LONG ISLAND 1
The Isotopes win a game! The Isotopes win a game! The Isotopes win a game!
It was rather boring, fairly sloppy and made even more tedious by the complete drunks sitting next to #2 and I, but we survived a late 5-on-3 to pull out the win. Hockey's very odd sometimes in that they probably should have won a couple other games during this streak, but NYI is bad enough that it just happened us tonight.
The first thing you notice about NYI is that they are quite weak; on the puck, in terms of hitting and when fighting for position away from the puck. If we'd hit at all this is a blowout.
I didn't see a lot of difference from some of the more listless performances of the past other than that we scored early. NYI pulling their goalie was certainly the right move, but the Oilers didn't even really test the new guy. One early stop on a Hall break (because Hall made another bad decision when in alone) was really it. Not a lot of shots and next to no legit chances that actually wound up getting on net.
NYI is a confusing team because they certainly have some interesting players...I of course was following #44 and was glad to see him get a nice assist on a decent little pass. The rest of his game was mixed; some really solid decisions and an awesome night taking faceoffs (13-5 for the record) balanced out with some less than stellar play below his own goal line (not surprising, but Hemsky made him look pretty bad on one play). I expected more from some of the other forwards, especially poor Tavares (who if he's sane will bolt at the first chance while he still likes to play hockey).
Once again the refereeing was an issue. To answer a question that was asked last game report, no they don't exclusively maintain the same refs. As I understand it, while the same refs might stay in a region for some time, everyone rotates around. The linesmen stay more stationary. We couldn't buy a PP tonight and that's not because we didn't deserve some (even though we weren't pushing the game that hard).
The only shame in this being the win is that it wasn't very entertaining. It's one thing to slug out a 2-1 W on a bad night when you're in first place; but this is a bad hockey team playing at home against a bad opponent...blow someone out already. Part of the reason I will harp like crazy on management if we don't improve substantially in terms of vets in the offseason is nights like tonight as the team looks like it has almost no motivation.
I remain convinced they're showcasing Cogliano (and to a lesser extent Brule) to try and make a trade. That's really the only explanation for the lines even though Cogliano did indeed have a decent night (aided heavily by #27). With that, PLAYER REPORTS
- Obviously the first star and our leader tonight. He made some really great saves, especially in the third while the Isles were trying to get down low in his face. Great fundamentals and calm during the 5-on-3 to preserve the win. Devan is certainly improving this year. I'm still not near as optimistic as some about his eventual potential (I think he's still destined to be a good backup), but he's starting to show a little more high-end performance.
- I'm of the opinion that Ladislav got 100% jobbed tonight. I don't know if he flipped the ref off at a stop sign or what, but those penalty calls were immensely weak. When he wasn't in the sin bin, or letting off an UGLY slapper, #5 played pretty well. He managed over 20 minutes tonight despite his adventures, and the Islanders didn't seem to know that he'd beat them up if they kept yapping so that wound up working out in his favor. Also love that he went after Sim as that guy is a snot.
- Re-injured I'm guessing? Didn't see anything specific happen. He didn't look good in his limited time and got beat on several occasions as well as pinching and getting caught when he had no business doing so, generating an odd man rush that should have cost us. It's tough playing with #43 but he's still got to be better.
- Did 2 productive things tonight: moved one puck out of the zone on a PK and tackled Matt Moulson. Other than that he was plain ol' "stand around and do nothing" Strudwick. #2 and I suggest a challenge race at the skills competition between he and Scott Ferguson; though people may fall asleep or run out of beer before they complete their laps.
- Thought he should have played more and really not sure why he didn't get time 5-on-3 when Strudwick was barely staying above water. He had a couple separate sequences skating through the neutral zone in the third that were just beauty; he's so calm with the puck and makes people miss. Not as much puck-taking as last game but that could have been due to NYI's somewhat passive style.
