14th Time's The Charm!- Islanders Ground Flyers 4-1

The New York Islanders last victory in Philadelphia was crucial in their pursuit of the 8th and final playoff spot.

Tonight’s 4-1 victory against the Flyers could be the start of another push towards the Stanley Cup Playoffs.

 

Evgeni Nabokov made 40 saves and Josh Bailey scored on a short-handed breakaway in the second period as the Islanders, for the first time in 14 meetings at Wells Fargo Center, came away with a win in Philadelphia.

 

Matt Moulson thought he put the Isles in the lead in the first period, but it was ruled that there was a ‘distinct kicking motion’ which negated the goal. Just 28 seconds into the second period he took a feed from John Tavares and snapped a wrist shot off the right shoulder of Sergei Bobrovsky for a 1-0 lead. It was Moulson’s 22nd goal of the season and extended his consecutive point scoring streak to six games. On the same play, Tavares extended his own personal points streak to 11 games, tied now with Boston Bruins David Krejci for the league’s longest streak.

 

The Islanders dominated most of the play throughout but being shorthanded numerous times in the second period forced the penalty kill to spring into action. Bailey took advantage of a porous Flyers defense and roofed a backhand past Bobrovsky to double the lead to 2-0.

 

Mark Streit gave the Islanders a much needed cushion when, on the power play,  he took a feed from Tavares and his slap shot beat Bobrovsky to give the Isles a 3-0 lead, much to the dismay of the sold-out crowd in Philadelphia.

 

Philadelphia seemed to gain their legs midway through the third period and were rewarded with their own goal as Matt Read re-directed a Sean Courtier shot at 10:48. The next 8 minutes had the Isles pinned in their zone as the Flyers continued to push the play. Nabokov made numerous lateral movement saves and kept the Flyers off the scoreboard for the remainder of the game.

 

With 90 seconds remaining, Bobrovsky was pulled for an extra attacker down 3-1. Michael Grabner clinched the game with under a second remaining scoring his 14th goal of the season into the yawning open net.

 

The Islanders ended a plethora of streaks Thursday Night. They ended the Flyers 8-game overall winning streak and also Bobrovsky 7-0-0 start to his career against the Isles. For the first time in any of his starts against them, he looked beatable and the Isles took their chances well.

 

The Islanders were outshot 33-16 in the last 2 period and 41-26 overall. 

 

Madonia Minute

 

This team never ceases to amaze us. You watch them play on Monday and it’s a complete 180 to the team that played against Washington and Philadelphia. I have been  pretty hard on Capuano in recent blogs, but he had his guys ready to play against two really good teams on the road. Tonight was a totally team effort, Tavares down to Pandolfo. I am really glad i get to see 91 play 41 games a year in person. He has brought his game so far in just three short years. The list continues to get shorter of players you would rather have in your lineup than him. The league is starting to get know who John Tavares is, which can be a problem going forward for this team. Going forward, the team needs some toughness around to protect their franchise player(s). I know that Tavares is a big boy and can take of himself, but do you want him having to fight the other teams AHL call-up like Claude Giroux did tonight and keep him off the ice for 5 minutes? Tavares will be played physically, which is fine, but the liberties teams think they can take against him, will need to stop. Is Gillies or Haley the answer? Both players can scrap with anyone and give an emotional edge on the bench. That being said, I think i would rather have a Matt Martin type player that has the Gillies ability to defend his teammates. Martin is a middleweight, which was made apparent on Saturday against Buffalo, when he fought against 6’8 260 pound Joe Finley. He has also become too valuable to the Islanders on the penalty kill to be actually serving fighting majors. 

 

Tonight proved that the Islanders aren’t too far off from being a player in the Eastern Conference. I know it’s one game against a team that has kicked your butt 8 straight times, but you watch games like tonight and it’s hard not to get excited about what could be. The Rangers and Boston are the only two true elite teams in the Eastern Conference. Both teams are well coached and have a bonafide top 3 goalie in the world in goal, with very capable backups 15-22 games a year. They also get offensive production from lines 1-4 and play to their strengths, which is playing big and physical hockey. Aside from those teams, the difference in quality is pretty close.

 

Philadelphia gives up too many chances defensively and isn’t exactly sure of their goaltending situation, 45 or so games into the season. To say ‘Bryz” has been a disappointment is a major understatement. He was brought into ensure that another fiasco in goal doesn’t occur between the pipes like during the playoffs last season. Instead, the guy that couldn’t get it done in the playoffs has totally outplayed the guy brought in to replace him.

 

Washington and Pittsburgh will go as far as their injury situations allow them too. Sidney Crosby still hasn’t returned from a moderate collision with one of his own teammates over a month ago. They rely on Evgeni Malkin and James Neal offensively and Marc- Andre Fluery in goal. Defensive stalwart Kris Letang has been out for an extended time as well. After a six game losing streak they have won their last four in a row, including a 4-1 victory of the Rangers tonight. Solid team but not an elite team without the league’s best player when healthy. Washington has injuries to their leading scorer Nicklas Backstrom, and top defenseman Mike Green will miss considerable time. They have morphed from being a powerful offensive unit into a team that plays tight defensively and scores enough to win. This team did start 7-0 this season and was coming off a three game winning streak before Tuesday. The Isles have defeated them twice this season and neither game really impressed me on the Caps end. Alex Ovechkin needs to earn his keep for the Capitals to have a long run. 

