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

Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Isles Lose To Ducks, Best Redwings


Your New York Islanders saw the Anaheim Ducks & Detroit Redwings visit the NVMC over the weekend.  On Saturday, the Isles fell to the Ducks by the score of 3-2 in what can only be called another very frustrating game.  On Sunday, the Isles made some adjustments and found a way to break out in quite a few areas to defeat the Wings by a 5-4 score.  Here is a Lookback of the games.


In front of another home sellout, the Isles struggled to keep pace with the Ducks in a back and forth first period.  Lubomir Visnovsky (Strome & Hickey) scored late to tie the game at 1-1.  After they fell behind 3-1 in the second and failed to capitalize on a 5 on 3 PP opportunity, Casey Cizikas brought them within one at 3-2 when he scored with around 5 minutes remaining in the game.  The late surge was emphatic, but it wasn’t enough for New York who were dominated in the faceoff circle (30-14) and went 0/4 on the man advantage in the game.  Turnovers and missed opportunities kept the Islanders struggling to keep up for most of the game and Michal Neuvirth went 21 of 24 with an .875Sv%.  Per Staple, “Michal Neuvirth with the 30th-place Sabres: .918 sv % in 27 GP. Neuvirth with Isles: .881 sv % in 5 GP.”  The loss kept the Isles winless streak going in March and pushed them to a 0-6-1 record in their last 7 games.  One of their worst home losing streaks in franchise history.  Visnovsky was named 3rd star of the game.



The game against the Redwings on Sunday would prove to be a breakout of sorts for the Islanders.  They were able to end a 3 game losing streak and halt their 7 game shortcomings at home.  While New York came out firing, the Wings would take the early 2-0 lead just two minutes into the game.  The Isles would fire back three times in a 5 minute span on goals from Brock Nelson (PP-Visnovsky & Hamonic), Ryan Strome (Tavares) and Kyle Okposo (PP-Tavares & Leddy) to grab a 3-2 lead late in the first.  Detroit would add a goal late in the period to make it a 3-3 game after 1.  Frans Nielsen (Tavares & Leddy) would chase Mrazek from the net after giving the Isles a 4-3 lead on the PP just 16 seconds into the second period & Cal Clutterbuck would add a SHG on Howard a few minutes later for a 5-3 Isles lead.  Detroit would score again half way through the second period, but the Isles would dig in & hold on to win by a 5-4 score.  The Isles were 2 of 3 on the PK (ending a franchise record of 12 games without surrendering a man down goal) and a much improved 3 of 4 on the PP, a major factor in the win.  John Tavares (matched a career high 3 assists in a game) & Cal Clutterbuck were named 1st & 2nd stars of the game.  Jaro Halak held on and went 21 of 25 with an .840Sv% and improved to 36 wins on the season.  Matt Martin set a new single season hits record, reaching the 377 mark in the game. 


Rich DeKorte quoted Jack Capuano on the type of character he feels the Islanders have.  There are teams that crumble, that dissolve when adversity sets in...during that stretch it brought our guys closer."  He added, "Our leadership and accountability amongst the guys has been key this year."


This has been a great season so far and we have seen this team truly take the next step.  Even though the last bunch of games have been frustrating, the Islanders are building something solid.  They have a compliment of vets, especially after adding Halak, Leddy and Bouchuk long-term as well as some serious young talent.  You have to be intrigued to see how players like Ryan Strome, Brock Nelson and Anders Lee perform in an even larger sample size going forward.  They will need to recapture a balanced scoring attack, solidify on defense and fine tune special teams.  When they play their game, they are tough to beat.  Their enthusiasm and compete level are awesome, the question seems to be are they really disciplined enough throughout the roster and throughout coaching staff to make it to the next level this season? 


Fans need to be patient and realistic when evaluating how the Islanders attack the playoffs in round one.  Very few of us will be satisfied with a first round exit, but we should find comfort in knowing the pieces are falling into place and this team is exciting to watch.  It will be a great ride to see how this group will end their season.


They are giving the old barn some kind of sendoff so far, don’t you think?



The Isles finished March with a subpar 4-6-3 record, but their magic playoff number falls to 6 (Won by Isles or lost by Ottawa).  The Islanders are in Columbus on Thursday in what will be one of their last 5 games of the 14-15 season.




Isles Notes:


Lubomir Visnovsky has been named the Isles nominee for the Bill Masterton Memorial Trophy as decided by @ThePHWA.

