All Jets Off- Islanders Pregame
They limited the Wild to only one goal on 21 shots and stole the bonus point in the shootout on a Frans Nielsen backhand special. Al Montoya bounced back from a couple of shaky starts against Montreal and Pittsburgh stopping 20 shots and all three shootout attempts. Andrew MacDonald, in his first game back in the lineup had the only Islanders goal in regulation and overtime.
The Jets franchise has had a lot of success recently against the Islanders. In the teams first meeting this season, Ondrej Pavelec had 34 saves and Evander Kane had one of his team leading 15 goals in a 3-0 shutout at the Nassau Coliseum. It was one of the more listless efforts for the Isles’ all season, The game wasn’t in doubt from the first period forward. The team did register 34 shots, but Pavelec was never serious tested and earned the win. Tracking back to the Thrashers they have won five out of the last meetings, including in that is the infamous Quebec Invasion. Both teams were having tremendous attendance issues and it’s well known that the province of Quebec would like a second team to compliment the historic Montreal Canadiens. On December 11, 2010, the schedule makers pitted the Thrashers against the Islanders. It was a well known that fact that a slew of seats were available for the game. A group of fans called the “Nordique Nation’ bought over 1100 tickets behind each goal to show their support for hockey and to show they can support bringing a club back to Quebec. ‘Nordique Nation’, all 1100 of them, made the eight hour trek to Long Island to create an atmosphere unlike any the team has seen in many years. They chanted their songs and cheered heartily for the Islanders. With five minutes remaining, they descended from the upper deck and encompassed the entire lower bowl. That five minutes was the most incredible thing i’ve personally seen in any sporting event. It was a playoff atmosphere with two teams that had little to play for. The Thrashers ended up winning the game 5-4 but if you were one of the 11,000 or so in attendance that night you were reward with a one of a kind evening with great fans.
The fans in Winnipeg are equally as passionate. They love their team and support them in and out. They sold out their season ticket book, approximately 13,000 of the 15,004 seat MTS Centre in just under 79 hours. They have played to capacity all season and boast one of the most intimidating buildings to play in. MTS Centre is the smallest arena in the league and bring the fans close to the action. The Jets have enjoyed their home cooking so far. They are currently 11-5-0 at home and are 6-1-0 in their last seven. They are in the midst of playing 13 out of 15 at home and have climbed over NHL .500 in the process.
The come into tonight’s contest off an emotional 6-3 victory over the Anaheim Ducks. The game marked the return of the great Teemu Selanne to Winnipeg. He had a rookie record 132 points in 1992-93 and played with the team until 1996 when he was traded to the Mighty Ducks Of Anaheim. The fans welcomed him back with a long standing ovation before the game and continued to cheer him throughout. Winnipeg took advantage of a shaky outing by Ducks goalie Dan Ellis and were able to keep their emotions in check and take the two points.
The Islanders are getting key players back as the continue to try to find an identity. MacDonald’s return to the lineup solidifies a fragile back line and allows a partnership with Travis Hamonic, something that worked to great effect last season. Dylan Reese has held his own during his call up and deserves the increased playing time he has received late in games. Milan Jurcina has increased his physical presence the past 6-7 games and has been more proactive in the offensive area. He is still a 1 out of 5 to get the puck on net, but if he can continue to use his large frame to his advantage it can only bode well for the Mark Streit/Jurcina first defensemen paring.
Offensively challenged would be a kind statement to describe the Islanders play. There are last in goals scored with 69 and rely to heavily on the top line of Tavares, Moulson and Parenteau to produce. Secondary scoring needs to continue as a higher rate. Grabner, off a breakout season in 2010-11 looks to have lost a step and is not as confident in front of goal. The burst that allowed him to be so dangerous looks to be missing and his statistics have suffered. Josh Bailey and Kyle Okposo have both answered the bell and turned their games around 180 degrees in the past month. Okposo has been one of the hardest workers recently along the boards and in the dirty areas. Bailey has went from a passenger to a leader on his line. He is also received penalty kill time with Matt Martin and has been tremendous in the role.
Tonight’s game is another road challenge for the Islanders. A confident team playing great hockey in their arena will be a great litmus test for this team. Was Saturday a fluke, or can this team put that effort out game in and game out? Not confident about this game as the Jets have put together a run of great hockey and feed off their crazed fans. Jets 5 Islanders 2.