January 18, 2015

Isles run out of Steam against Montreal

Many times when a team plays several emotional games in a row, at some point they will just run out of steam. Such was the case in the Isles 6-4 loss in Montreal, despite two of their goals coming in what we could classify as garbage time.

To be honest, I don't think the Islanders played a terrible game considering the others that came this week, and given the style they played the night before against Pittsburgh on Long Island. The Islanders went down early on a powerplay goal by P.K. Subban. Ryan Strome was aggressive on the boards and took a tripping penalty, which is something we've become accustomed to seeing with him. As he adjusts better to NHL play, these types of penalties will eventually decrease. On this chance though it cost the Islanders. When Montreal was on Long Island, we saw them give several consecutive chances to Subban on the man advantage and of course he was left open for several opportunities in Saturday night's game as well.

The rest of the period was a bit sloppy for both teams. It seemed like they had trouble getting going and getting a lot of chances in on Jaroslav Halak or Dustin Tokarski. The Islanders dominated in attempts but could only get seven shots in on Tokarski in the first frame.

The Isles game plan on Tokarski was to shoot high, and he used his blocker to push a lot of pucks towards the corner. It wasn't a coincidence that the Isles goals came closer to ice level. I was a bit disappointed that they were going as high as they were on Tokarski, who generally is a stand up goalie as we saw several times in this game. And the Isles are a team that general has issues with hitting the net as it is so it wasn't a good recipe.

I was also disappointed that they started Halak instead of Chad Johnson. Johnson ended up coming in after Halak gave up the 6th goal, but they probably should have pulled him earlier than that. I think that the Isles plans for what goalies to use in these games was altered thanks to Halak being named to the All-Star team and that's why we saw him go two games in a row, back-to-back. Johnson is probably slated to get the Flyers game now to give Halak the extra day of rest that he won't get thanks to the exhibition period later in the week.

It was great to see Kyle Okposo score again on a broken play by the Canadiens to get the Isles within one goal. After going down by two again Nikolay Kulemin continued his penchant for getting big goals in big spots, with his goal that stayed on the ice and banked off the post behind Tokarski.

The Canadiens are a fast team, and just as we saw on Long Island at Christmas they used that to their advantage on Saturday night. The Islanders did their best to keep up but often struggled, and spent time chasing Montreal around and behind the net.

The Isles defensemen in general had issues with puck possession and made some turnovers in bad places, perhaps overwhelmed by the speed of Montreal. This is where you could tell that they were just running out of gas, on plays like this. Montreal got several odd man rushes in their favor and were able to cash in on a number of them, picking the corners on Halak.

I would expect the Isles to put forth a better effort on Monday afternoon in the matinee against the Flyers. They match-up favorably with them as currently constructed and the Flyers are down Steve Mason. They had that one nice effort against them this year, where Mason stood on his head and the Isles won 1-0 after a shootout.

Monday's matinee will be the last game before the All-Star break, so I would expect to see Johnson for the game. And for the Isles it's another game for them within the division, where they are already 14-2-0 this season.

- Chris

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