February 8, 2013

Rangers Defeat Isles as Thomas Trade Overshadows Game

While the Islanders lost their third straight game in a row, dropping a 4-1 decision to the New York Rangers, many fans were still perplexed by the cap-motivated move the team had made just hours earlier when they announced a trade for Tim Thomas.

The Islanders didn't play awful by any means, but there was some play that left a little to be desired. At times the Isles looked like they were just going through the motions, particularly on defense and that is when the Rangers were able to strike.

Once again we saw the inability to get a puck out of the zone cost the Islanders. It's becoming more and more of a problem for this team and I fear that younger players are going to get too used to this style of play and let this creep into the back of their minds each time. You can already see it every time they have a problem clearing the puck the first time and panic sets in.

Evgeni Nabokov did make some nice saves but also let in a few weak goals. Most of the Isles nice chances were gobbled up by Henrik Lundqvist. It was John Tavares who executed the game plan well on Lundqvist however, scoring glove side high on him.

Once again, the forwards had a tough time generating much in front of the net as the Rangers hounded any puck carrier who went towards the "dirty areas." It seemed every time there was a battle in front or along the boards, a Ranger was bringing the puck out.

What I find most concerning, however, was at times it appeared as though the team was mailing it in. And when you see what they did before the game, it really makes you stop and think if this had any effect on the players.

We don't need to get into the reasons of why the Islanders are where they are financially - that is well known by this point.

But what's more concerning is that with the team already over the cap this trade for Thomas comes, all but ensuring they may very well be prepared to punt another year in due time likely by dealing away guys like Mark Streit, Lubomir Visnovsky or Nabokov.

The message the move sends to the players, to the fans and to the rest of the league is not a good one. The Islanders could have easily traded for a decent player instead with a salary they could use now, but ultimately decided this was a better route to go.

The flexibility could be a good thing after all if the Islanders get good returns on their outgoing players, but when they are likely going to be moved for no-cost assets (draft picks, if history teaches us anything), then we can sort of see what direction this is headed in.

At any rate, the Islanders had the ability to absorb Thomas's cap hit, and the Bruins found a way to free up some money to try and improve their team now and in the future.

At this point, with just 11 players signed for next season and not a lot of money committed, the Islanders will have plenty of work to do and Brooklyn in their back pocket to sell. Perhaps this is one of the last fiascos we'll have when it comes to this.

- Chris

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