in the defensive game & special teams are on watch, but even their inopportune lapses in focus and occasional meltdowns aren’t enough to keep this team from winning their share of games.  They are a tight-knit group that has dangerous ability to come back from adversity to get the win.  And remember that just like when the team unravels can be pinned on the coach, the ability of the team to execute the improbable comeback must be credited to him as well. 

So, while my fist line of this article says “I’m still not sold…”, as of right now, at 37-18-1 with 75 points (1st in metro, 2nd in east), Capuano deserves to remain head coach and see where he can take this team moving forward this season.  He has earned that right.