Ross Johnston Agrees to Entry-Level Contract with the Islanders organization.  


Rich DeKorte, “Cap on sticking with Sunday's line up: "I'm not sure yet. We got other guys too now. Michael Grabner is healthy."


Per Arthur Staple, the Islanders have 3 D-men with 30+ points (Boychuk, Leddy, Hamonic) for the first time since 01-02 (Hamrlik, Aucoin, K. Jonsson).


Islanders to close out final regular season at Nassau Coliseum in throwback style.


So Ed Mangano got a letter about enticing the Islanders to return to the NVMC and increase the 13,000 projected seat refurbishment to 17, 000.  What a great idea.  http://www.newsday.com/business/nassau-coliseum-proposal-would-allow-forest-city-ratner-to-solicit-foreign-investments-from-china-1.10146278


Sound Tigers Notes:


The BST have signed @UVMmhockey forward Colin Markison to an Amateur Try Out.   

C.J. Motte earns his first professional win with 29 saves as the BST defeat the Sen 4-1 on Saturday.



Friday, March 27, 2015

Home Sweet Home?


Your New York Islanders had a tough week so far, dropping a 2-1 shootout to Minnesota and an equally painful 3-2 loss to Los Angeles.  It basically came down to failures to control play in their own zone and by extension, score goals against the opposition’s hot goaltenders. 

 
Here is my “Lookback” on the games.

 

The line up for both games were as follows:

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

Leddy-Boychuk, Hickey-Hamonic, de Haan-Strait with Halak in Goal.

 

When Minnesota came into the Coliseum on Tuesday, the Islanders organization honored Isles legend Pat LaFontaine (and longtime friend, Clinton Brown) with a ceremonial faceoff. He was welcomed back with a chorus of cheers from the sellout crowd.  And with the news of Thomas Vanek claiming the Islanders future in Brooklyn played a major role in him not re-signing fresh in the news, the Coliseum faithful let him know he wasn’t welcome each time he touched the puck.  The Isles came out and played one of their most complete games of the season, but ended up on the wrong side of the score after a tightly contested shootout loss.  John Tavares (Okposo & Lee) got New York a 1-0 lead in the closing seconds of a second period that saw them do everything they could to pile up more goals against Dubnyk.  Parise would tie the score Jaroslav Halak (31 of 32 with a .969 Sv%) played another solid game in net for the Islanders and made several heroic saves in the effort, including a lights out 2 on 1 against Parise & Pominville.  The winning shootout goal went off the goal post and took an odd bounce back into the net behind a sprawling Halak who was named 3rd star of the night.  It was a tough way to lose a game that several in the organization felt they should have won.  Tavares said, “I thought most of the game, we outplayed them and dictated the play. We just have to score on our chances.”
 
 
 

Next, the LA Kings came to the NVMC on Thursday to face your New York Islanders.  Frans Nielsen (Kulemin & Hamonic) gave the Isles a 1-0 lead about 5 minutes into the second period and even killed off a 5 on 3 advantage for the Kings to maintain the lead until Shore evened the score at 1-1 less than 5 minutes later.  The Islanders were once again working hard, but seemed unable to take control and dictate play.  That was never more evident on a John Tavares turnover that resulted in a SHG for Toffoli to give the Kings a 2-1 lead two minutes into the third period.  Johnny Boychuk (Strome & Bailey) would tie the score on the PP a few minutes later. Unfortunately, Kopitar would get the 3-2 game winner in the 15:00 mark, off a tough redirection that beat a frustrated Jaro Halak.  The Islanders were outshot 37-27 in the game.  Halak was good again, going 34 of 36 with a .919Sv% and was named second star of the game.
 
 
 

The Islanders home winless streak has grown to 0-5-1, seeing them score just 9 goals in that stretch.  They are 3-6-3 in their last 12 games and struggling to keep pace in the overtime and shootout performances that they dominated with authority earlier in the season.  The two goals in the Kings game is the first multi-point night for the team in 5 games at the NVMC.  Their goaltending has been good and keeping them in the close ones, but they just can’t seem to find a way to get back on track offensively.  Some fans are critical of Capuano and the coaching staff on things like special teams or different lineup changes/ personnel decisions.  There has to be some valid concerns on the team’s latest series of shortcomings, but Capuano does have the Isles in their best position since 83-84 at 44-26-5 with 93 points thru 75 games so far.


