February 4, 2013

Isles Powerplay Silent Against Devils, Fall 3-0

After playing each other twice before, the Islanders and Devils definitely felt that they had a handle on the style the other played. And both teams, remembering the offensive outburst by the other side from Thursday night played hesitant for the first 30 minutes of this game.

There were a few good chances here and there on both sides. But both Johan Hedberg and Evgeni Nabokov were phenomenal. Hedberg had the post-to-post movements working early and often, making a series of jaw dropping saves on the Isles to keep the game scoreless.

Bernier celebrates. Photo by C. Hessel
The classic goalie duel would finally come to an end though, when after 56 minutes Steve Bernier put a bad rebound past Nabokov to give the Devils the 1-0 lead. Bernier would add another goal 1:10 later to give the Devils the 2-0 lead on a wrap-around.

The special teams were really the story of this game. The Islanders went 0-for-7 on their power-play, which had been producing at an astronomical rate headed into this one. The Devils meanwhile were 1-for-3 and that score, which was the first Bernier goal, came on a very questionable call.

Brian Strait went hard into the boards with Stephen Gionta, appearing to ease up before making contact. But as Gionta went into the boards awkwardly and got injured on the play, the refs called a charging on Strait. Multiple views on replay have shown that this was the incorrect call, and it cost the Islanders dearly.

Of course, Strait was politically correct on the subject. "I wasn't trying to charge him," he began when I asked him the inevitable question. "I don't think it was a charge but at the same time its part of the game, the referees make a call and you deal with it and move on."

Andrew MacDonald had the same attitude about the call. "He (Gionta) is a smaller guy, Brian's a bit bigger. We felt it was questionable but the refs were of a different opinion. It's at the ref's discretion, it's his call."

"Our job is to go out and kill that off, we didn't get the job done."

At the end of the day, there was nothing anyone could do about it. Had the Islanders been able to convert some of those powerplay chances, or get the 2nd and 3rd chances on Hedberg when he gave up rebounds, the conversation might be different.

Overall, the play from the Isles was somewhat lacking at times, and it appeared that chemistry was off. Jack Capuano said as much to me in the post game, hinting that changes to personnel were possible. "There are a few adjustments we have to make, whether its personnel or lines, but we have to realize its not good enough."

"We were in a pretty good hockey game there for 55 minutes and we couldn't close it out."

Despite the fact the lines have looked decent enough so far, it appears that Capuano may want to shift some things around, most notable Kyle Okposo, who despite some good play along the boards and some nice shots in this game may be running out of time to round his game into shape while riding on the top line. I can see them moving him down, but it'd be a move I disagree with for now. Personally, I can see Okposo turning a corner with his play after a bit of a slow start.

There may also be some changes defensively. With Capuano acknowledging he's getting a "new player" in on Wednesday without mentioning a name, we'll have to see how he fits in.

Naturally, said unnamed player is Lubomir Visnovsky, who is scheduled to come over on Wednesday. Capuano's words basically confirmed the Slovakian report from Friday.

The Islanders will head into the off day with a sour taste in their mouths preparing for any changes they see fit. They'll have to be better prepared to play the Penguins, coming off a win against the Capitals. The Islanders looked like a well oiled machine last week in Pittsburgh, and we'll see if they can get back to what worked so well there.

- Chris

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