- He had some misadventures tonight. Don't get me wrong, he was still the obvious leader and still lugged the important mail, but he got caught out of position defensively a couple times and that flipping the puck over the glass to create the late 5-on-3 wasn't smart at all. I did like the way he jumped into the play though, and it is hard to argue with 28+ minutes of solid defensive hockey.
- Loved the attempted big hit in the third and even though it was somewhat risky, loved when he got right in Tavares' face behind the play during the Isles' late powerplay. We've been missing a guy like him on the team forever. The fact that he also put up 27+ near-perfect minutes tonight, regardless of the opposition is so impressive and especially considering where he started the year. Excellent night from Theo and probably the unsung hero tonight.
- There were times tonight where #33 actually looked like a hockey player. It appears he's been working on his positioning as he made an effort to be in some nice spots for short outlet passes and handled them well without generating giveaways. He even got a rather nice slapper on net. Fraser had one of his better nights too as he handled the puck well. I still don't see why he can't get in on the forecheck better than he does as he isn't a bad skater and won't get caught out of position. Jones' presence is somewhat mitigated by playing on this line and he wasn't able to generate any offence until he got boosted up to play on a makeshift line later in the game. He hit a couple people but didn't do much else.
- I still don't like the idea of this line or the way they play the game (relying way too heavily on Penner) but they were effective offensively in the early going so I have to give them their due. Penner's SH goal after an excellent feed from Cogliano was a pure power forward play, using positioning and strength to hold off the D then finishing very well. Penner also did some excellent work on the boards and found Cogliano on the Brule goal, which was a good example of how to get the puck on net effectively and take advantage. After that though, they were really quiet and I'm not quite sure why. Brule got stuck with a weak penalty on what was actually an excellent hockey play (his stick lift). I hate that this league now penalizes that play but allows picks and other garbage all over the ice. Did any of you see anything special from these guys?
- While these guys didn't generate a ton, they certainly didn't suffer in their own zone and could've scored some goals. Omark whiffed on a great chance interrupted by a bouncing puck in the third, which was the most obvious one. They were good on the forecheck and down low, Omark especially when he outfoxed 3 NYI players who had position on him and got the puck to Reddox (also 3rd). This line is nice because Reddox controls well in the high areas of the offensive zone, Magnus provides rush speed and Omark is solid in front and behind the net. I'd keep them together and give it another shot next game. If a few pucks sit down for them there are multiple goals on their resume tonight even though they weren't driving the opposition batty. Magnus needs to refocus though, as he's still just a little bit off his game and has forgotten his a big, fast winger who should be feared.
- If Gagner were 6'4", this line would be excellent. As it stands, Ales is being asked to do a bit too much. He had some pucks sneak off his stick again tonight, but did a pretty good job of finding Hall in the offensive areas (the early chance from the bottom of the circle, the break he and Hall had that resulted in Hall's awkward spin pass attempt and Hall's break alone). I think he might have been trying to do a little too much late when he tried to deke 3 Isles to get to the empty net; I'm guessing he was mad at missing the backhand attempt immediately before that. Hall should have scored goals...again. His breakaway "move" didn't make any sense and that's not the first time he's done something weird on a clean break. It was unfortunate he couldn't convert on Hemsky's early cross-ice pass, but I respect the fact that he didn't take a bad shot and opted for puck control instead. I don't know what he thought he was doing when Hemsky set him up for a gimme goal and he spun backwards into the puck, trying to pass. There was an empty net there and no Islander between his forehand and the puck. It was an awkward play. #89 was fairly quiet but that's probably because he naturally plays the supporting role on nights like his. He had some nice puck-carrying sequences and showed some speed, but nothing uber-special. Leave these guys for another night if you have no interest in inserting Penner as their C. That line would kill.
And with that win our boys head back out on the road...somewhat sadly that means we'll probably miss some of their better hockey, but at least they managed a win. Homestands aren't easy this year, but every now and again there's hope. After all, if Hall makes a couple plays and Omark pops one, this is a 5 or 6 to 1 rout and we can really enjoy it...though then the drunks probably would have spilled on everyone and started a small riot...so maybe it worked out for the best.