Their PK has been very good lately, not surrendering a goal in 11 straight games. Even their PP is improving slowly, but there needs to be more than better efforts if they want to turn their strong work ethic into wins for the final 7 game stretch of the regular season.  They remain behind the first place Rangers by 8 points.  The Rangers were the first team to clinch an NHL playoff spot last night.  The Isles are just two points ahead of Pittsburgh in the Metro.  Despite recent struggles, John Tavares is one point behind Sidney Crosby (75) for the league lead in points with 74.


To me, the Isles are on the clock and need to return to their winning style of physical, fast paced, high scoring play if they want to keep up with their surging eastern conference competition and have any hopes of a home ice advantage…if that can still be seen as an advantage for them lately.
 

Cizikas: "We have to play a full sixty. We have gotten away from that the past few weeks. Just need to get back to the basics." 


Eric Hornick points out, “The Isles magic number for clinching a playoff spot was reduced to 9 by Boston's overtime loss to Anaheim.  Any combination of points won by the Islanders and/or lost by Boston will clinch a playoff spot for the Isles.”


Capuano announced after today's practice that Michal Neuvirth will get the start for the Isles tomorrow at 1 p.m. against Anaheim.





Isles Notes:


The FBI is now investigating the threats received by Nick Leddy on social media.  


Per Robert Brodsky, Five months before @Nassau_Coliseum repairs to begin, lead developer sues firm it brought in for retail side.
 
Forest City Ratner said Blumenfeld unilaterally changed the site plan and attempted to take control over the project.


The Islanders will wear special 1972 throwback jerseys for the final home game against Columbus at the NVMC.  The classic versions of the current style jersey feature orange numbers and name templates.  The jerseys will be available for auction and given to winning bidders off the players backs at the conclusion of the game.

 

Sound Tigers Notes:

The Islanders have reassigned goalie Kent Simpson to the Thunder from the BST.

Ferris State standout G Motte inks AHL deal with Islanders.  At 23, Motte is a mature NCAA goaltender with a solid skill set.

28-9-3, 5 S.O. with a 2.17gaa & a .928 Sv% in 13-14
18-20-2, 5 S.O. with a 2.07gaa in 14-15 with a .922Sv%.

 
 

NHL Notes:


Judge denies NHL attempt to dismiss concussion lawsuit.

 

***

 

Give Nolan Egbert a look and lend him your support. #Isles
 

Saturday, March 21, 2015

Islanders & Halak Blank Devils


Jaroslav Halak & Nick Leddy will return to the lineup tonight as your New York Islanders visit the New Jersey Devils for their final meeting of the season.  The Isles will be looking to end their 4 game losing streak and finish a season sweep of the Devils to close ground on the Rangers, who now hold a 5 point lead in the division.  Tonight is a must win for New York who will face Minnesota, LA, Anaheim & Detroit next week.  Calvin de Haan is the healthy scratch for Leddy’s return.


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

Leddy-Boychuk, Hickey-Hamonic, Strait-Donovan.

Jaro Halak is in net with Michal Neuvirth backing up.

 

In the first period, the Isles come out with their expended jump and Halak standing tall from the start.  Nikolay Kulemin forces a turnover of Gelinas and Ryan Strome (Kulemin) gets his first goal in 8 games (15th of ssn) giving the Isles a 1-0 lead.  Yes! Chants rain down at the rock.  The Isles look refreshed and the Devils have resorted to their smothering trap style of play.  Jaroslav Halak making his presence felt with a few big saves late in the period to preserve the lead and the kid line looking good.  Strome & Kulemin making things happen throughout the period.  Isles hold a 13-9 shots advantage.


The Devils and Islanders exchange shots of the post to start the second period.  By the middle of the period, Halak is putting on a clinic with a myriad of huge saves.  Now I am all about the clinic Halak is putting on, but the Isles need to score some goals here and soon. Devils have a pretty good goalie as well in Schneider.  Isles PK with a big kill on Hamonic’s Hook on Zubrus.  Devils with an 11-10 edge in the period, Isles hold a 21-10 advantage after 2.


