On a Friday afternoon after Thanksgiving, with a crowd of 2,000 more than they had averaged in the previous three home games, the Islanders put forth one of their better efforts in a while.
By the time all was said and done the fans, myself included, had seem something they haven't since October 16th - a win at home.
There were a number of standout performances in this game, the best obviously coming from Rick DiPietro. He made a number of key saves, especially in a hectic 3rd period to preserve the shutout. His movement was once again really good, and his reaction time super quick. This was his 3rd game in a row since the Islanders ran with Dwayne Roloson for eight straight, and it's a welcome site to see some constant play from DiPietro. One of the key things to point out here is the lack of wandering from the crease. That keeps him on his game the most, and has to happen for him to continue to be successful. Hopefully, he remains this way.
One thing I found cool was how he thanked the fans for sticking with the team after the game. Love him or hate him, you have to tip your hat to that for the amount of times he has acknowledged the fans all these years. If you watch his post game press conference, he pulls no punches talking about the teams the Islanders have had in the 10 years he's been around. Quite frankly, it's refreshing to see a player be so honest about what has been making it's way on ice for the last decade. Good for him.
Jesse Joensuu had a strong game in my eyes. He scored the first goal of the game about a minute and a half into the game, and the Islanders held the lead for the rest of the 58 and a half minutes. He was going into the corners a lot, and layed out a couple of hits. One problem I always had with him was his reluctance to use his size to make his way to the front of the net or battle for those loose pucks in the corner. When he was called up, Joensuu spoke about not having many more chances and knowing that he has to prove his value pretty quickly. This stint is going pretty well so far.
Travis Hamonic once again was one of the Isles better, if not the best defenseman on the ice. I am amazed at how well he is playing as a 20 year old who doesn't have much professional playing experience. There was one play that stood out to me when the Devils came into the zone on a rush, and Hamonic positioned himself perfectly to stop short, and push the Devil off of the puck. Hamonic picked it up and play went the other way. It was refreshing to see an Islanders defenseman so strong on his skates to make a defensive play like that. He's the type of defenseman this team will need for the future.
One guy I did not like, once again was P.A. Parenteau. He gets knocked off the puck very easily and is very soft. He just doesn't have the strength to cut it at this level, and on the power-play refuses to shoot off of the pass. Despite his recent early season success, most of which was on the power-play, he hasn't done much and has often been invisible.
While I am thrilled that they were finally able to end this losing streak, there are still some areas of concern. I know some people are probably saying "oh, give them a break" but I can't. They are still 1-11-3 in their last 15 games, all of which were in November. One can't see the forest for the trees.
The Islanders struggled once again on the power-play, and they are now 0 for their last 31 with the man advantage, which covers the span of nine games (they scored on only 1 of 6 attempts in that 9th game, against the Flyers). They scored two goals against a very poor Devils team that has had a number of problems of their own, and throughout the losing streak the few times they have managed two goals they have not fared very well.
One thing that has been consistent, aside from the goaltending, is the penalty kill. The Islanders have fared pretty will when down a man, and that continued here against the Devils as the Isles killed off a long 5-on3 in the closing minutes of the game.
I'm not taking anything away from the team. A win is a win, and this one was huge for them. I am hopeful that a number of these problems just stem from the losses mounting, and that they will fix themselves now that the biggest monkey is off their backs. But these are things to be mindful of. We can't let this win make us forget everything that is still wrong, because it won't. The players know that, and most likely would tell you the same.
The team now has points in three straight games, and is only eight points out of a playoff spot. They now prepare for a home and home with the Rangers on Thursday and Friday.