November 30, 2013

Isles drop Fifth Straight in 5-0 Blowout by Wings

There couldn't have been a worse time for the Isles to come out and have one of their poorer efforts of recent memory.

There were very few moments and bright spots for the Isles. Aside from a couple of good rushes there wasn't much substance to this game. There were a lot of the same issues we've been harping on. Turnovers continue to be a problem, and once again was an issue for Andrew MacDonald.

One thing that stands out to me was Daniel Alfredsson's goal just 12 seconds into the third period. When you look again at the play, Radek Martinek and Thomas Hickey were not aware that Alfredsson had snuck behind them for a wonderful breakaway opportunity. As impressive as that was, you have to give credit to Brendan Smith for being able to make a great pass right after picking off an attempt by Hickey.

The reason I bring this up is because with each game, it's becoming more and more apparent that the Isles don't seem to have the ability to make plays like this. For instance, Hickey couldn't make a long pass up here. At various other points of the game, the Isles were in their defensive zone looking to move the puck up and yet just two Detroit skaters at the blueline seemed to do the trick and frustrate the Isles. And this is not something that Lubomir Visnovsky alone would provide. He sure would help, but there's clearly a lot of issues with the defense. John Tavares picked up on this and mentioned this as a concern in the post game as well.

I didn't think the Isles were as physical as they needed to be, and a few of the big hits they went for didn't seem to connect. There were a few times where Cal Clutterbuck and Matt Martin went in for big hits only to get more of the boards rather than the opposing player.

Around the net the Isles were sloppy, and Kevin Poulin left some rebounds that were pretty deadly. The Wings didn't really take advantage of them though, and it was more the defensive breakdowns and inability to connect on vital passes that they seemed more apt to cash in on.

I actually felt the Isles controlled the play for a decent part of the first period and they were taking shots from several different angles. Tavares and Thomas Vanek had some nice chances, but seemed to disappear as the game wore on.

Speaking of Vanek, when the Isles had a powerplay late in the second period it was him who missed a puck on the boards, leading to one of the worst goals we've seen in a while. With the puck rolling towards Poulin, he came out of the net to play the puck at the same time Darren Helm was using his speed to try and get past MacDonald. What didn't help matters was MacDonald giving up on the play at the last moment, realizing he was going to collide with Poulin. All three crashed into one another, and the puck rolled straight into the net all the way from the hash marks. MacDonald sitting on his knees staring in disbelief at the net sums up the play perfectly. It was also symbolic for how his season has gone in my opinion.

I was disappointed that the Isles couldn't keep their play up from early in the game when they had some nice chances on Jimmy Howard. It certainly didn't take them long to get into bad habits and get into a mode where they looked lifeless and that is concerning for a team that's now lost five games in a row.

Jack Capuano did switch the lines up a bit, and had Tavares and Vanek skating with Clutterbuck while moving Kyle Okposo down. But none of the line changes really affected anything. Shuffling the deck chairs around won't accomplish much if the system is going to remain the same, and low percentage passes will continue to be forced when they aren't there.

Of course as each day goes on without light at the end of the tunnel, one has to wonder about the status of Capuano. A team can only take so much losing, and you have to think Garth Snow is reaching the point of no return. I'll admit it is alarming that the coach is still using phrases like "for whatever reason" in his post game press conferences when trying to explain why the team isn't executing the way the coaching staff is supposedly telling them to.

With the Capitals coming to town on Saturday, it seems as though the Islanders might be doomed for another loss with the Caps recent success against them. Anders Nilsson will start and he looked good in Philadelphia. Josh Bailey gets back into the line-up for Brock Nelson, while Calvin de Haan will go in place of Martinek, who has had a rough few games since getting back into the line-up.

When you look at what's been going on recently, it seems like the Isles need to get their offense back in order to even think about winning games. With offensive enigmas like Michael Grabner and Peter Regin in the slumps they are in it's a pretty deadly formula for a team that has had offensive depth issues for the last few seasons. It'd be nice to think that the sooner some of these guys break out the better off the team will be, but we can't even guarantee that at this point and that's a problem. If the effort with the puck and on the boards improves certainly things can improve for this team but some of those messages don't seem to be getting through.

We'll see if the Isles respond to the frustrations shared by many, including themselves. It's up to them to snap the funk. Capuano is still coaching, and the system and players are the same. They could really use a breakout game from some of the slumping names above to rally around.

- Chris

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