After a back and forth start to the third period, Jaro makes two huge saves off a Devils 2 on 1 chance to preserve the lead.  Casey Cizikas with an awesome feed and Matt Martin goes down hard after being interfered with by Gionta as he went for the shot. Skates off to the bench in obvious pain.  Isles generate good pressure on the PP and Travis Hamonic (Strome & Nelson) converts (5th of ssn) off a nice Ryan Strome feed as it expires, 2-0 Islanders.  Visiting fans Yes! Chant echoes through the sold out arena again.   Devils call Schneider to the bench with 2:39 remaining.  Isles call a timeout with 49.6 seconds remaining, Kyle Okposo (Tavares) scores the ENG, 3-0 Isles.  John Tavares now tied (Ovechkin) for league lead in points with 73. Shots were 9-6 Isles in the third and 30-26 in the game.  Isles PP was 0/1 and their PK, 1/1.  Isles sweep Devils in season series.


The Islanders had their struggles tonight, but they worked hard and found a way to convert that into a productive scoring effort. They were good enough on defense to help secure the shutout for their goaltender who played out of his mind tonight after returning from injury.  Jaro Halak (26 saves) got his 5th shutout and franchise leading 35th win of the ssn, was the primary reason for the Isles win tonight.  Halak has moved into a third place tie for wins among NHL goaltenders.  Ryan Strome was awesome throughout the game and had 2 pts on the night.  Both were named stars of the game and deservedly so.  Nikolay Kulemin has been a consistent, but quiet force for the Isles as well.  Nick Leddy was quietly effective for the Isles after missing the last 4 games.  It should be noted that Matt Donovan & Brian Strait played a good game tonight as well.
 
 
 

This was a big win, ended the skid and got the Isles going in the right direction heading into a tough week ahead.  The Isles should only get better as players return to the lineup and they are able to rest up and retool their game at 44-25-4 with 92 pts.
 

Per Rich DeKorte, “Strome: "We knew to get off this losing skid it was gonna be kind of a greasy game. We battled pretty hard I thought."

 
Minnesota comes to the NVMC on Tuesday.
 
 
 
 
Isles Notes:
 
 
Michal Neuvirth's new Isles mask.
 
 
 



 





Thursday, March 19, 2015

Isle Be There: The New York Lizards & Their Long Island Roots


In a series of articles called, Isle Be There, my intention is to focus on the different social groups that support your New York Islanders team & its players.  This will also include current events or situations in and around the team as it relates to its fan base.

As your New York Islanders make a push in the 2015 NHL playoffs for their chance to compete for the Stanley Cup, Isles fans should also check out the only other major league team on Long Island that plays their games at nearby Shuart Stadium on the Hofstra University campus.  The New York Lizards.

Smithtown native, Rob Pannell - 2013 Cascade Rookie of the Year, MLL All-Star


Having played Lacrosse in High School & College at the club level, I have always been a huge fan of the game.  Like Hockey, Lacrosse requires speed, stamina, physicality and tremendous strength by its players, who must strive to play equally in both their right and left handed stick techniques on both the offensive and defensive sides of the game.  It also follows many offensive and defensive schemes, shared by its ice based counterpart. And let’s just say good goaltending is just as important.


I always wanted to see what Lacrosse would look like on the professional level.  While I did enjoy watching the indoor hybrid version of the game, I really wanted to see the pure excitement of the traditional game executed by some of the best LAX players in the world.  I got my chance in 2001 with the inception of the MLL.


Major League Lacrosse began play in 2001 to capitalize on the growing demand for world-class field lacrosse driven by dramatic growth in the U.S. lacrosse market. The MLL was praised and heralded for its on-field play, regarded as the best ever seen. With a year-on-year attendance increase, Major League Lacrosse has continued to lead the sport of lacrosse into the mainstream of competitive team sports.”


All-Stars, Paul Rabil - @PaulRabil (WWE Fan) & Mike Stone (Hockey Fan) were just added in a couple of major moves by the Lizards organization in the off season. And along with established veterans, another strong draft class and other key acquisitions made via trade, the Lizards have made a statement that they are ready to return to the top of the standings behind a top coaching staff led by Long Island native, Joe Spallina.

Hey @PaulRabil, any chance we see you at a @NYIslanders game any time soon? You work close by. ;) @LizardsLacrosse

The MLL brings the pro experience to the original speed and pace of the traditional outdoor game.  If you haven’t already, all Islanders fans should consider checking out a MLL game and support another Long Island original with the New York Lizards.  Maybe we could even entice the mighty @section329 to organize appearances and lend their special brand of support to the local boys.  


Yes! Yes! Yes!



