Home Ice "Leaf"vantage - Maple Leafs 3 Islanders 0

The New York Islanders traveled to Toronto in search of two points and momentum going into Tuesday's rematch on Long Island. Matthew Lomabardi and the rest of the Maple Leafs had other ideas. Lombardi scored two goals and Jonas Gustavsson made 25 saves for his third shutout as the Toronto Maple Leafs coasted past the Isles 3-0 Monday night.

Toronto won for only the second time in six games. With the victory, the Leafs move into a tie for the 8th and final playoff spot with Washington. Both teams are on 53 points.

 

The Islanders placed utmost importance on the home-and-home series as they looked towards getting to NHL .500 at the All-Star break. Within 120 seconds, the Isles were on the backfoot as  Lombardi’s shot from the slot deflected off Mark Streit in front and squeaked past Evgeni Nabokov. The goal was initialy credited to Nazem Kadri, but was later changed to Lombardi. Toronto continued to pressure the Isles defense, but were unable to add to their lead after the first period. The Isles were badly outshot 16-5 in the first. A telling stat of how the period went was on the Leafs only power-play of the period, they registered 6 shots on goal, 1 more than the entire period output from the Islanders.

 

The game was in the balance well into the third period. With the Islanders pressing for an equalizer, Joffrey Lupul took advantage of two Isles forwards pinched in the offensive  zone and found a streaking Phil Kessel who banged the rebound home for a 2-0 Leafs advantage. It was Kessel’s 26th goal of the season. Lombardi scored his second goal of the game at 16:21 of the third period on a wrist shot from just inside the right circle. 

 

For the eighth time this season the Islanders were shutout. Tonight also ended the 12-game point scoring streak for John Tavares. He was relatively held in check in 21:21 of ice time.

 

Evgeni Nabokov started his fourth straight game for the Islanders and made 32 saves. 

 

Madonia Minute

 

UGH....

 

To say this type of game was expected would be an understatement. Whenever a big game occurs for this team, this is the type of effort you seem to get. They played with no compete level in the first period and never seemed to get into the game itself. John Tavares can’t play by himself, his line-mates tonight, especially Matt Moulson, did not show enough in the tight areas that you need to be successful in this type of game. 

 

If Nino is going to be the player they though they drafted with the 5th overall pick, he needs to play. They are obviously trying to not ‘bailey-fy’ him by not over-exposing him, but playing on a line with an over the hill defensive forward and an AHL lifer isn’t the type of talent he needs to be around. He has to find a role on the Bailey line with Matt Martin. Brian Rolston does absolutely nothing and has regressed Bailey and Martin tremendously since the switch with Grabner.

 

When Grabner played on their line, they created chances while playing with confidence. Watch how Martin and Bailey play on the penalty kill. They play with confidence and have become the go-to line on the kill. When they are saddled with Rolston, they barely create chances in the offensive zone and seem to spend their shifts playing defense. Rolston might have some locker room usage I am not privy too, but from what we see on the ice, he does not help this team. If he has to be here because of cap-related reasons they put him on the fourth line and have him play 5-7 minutes a game. He hasn’t earned the ice time this season and continues to lap it up. He played 13:40 tonight, while Nino played a team-low 7:26. If the plan this season was to play him seven minutes a game, he should have played another season in juniors.

 

Toronto came to play tonight. Say what you will about Dion Phaneuf, he is a fantastic shut-down defensemen. You can count on one finger how many clear cut chances the Islanders had when he was on the ice. Their other shutdown defensemen Jake Gardiner really impressed me tonight as well. He looked solid all night against the Tavares and Nielsen line throughout and contributed offensively with an assist on Lombardi’s first goal.

 

Tomorrow means far less than it would have if the Islanders would have stole the game in Toronto. It’s always good to go into the break with a victory. If the same effort is shown tomorrow night, you can guarantee a similar result.

 

Final Thought

 

For all the excitement after Saturday’s victory over Carolina, tonight is the exact opposite. I’d rather lose a 4-3 game that you felt could go either way. Tonight was difficult to watch and really showed how far away the Islanders really are. I personally didn’t think they had a shot in the world tonight, even before the game started. Toronto is one of the teams the Islanders have trouble playing against. That being said, tomorrow night is their season. A win gives you another week to see what happened, another loss and it’s time for 2013. This hasn’t been the first time I have said ‘this is a big game’ but this one is it for them. Two points or bust.

 

-John Madonia