October 6, 2013

Isles Blow Two Goal Lead but Salvage Point in Home Opener; NYI FYI Sunday at 10 AM

The Islanders let a two goal lead slip away in their home opener, losing in a shootout to their new division rivals the Columbus Blue Jackets.

Columbus didn't have much of a chance to control the play in the first period, and only had four shots on Evgeni Nabokov through the first frame. Meanwhile the Isles didn't do enough to capitalize on their possession time, often missing passes and having a hard time getting pucks towards Sergei Bobrovsky.

The new division rivals battle. Photo by C. Hessel
Lubomir Visnovsky scored first, rifling a high shot past Bobrovsky on the powerplay. This is exactly where you want to shoot on him. Matt Moulson would score just a few minutes later, getting a beautiful pass from John Tavares that no one, including Bobrovsky expected to get through.

Where things went wrong for the Isles was not getting that next goal after going into the second intermission with the 2-0 lead.

Michael Grabner had a breakaway chance that was stopped, and the Blue Jackets began to claw their way back. Once they scored a powerplay goal of their own, you could feel the worm turning.

It's often said that a two goal lead is the worst in hockey, especially true today in this offense driven league. With about eight minutes left and the Isles reeling Columbus tied the game. At the same time this was going on, the Isles were mired in a long span of not even being able to rattle off a shot.

The Isles pushed back in the final minutes of regulation and most of overtime, but Bobrovsky stood tall. The problem I had with a lot of those chances, while they were solid, is that they were all on the ice. Bobrovsky's strength is post-to-post movements and paddle down saves. He's a goalie that you need to go up high on as Calgary had proven the night before. Every high shot the Isles seemingly took during crunch time missed the net.

Overall the Isles system was still a bit lackluster, as evidenced by the scrambling that ensued after their early third period failures of being able to take a choke hold on the game. Quite often when Columbus had the puck it felt like the Isles were chasing puck carries, often with two guys unaware of one another going after the same guy. We'll chalk it up to early season jitters and rust but stuff like that cannot happen much longer or the more skilled teams will burn the Isles more often than not.

We did have the treat of watching a good goaltending match-up as Nabokov equalled Bobrovsky in eye popping moments. Nabokov kept his movements to a minimum and was able to make some spectacular saves to allow the Isles to salvage a point.

We got to see a more improved Tavares line, but there is still work that needs to be done particularly by Moulson and Kyle Okposo. Casey Cizikas and Matt Martin seemed to be the Isles more consistent forwards on both ends of the ice as both played an up tempo game.

This was a game the Isles could have and should have won, which is what's got so many fans a bit disappointed despite starting the season with three out of four points on the back-to-back. As far as I'm concerned you take the start and get ready to tighten up against Phoenix on Tuesday.

If you have similar systems problems the Dave Tippett run Coyotes are a team that will pounce on those. They are a pretty quick team with a lot of young players who's defensemen love to join the play and get pucks towards the net. With the Isles playing a number of teams they can definitely beat over the next two weeks it's important they get this one at home. They'd be in good position (on paper at least) for October.

NYI FYI on Sunday October 6: Sean and I will be back to our usual banter on Sunday, however we'll be starting an hour earlier for this one at 10 AM. Be sure to tune into the live feed and come armed with your questions and/or comments as we discuss the first two games of the season and try and breakdown what has to happen for a successful week ahead.

- Chris

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