@LizardsLacrosse open their season against the Ohio Machine on April 12th @ 5pm, Shuart Stadium @ Hofstra University, Gerald Street/Stadium Road, Uniondale, NY 11553


Season tickets are still available by calling 1-855-NYLizards. Single game tickets will go on sale March 1. 

More information is available at www.nylizards.com.




Isles Notes:

The Islanders have no easy games left. They need to open Devils game w more than just a good effort this weekend. Very badly need to rebuild momentum & ride it into playoffs.


Mikhail Grabovski and Lubo Visnovsky skated prior to practice and are possible for next week (Staple). Nick Leddy participated in a full skate and could be ready for Saturday. Jaroslav Halak is “good to go.”  Kevin Poulin has been returned to the BST.

Lines in practice:  Lee-Tavares-Bailey, Kulemin-Nielsen-McDonald-Okposo, Grabner-Nelson-Kennedy-Strome, Martin-Boulton-Cizikas-Clutterbuck.

Per Mike Morreale, “Isles prospect Michael Dal Colle named 'Most Dangerous in the Goal Area', and 'Best Shot' for Oshawa in Eastern Conference.”

There will be no further supplemental discipline for Andrew Shaw (CHI) on head-butting Brock Nelson.
 

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Isles Skid Continues, Lose 4-1 To Hawks


Your New York Islanders are in Chicago to face the Blackhawks tonight.  The Isles will be looking to snap a 3 game losing streak and gain some ground to keep pace with other teams in the east despite playing only 2 games in the next 7 days.  Injuries to key players will certainly make that a challenge.  Jaroslav Halak is day-to-day & did not make the trip for what is being called a lower body injury, so Michal Neuvirth will get the start in net.  Kevin Poulin has been recalled on an emergency basis from Bridgeport to serve as back up.  Ryan Strome is in for Michael Grabner, Matt Donovan and Brian Strait are expected to play for Lubo Visnovsky (day-to-day with a lower body injury) & Nick Leddy (upper body), who is on the trip with the team, not expected to be in the game time lineup for the 4th straight game.  Look for John Tavares (no points in his last 3 games) & the kid line to be extra motivated to make things happen tonight.


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

Hickey-Hamonic, de Haan-Boychuk, Strait-Donovan.

Michal Neuvirth is in, Kevin Poulin serving as back up.

 

The Isles are having to clean up a lot their own messes in the first period & getting outshot by an 8-3 margin, when Neuvirth finally lets one in off the left post from Toews, 1-0 Hawks.  He has made some big saves thus far, but that is one he wants back.  Not a good start for New York.  First line has struggled thus far and coughs the puck up to Toews for his second of the night, 2-0 Chicago.  Can you say Passengers?  Islanders outshot 16-10 in the period and look out of sync again.  The Kid Line and Thomas Hickey were only bright spots in the first.


Shaw gets a 5 minute major for head butting Brock Nelson early in the second period.  That will probably warrant league discipline.  Isles with a big PP chance, but generate 1 shot against.  A huge misstep.  Hossa puts the Hawks up 3-0 late in the period.  The Isles have applied more pressure in Chicago’s zone, but still look lost.  Shots were 15-5 in the period.  It is important to note that Nikolay Kulemin went to the locker room before the end of the period.


Kulemin is back to start the third.  Hossa makes it a 4-0 Chicago lead less than a minute into the period.  Calvin de Haan has had another tough game tonight.  Nikolay Kulemin looks fine as he sneaks one past Crawford and get on the board. 4-1 with 14:00 remaining.  Isles to the PP off a holding call on Hossa, but can’t produce again.  John Tavares takes a frustration penalty & goes off for holding the stick, Isles to the PK.  Kulemin gets a breakaway chance, gets hooked and can’t convert.  No call.  Cizikas & Clutterbuck generate a shorthanded rush, but can’t finish either.  PK does its job, but time runs out for New York.  Isles held a 14-9 advantage in shots for the period and held a 39-30 edge in the game, but it was an example of reacting too late and playing desperate hockey.  The PP was 0/2 and the PK, 1/1.  Michal Neuvirth had his issues, but was left alone a few times.  He finished 26/30 with a .867Sv%.