 

The Ottawa Senators are very similar to the New York Islanders, talent wise. The main difference is everything has gone great for the Sens, while the Isles continue to try a find an identity. Jason Spezza, Milan Michalek, and Daniel Alfredsson are all having sensational offensive years. 21 year-old star defensemen Erik Karlsson has racked up the assists and is a leading candidate for the Norris this season as top defensemen. His play as been so solid that the Senators were able to trade away David Runbladt, a 20 year old defensemen with tremendous upside to the Phoenix Coyotes for former #3 overall in the 2007 NHL entry draft, forward Kyle Turris. In his brief stint in Ottawa, Turris has played alongside Alfredsson on the second line. Ottawa also singed gritty Zenon Konopka who leads the league in penalty minutes this season, yet again, but has brought a team-first dynamic to a team that desperately needed it. He is one of players i think the Isles, as a team, miss having around. He wasn’t going to score 40 goals for you, but he stood up for his guys, no matter what the situation was. Tough to find guys like that in the league. Ottawa will be a interesting story come playoff time, like the Isles would be if they were in a similar position. Most of their players are young and haven’t been in that atmosphere before. Goaltender Craig Anderson has been fantastic at times and really bad at times for them, but he more than any other team in the mix, has to be great every night to give him team a chance to win. 

 

Teams like Florida, New Jersey, Winnipeg, and Toronto are nice teams, but will not be threats in the playoffs, if they advance. 

 

Florida looks to have lost some of their early-season magic. They also lost their MVP Jose Theodore to an injury which left them with career back-up to Martin Brodeur, 35-year old Scott Clemmensen, and unproven prospect Jacob Markstrom. They have tailed off considerably and will likely be on the outside-looking in.

 

New Jersey is where they expected to be this season, in a fight for a playoff spot. Adam Henrique and Adam Larsson have both shined in their rookie campaigns and Patrik Elias has played like an All-Star all season for New Jersey. Their problem, ironically, is between the pipes. Martin Brodeur isn’t the same goalie he was five years ago. He hasn’t looked comfortable all year and his statistics are quite average. Johan Hedberg is a fantastic back-up goaltender when called upon but isn’t a guy you can realistically rely on to carry a team in the playoffs. A team the Islanders play four more times this season. Eight big points at stake.

 

Winnipeg and Toronto play in Canada and enjoy tremendous home ice advantages. Both teams,however, are below .500 on the road. Neither team will likely be a top-4 team and will likely have to go into a opposing building a steal one or maybe two games in order to win a series. Haven’t seen enough from either team to show that being even remotely possible. The Islanders have a real opportunity this week to inch themselves near the Leafs. They will play two games against them in twenty-four hours, one in Toronto, one on Long Island. Two statement games, especially if they win Saturday against Carolina

Winnipeg visits Long Island for the Isles last home game in April, could it mean something? 

 

The Islanders have given away a bunch of games that would have made their trek to the playoffs far easier. They are 10 points out with over 37 games remaining in their season. The first test is Saturday against a truly enigmatic Carolina team. How can a team struggle so much, but absolutely outplay the Boston Bruins in every meeting this season? This is an absolute must-win in your own building, hopefully the fans come out and support them.

 

Three games left until the All-Star break, NHL .500 is in their sights. Can the Islanders get to .500 at the break. Three wins will make them 21-21-6, and most important to the fans, .500 after 48 games.

 

 

Final Thought

 

An article on ESPN.com discussed the top 25 players in the league under the age of 25. It listed your usual suspects; Crosby, Ovechkin, Malkin etc. Someone that didn’t make the cut is John Tavares. FOUR ST LOUIS BLUES made the cut, including a guy (Chris Stewart) that has a whole 19 points in 42 games. It’s absolutely absurd that he would make the list but Tavares is no where to be found.  Stewart is oft-injured and his biggest season came over 3 years ago where he had 64 points. Tavares is going to absolute crush that number if he just produces at 60 percent of what he has done so far this season. I know the Islanders are in last place and the Blues are near the top, but this omission shows yet another bias against the Islanders, for reasons truly unknown. How a guy that every single coach in the league praises in the pre-game commentaries and constantly has 6-7 shots a game playing against the best defensive pairings night after night. He is averaging a point a game at 21 years old and isn’t on this list? It’s also ironic they have so many ‘hockey experts’ when they barely cover the sport on any of their networks. 

The writer pens a rebuttal article saying Tavares is good, not great. I would welcome said writer to come to the Nassau Coliseum and watch him play live and tell me he is just a ‘good player’. I would buy his seat and his hotel room for the evening. Watching highlights of a player and reading statistics doesn’t give you a true feel of the player. I’ve seen plenty of Blues/Avalanche games on Center Ice, he is a decent player at best. Ask yourself this question, would St. Louis trade Stewart for Tavares, one for one?

 

 I will end my final thought by saying i am not a homer and i don’t think Tavares should be on this list because I write about the Islanders. Tyler Seguin, Matt Duchene and James Benn aren’t on the list and all are fantastic talents. How Chris Stewart and Patrick Berglund (St. Louis fans can’t comprehend this either) place ahead of the five players listed above is beyond comprehension. If John Tavares played for the New York Rangers, with the same production and talent, he would on that list. Take that to the bank. 

 

Thanks for reading!