December 29, 2010

Isles Snap Crosby's Streak, Defeat Pens in Process

The Islanders were able to do the unthinkable on Wednesday night at the Coliseum as they defeated the Penguins 2-1 in the shootout and stopped Sidney Crosby's 25 game point too.

Obviously, the Islanders knew what was riding on this game aside from the point streak. When the media walked in, defenseman Mark Eaton exclaimed "HBO first!" The Islanders may have gotten themselves more than just your usual mention, especially considering the fact that NBC was really banking on the point streak extending up until at least the winter classic.

The Islanders had a very good effort. The Penguins didn't play poorly, but did have some lapses on their own. As a whole, their defense was solid which was a key question going into the game after the subtraction of James Wisniewski.

It wasn't until the 2nd period when a goal was scored, which came from Josh Bailey. Travis Hamonic took a shot that was stopped, but Bailey was standing in front of the net to put home the rebound. Since he has come back, it seems as though he has been going towards the net more often than not. I was curious if that was an aspect of his game that he worked on, but he downplayed that, telling me "It's just a part of the game. It's not something I focused on (down in Bridgeport)."

Fair enough, but I definitely notice a difference in the way that Bailey is playing. He's had some nice rushes, some nice takeaways and has been playing with as much confidence as he was during the first couple of games of the season.

Michael Grabner had a very active game, using his speed a lot to get some chances that he was unable to bury. His hands still need a little work, but he is slowly getting there. He just needs to keep using that speed of his.

Frans Nielsen scored in the shootout too, using his patented forehand to backhand move he has become so very well known for. He also had a very important block in overtime to keep the score tied and help the Islanders clear the puck.

"It was a good win for us. Hopefully we can build some confidence going on the long road trip," Nielsen told us after the game.

Rick DiPietro was solid and really made some huge saves. His movements were quick again. I never truly thought that he was seriously injured, but many feared the worst when he went on IR for a few days. That's understandable, and even Sean and I had our disagreement about how serious the injury was.

But he was stellar tonight and earned the right to be the game's 1st star.

"There's still a lot of work to be done but you're seeing some guys step-up into big roles here," DiPietro said.

When asked about stopping Crosby's streak, DiPietro downplayed the impact he had. "Anytime you're facing a team with that much skill, it's a team effort."

A team effort it certainly was. The Islanders can truly hang their head high after this one - defeating a good team in front of a good crowd (still a very loud Isles contingent among the Penguins fans) and ending streak of the NHL's best player.

Now, the attention for the Islanders turns to their 11 day roadtrip. They kick that off Friday on New Years Eve in Detroit against yet another hot team. The Islanders have won only three games on the road this season.

Thursday, 11 PM: Here is a video filmed by Johnny Z of Yes Islanders of myself, Brad Kurtzberg of Inside Hockey and Timo Seppa of Hockey Prospectus giving our thoughts on the game.


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