March 6, 2011

Isles Dent Playoff Hopes for Blues

If the St. Louis Blues want to truly make up the 10 point hole they have put themselves into after a hot beginning of the season, then the task just got a lot harder.

The Blues road in their attempt at a miraculous comeback passed through Uniondale on Saturday afternoon, and it turned out to be a nightmare for them.

Generally, these afternoon games on the weekends give the Isles hard times. But Saturday afternoon felt different. It felt like it was being played by a team that knows what they have to do to win now, and was in line with many of the games they have played over the past month.

Who knows. Maybe the Isles slept better than they had been and were ultra prepared for the Blues for this one.

There were a number of instances where the Isles made the Blues defensemen just look plain silly. Despite their recent woes, that's not an easy task to do. The likes of Barrett Jackman, Carlo Colaiacovo and Alex Pietrangelo are very good at their trade. But on a couple of plays, the Isles made them look like turn styles.

The scoring was started by John Tavares, after he made a beautiful move around two Blues players. That goal might be one of the top five I have seen all season. It was something really cool to see. It was off of a nice pass by P.A. Parenteau, who had a bit of a rough start to the game but settled down nicely after missing an open net.

Parenteau would end his own little slump later when he got a nice pass from Michael Grabner to give the Isles a 2-0 lead. That goal was started by Tavares, who made a nice play and pass at center to find Grabner, who used his speed to streak up the left side. Parenteau went to the net hard from the right, and was in the perfect spot to tap in the pass.

Andrew MacDonald scored two goals in this one, his 2nd on a breakaway after stripping Andy McDonald of the puck on the blue-line.

Grabner got one of hi own to end a drought, and he blew past Pietrangelo to score on a breakaway of his own.

I really liked the Isles effort, but Jack Capuano didn't seem enthralled with it. He warned in the post game that they can't play the way they did and expect to win like that. I thought that while there were a couple of defensive lapses here and there, that they were few and far between.

But perhaps that's more of a statement towards how much Capuano has grown as a coach. We have seen the good, bad and ugly with him, and now we are obviously seeing more of the good. Perhaps it was his subtle way of telling the team it's never enough, a friendly way of saying "I'm not pleased" so they keep up what they have been doing. He needs them to for next season when he's here, anyway.

The test gets a bit harder for the Isles as they face the New Jersey Devils in a Sunday afternoon matinee. The Devils are one of the few teams hotter than the Isles right now, and seem to be trying desperately to do anything in their power to march to a playoff spot. It's still improbable, but anything can happen.

Martin Brodeur has been announced as the starter for the Devils. Capuano wouldn't announce his, but I'm going to guess Nathan Lawson. Al Montoya wasn't bad against the Blues, but he wasn't as "on" as he has been in recent games, so the Isles may look to give him the day off and go with Lawson off of his stellar performance in Washington.

Ilya Kovalchuk is playing like himself again, which is good for the Devils and bad for everyone else right now. He's firing on all cylinders. After a really miserable start to the season, Henrik Tallinder really settled in and is playing like the defensive defenseman he can be when healthy. This is a team you must be very careful with.

The last time the Isles saw them, it was also an afternoon matinee. It didn't go too well for the Isles as they lost 5-2. Times were a bit different then though. Can this rejuvenated Isles team take out the Devils that no one else seems to be able to stop? Would make for a great story. I'm looking forward to being in the press box for this one.

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