Islanders get Second Crack at Devils
The New York Islanders (5-11-4) are hoping for a different effort on Saturday afternoon, in the second half of a home-and-home series with the New Jersey Devils (12-8-1).
On Friday afternoon, the Islanders were shutout by the Devils at the Nassau Coliseum, 1-0. It was the 6th time the Islanders have been shutout this season, the 5th time on home ice.
Jack Capuano spoke a lot after the game about "getting more shots and bodies to the net." The Islanders had some moments where they did that, but their passing still looked out of synch.
Al Montoya returned from his stint on the IR and was one of the few bright spots for the Islanders. Montoya made 22 saves, including stopping Zach Parise on a breakaway and a point blank shot from the slot on Ilya Kovalchuk. He was very active in moving the puck, and the Islanders looked fairly confident with him between the pipes. There were no miscues whatsoever between he and his defenseman. In other words, it was night and day compared to what Rick DiPietro looked like Wednesday night against Philadelphia.
My heart says the Islanders will start Montoya again, and that would be the right move. However, my head says that they will have the goalies split this series, meaning that DiPietro would get the nod in New Jersey.
If that's the case, then it's entirely possible DiPietro looks on his game. Any tome he goes up against Martin Brodeur he seems to elevate his game. Brodeur will get the nod for the Devils. He's having a very un-Brodeur like season (2.78 GAA, .900 SV%) but he's looked solid in his last couple of games. Brodeur is likely still recovering from injuring his shoulder earlier in the season, and has been splitting time with Johan Hedberg since coming back.
Michael Grabner had a lot of chances offensively on Friday but just couldn't connect. He had a breakaway that Hedberg came out to throw him off on and a penalty shot that Hedberg stopped after Grabner tried the forehand-backhand move.
Nino Niederreiter sat for a third consecutive game, and there's no word yet on if he'll be back in the line-up for Saturday. It's really not a good thing the Islanders are doing with him, and he needs to get back on the ice as soon as possible. Marty Reasoner was the Isles other scratch, and given the way the centers have played he may very well see himself sitting out once again.
The Devils penalty kill has had a whopping 94% success rate this season. The Islanders had four chances on Friday. If the Islanders get a couple of early chances again, and they still cant get it in the net then it should become pretty clear to them that they'll have to do most of their work 5-on-5 and do a better job of crashing the net.
David Ullstrom agrees with that. "We had some good chances," he told me after the game Friday. "We got to get to get to that hard area in front of the net and just start scoring goals."
For the Islanders, that's probably the best game plan they can have going into this one. It's become pretty clear that the Devils give up nothing on the power play, so you'll have to score on them other ways. If they keep the amount of passes down, and just take the shot more often than not, then they may be able to create some second and third opportunities. If they hesitate like they did on Friday, then it will be more of the same - easy shots the goalie can set up for, with shots being absorbed right in the chest.