February 8, 2015

After 2-1 Loss to Bruins, Not Time to Panic...Yet

The Islanders fell to the Boston bruins on Saturday night by a score of 2-1, but many are growing concerned about the Isles of late after dropping four of their last five contests. However, it is not time for the concern to reach a fever pitch just yet.

Despite the loss, the Isles had a solid showing against a Bruins team that is firing on all cylinders right now, and has gotten back to the style of play that we've all known them for over the last several years. This effort came on the heels of a nice comeback, shootout win on Thursday against the Flyers, which was the Isles best overall effort really since the All-Star break ended - yes, including that victory over the Rangers.

Many are clamoring for the Isles to make a trade, and when the Evander Kane issue popped up we saw trade proposals flying across the net, from Twitter accounts to various message boards. This of course is spurred on by the fact that the Isles have lost Kyle Okposo for the foreseeable future with an apparent eye issue.

The fact of the matter is that the absence of Okposo really has had nothing to do with the Isles lackluster play of late. Okposo is not a blueliner, which is the area that has really hindered the Isles in some of these games. Okposo has nothing to do with the play of guys like Frans Nielsen or Nikolay Kulemin, both of whom have had down efforts and appeared to be standing around more often than not. And we can go on and on with all of the things that have ailed the Isles lately.

In their last two games, the Isles have gotten back to some of what has made them successful. They are not scoring as much as they had been, and this is true. But they are the ones who have been taking themselves out of games. And the sooner they put together more cohesive efforts, the sooner that they will figure out a way to pull out some of these games again.

I am encouraged by the efforts in the last two matches, but Saturday night's game proved why Boston would be a tough match-up for the Isles in the playoffs, let alone for any team. My pick to be the team coming out of the East, Tuukka Rask has finally found his game and has been dominating teams left and right. Zdeno Chara seems to have gotten past his injury issues from earlier in the year. And they seem to be getting support from some of the role players they were missing in the early part of the season.

When a team is playing well after a long rough stretch, funny things start to happen as that team evolves over the course of the long season. Case in point, look at the fight between Ryan Strome and Torey Krug early in the game. These are two non-fighters who mixed it up along the boards and agreed to go. This is the type of fighting that makes that aspect great, when two skilled guys wanting to get their teams going decide to drop the mitts. And while we saw one of the worst fights technique wise, it was fun to watch and helped to set the stage for the game early.

This was going to be a physical challenge, and I think the bruins came out on top in that aspect. An early hit on John Tavares also set the tone and Michael Grabner and Mikhail Grabovski were both laid out a few times on their own. The Isles didn't have much of an answer for this, but it didn't seem to cost them the game.

Chad Johnson looked excellent in net and I was pleased that he kept his movements to a minimum in general. I think that this was an excellent effort by him spoiled by Rask, as he kept some excellent Isles chances out of the net.

The Isles defense was napping on a few plays and it allowed the Bruins some odd man rushes. Although none of those did hurt the Isles, it was the defensemen getting out muscled that allowed the Bruins to take the lead for good with just over seven minutes to play in the 3rd. That was a terrible goal to give up to Loui Eriksson, not so much by Johnson but more so by the defense.

Matt Martin was left as the guy trying to tie Eriksson up in front of the net because Nick Leddy was off to the side, and Johnny Boychuk was late getting into the play. The turn around goal was a very weak one, and I was particularly upset with the lack of support on the play. I mention Leddy, because he was the only Isles player with his back towards the play and had no idea where the puck was. For as great as he's been this year, of late he's been prone to some turnovers and hasn't been as great with getting back to correct his mistakes. I'm not sure if he's beginning to grow tired from the increased minutes he's been seeing but something is not the same from what we saw early on in the season.

All in all this was not a terrible effort for the Isles despite still having some issues with turnovers. The mistakes were not anywhere near what we have been seeing lately and their attempts at attacking the player after the turnover were usually pretty solid. It's still not as fluid as we had seen earlier in the year, but for the style the Isles play it usually comes with a lot of these high risk types of plays.

The Isles have been trying to get back to the simple things and over the last two games there were mixed results. They had the huge comeback over the Flyers and a tight one goal loss to the Bruins. And now they'll have to take on a Buffalo Sabres team that we'll call dangerous. They have not won much, but the Isles blew a three goal lead to them earlier in the year and lost in a shootout. This is also the same Isles team that had issues with an Oilers team that is pretty much in the same boat as the Sabres success wise. So the Isles cannot afford a let down on Sunday afternoon.

Because, well that would be something that would get my concerns ramped up a notch for sure.

- Chris

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