February 15, 2011

Isles Keep Rolling, Win Fourth Straight

The Islanders came into Ottawa on Tuesday night winless in their previous four meetings there. This trip however has just had a whole different feel about it.

As a matter of fact, there is something very different about this team. When I walked into that locker room after the 9-3 win over Pittsburgh, the aura hit you immediately. I was curious how long that would last.

So far, it has made for some impressive hockey. After beating the red hot Buffalo Sabres in a pond hockey game, the Isles and Sens played a much more contained game, with some good goal tending and a heck of a lot better defensive support.

As has been the story for the better part of two weeks now, the little engine that could known as the Islanders came back from one goal deficits twice, and ultimately won the game in the shoot out 4-3.

Nathan Lawson made his return to the line-up since getting injured on January 21st. He was solid in what would be his first NHL win. There were times where you could tell he was still trying to get the kinks out, but when I think back to the little we've seen of him this season, I can say that I felt the rebounds were not as bad as they had been. It still needs some work, but as far as he goes tonight, he was solid.

It helped Lawson that the Islanders had an overall solid defense in front of him. There were a couple of breakdowns, like for example on Ottawa's third goal with Milan Jurcina laying a big hit and all of the Isles players standing to Lawson's right. Fortunately, it didn't happen as much as it had in games past when Lawson has played.

The shoot out was a lot better this time around for Lawson. He was predictably schooled by Alex Kovalev, who made such a sick move. The little half turn had me fooled all the way as well. It helped that Lawson had some support there too, from Rob Schremp going into his bag of tricks and Frans Nielsen scoring...on a forehand?! Brian Elliot expected the switch to the backhand the whole time, just as I think about everyone in the hockey world did tonight. Instead they got a quick wrist shot and a very confused Elliot, Jiggs McDonald and Butch Goring.

Travis Hamonic had a very solid game, blocking a number of shots and throwing his body around. On the power-play, he is looking more and more relaxed. We really needed him to be tonight, since Andrew MacDonald hurt his nose in an awkward collision with Chris Kelly. Kelly was traded after the game to the Bruins for a 2nd round pick, so we'll see him again on Thursday.

Michael Grabner had another two point night, but this time only scored one goal. But it was still a thing of beauty after failing to convert on a breakaway move trying something new as Grabner missed the shot but gathered the loose puck behind the net and wrapped around to score one for the 2nd time in as many games like that. Solid effort there and having that speed is what really gives him the ability to score on that when maybe 90% of the league wouldn't be able to.

Congrats to Josh Bailey for scoring the Isles 3rd goal, his 7th of the season and first in the last 21 games. Must be nice to get that monkey off his back after having some good chances over the last two weeks.

The Sens had some tough luck in this game, losing both Chris Campoli and Sergei Gonchar to injuries early on. I have to tip my hat to them for playing really well despite only having four defensemen for more than half the game. It's not easy to manage against that, but they seemed to do well and not over work anyone.

The Isles now come back home on a roll, with some more tough opponents coming in the form of the Bruins on Thursday and the Kings on Saturday. The Bruins are arguably the best team the Islanders will have faced in the past couple of weeks, and are now starting to make some moves to their team. Will they have another new player aside from Kelly, like Tomas Kaberle? The rumors are out there, and they do indeed need a defenseman.

Kaberle or not, there is a really big test coming in. It seems like there is going to be a decent crowd on hand too, given the Isles recent stretch of hot play and show of toughness.


No comments: