November 16, 2011

Isles Come Back Twice, Not a Third Time Against Rangers

Tuesday night's installment of Islanders-Rangers was a tale of two teams trending in opposite directions. The Rangers were coming off their sixth straight victory, while the Islanders had lost nine of their last 10 and had a pretty poor effort in Vancouver.

Jack Capuano said that he was unhappy with the effort some individuals put in that game, and that he would have to adjust accordingly. When asked about Nino Niederreiter coming up, he quipped that he wished two others were coming up with him.

We learned of two players the coach was unhappy with as Mark Eaton and Kyle Okposo both rode the pine. Okposo has three points in 14 games, all assists. Eaton has been a part of a struggling 3rd pair all season, which got better a few weeks ago when Milan Jurcina returned from injury but that didn't last long. The previous two games, Jurcina had been scratched after he and Eaton were exposed against Boston.

The changes did make the Islanders play better, but ultimately it still resulted in a loss. The Islanders twice found themselves chasing the Rangers and twice were able to come back. Brad Richards put the Rangers ahead for good with about six minutes to play on a bad turnover by Josh Bailey, who may soon take Kyle Okposo's place in the press box.

The biggest issue in this game was the Isles power-play. Until their fifth opportunity, there was absolutely no movement from anyone. The Rangers forwards covered the points well, and the lack of movement didn't give the point men any viable options to pass to. Matt Moulson finally snapped the monotony when he broke from the high slot to the right of Henrik Lundqvist, where John Tavares fed him from the other side of the crease for a slam dunk goal.

Marty Reasoner and Jay Pandolfo really didn't have great games. The penalty kill was better than it had been in recent games, but both looked very slow and Reasoner certainly made some questionable decisions defensively. To be honest, it was the first time I noticed Reasoner all season doing anything really bad, so I would imagine this was just one of "those" games for him.

Blake Comeau looked really active and had some nice chances, but ultimately that doesn't amount to anything on the score sheet. He was one of a few Isles forwards who were looking for the perfect shot rather than getting it towards the net, and held on to pucks a tad too long.

I appreciated the effort of Mike Mottau trying to get his team fired up by fighting with Sean Avery. In all honesty, that was one of the better things I've seen out of Mottau lately. Unfortunately, that shouldn't be the case but his defensive play has left something to be desired.

Evgeni Nabokov made some really nice saves, and kept the Islanders in the game. Nabokov got a lot of love from the Isles contingent in the crowd, even though his time here is likely running short. It's a shame he can't seem to get a good 60 minute effort in front of him.

Niederreiter got just over 11 minutes of ice time, and did enough with it to get noticed. He didn't do a whole lot offensively, but defensively was sound and threw a couple of nice hits. I would imagine his ice time will increase as we move along here as the Isles are trying to slowly bring him back to NHL game speed after missing the first month of action. When that happens, and he's playing with better talent then perhaps some points will come.

There's been no word on if Eaton or Okposo will get back into the line-up Thursday night against the Montreal Canadiens. I think there's a good chance Okposo returns, although I'm not opposed to having him sit another game out like what the Isles did with Comeau last month. Defensively though, the effort was a little bit better so I can see Capuano sticking with the same pairings meaning Eaton could be out again for sure.

Speaking of Capuano, what was the deal with the final minutes of play? All season, he has re-invented the wheel of sorts by pulling his goalie with 3+ minutes left when down by multiple goals. Tuesday night, with the Isles pressing, controlling the puck and needing one to tie in the final five minutes, he waited and pulled Nabokov with just over a minute left. What gives there? I didn't understand that at all.

The Islanders will get a very injured Canadiens team who will be coming off of a Wednesday night game. This hasn't affected any of the other teams the Isles have played this season, but there are some weaknesses the Isles can try to exploit if they stop trying to be so fancy and get the puck towards the net.


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