November 10, 2013

Isles Lose Game to Blue Jackets, Vanek to Injury

Things could not be going any worse for the New York Islanders lately. By 10 PM on Saturday, the Islanders had suffered yet another lopsided loss, this time to the struggling Columbus Blue Jackets and lost new winger Thomas Vanek to an "upper body" injury after just one shift.

Not to mention Evgeni Nabokov kept up his alarming trend of giving up many goals on few shots. The Blue Jackets had trouble getting pucks towards the net for the first half of the game - they only had six by that point - but had two goals to show for it.

And once again, we find ourselves in a familiar place - in a slump in November. Is this going to be another one of those infamous, horrible months? It certainly seems headed for that.

Vanek joins the list of players already on the sidelines: Lubomir Visnovsky (concussion), Brian Strait (upper body) and Cal Clutterbuck (upper body). Meanwhile, Colin McDonald and Matt Donovan are both going through bumps and bruises of their own and not playing at 100%. Clutterbuck only seems to be day-to-day though, which can only be viewed as a good thing given the way things are starting to unfold.

Meanwhile, the Islanders struggled in various aspects of the game Saturday night. The penalty kill was less than stellar, and another two goals against them has given the Isles the worst penalty kill in the league thus far, a far cry from where they were last season or even in the early part of this year.

The Isles didn't really have many good chances on Sergei Bobrovsky despite having more shots and more possession of the puck for much of the first half of the game. But given the way the defense and Nabokov have been lately, the Blue Jackets didn't need much to keep the Isles chasing them from behind all night.

John Tavares had another less than stellar game although I liked the way he played in the second half as the Isles were going into reeling mode. He looked like his old self and was trying to make a lot happen.

Another couple of miscues on defense didn't help the Isles out either. It seems every game now something just goes completely wrong - either a shanked shot or a weak pass attempt - that goes the other way for an odd man rush or breakaway and it seems to be the same culprits. With Donovan and Thomas Hickey on the ice, Hickey shanked a shot that went right to Brandon Dubinsky, and he found an open Ryan Johansen who was able to go glove side high on Nabokov (where else would you go) for the breakaway score. Hickey would redeem himself later with a nice slap shot goal, however.

The problem for the Isles was that they didn't have the killer instinct they needed. A lot of points felt more like they were just going through the motions rather than trying to put away a team that has had all sorts of problems. I'm sorry, but this was a team that had lost five straight and hasn't scored a lot in doing so. There was absolutely zero reason for the Isles to let the Blue Jackets get back into this game in the second half and get pucks to the net and bodies in front - both things that seemed to escape the Isles as the game wore on when it came to their offensive attack.

What concerns me is the coaching staff thinking that the Isles are putting forth some good efforts. The game in Carolina was not bad - I said I felt it was just one of those games every team faces a few times a season. But this game Saturday night I disagreed with Jack Capuano that we played well overall but just needed a higher "battle level". The penalties did hurt us and he was quick to point out the undisciplined play. But there are no bodies in front. There are too many hesitations from forwards on decisions with the puck both passing and shooting wise. It goes so much deeper than special teams, and I can't agree with the "we played well" statement for this game. And at what point do the Isles need to find said "battle level" before more shoes drop? How much longer will this go on?

Now they will try to stop the bleeding in a very unlikely situation, going into Montreal. Kevin Poulin will get the start and he's been sharp. There's no doubt at this point that another strong showing from him will give the Isles a strong case to consider in benching Nabokov going forward, at least for the foreseeable future. Montreal has been a rather unimpressive team themselves, but given the way the Isles have played recently Montreal probably feels pretty good about their chances to impress Sunday night.

We'll see how the Isles respond to their coaches request of a higher compete level and if they can hold up their end of the bargain.

- Chris

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Maybe the Isles should bring up Carini, you know...the defenseman with the lumpy head.