February 22, 2011

Late Goal Gives Leafs Win

If not for the play of goalie Al Montoya, this game probably doesn't end up as close as it showed on the scoreboard at the end.

The Maple Leafs had many quality chances on a short-handed Isles team, but Montoya stood tall and was up to the task. He made some outstanding saves when called upon, especially with a weaker defense without Radek Martinek and after losing Milan Jurcina in the first period as well.

There's one thing I have admired about the Leafs these last couple of seasons, and that's their ability to be first to lose pucks. This isn't something that has always happened during their lean years, but the last few times against them it seems to be the case.

The Islanders were beaten to many of the loose pucks. This was the plan the whole time by the Leafs and was executed very nicely. The Islanders expected to have all sorts of time to get their shots towards the net but were always met with a Leafs player immediately putting the pressure on.

Near the end of the game, the Isles seemed to realize that what they had done for the better part of two games was no longer working and that they had to try and get the pucks deep instead. That lead to a couple of nice shifts in the 3rd, but didn't produce any goals.

For much of the first period, the Isles best line was their 4th line. It seemed that throughout their first few shifts, Zenon Konopka, Matt Martin and Micheal Haley had some good cycling going on. While they didn't have any great scoring opportunities, the puck possession was very good, and actually uncharacteristic from what we have generally seen from the 4th line this season.

James Reimer stood tall as well and made several key stops against the Isles. This is another young goalie who came up and has really stole the show, and has been key in bringing the Leafs back into the playoff hunt. Phil Kessel, who has developed into an Isles killer throughout his young career, scored the winner with about five minutes left on a really nice looking individual play.

If the Isles are to sustain any momentum heading into their home-and-home with the Washington Capitals starting this weekend, then they need to get a point our two out of Philly. This is a place that hasn't been good to the Islanders at all for three years now, so the odds are stacked against them. But given performances against top teams such as Pittsburgh, Buffalo and Los Angeles in the past two weeks, stranger things have happened.

Let's hope that Martinek is healthy, not only for the good of the Isles on the ice but also for the possibility off of it (trade wise). I have been putting together a little post on what his value could be for the team, both if he stays and what he could bring back in a trade. Be sure to look for that in the next day or so.



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