Tonight was another tough loss pushing the losing streak to 4 for the first time this season.  When your team is down 2-0 and has a 5 minute major, you must take advantage it.  The Islanders PP captained by Doug Weight is terrible.  It’s a necessary function that needs to produce if they want to stay in games.  Kyle Okposo will need time to find his game, but since Anders Lee has been taken off the first line, the line & the team for that matter has struggled to produce.  Tavares & Bailey were a –4, while de Haan & Boychuk were a –3.


The Isles need the constant sense of urgency and need to rediscover their swagger and proficiency in taking over games.  Piling up shots means you are working, but without producing goals, it can also be seen as a big negative.  Defensive breakdowns, surrendering the late goal, the resurgent meltdowns need to stop.  Team coaching needs to be called out as does the offensive snarl of this team, which had previously seemed literally unshakeable.  It is clearly the low point of the season.  With too many mistakes, several key injuries and a previously crammed schedule, challenges have taken a toll on this team. 


They will need to find a way to refocus and attack the remaining games like their playoff lives depend on it.  Because when it comes to how far they will be able to get in the post season playing like this, it just might.  Tonight’s game was just that bad.
 

 
Isles are in New Jersey on Saturday for a 7PM start.



Sunday, March 15, 2015

Island Of Struggle


R.I.P. Mr. Judge


The Islanders are struggling.  They have a 4-4-2 record in their last 10 games, including a current 3 game losing streak.  The good news is that they still sit just 3 points behind the Rangers for the first spot in the metro & fourth in the eastern conference, with 90 points.  They are still having a fantastic season and will be a dangerous team for any to face in the NHL playoffs.  The Isles are 43-24-4 thru 71 games, representing their most wins since 1983-84 (50) per Eric Hornick. 


Their problems have been an odd mix of things that were strengths at one time.  The Isles opened the season with a 17-4-0 record at the NVMC, but have more recently gone 6-8-0.  Although they are 4th in the league with a 3.01 goals per game average, seven of their last ten games have been determined by 1 goal.  Their offensive pressure has been there as they continue to outshoot the opposition, however they have lost 3 straight while only able to score one goal in each game.  This being their worst streak since early November, 2010.  Their ability to get balanced scoring and finish offensively has been a problem.  The PP has struggled mightily and it has cost them.  Mistakes, especially late in periods have hurt them when their margin for error has been smaller.  In the shootout, the Isles have fallen to a 7-3-0 record after winning their first 6.  They have been held scoreless in the last 3 shootout loses, losing all by 1-0 margins.  New York is 24-10-1 when they score at least one power play goal and just 19-14-3 when they can’t. 


Let’s take a “Lookback” at their last 2 games over the weekend.

The Islanders fell to Ottawa by a 2-1 score before a sellout crowd. Tyler Kennedy (Visnovsky & Kulemin) scored the lone goal for the Islanders midway through the third period and was named 3rd star of the game.  The Isles were 0/3 on the PP and 1/1 on the PK.  Jaroslav Halak made 26 saves in the loss.  The Islanders continue to improve in the faceoff circle.  They had a 44-26 advantage against the Senators.  Frans Nielsen missed his first game of the season for what was called a maintenance day and was replaced by Michael Grabner.  Jaroslav Halak (26/26 with a .929Sv%) said the loss was frustrating again.  “We had some opportunities on the power play that didn’t go in and all of the sudden they score on a lucky bounce on the second goal. It’s a tough one.”


In front of their 21st sellout crowd of the season, the Isles lost to Montreal by a 3-1 margin.  A SHG surrendered in the second period turned out to be the difference in the game.  Michal Neuvirth (27/29 with a .931Sv%) misplayed a puck behind the net on a dump-in that gave Montreal an easy lead they would never give back.  The Canadiens are the only eastern conference team that they have failed to beat this season.  Josh Bailey got the only goal for New York to bring the game within 1 late in the third, but Montreal got an ENG to cap off the win in the final 30 seconds.  The PK continues to improve, killing all 20 penalties against this month.  It was an impressive 4/4 in the last game.  Kyle Okposo continues to get back into the groove as he shakes off the rust.  Frans Nielsen & Matt Donavan were back in while Ryan Strome & Lubo Visnovsky were out of the game.  John Tavares still leads the NHL in scoring with 72 points, but was held without a point again for the third game in a row.  The latest loss is the fourth straight at home.  Still missing Nick Leddy and no Lubo Visnovsky hurts the Isles PP that was 1/5 in the game.


