February 28, 2015

Halak breaks season win record in 2-1 victory over Flames

It was a big night on Friday for the Islanders and Jaroslav Halak as he set the franchise record for wins in a season, notching his 33rd. The Islanders defeated the Flames 2-1 and got two big points that they needed with the Rangers bearing down on and essentially having leapfrogged the Islanders, as they have three games in hand and are only two points behind.

The Flames are a team on the rise and have been in playoff contention all season thanks to some timely scoring from young players and some pretty stellar goaltending from Jonas Hiller and Karri Ramo.

Ramo had the start against the Islanders and really looked pretty great for them. He put forth a similar performance as he did in Calgary's previous games against the Devils and Rangers. Ramo was tested early on and in the first minute of the game was called upon to make a huge save on Anders Lee, which ended up setting the tone for the rest of his night. Ramo stopped 37 of 38 shots.

The Isles only goal with Ramo in net came midway through the first period on the powerplay from Ryan Strome. It was on a weird scramble in front and the puck bounced around a few times, even flying off of Strome's stick a bit awkwardly and fluttering into the net. Strome's 14th of the season put the Isles up 1-0 and pretty much was all they needed for the rest of the game.

Halak did the rest for the Isles when needed, standing on his head and making some nice saves. He wasn't tested in the hardest ways but did an excellent job of keeping the rebound opportunities to a minimum. There were several close calls that just missed the net too.

Halak's biggest stop of the night came after Johnny Boychuk turned a puck over to Michael Ferland in the first period. Boychuk recovered by tugging at Ferland's mid section and a penalty shot was awarded. Halak didn't have to do much to deny the power forward of his first NHL goal but made the stop with his blocker.

Cal Clutterbuck had scored a goal that was waived off when it was deemed that Brock Nelson interfered with Ramo after being pushed into the net, but these types of plays usually are not reviewable. So the Isles really had to get their heads straight and not stray from the game plan. Clutterbuck looked like he had revenge on an open net from far out but hit the post, only to recover and get the puck in anyway after a fortunate bounce off of a defender's skate.

And leave it to the Isles to give up a goal in the final minute of a period, this one blowing the shutout for Halak. But we digress.

The only real 'bad' portion for the Isles was at the tail end of the first period where Calgary pushed the pace a bit and got a few real good scoring chances. The Isles kept their scrambling to a minimum though and by the time the 2nd period rolled around were able to keep the Flames at bay and they still managed a 15-7 shot advantage through that first frame.

The Isles did a good job as a team in blocking shots and keeping things out of harms way, leaving Halak to do the rest when needed. The Flames are a team that loves to skate and push the pace just as much as the Isles do, and I thought they did a good job on the defensive end of the game. They still didn't employ the dump and chase as much and preferred to skate the puck up ice and into the zone, but it works against a team that plays a similar style. It might have prevented the Isles from getting more higher percentage chances but the way he looked, Ramo might have stopped those anyway.

It was a quality win for an Isles team against a very solid Western Conference opponent. Now they have to get themselves back in gear for a quick turnaround and another home game Saturday night against the new-look Carolina Hurricanes, as they have not shied away from trade season and are still active with a few days to go before the buzzer sounds. If the Isles stick to the basics as they have done the last few games there shouldn't be much of an issue.

- Chris

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