November 8, 2013

Isles Shutout in Carolina

Every team is going to have games where the opposing goaltender makes some fantastic saves and they'll have trouble getting a puck past them all night. Unfortunately, that night came for the Isles at an inopportune time.

Justin Peters wasn't tested as often as we all would have liked to have seen (the team included). However, with some of the chances the Isles had you couldn't help but drop your jaw at some of the saves Peters made.

Kevin Poulin was equally as good, and also was not tested as often as you would normally expect. Despite being out of position at times, it never came back to bite him as the Canes had troubles of their own with getting bodies in front and pucks to the net. Aside from a seemingly harmless shot that was deflected in accidentally by Radek Dvorak, Poulin was really solid in this game.

Given the way the Isles had played recently, coupled with the fact that they came in even more banged up than before (Cal Clutterbuck ailing again), it seemed as though that was all the Canes needed before the Isles seemed a bit deflated.

I didn't sense them playing as strong as they did in the fist seven minutes (no shots in that time aside) and it seemed as though it took some time for them to navigate the Canes defense and figure out how to get around them. It got to the point where the Isles really needed to get a shot towards the net and they struggled to do so. The inability to do this on the powerplay didn't help matters much either.

The team hesitated on many of the chances they had. They were able to get around the Canes defenders more often than not, but perhaps were thinking a bit too hard on how to beat Peters, a goaltender who has had stellar showings against the Isles in his career and is the go-to guy for Carolina right now with Cam Ward suffering through more injury troubles.

Every time the Isles got through the defense, the hesitations allowed the defenders to come back up from behind and disturb shots or prevent the Isles from getting them off all together. At the same time, when the Isles were in tight they pushed plenty of pucks just wide of the net.

Given those circumstances, it's easy to say that it just wasn't the Isles night. There are always a few points in a season where a game like this happens, but unfortunately for the Isles this wasn't a very good time.

The first line was definitely a bit out of sync, standing in front of one another and in the same areas of the ice. Thomas Vanek was perhaps trying to do too much and had trouble locating and corralling loose pucks and getting to the net. He was standing to the side much of the time. John Tavares had trouble holding onto pucks and battling on the boards which didn't help the Isles in the puck possession area, which is something he's better at than most on the team. If he's having an off game, then you know everyone's going to have to work extra hard in order to step up and win the game.

Travis Hamonic and Matt Martin, both sensing that their team was going into a lull after giving up the early goal tried to get their team engaged with fights but neither resulted in a goal. I thought aside from these fights both had solid games and did the things they were supposed to in order to rally the troops.

Michael Grabner had a nice game and had a few rushes but they rarely resulted in shots. He has to be quicker with his decisions, especially against a goaltender who might not be as used to seeing a playing with his type of speed coming right at him.

Defensively the Isles weren't terrible and overall they had solid showings. There were the usual breakdowns, and a few from Andrew MacDonald that are of some concern but it never really burned the Isles on this particular night. Aaron Ness held his own in the time he saw and moved the puck well, starting some good odd man rushes.

The real takeaway from this game, for me at least is that Poulin might have earned himself another start. Evgeni Nabokov has struggled, and Poulin has stopped lots of rubber in his last two starts. Meanwhile, after Art Staple's article last week suggested Poulin might start getting more of a look it seems like this could be Poulin's time to make noise and never look back. We'll have to see what the Isles do moving forward.

With back-to-back games coming up on Saturday and Sunday, the Isles will clearly split the goaltenders. I'm not sure who will get Columbus or Montreal, but I think it would be pretty interesting if Poulin got the game Saturday.

What remains to be seen is if the Isles will get any of their injured parties back anytime soon. Clutterbuck just seems to have a general tweak, and there hasn't been much of an update on Brian Strait or Lubomir Visnovsky. A few more losses in a short period of time and things can get ugly pretty quickly around here.

- Chris

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