April 3, 2013

Isles Head into Trade Deadline on High Note

Coming off a huge win over the New Jersey Devils, the Islanders made yet another statement heading into Wednesday's NHL trade deadline with a 5-2 victory over the Winnipeg Jets.

The win propelled the Islanders two points above the New York Rangers, where they sit tied for 7th with the Devils.

The game was a bit different than the one with the Devils. That one seemed to have more intensity throughout with more physical play and better play around the net area. This game seemed a little bit more toned down, as both teams had played in vicious battles the previous night. I'm sure that factored heavily into the game style here, but it was a bit alarming to see the Isles lose what intensity they had in the beginning for a long stretch in the second period.

To try and get things started in the first, Anders Lee took a shot at the net with a defender between him and Ondrej Pavelec. Pavelec never saw it, and Lee's first attempt at an NHL net fluttered past the netminder and in, giving the Isles the 1-0 advantage and sending Lee and his family into celebrations. The Islanders failed to capitalize on this momentum though and Winnipeg would answer in short answer with Paul Postma answering with - ironically enough - Lee having all sorts of issues tying him up. This play had lots of standing around from the Isles defensemen, and Kevin Poulin stayed down on his knees for whatever reason while Postma took all the time in the world to pick up the loose puck and roof a wrister past Poulin.

For much of the game, this is how the back and forth went. But the Islanders were getting the better chances and at times the better play.

The third period is where this really showed. With a 3-2 lead thanks to Frans Nielsen, the Islanders controlled the play and had many instances where they had Winnipeg hemmed in their zone thanks to great forechecking and board play. It was the exact style of play you want a team to have in order to hold leads in the third period and the Islanders executed it to perfection.

When things have been on the line, the intense play has been consistent from a number of individuals, namely Kyle Okposo, Josh Bailey, Michael Grabner, Casey Cizikas and Colin McDonald.

Lately the line of John Tavares, Matt Moulson and Brad Boyes has struggled at even strength but the Islanders have been finding ways to win, thanks to energy provided by guys like Cizikas and McDonald. When the Islanders needed to put an exclamation point on this one, it was the top line that did so with the team’s final two goals.

And now we wait. The team heads into the trade deadline in a good spot, but still must get the job done as they have played more games than all the other teams they are trying to hold off. At the very least, this team has made it very difficult for Garth Snow to sell off pieces.

- Chris

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