March 22, 2011

Islanders 5, Lightning 2

There always seems to be some extra emotions when you go up against a player that you have come to know and in many cases, love. This idea is slightly magnified when you are one of a slew of young players who may have looked up to that player.

Despite all of the glowing remarks from the current Islanders about ex-Isles goalie Dwayne Roloson, the Islanders came out very strong. Even after they gave up an early goal to Nate Thompson, they kept pressing and ultimately tied it on a power-play goal by Josh Bailey. Good job by Bailey there to go to the front of the net. That's something I feel he has been doing with more consistency lately, and something he needs to continue to do as he tries to find some consistency at the NHL level.

Speaking of Bailey, his game away from the puck was really good too. He made some nice plays to help prevent the Lightning from getting out of the zone, and also had a couple of nice shifts where he was able to keep the puck up against the boards behind the net so the Islanders could continue to maintain offensive pressure. All around good stuff from Bailey.

In the second period, the Islanders came out firing on all cylinders, adding two goals to grab a 3-1 lead. Kyle Okposo had a nice deflection on a shot by Milan Jurcina, while Matt Martin continues to take big strides in developing an offensive game. Jack Hillen made a really nice play to get the puck to Martin, who made a nice move to his back hand on a break to get the puck past Roloson.

Michael Grabner used his speed to not only create some chances, but also draw a couple of penalties. Those are just as important as his goal scoring. With the way some of the other players have clicked, particularly on the man advantage, the fact that he'll give the Isles plenty of chances on the power-play is one of the big reasons why the Isles scoring has gone up. Kyle Okposo also does a great job of drawing penalties, which has helped as well.

Grabner would get an empty net goal to ice the game for the Isles. He made a nice play to chip the puck out of the zone and essentially pass to himself.

Frans Nielsen quietly had himself another awesome game. He scored a goal that was rather odd, after losing the puck on a breakaway. He led all Isles forwards in ice-time. He wasn't as solid as he normally has been on face-offs, but all of the other things that he did were fantastic. I would have liked to see him shoot the puck on that 2-on-0 break with Grabner. I think everyone in the building expected him to pass it, so he should have tried to fake everyone out. But that's minor stuff.

Steve Stamkos has a much better offensive game than I thought he did. I saw him make a couple of nice plays, although he did have a couple of rough turnovers. Nothing that cost the Lightning anything major, however.

Al Montoya continued to do what he's done since he came here and put forth another solid effort. I can't really blame him on any of the goals. You can make the argument about the rebound on that first goal not two minutes into the game, but I feel Radek Martinek has to do a slightly better job tying up Thompson there.

The Isles got a bit sloppy late in the game and took a couple of penalties. For the most part, the calls were legit. Travis Hamonic needs to tone it down that late in the game, with the Lightning pressing and already on the power-play. Fortunately, Sean Bergenheim felt the need to try and defend Martin St. Louis after Hamonic hit him from behind and negated the 5-on-3 for the Lightning.

All in all, this was a solid effort for a team that's been playing really well of late. To have an effort like this against one of the best in the East is a good story too. Roloson will have to wait until next season - if he plays that is - to get revenge on his old team.


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