February 6, 2013

Power Outage Continues: Pens 4, Isles 2

For most of the night, it looked like I could consider taking the easy way out of writing my thoughts for the game and just copy and paste the one from Sunday's game. But fortunately, at the very least this one had some different aspects to it, as the Isles did show some life against the Penguins in the end. It’s still baffling though that the Isles lost a game in which the opponent played so undisciplined.

As I mentioned, for the first two periods this game had a very similar story line. The Islanders powerplay was lethargic and they could not get good chances off on 2nd and 3rd rebounds left by Marc-Andre Fleury.

The rebounds Fleury let up were very different than Johan Hedberg's. It's no secret that this has been one of Fleury's downfalls and at times it almost did him in during this game. But the Islanders, perhaps the bounces from Sunday fresh in their minds, had trouble corralling some of those loose pucks. For the shots they were able to get off - and there were some beauties - Fleury made some fantastic saves.

Once again, the powerplay was maddening, this time perhaps more so than Sunday's game. The Islanders took plenty of shots with their powerplays, but a lot of those shots were low percentage ones. Pittsburgh's defense did a good job of keeping the Isles away from the front of the net. At the same time, the Islanders were shying away from that area, keeping things to the perimeter and trying to be too fancy or launch one-time goals past Fleury from the blueline. Frequently the time the puck was blocked.

As Jack Capuano hinted after Sunday's game, the Islanders made a few changes to their lines, swapping Kyle Okposo and Brad Boyes. I'm a bit nervous of Boyes playing with Matt Moulson and John Tavares given the similar playing styles of the three, but it wasn't terrible. That line will be pure offense anyway. Okposo played with Frans Nielsen and Michael Grabner, and looked a bit better in doing so. I felt this was the Islanders best line of the night. Grabner had his speed and shots going, and would end up getting a goal.

Unfortunately for the Isles, by the time their offense woke up the damage had been done. After an early goal by James Neal got things going, Evgeni Nabokov made a few great stops but let in a soft shot from Simon Despres to give the Pens a 2-0 lead. Another early, weak goal in the third by Brandon Sutter would seemingly put things to an end, but the Isles were able to get two quick goals to at least make things interesting.

While some might say the powerplay is just coming back down to earth via the law of averages concept, the movement and chances have been a bit concerning. But near the end of the game I liked some of what I saw, and it'll only take one shot to go in for them to break this 0-for-14 slide. The addition of Lubomir Visnovsky will aid in some of the QBing on the powerplay as well.

The Islanders will have only a short time to try and get their mojo back, and figure out how to break through more 5-on-5 as they will be in Manhattan for the first meeting against the Rangers on Thursday night. The Rangers, coming off a loss to the Devils, will be looking to get on track and snap their early season mediocre play. Given the recent play and despite the fact it hasn't been his fault at all it is possible Nabokov could be given the day off. We'll see what the Isles do, and if Visnovsky or Josh Bailey are available for the game.

- Chris

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