Islanders Puck Talk – Weekly Review
What a week for New York Islanders hockey. All four lines are rolling, the goaltending has been much improved, & the Islanders are well on their way to another playoff berth. It’s still very early in the season, but the Islanders can score with the best of them & with Saturday’s performance against the Senators, they can play defense once in a while. It was a great week for the Isles, going 3-0 against two very tough opponents.
Wednesday, November 22, 2017 – vs Philadelphia Flyers
Wednesday night against the Flyers was a roller coaster ride for the Islanders. The game did not start out well as Taylor Leier scored his first of the season in the first six minutes of the game. The Islanders have a tendency to give up lots of firsts over their illustrious history, so I’m not too surprised about this. Anyway, Mathew Barzal responded with an absolute snipe on the PP to tie it up at one. Barzal is slowly turning into an ultimate playmaker both scoring goals & setting guys up.
Michael Raffl started off the second period with his first goal in 42 games, once again proving that the Islanders have a knack for giving up firsts. There was a lot of back & forth throughout the period, with the Islanders regaining the lead after a PP goal by Johnny Boychuk & a go-ahead tip in by Josh Ho-Sang. Jake Voracek tied it up at two with a PPG of his own late in the second.
The third period didn’t have all that much action but led to an exciting overtime period. Only 32 seconds into overtime Josh Bailey put his own rebound home past Brian Elliott. What was even more impressive than Bailey’s goal so early in OT was John Tavares undressing Sean Couturier. Just have a look for yourself. No words can describe how Tavares handled that puck around Couturier.
Islanders 4, Flyers 3
Friday, November 24, 2017 – @ Philadelphia Flyers
The Islanders & Flyers had an old-fashioned Thanksgiving home & home, with the second leg coming in Phildelphia. These teams have never liked each other, & having them play back to back games in a tight Metro division caused tempers to erupt.
The only goal of the first period (shocker) was a fluky one off the knee of Mathew Barzal. Andrew Ladd fed a shot off of Elliott that just happened to trickle off of Barzal & into the net. Barzal gave the Islanders a 1-0 lead with about 17 seconds to go in the first.
The second was MUCH more wide open, sort of the style you come to expect with this high flying Islanders team. There were five goals scored in the second, four by the Flyers. Claude Giroux tied it up early in the period then Wayne Simmonds took advantage of a Thomas Greiss flub behind the net to give the Flyers the lead. I always yell at my TV “Don’t touch the puck!” to Greiss & Halak during games. I don’t know if they listen, but this time they definitely did not. Cal Clutterbuck tied the game at two with a wicked wrister, but Shayne Gostisbehere (what a mouthful) boomed a slapshot from the slot to give Philly the lead back & Sean Couturier added insult to injury with a goal 19 seconds after.
To say the second period was a disaster would be an understatement. Greiss looked lost for two of the goals, the defense was essentially nonexistent, & the Islanders let the Flyers into the slot more times than I can count. However, because of the Islanders offensive potency I knew this game was not over if they could keep it at 4-2 by the time the third period rolled around.
A two goal lead, especially the way they were scored this time around, should have been the nail in the coffin for the Islanders, but I was right & they kept pushing in the third period. Jordan Eberle roofed a beauty over Brian Elliott’s shoulder to start the comeback, & Eberle then fed Andrew Ladd in the slot to tie it up later in the period. The second line has been incredible this season. They are more of a 1B line than a second line, & their firepower is unmatched in the NHL, especially with the emergence of Mat Barzal.
The period ended with a flurry of Flyers shots that either just missed the net or were blocked in front. Overtime started & all eyes were on John Tavares, coming off that impressive game two nights before. However, it was a youngster who sucked the Flyers defense in & made a beautiful pass to Nick Leddy for the winner. His name is Josh H0-Sang, & he is playing much better in his second NHL stint this year. It was a great end to a great game, one that the Islanders were lucky to win.
Islanders 5, Flyers 4
Saturday, November 25, 2017 – @ Ottawa Senators
I was getting a headache looking at all these flashing red lights the past two games, so I was hoping that Saturday’s matchup against the Senators was going to be a low-key defensive battle. It was everything I wished for & more.
There was no scoring in the first period, but lots of good saves & good defensive play. Craig Anderson made a few beautiful saves on the Islander’s first PP. Jaroslav Halak stood on his head the entire game. It was a bounceback performance for Halak, who has looked terrible the entire season.
Anders Lee used his big frame to tip home a Josh Bailey shot on the PP. He literally used his frame, as it grazed off his pants & into the net. Mathew Barzal did his best Carmen Sandiego impression, skating around the world & feeding Jordan Eberle to give the Islanders a two goal lead. Eberle had Craig Anderson leaning hard, & had a wide open net for the put in.
Matt Duchene was able to finally score his first goal as a Senator, scoring on the PP with just over five minutes to go. Ottawa gave a good push, but Jaroslav Halak was a stalwart in net for the entire game & held Ottawa to just one goal. The Islanders finally won a close, low-scoring game, & in the process started another streak of three wins in a row.
Islanders 2, Senators 1
Jaroslav Halak proved a lot to me after this week’s Senators game. He may not be perfect, but he is still very capable of stealing a few games for the Islanders. If he gets hot, he can challenge Thomas Greiss for that number one goalie spot. Halak had previously given up three goals or more in nine of his last ten, & luckily was able to get off the snide with a big victory over Ottawa. The Islanders only real bugaboo this year has been its goaltending, so if Halak & Greiss can steer the ship in the right direction, the Islanders will be a very tough out in the playoffs.
Ryan Pulock has been a severe disappointment for the Islanders so far. He has a booming shot, but he hasn’t played since the Islanders loss in Carolina & it doesn’t seem that Doug Weight has any interest in using him regularly this season, at least until he steps up his defensive game. Pulock was the prodigy defenseman of the Islanders, & he was supposed to be the future of Islanders hockey for years. Since then, Mathew Barzal, Josh Ho-Sang, Anthony Beauvillier, & even upstart Devon Toews have looked more promising than Pulock. Maybe one day he’ll live up to his expectations, but barely making the roster this year & not proving himself to be a top four talent on the blueline doesn’t bode well for the young D-man.
That’s it for this week boys & girls. It was a great week for the Islanders, & hopefully in the next few weeks when the schedule gets tough the Islanders will be resilient. Make sure to follow me @SupRos22, & follow @DoubleGSports for all your sports coverage! I will also be doing a mailbag soon so be on the lookout for that & submit your questions.