January 1, 2012

Isles Finish 2011 on High Note

As we watched 2011 come to a close, we saw more of what had been good for the New York Islanders during the calendar year - strong play against opponents from the Western Conference.

On Saturday afternoon, the Islanders had one of their better games in the past couple of weeks. They provided offensive output for Evgeni Nabokov, and didn't let some weak defensive plays at the beginning of the game get to them.

The Islanders played a very inspired game of hockey, likely due to a fantastic ceremony put on to honor Kenny Morrow, one of the better stay at home defensemen in Islanders history. Although he was not flashy, Morrow was a solid top-4 defenseman for a decade for the Islanders, winning four cups in the process.

In other words, he's what we hoped Radek Martinek could have been if not for all those injuries.

Morrow seemed to take everything in stride, and was humbled by the entire ceremony. It was a well deserved honor for a classy and bright individual.

From the beginning, the game had the feel of a pond hockey game. Neither team was playing much defense and the refs were letting everything go. The only guys it felt like they were going to call penalties on for a time were Ben Eager and Steve Staios. Eager was running around like a chicken without a head, trying to goad Matt Martin into fights and being a bit reckless. Tom Renney was not happy with Eager for sure.

Meanwhile, Staios returned to the lineup after missing seven games with a concussion. He was a late minute addition, meaning Mike Mottau was returned to the press box.

The Islanders first line was putting on a clinic. This was the same line that dominated much of the Calgary game. John Tavares got the Islanders on the board first on the powerplay after he picked up a loose puck and banged in an easy rebound. The Islanders second goal would come on a pretty play, when Tavares spun around and passed the puck right to Matt Moulson who was breaking in on Devan Dubnyk. Howie Rose certainly enjoyed the goal as much as the fans did.

P.A. Parenteau, who has normally been racking up assists lately, had a goal of his own on the powerplay. The Islanders had some fantastic movement, and Parenteau was wide open in the left faceoff circle for a one timer he sent past Dubnyk.

It may have not been the way anyone wants to score a goal, but Matt Martin's hard work paid off in the form of one when he just threw a puck at the net on Dubnyk. The puck pin balled and rolled off of Dubnyk and eventually into the net, giving the Islanders their 4-1 lead and eventual victory.

On defense, Mark Streit had yet another uninspiring game, a trend that is becoming a frightening norm of late. One can't help but wonder if he's still feeling the side effects of returning from his shoulder injury. The injury that he had and the extent of it was quite severe, so yes it's entirely possible that's the problem here. But he's been fumbling one too many pucks at the blueline still, and making one too many bad passes. It was a bad pass from him at the end of the second that led to a Taylor Hall break, one that Streit had no choice but to tie him up and get a penalty on.

Aside from that, it was a solid effort on the part of the Islanders. After the usual scrambling around at the beginning from both teams, the Islanders tightened up and helped out Nabokov more often than not. He fumbled a couple of pucks but nothing that really affected the Islanders negatively.

More importantly - the Isles gave their fans a good New Years gift as they finally performed  well in front of a large crowd.

The Islanders now get to head into 2012 on a two game winning streak. They'll head on the road now for three games to take on Carolina, Anaheim and Phoenix.

I'd like to wish all of you and your family a Happy New Year. Thanks for following along with us, and here's to more of it during 2012!



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