Islanders Puck Talk – Weekly Review
We are about a quarter of the way through the season, & the Islanders look like playoff contenders so far. It hasn’t been all smooth sailing, with many bumps & bruises along the way, but the Islanders find themselves 11-7-2 with an impeccable 6-0-2. On this three game swing they managed to grab 4 out of a possible 6 points, with one very impressive victory & an equally less impressive loss. This next week should be key as to where they stand compared to the rest of the league. According to John Buccigross of ESPN, 13 of 16 teams that are in playoff position come Thanksgiving make the playoffs. Let’s hope that stat rings true once again this year.
Thursday, November 16 2017 – vs Carolina Hurricanes
This schedule has been very topsy turvy so far for the Islanders. They play Saturday against the Blues then have off until Thursday night, then have to play three games in four days. It doesn’t make any sense, but I digress. The Islanders took on a very tough Hurricanes team at home on Thursday, a team that usually gives them fits.
To say that this game was wide open is an understatement. Mat Barzal started off the scoring brigade with a beautiful wrister past Scott Darling. Cal Clutterbuck took advantage of a fortuitous bounce on a Carolina PP to score on a breakaway SHG. Carolina responded right after with seeing eye shot by Elias Lindholm, of course assisted by Sebastian Aho. The Islanders finished off the period strong with a Nick Leddy slapshot that snuck past Scott Darling. It’s one Darling wants back as he got his glove on it but could not squeeze it.
The second period was probably the worst period the Islanders have played so far this year. The Hurricanes were relentless with their forecheck, & were able to create mistakes in the Isles’ defensive zone. Goals by Noah Hanifin, Derek Ryan & Sebastian Aho gave the Canes a 4-3 lead going into the third. Sebastian Aho is slowly becoming an Islander killer at such a young age.
The third period was another strong one for the Islanders. They cycled pucks well, & were finally able to capitalize on a PP when Anders Lee fed Josh Bailey with a no look, through the legs pass in the slot. Late in the third Johnny Boychuk was able to retrieve a diving pass from Casey Cizikas & boom a rocket shot right past Scott Darling to take a 5-4 lead. Things got a little hairy with a few ticks to go but Jordan Eberle sealed the game with an ENG, courtesy of Mat Barzal.
It was a quality win against a good team, but the Islanders need to do a better job finishing teams off. They have a tendency to always let teams back in games, & that’s a habit that needs to stop come playoff time. We’ll take the points though.
Islanders 6, Hurricanes 4
Saturday, November 18 – @ Tampa Bay Lightning
Saturday was a one for the ages. I came into the game hoping that the Islanders could keep up with the speed of Steven Stamkos & Nikita Kucherov. I was praying they’d be able to gain at least a point, but realistic in the fact that the Lightning had only lost 2 games in regulation up to that point. What I got was an (almost) 60 minute effort & what could possibly be a season-defining win.
The Islanders got to work real early on Saturday, scoring in the first minute against the NHL’s top team. Andrew Ladd put them on the board with a goal from Josh Ho-Sang at just 51 seconds of the first. Anders Lee followed up with a goal midway through the first period to give the Islanders a 2-0 lead.
The second was a much more methodical pace, with Brock Nelson scoring the only goal of the period. The Islanders kept the Lightning at bay, as Tampa had a few rushes late in the second to try & mount a comeback. Thomas Greiss was masterful, being in the right place at the right time as Tampa furiously pushed forward.
The Islanders got a PP late in the second that came to fruition in the third. Anders Lee, always making his home in front of the net, deflected a shot past Andrei Vasilievskiy to make it a 4-0 game. As everyone expected, Tampa made another furious push but this time was successful in scoring some goals. Yanni Gourde & Ondrej Palat scored back to back goals within 13 seconds, cutting the lead in half in less than a minute. Yanni Gourde was left all alone late in the third to make the Isles sweat, making it a 4-3 game. Calvin de Haan was caught skating up ice when the puck deflected right to Gourde.
The Islanders survived the Tampa Bay onslaught & John Tavares scored an ENG to seal the deal in one of the more hostile environments in the NHL. Like I said before, this is a season-defining win because it shows that the Islanders can beat anyone in the league (already beat STL) & they can go on the road & compete with the best of the best.
Islanders 5, Lightning 3
November 19, 2017 – @ Carolina Hurricanes
The Islanders may have lost 4-2, but this game did not feel like a blowout loss. The Islanders played surprisingly well for a game where it didn’t look like they could get anything going.
The game started off rough for the Islanders, with Sebastian Aho & Teuvo Teravainen scoring two quick goals. Aho scored on the PP, adding to his collection of points against the Islanders. At 10:44 of the first, Nick Leddy shifted his way through the Canes’ D to roof one past Cam Ward. It was most definitely one of the prettier goals the NHL has seen this year. Unfortunately, that was all for naught as Phil Di Guiseppe fed Elias Lindholm in the slot for an easy goal.
The second period was actually one of the better periods the Islanders have had in a few games, even if they didn’t come any with any goals. Cam Ward was a stalwart in net, stopping a few Islander furies in their tracks. The Islanders controlled play for most of the second period, with multiple odd man rushes, scrambling for pucks in the offensive zone, & at least a half dozen shots that could have been goals if not for the superb goaltending of Cam Ward. The Canes were able to put this one away with a late second period goal by Teravainen again.
The third period was sluggish for both teams, as both the Islanders and Hurricanes had played the night before. John Tavares scored a goal a little more than halfway through the frame, but the Isles could not muster enough to get anything going. It was a disappointing loss, but gaining four of six points on this mini-road trip was a great way to end the week on a high note.
Hurricanes 4, Islanders 2
What a good boy. Charlie the Service Dog was a special guest at Thursday’s Isles-Canes game. He is a service dog for the US Army & did a fantastic job dropping the puck for military appreciation week.
Jaroslav Halak continues to flounder as the Islanders number two goalie. According to Brian Compton of NHL.com, Halak has given up three or more goals in nine of his last ten games started. Thomas Greiss must take over as the permanent number one, or at least until he falters. The goaltending overall has been subpar for the Islanders this year, which makes it even more impressive that they’ve gotten off to such a good start. Once one of these two figures it out, it’s going to be very hard to beat the Islanders with all that speed & skill.
Make sure to follow me @SupRos22 & follow all sports coverage @DoubleGSports. The Islanders have off until Wednesday when they face the Philadelphia Flyers, then play them again in a quasi home & home the day after Thanksgiving. Let’s hope that they’ll be able to take care of a mediocre Flyers team & keep the ball rolling on this great season.