I compiled some interesting notes from Isles statistician, Eric Hornick and applied them to the rest of the Isles season:

When they have played the night before, the Isles are 1-5-0 when playing against rested teams.  They are 7-1-0 when both teams are rested and 7-2-0 when they are rested while their opponents are not.  They will have 2 games in the next 9 days.  That should bode well for their ability to rest up, work on shortcomings and find their way back to a winning mindset before plodding back into the final stretch to end the regular season.  Their magic number is 16 for points won or lost against the Ottawa Senators for clinching a playoff spot. 


Capuano:  “For whatever reason we’re a little snakebitten, things aren’t finding its way like they used to when we were scoring three, four or five goals a game and the power play was clicking.”


Another magic number is 3.  The Isles are 36-7-2 when they score at least three goals (including shootout winners) and are 7-17-2 when they do not.  They need to continue generating offense from both sides of the ice, but find a way to convert more regularly.  They have done a good job in stretches for most parts of their game, but haven’t been able to get in sync for 60 minutes on a consistent basis.  When they get back to doing this, they are an even harder team to beat.  Concern for their shortcomings is valid, but it is not time to panic. 
The Islanders are 3 points out of 1st in east with 11 games to go. I'll take that.  Will you?



The Islanders travel to Chicago next Tuesday and visit New Jersey on Saturday. 


Thursday, March 12, 2015

Islanders Extend Johnny Boychuk For 7 Years


Today, the New York Islanders sign top pair defenseman, Johnny Boychuk to seven-year, $42 million contract with a $6M AAV.  Previously signed line mate, Nick Leddy has a $5M AAV.  That’s $11.5M for a solid top pairing for Garth Snow’s Isles.   Another in a series of good moves by Snow in what may be the start of something great for this team for a long time to come.  Especially when consider contracts like those for Rangers defensemen, Daniel Girardi, who is making $5.5M until 19/20 and former Islander, Andrew MacDonald who will collect $5M until 19/20 from Philadelphia.


Boychuk has 32 points this season with a +17 rating through 59 games with New York.


Islanders General Manager, Garth Snow acquired Boychuk & Leddy on 10/14/14 in a major move to immediately solidify the Islanders blue line in front of previously signed free agent goaltender, Jaroslav Halak.  Moves that would immensely improve the Islanders season and future back end value. 


Snow said, “Johnny’s influence in our dressing room, both on and off the ice, has been immeasurable. His veteran presence is an asset that we are thrilled to help lead our club."


Per Pierre LeBrun, “Boychuk deal has $11 million in signing bonuses as part of that $42M total compensation, including $5.5 M signing bonus this July 1.”  While some of you might scoff at the term of the deal, what might turn out to be a couple of extra years at the tail end of the contract are worth the immediate and future gains provided by Boychuk, not to mention all the knowledge and character he brings to the room  It also solidifies a top defensive pairing that is as good as any in the NHL.  Johnny Boychuk on Nick Leddy: "It made it a lot easier to sign when you have chemistry like that with your defense partner." 


The best part of these signings is that they should once and for all prove a final killing blow to the stigma that top free agents scoff at signing with the Islanders.  Another huge gain of  the current team is the balance of vets and promising young talent, poised to build a long time contender that can sustain itself while giving prospects time to develop in the minor leagues.


Johnny Boychuk commented about signing on long term with the Isles, “Ever since I came to the Islanders, the organization has been incredible to both myself and my family,” Boychuk said. “I am proud to be an Islander and look forward to competing every night in front of such a passionate fan base for many years to come.”



Isles Notes:

D, Nick Leddy to miss at least 2 weeks with upper body injury.


Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Isles Fall To Rangers


Your New York Islanders hold a 3 point lead over the New York Rangers and they will meet again for the final time for a regular season game at the NVMC tonight in front of their 19th sell out of the season.  The good news for the Isles is that Kyle Okposo has been removed from the IR after 22 games and will see limited time tonight, but probably away from the first line. Statistically, coming into tonight’s game, Okposo has 44 points in 46 games, but will play his first game tonight since January 19th. Kael Mouillierat has been sent back the Bridgeport Sound Tigers.  Earlier today, Arthur Staple added, “Looks like Grabner will be scratched to make room for Okposo. Grabner skating with McDonald and Boulton now.”  Nick Leddy’s iron man streak will end at 320 games.  He will not play tonight.  Brian Strait is in.


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

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

Jaro Halak is in net with Michal Neuvirth backing up.


