January 13, 2011

Sens 6, Isles 4

It's very difficult for someone to say a team played pretty poorly when they scored four goals, but on a night where the Islanders would give up six to the Ottawa Senators you definitely can - well, for the first two periods anyway.

The Islanders came out very flat, as evidenced by Daniel Alfredsson's goal 32 seconds into the game. That would be the first of a few that the defensive pairing of Andrew MacDonald and Travis Hamonic would let get by them.

It has been a bit of a concern lately to see the entire Isles defensive unit give easy chances to opposing players, letting them virtually waltz into scoring areas. It doesn't help that the team's leading shot blocker in Mark Eaton is out for the year, but with Radek Martinek, Milan Jurcina and MacDonald still around it shouldn't be too much of an issue.

The Islanders essentially didn't show up in the 2nd period, allowing the Senators to score four goals while getting out-shot 17-7. The Islanders would get a goal from Blake Comeau just prior to the Sens going on their scoring run, but the excitement would only last for 20 seconds.

The third period the Islanders seemed to finally find their game - and their game plan. By throwing whatever shots they could at the net, they discovered how vulnerable the shaky Robin Lehner, making his first NHL start, was. The 19-year-old looked overwhelmed at times, and it is disappointing that it took the Isles that long to figure that out. Lehner is a really great prospect though, and much like Kevin Poulin could use some more seasoning in the AHL. It comes as no surprise that the game was that high scoring.

The power-play was an Achilles heel for the Islanders, however. Despite getting many chances on the man advantage, the Islanders could not get any momentum going. They were entering the zone really slowly, dumping along the boards and causally skating to the puck. It allowed the Senator penalty killers to get there quicker and easily clear the puck.

Jack Capuano made what is becoming his usual quick hook of Poulin in the 1st after the second Ottawa goal in favor of Nathan Lawson. Lawson was in the net for the Sens next four goals, and after the 2nd period would be replaced again by Poulin. This move is odd, but there is a recent precedent - former Isles goalie Dwayne Roloson was pulled in his 2nd game with the Lightning against Pittsburgh for Dan Ellis and then later re-entered the game as the Bolts went on to lose 7-1. With a 20-year-old in Poulin, perhaps Capuano was just looking to settle him down a bit and wanted to give him another chance to boost his confidence a bit before his possible trip back down to the AHL. Rick DiPietro is a possibility to start the next game against the Sabres.

All in all, it was a tale of two games for the Isles, with their better effort only coming in the final 20 minutes. That isn't enough to win anything, no matter what team you are. While this Isles team is depleted and young, efforts like this should not be happening this frequently. If you can put out good efforts against teams like Pittsburgh, Detroit and Vancouver, with similar line-ups to the ones iced tonight, why can't you do the same against a team that has been essentially a mirror image of yourselves this season? It really shows how long this team has to go in their progression.

We've hit the point now where games are coming at us fast and furious. As I mentioned, the next game is Satruday night, followed by a Monday matinee against the Devils. The Isles need to find a way to put out some more consistent efforts, especially against an opponent they can beat and one that they should. One thing this team still has to work on is that power-play though. The movement is too slow, and the fact that they are dumping and chasing in a very nonchalant manner isn't going to do any good.

We'll see what they work on in practice on Friday.

One last note - Trevor Gillies scored his first NHL goal in the 1st period. Congrats to the 31-year-old fighter who has travelled to many cities playing professional hockey. At least he can now say he has one, no matter how ugly it was.



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