March 8, 2011

Comeau Continues Strong Play, Wins it in OT

There was a point in the third period where I started to think that going to overtime on this particular night might not be a bad thing for the Islanders.

Each time the Isles got on the board, it didn't take a lot of time for the Maple Leafs to answer back.

Blake Comeau scored the winner in overtime, ensuring that the Leafs had no way of answering that one. For all their efforts though, they walked away with a point - one that may be much needed in their late season push for a playoff spot.

Zenon Konopka, Frans Nielsen and Michael Grabner scored the other goals for the Isles.

Josh Bailey only registered an assist, but got to wear the hard hat after the game for his effort. He was all over the ice, making some nice plays on both sides of the puck. His passing is getting better and better everyday. I said it in the last post, but it bears repeating - he has looked exponentially better since Rob Schremp has left, and that is no coincidence.

Although Andrew MacDonald has been really solid all season long, I did feel he had a bit of a rough game. Perhaps it was just the infamous Nassau Coliseum ice, but he seemed to have trouble keeping some pucks in at the blueline. It could be nothing, but just something I noticed a couple of times with him in the past few weeks. It's nothing major though, and nothing has come of it yet to be detrimental to the team, bit it's an observation worth pointing out.

Matt Martin has been a beneficiary of the Isles dumping of Schremp as he has moved up to play on a line with Bailey and Comeau. Martin was originally part of a line with Zenon Konopka and Micheal Haley, which was the line I pointed out as being the best when they went on their recent road trip to Toronto and Philadelphia.

Martin got about 17 minutes of ice time, and aside from getting a breakaway (which resulted in a failed penalty shot attempt) and some other nice chances on James Reimer, he had 14 hits. That is an insane amount, sure. But there were numerous occasions where you saw his hits be effective and didn't involve him taking himself out of the play. As a fourth line player, he was still good for about five hits a game, but at times would go out of his way to make those hits. Now, in a scoring role he is getting a chance to be a regular force in front of the net and in the slot area, and finish his checks for more of those solid, honest and hard working type of checks. His skating has improved from what it was at the beginning of the season too.

There were a number of Isles who were denied the chances to find themselves on the score sheet thanks in large part to the posts behind Reimer. The Isles hit the post five times, all within the first 30 minutes of play. That can certainly be frustrating for a team that has generally gotten the puck to bounce their way in the past month or so.

Al Montoya made some nice saves, and as far as making saves with the glove, I felt this was one of his better performances. The rebounds still need some work, and the Leafs were able to capitalize on a couple of chances thanks to fat rebounds Montoya left around the net. That is the one area of his game that is still a work in progress, but everything else is night and day from what we saw in his first two appearances in relief prior to working extensively with goaltending consultant Sudsie Maharaj.

The Isles now have a couple of days to soak this one up before the Bruins come into town on Friday night. The Bruins, who are a very hot team and perhaps the best in the Eastern Conference, will be the focus of many discussions and not because of their outcome in their loss to the Montreal Canadiens on Tuesday but because of a nasty hit suffered by Max Pacioretty from Zdeno Chara.

Chara hit Pacioretty rather awkwardly after the puck was already moved up ice. The follow through brought both players up along the boards, where Pacioretty's head hit the stanchion between the two benches. There were 16 seconds left in the period, and the refs had the teams leave the ice and just added the time on for the 3rd. It took that long to stabilize Pacioretty and put him on a stretcher. He was later taken to a hospital, where it was reported that he was awake, alert and moving his extremities. That's all excellent news.

For Chara however, there seem to be differing view points. While I do not think there was any malice in his hit, I also think it's going to be pretty hard to make an argument that a player with that size should be able to ease up and stop just short of finishing a check. Like I said, it seemed to me that the intentions where harmless, but as they went along the boards it was just the wrong place at the wrong time. I see some analysts on Twitter saying they expect a suspension for Chara.

At this time, I'm doubting that he gets one, but if he does it makes the Isles job slightly easier. The Bruins have lost only twice (their last two, actually) since acquiring Tomas Kaberle from the Leafs on February 18. We'll see what news hits the wire tomorrow though as we get closer to game night.


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