The Isles open the first period with some good early pressure on Talbot & Kyle Okposo gets into a shoving match with Staal, trying to bang in the loose puck.  John Tavares jumps to his defense.  Johnny Boychuk is everywhere, shooting pucks and throwing checks.  Love the intensity early by the Islanders.  Lubo Visnovsky draws a hooking penalty on Stepan.  Isles to the PP with K.O. on the first unit, but can’t execute.  Anders Lee comes out, winning battles and puts one in on the wrap-around for a 1-0 lead.  Lee is 2nd among rookies w 23 and 5th in points with 38.  Fast takes a dive on the face off and Casey Cizikas somehow gets called for unsportsmanlike conduct.  Good kill for the Isles.  Isles defense are doing a good job at containing the Rangers on break out opportunities.  Don't downplay Halak’s performance thus far.  He has made big saves on only 5 shots w 4:02 remaining in the 1st.  Isles bringing a lot of intensity.  Hopefully, they can maintain this pace throughout the game. Remember, the Rangers had last night off.  Isles outshoot Rangers 13-7 in the period and hold a 14-3 advantage in face offs.


The Isles continue working hard to start the second period.  Bailey draws a high stick from Hayes who draws blood, Isles back to the PP for just 2:00.  John Tavares goes to the box for holding.  4 on 4, Rangers will have 1:16 worth of PP time.  Isles good again on the kill.  Johnny Boychuk has been blocking shots, clearing pucks and putting them on net all night long.  Josh Bailey called for interference on Glass, but the Isles good on the kill gain.  Thomas Hickey goes down trying to make a play on a breaking Hayes and interferes with Halak. The puck goes in as a result, score tied at 1-1.  Tough break for the Islanders, who are getting outshot 7-1, with 7:00 remaining in the 2nd.  Capuano makes good use of a time out.  Isles respond with some jump.  JT & Kennedy break out on a 2 on 1 and Kennedy goes wide on the shot.  Matt Martin lays out Zuccarello in the neutral zone trying to spark his team.  Josh Bailey with a clean break away, but doesn’t get enough on the shot to matter. Talbot makes some big saves in the final minutes.  The Rangers answered the Isles first period intensity early in the period, especially in shots, but only finish with an 11-10 edge in the period.  The Isles need a big third period.


Islanders look tired to start the third period.  Nash puts a shot wide, but deflects it in off Stromes' skate for a fluky goal, 2-1 Rangers.  Brassard holds Nielsen, Isles with another PP chance, but generate very little.  Halak gets caught out of position, but Calvin de Haan makes the save in front of a wide open net.  Capuano mixes lines with Bailey-Tavares & Okposo getting a few shifts.  Brian Strait goes off for high sticking Miller, Isles to the PK.  Yandle takes down Nielsen starting a breakaway, 47 seconds of 4 on 4, then an Isles PP for 1:10.  Isles generate no shots on net.  PP hurting the Isles again bigtime.  Casey Cizikas continues to work hard to make something happen.  Halak goes to the bench with 1:14 remaining.  Isles with some good pressure man up, but can’t find a way to even the score.  Isles had a 7-4 edge in shots for the third and 30-22 advantage in the game.  Their PP was a terrible 0 for 4, their PK went 4 for 4 and they were good in the faceoff circle 32-23.
 

The Rangers win by a 2-1 score by playing hard and befit with some very good goaltending by Talbot.  In the end, some good Ranger bounces, shady calls and two strange goals (Hickey banging into Halak & Stromes’ skate deflection) were too much to overcome this time.  Isles started strong and played well, but their fatigue showed as the game went on.  They still maintain a 1 pt. lead over the Rangers who have 4 games at hand in the metro. 


Standouts for the Isles were Anders Lee (3rd star of the game) & Johnny Boychuk.  And even though Bailey had some missed opportunities, but played a decent game.  Jaro Halak (20 of 22 with a .909Sv%) played pretty well in the loss and the Isles PK has improved of late.  It was a tough loss to take, but they can get a real dose of what they need to improve upon moving into the playoffs.


Isles have Ottawa at home on Friday and face Montreal & Chicago for just 3 games in 10 days to rest, practice and heal.  Keep the faith.

 

Isles Notes:


Kyle Okposo: “There is always a risk that it could happen again just with my eyes being the way they are … they had to do some stuff in my other eye because it was heading along the same path. The doc told me my vision was not guaranteed to come back...at that point you just start realizing what's important.”