Bringing The Thunder On The Lightning

It's becoming more evident that the games the Islanders play against elite teams are ones they should usually win, which was the exact opposite case last year.  The Islanders of old would be absolutely elated if they been any good team, but now the expectations are much higher & the results so far have been extremely positive.  I really like the direction this team is going in.

First Period- 

The first period of this game is the main reason why I truly believe in this Islanders team.  They skated well, hit hard, had some great opportunities but just couldn't finish.  A 5-on-3 opportunity went for naught after tons of passing but no real clear cut open shots came of it.  It seemed to take the air out of their tires for about a minute, but the Isles immediately got back to playing their game.  A little more than halfway through the period, the puck (of course) took a strange bounce off the boards & onto the stick of Alex Killorn.  Killorn shot it twice at Jaro Halak's pads, both stops, but snuck one through his pads on his third try.  A game like this last year would have spelled doom for this team, but even after Thomas Hickey took a penalty to end the period, the Isles looked ready to bounce back in the second.

Second Period-

And bounce back they did!  The birthday boy, Cal Clutterbuck, stole an errant pass mid-PK & skated down the right side past a defender & sniped one over Nabokov's left shoulder.  Play was pretty tight during the middle of the period, & Jack Capuano did not like what he was seeing from his lines so he mixed them up to get something going.  Whatever he did, it worked, as the next shift after the switch Kyle Okposo & Frans Nielsen assisted Mikhail Grabovski's goal.  Nielsen faked a slap shot & fed a beaut to Grabo who had about half a net to shoot at (we've seen that before).  About a minute later, Tampa was unable to clear the zone & Ryan Strome stole the puck, skated up into the zone & threw it at the net.  The puck hit off Radko Gudas' stick & into the net.  The Islanders controlled the pace of play basically all period, and this was reminiscent of the type of period they had against Colorado.

Third Period-

The Islanders continued to show that last year's third period hiccups are a thing of the past.  They put the game out of reach just 36 seconds in, as Brock Nelson once again tipped a shot from the point, this time Lubo Visnovski's on the PP.  That ended a 1-for-19 drought & hopefully sparked the boys to score some more goals.  Things got just a bit hairy as Tampa scored quickly, this time Ondrej Palat shoved one through during a mad scramble in front of the net.  The Isles kept their composure & played their game, using their forechecking to create a breakway opportunity for Casey Cizikas, who buried a beautifully placed shot top-shelf.  It was also a nice set-up from Kyle Okposo.  Halak played well the rest of the way, never really being challenged, and the Islanders hounded the Lightning for the remaining few minutes to leave no doubt of what the final score would be.  It was a very impressive win against an extremely talented Tampa Bay team.

Quick Hits-

-The 4th line had a fantastic game.  As much as I rag on Capuano for sometimes putting them in too often in important situations, they showed their worth tonight, scoring two goals & grinding out good shifts against Tampa's top lines.

-I also like the new line combinations.  Brock Nelson deserves a shot on the top line, and it's a good idea to give Kyle Okposo an opportunity to show what he can do without John Tavares.  So far, he's got 2 assists.

-A lot of people on Islanders social media were livid at the fact that fans were saracastically chanting Nabokov's name after giving up the 4th goal.  I have no problem with it.  Sure, Nabby was a great teammate and an intrigal part of our magical run to the playoffs two years ago, but he's now the enemy & there's no reason why we should give him special treatment.  He knew that it wasn't malicious & more of a quick jab at him & having a little fun with it.  It would only be classless if we chanted "Nabby Sucks" or cheered when a Lightning player was injured.

-Friday should be a big measuring stick on how we stack up with Pittsburgh the rest of the season.  Both teams will be rested, and it should be a battle.

Check out my twitter @SupRos22 or check out TCLIsles @TCLIsles

-Chris Passarelli