December 3, 2011

Isles Come Up Just Short on Blackhawks

Last season when the Islanders came into the United Center to face the Blackhawks it didn't go over so well. Corey Crawford was sharp on the way to a 5-0 win for Chicago. Friday night was a bit of a different story. With Crawford struggling at this point in the season, the Islanders seemed to have a new game plan: shoot early and often on him.

The Islanders and Hawks would be tied 13-13 in shots after the first period, and the Isles would have a 2-1 lead. Kyle Okposo, who continues to look like his old self, opened the scoring for after putting home a rebound on the power play. He was in the right spot at the right time, and seems to have remembered his sweet spots on the ice. Matt Moulson scored the other goal on a wrister, and he's been picking it up as of late too.

After the second period, in which the Islanders took only two shots Jack Capuano must have given the team a good talking to because they came out with a great deal of urgency in the third. They came back twice in the period, starting with P.A. Parenteau's goal 46 seconds in. Patrick Sharp put the Hawks up by one, and Nino Niederreiter scored on a beautiful rush and wrist shot to tie it back-up at four.

Unfortunately, the Hawks skilled players were able to get the job done in the shoot-out against an Islanders team that should be proud of the way they played.

Well, everyone except Milan Jurcina. In his brief Islanders career, this has to be one of the worst games I saw from him. His partner for the night, Steve Staios, was not much better. Both were on the ice for a few of the Hawks goals and each finished with a -3 rating for the game. On the Hawks first goal, it was Staios and Jurcina backing up all the way to the front of Montoya, allowing for the Hawks to get in some high percentage shots.

You are usually supposed to do a better job of playing the man there, no matter who you are or what style you play.

Al Montoya made some really nice saves on some tough shots, and only let in one really bad goal. I'd still roll with him, and think that the Islanders would be making a mistake if they switch it up once again.

It's really been refreshing to see the Isles efforts these past few games, dating back to the night before Thanksgiving against the Flyers. The fact that the Isles have been able to go on the road and get points in buildings that haven't been too kind to them in recent years is a start. There's still a lot of work to be done, but at least they show signs of life.

The Isles will have their hands full with the Dallas Stars. Struggling or not, this is a team that's getting offense from everyone, including guys like Michael Ryder (16 points) and Eric Nystrom (nine goals). It's going to be a tough test for the Isles defensemen once again and they can't play it the same way they did against the Blackhawks. We still can't guarantee the Isles will be able to cover for the goals they'd give up playing that system, so they need to shore up. In particular, Jurcina and Staios. If Andrew MacDonald returns, perhaps that could help out a bit.

If the Islanders come out of this trip with at least another point, it would be a job well done in my book. Personally, it already is with five points in the three games. If they make it six or even seven though, that's outstanding.


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