November 28, 2013

The Song Remains the Same: Isles lose again in Regulation to Jets

For the New York Islanders, Wednesday night's game against the Winnipeg Jets looked oddly familiar. It was the same song and dance as the prior games, and resulted in the Isles eighth loss in their last 11 games.

Just like the game against Pittsburgh and to a lesser extent the game against Philadelphia, it wasn't for a lack of trying. The Isles had some good chances throughout the game, but Al Montoya certainly came into this game poised and it goes without saying that he felt that he had something to prove.

And it seemed like some of his saves in the first period began to play with the fragile minds of the Isles skaters, because they didn't have as much jump as you would expect a team to have when they've had some pretty good showings against the opponent. Kevin Poulin even made some nice stops early on but it didn't seem to do the trick for the Isles.

Once again, turnovers were the story of the game and Andrew MacDonald was a big offender on this front, despite his 2nd period powerplay goal. He made a bad turnover near the end of the third that led to a wonderful shorthanded chance for Evander Kane that Poulin kept out of the net.

Usually when a goalie makes a phenomenal save, it's supposed to spark his team in the same way a big hit or a fight could. But when Poulin made one of those "are you kidding me" saves on Matt Halischuk the Isles didn't respond, and Mark Stuart was able to get a weak goal off a lost faceoff by Casey Cizikas just over a minute later. From that point on the bottom seemed to drop out on the Isles.

They did have a few sequences where they played well, and after MacDonald got the Isles on the board late in the second it didn't leave them much time to do anything. Some good chances and momentum resulted in a John Tavares goal with about six minutes to play, but Montoya stopped every Isles chance after that, including coming up huge on the powerplay.

The Isles inability to get to loose pucks was maddening in this one, only because of how many golden opportunities were squandered. Montoya did make some great stops, but there are certainly a few you can go back to review and see that there is no reason why the Isles couldn't have scored on it. Unfortunately it looks like a team that is gripping their sticks tightly to the point where they all have hands of stone.

Poulin didn't look his sharpest on any of the goals either, which also certainly hurt this team. But once again defensive breakdowns proved to be an issue. On Andrew Ladd's goal, a bad turnover led to a rush the other way and neither Frans Nielsen or Thomas Hickey communicated with one another on where to stand. This was an issue we touched upon in this past Sunday's podcast, how the Isles seemingly look lost anytime the opponents enter the zone - in particular, the forwards. The positioning always seems to be leaving something to be desired and in this case it gave Poulin zero support and left him in a bad spot and flopping on the ice.

We saw the Jets be very effective at getting pucks towards the net from the blueline, which is something that the Islanders have generally been unable to do. On their first and third goals, allowing bodies to just be in the lane created the opportunities that they cashed in on. It's something the Isles could learn from as we haven't seen enough play in front of the net from them. They need to be getting some of these tips in front and need to score some dirty goals to realize that they don't only have to try playing the fancy games with behind the back and tic-tac-toe passing plays to create highlight reel goals.

Coming home for Thanksgiving break for four games was supposed to get the Isles back on track, but in the end it seems like the song for game one of the set was the same one we've been hearing for the past few weeks. And now, it's getting to the point where it's being overplayed.

The schedule isn't going to get any easier. Detroit will come to town for a matinee on Friday, and then the Capitals will be in on Saturday. We can all remember what happened the last time we saw Detroit, mostly because it was only two weeks ago (thanks NHL scheduler). It doesn't leave the Isles much time to digest this game and their turkeys before taking the ice again.

Certainly, we hope that the holiday season for you has started off better than it did for the Isles. We'd like to wish our American readers a Happy Thanksgiving, and for those celebrating a happy start to Hanukkah!

- Chris

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