March 15, 2011

Rangers 6, Islanders 3

Despite how much he played it down, you had to know that Al Montoya wanted nothing else in the world but to beat the New York Rangers. Human nature dictates that.

It's unfortunate that he didn't get that chance. Many Islanders didn't play well enough to give him that chance. The on-ice officiating didn't do much to help that cause either.

All I'll say about the officiating is that they made some pretty bad calls. There were a couple that were fine, like the call on Micheal Haley and the call on Travis Hamonic (despite what Butch Goring was saying). But the hooking calls on Blake Comeau and Michael Grabner had me curious. There was a whole lot of nothing to them, and certainly not enough to give the Rangers a long 5-on-3 advantage. They used some of these chances given to them to build up a 5-2 lead. They would go on to win 6-3.

Aside from that, the Isles defense was very shoddy. On their first goal, Andrew MacDonald fell down. While that didn't help matters, it was compounded by the fact that Brandon Prust was easily able to get around Kyle Okposo and that Josh Bailey stood two feet away from the play and just watched as MacDonald fell and Prust shoot a loose puck into an open net.

That would be the beginning of a rather rough night for Bailey, who had been playing really well recently up until this point. I have no doubts that he'll pick up right where he left off in the next game.

Bruno Gervais also had a rough game, as he seemed to lose the puck a number of times with one of those times costing the Isles a goal as the rangers had essentially an open net. It was a bit of a freak thing however as Montoya had his pads flat on the ice - or he appeared to, anyway. The puck got past both he and Gervais to a wide open Ryan Callahan.

The Isles let a total of 47 shots get in on Montoya and Nathan Lawson. If someone watched the first 10 minutes of the game and went away for the night, they may come home to a score that is rather surprising. In the early going, both Montoya and Henrik Lundqvist made some really solid saves. As Butch Goring had mentioned, if not for them the score could have been 3-3 instead of 1-0 Rangers at the time.

The Islanders got into a 2-0 hole, but as they did last week against Boston, they quickly battled back to tie the game at two.

Jack Hillen took a nice shot, but even better than that was the play of John Tavares on the shift. He did all he could along the boards to keep the puck in deep, bring it behind the net, get it to his stick and find Hillen at the point for a one-time slap shot. The puck actually grazed off of Matt Moulson's knee to give him his 30th goal of the season. It's his 2nd straight 30 goal season, and he finally has it under his belt now. Last game he was given a goal, but that was later changed to Tavares'.

The Isles 2nd goal came on a beautiful mid-air tip in by P.A. Parenteau, who is now closing on the 20 goal mark himself with 17.

The Rangers got some goals on some nice chances. Both of Marian Gaborik's goals were from closer in, but using the defensemen as screens. On his second goal, he used the big body of Milan Jurcina and Lawson never stood a chance.

The game had a very little chippiness to it. There were a fair amount of scuffles, but as time went on things seemed to quiet down. Sean Avery didn't go through many of his antics in the 2nd and 3rd period. Zenon Konopka had perhaps his quietest game as an Islander, and contrary to what I thought late in the 3rd, he was not hurt.

Matt Martin and Michael Sauer got into the only fight. It was a spirited scrap very late in the game.

The Islanders have a couple of days off to work on their PK and overall defensive play before taking on the Carolina Hurricanes on the road on Friday.

AARON NESS SIGNING? Multiple places have been reporting possible news that prospect Aaron Ness is leaving the University of Minnesota in order to sign his pro contract with the Isles. No one is confirming anything at this time, but it would not surprise me if Ness makes the jump now.

If he does, it's better late than never. This past summer, David Toews left the University of North Dakota to play in the WHL as he felt it would be better for his career.

Also this past summer, Minnesota lost two top players within a week of each other as Nick Leddy and Josh Birkholz left early. Of course, Isles fans remember that it was Okposo who left early a few years back. The big issue there was Garth Snow's concerns over the way Don Lucia was running the program.

So here we are, four years later and as the article mentions, 15 early exits later (31 total under Lucia). Minnesota has floundered the last three seasons and their records have been unimpressive.

I do think Ness still has some talent to him and just needs to get out of the once proud program. If he does, the biggest issue surrounding him will be his size. But with many small defensemen able to make it to the big leagues these days with the emphasis on special teams and scoring, anything is possible. He'll need to improve upon his positioning to have any kind of future in the NHL, similar to the way Mark Katic worked on his game.

We'll keep an eye on this situation. But right now, all appears quiet.


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