November 17, 2013

Isles give Wings Another Shootout Loss; NYI FYI Sunday at 10 AM

After the way that Thursday's game had ended against the Los Angeles Kings the Islanders really needed something to get themselves going against their new Eastern Conference opponents, the Detroit Red Wings. For a few minutes to start the game things did seem to go well for the Isles.

John Tavares deflected a Josh Bailey shot from long range onto the net and between Jonas Gustavsson's pads to give the Isles the 1-0 lead and a much needed early goal to get their confidence back. But with a skilled team like the Red Wings, naturally it didn't take long to get a response.

It took just nine seconds for the Wings to go on a 2-on-0 break thanks to a breakdown by Tavares, Matt Carkner and Aaron Ness and tie the game at one, with the underrated Darren Helm using his speed to get the break and put the puck past Evgeni Nabokov on their first shot of the game.

Cizikas was a leader for Isles on board play. Photo by C. Hessel
And this was all we'd see of Nabokov but it was no fault of his own. In his attempt to make the save it appears he over extended himself and hurt his groin in some way. Jack Capuano didn't know enough to comment on the extent but said he'd be out "a couple of weeks". Nabokov is going to be re-evaluated in the coming days, but if I had to guess I'd bet on this injury being quite a bit more than a couple of weeks.

So Kevin Poulin once again found himself positioned in the crease for the Isles in a fourth straight game, although this one was quite unexpected. I think given the circumstances he played pretty well and made some saves that we've seen Nabokov unable to make this season. Despite giving up three goals, he stood tall and was a huge part in helping the Isles get the two points and sending the Wings to their 5th straight one point loss.

A standout player for me in this one was Brock Nelson, who played what was perhaps his best game of the season. On the top line in Thomas Vanek's absence, he's been getting a lot of minutes and now is starting to get some power play time. He scored his goal late in the second on the man advantage, banging at a loose puck at Gustavsson's pads to bury the chance. His body in front of the net caused some havoc for the Wings and he's picking up confidence.

Speaking of players picking up confidence, Casey Cizikas turned in another fine performance on both ends of the puck, getting his second goal of the season in as many games and doing some great things on defense and on the forecheck. When the Isles dominated the play in much of the third period, it was Cizikas and the fourth line who had a couple of shifts where they were winning the battles on the boards and keeping the puck deep in the Wings zone, not allowing them to change lines or to gain possession.

Cizikas was very pleased with the way the team responded at the end of the second and throughout the third. "There was nothing else we could have done, we did all the right things. In between periods we came in here and talked it out and we knew what we had to accomplish out there and we did."

Of course the only blemish of the third period was the Wings goal with 42 seconds to play with Gustavsson pulled and the Isles scrambling a bit. In a way the puck seemed to go in accidentally. A lot of the attempts the Wings took from similar angles all night missed the net, but this one unfortunately banked in right off of Andrew MacDonald, who was sprawled out in the crease.

The Isles held their own until the skills competition, where Frans Nielsen was able to go to his trademark move as Gustavsson had not seen it before.

Overall, I felt that this was a good effort for an Isles team that needed something positive, and more importantly two points after what happened on Thursday night.

"I thought it was great," Aaron Ness said of his teams effort. Aside from the Wings first goal where he pinched up a bit too far in that situation, Ness showed some more strong play and was solid in spots the Isles needed to be. He took the shot that was deflected in by Cal Clutterbuck to give the Isles the 4-3 lead.

"I thought we put three periods together, which was a big focus for us before the game started and we did what we had to do to get the win."

And for me that was the key for the Isles and overall what stands out on the greater scale. We didn't see the typical play we'd see in the third from this team, and they didn't seem like they were trying to hold onto a 4-3 lead for much of the final frame. They had their legs moving and tested Gustavsson several times but he stood tall, which is something he's done many times for the Wings and had plenty of experience doing so earlier this season when Jimmy Howard was ailing.

It appears that the tandem going forward will be Poulin and Anders Nilsson, who so far is having a rather forgettable season down in Bridgeport. But this will be Poulin's net and his chance to really make the statement he's already started to make over the last few weeks and grab the bull by the horns. The Isles are going to be playing games against some teams that are going through their own problems lately in Toronto, Pittsburgh and Philly but all of these games are on the road. After looking pretty good last season and the beginning of this one on the road, we all know what happened the prior couple of weeks during the four game trip. But this will present a test for this squad, because it'll be two young, and still unproven netminders taking over.

Toronto is a team that has injury troubles to some of their bigger names and are very thin up the middle. They split their home-and-home with the Buffalo Sabres but in general have had some tough luck in recent weeks. It's a chance for the Isles to get themselves back on track heading on this small road trip.

NYI FYI Sunday: As a heads up to everyone, we'll go on live an hour earlier than usual, at 10 AM on Sunday due to early afternoon work commitments. As usual we'll go through the week that was, cover any news and take your thoughts and questions.

Be sure to tune in live through our homepage or through our NYI FYI uStream page.

- Chris

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