November 3, 2013

Vanek, Poulin Star to Give Isles Win vs. Bruins, Four Point Weekend

For the first time in what certainly seems like quite some time, the Islanders finally got all four points available on a back-to-back, and even won a game at home against a good team to do so. The Islanders snapped their funk at home and defeated the Bruins 3-1.

Thomas Vanek was named first star as he scored his first goal as a member of the team and added an assist. He had several other chances that he was unable to capitalize on but you can already see the transformation of that top line taking effect. I noticed how much he loves to play in the corner, and go strategically to the front of the net rather than just stand there. It helped the Isles create plays from down low and get some good cycling going on. It also helped Kyle Okposo keep pace with the league leaders in points.

Defensively the Isles were much better than they had been. There were of course a few usual breakdowns but overall they played solid and shutdown the Bruins key players and kept them to the outside.

It helped that Kevin Poulin played one of the best games of his life, stopping just about everything that was thrown his way, including some of the most unlikely saves. Some of the defensive breakdowns showed up in the 3rd period, and he made some nice stops while getting help from a forward or two along the way (Okposo) to keep the door shut and give the Isles the chance to do something that's been rare the last two seasons: keep a two goal lead at home in the 3rd period and come out with a solid win.

Although Poulin looked a little out of sync early on, I felt that by the time the second period rolled around he wasn't scrambling around as much, and it seemed to give the team the jump in the step they needed. They saw they were in for a night of great goaltending and increased their tempo knowing that their netminder was in the zone.

Over the past few games a forward who's stood out to me is Cal Clutterbuck. His offensive game finally seems to be coming around, and after scoring that goal against the Rangers he seems to be getting more dirty in front of the net and in the corners and getting some good shots off.

On defense, Matt Donovan once again played a huge role in the victory just as he did on Friday in Ottawa. He was very active, pinched only when necessary and kept everything simple and let the game come to him. He had several nice poke checks and only laid a body check when he had to, ensuring the Bruins were unable to use their speed when he was out there. This was something that's eluded Donovan all season except for the last two or so games. Maybe he's finally coming around. It'd be the perfect opportunity for him to mature, especially with Brian Strait and Lubomir Visnovsky still ailing.

Travis Hamonic had another strong game and was physical and provided the same offensive side that seems to have been consistent from him all season long, adding two assists. Having him be more consistent and solid is key going forward with all the struggles this team has had so far. The same will hold true for his partner Andrew MacDonald, who scored a goal and had some solid plays after some rough moments in Ottawa.

With the team set to go on the road the next four games, although they've fared well abroad they'll need to have some solid defensive play given the teams they are up against. It remains to be seen if we'll get Visnovsky or Strait back for any of them, but it would certainly be nice to have those additions to an improving blueline.

NYI FYI Sunday: Be sure to tune in on Sunday morning at 11 AM as Sean and I break down the week that was, and talk about any questions and comments you might have. Tune in via our homepage or the uStream page.

- Chris

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