Islanders Look To Avoid Capital Punishment - Isles/Caps Pre-Game
Somebody had a case of the Mondays.
The New York Islanders, at least, will have a quick turnaround after one of their worst performance’s of the season. After a dismal 3-1 loss to the Nashville Predators, the
Islanders travel to the nation’s capital to play the red hot Washington Capitals.
Washington, winners of seven straight at the Verizon Center, come into the contest off a 2-1 home victory over the Carolina Hurricanes. They haven’t trailed in a game at home since December 13th. In 22 games since Bruce Boudreau was replaced by Dale Hunter, the Capitals have gone 12-9-1 playing themselves into a 1st place tie with the Florida Panthers in the Southeast Division.
Tomas Vokoun, in his ninth consecutive start for Washington, stole the show in Sunday’s victory with a season-high 43 saves. In his first season with the Capitals, Vokoun is 19-10-0 with a 2.52 Goals-Against and 9.20 Save Percentage. He was signed to a 1yr 1.5 million contract during the offseason to give the team a veteran presence they lacked during their playoff runs the past two seasons.
The Islanders, on the other hand, come to D.C. off a disappointing effort on Monday Afternoon. Kevin Poulin got a spot start to give Evgeni Nabokov a game off after starting the previous 11. On the first shot of the game, Sergei Kostitsyn snapped a wrist shot over the glove of Poulin to give the Preds an early 1-0 lead just 2:17 in. Kostitsyn’s goal set an NHL record in first-shot futility for the Isles. It was the 9th game this season that the first goal found the back of the net. The second shot the Predators put on goal went in too. Nashville completed the tri-fecta of 1st period goals as Predators lifer David Legwand took a pass from Martin Erat and slid the puck past Poulin for a 3-0 advantage. The second period saw the Islanders put 19 shots at Pekka Rinne, including a slew of tremendous chances on a 1:10 5-on-3 advantage. John Tavares had the Isles lone goal with 3:58 remaining in the third period to ruin Rinne’s bid at a shutout. It was Tavares’s ninth consecutive game with a point, currently the best active streak and just two behind Boston’s David Krejci’s 11 game streak that ended moments ago in Florida.
In their only meeting this season, the Islanders came back from a two-goal deficit and snapped their six game (0-4-2) losing streak with a 5-3 victory over the Capitals.. Alex Ovechkin and Joel Ward scored first period goals for Washington. Frans Nielsen, Brian Rolston, Matt Martin, P.A Parenteau and John Tavares all had goals for the Isles. Injured goaltender Rick DiPietro made 24 saves for his first win of the season.
Tonight’s game pits two teams going in opposite directions. Washington, although now in second place after Florida lost in shoot-out to the Bruins, have found their legs under Dale Hunter. The Verizon Center is one of the best home advantages in the league and they play a completely different way in that building. Even with their improved play, they will be playing without two of their top players. Oft-injured Mike Green will miss 4-to-6 weeks after undergoing abdominal surgery. Capitals leader in points Nicklas Backstrom will also be out of the lineup. He has been on injured reserve since January 4th with a head injury. In 38 games before his injury he had 42 points (13 goals, 29 assists), well on pace to over a point-per-game production. Alex Ovechkin had struggled with consistency all season and losing his line-mate hasn’t helped his production. He has only scored 1 goal in the past six games without Backstrom centering his line. Tomas Vokoun has had some good success in his career against the Isles and will likely be in goal Tuesday. In 21 career starts he is 14-6-0 with a 2.07 goals-against. He was in goal in the teams last meeting and had one of his poorest efforts of the season yielding four goals, most of them of the soft variety.
For the first time all season, I left an Islanders game early. I am honestly an opponent of the weekday afternoon games on a holiday weekend. I know they have these games for families and the like, but comparing the arena to a library wouldn’t be an overstretch in the slightest for these games. I know that they played terrible on Monday and the crowd had little to cheer about but, it doesn’t diminish the fact that these games are terrible for die-hard fans and players alike. The Islanders looked like they thought the game started at 7pm, as well it should have. The crowd was announced at 10,765, 2000+ less than against Detroit on a random Tuesday night. Maybe Nashville isn’t the sexiest team but coming off a huge win on Saturday, the crowd Monday was terrible. Play games at times that the real fans can make it to. I do enjoy the future hockey fans of America getting a chance to enjoy the game, but there are 20+ weekends they can fit these games on. My wife and I spent a considerable amount of money to have season tickets and having these games at times that not EVERYONE is off of work is honestly frustrating. Play these family friendly games on the weekends, I have no qualms there.
As far as the game itself, what a waste of time. We could have all went home after the second Predators goal five minutes in. They weren’t scoring three goals if they played three games today against that team. I know the stats say 37 shots went at Pekka Rinne, I counted maybe 4 or 5 decent ones that could have beaten an NHL goaltender. While Rinne was the best goaltender I’ve seen all season, Kevin Poulin is still a while away from being NHL ready. I was completely on board with seeing him on Tuesday after he had the week of his life in Bridgeport, but after a week of not playing he looked like a 21 year old kid that was out too late on the holiday weekend and went to work anyway. NHL goaltenders have to stop the first two shots he faced that day. The defense didn’t do him any favors on either goal, but both shots weren’t screened or truly difficult to navigate. He did, however, find his legs in the second and third periods which was promising. After the game, Poulin was sent back to Bridgeport as Al Montoya looks ready to make his return to the Islanders Tuesday night.
This home-stand was a real opportunity to gain some traction into the stretch before the All-star break. 2-2 is not good enough for a team that up to that point was looking to get near one of the last playoff spots. I think it’s time to see some of the future going forward. David Ullstrom should be here when he is back into playing shape and if Brian Rolston and Tim Wallace never play another shift for the Islanders this blogger would be beyond thrilled. Wallace is a good depth player that has been exposed as such during his extended stay on the Island. Rolston, on the other hand, has contributed nothing on the ice bust frustration for the fans. If Nino is the player they expect him to be, he needs to be on a line with NHL caliber players, straight up. I am tired of hearing about the past 40 years, I want to know what is happening now and in the future.
Prediction for tonight... .5-2 Capitals.