Islanders Look For A Windy City Win!
The Islanders last visit to Chicago is one game they would like to forget.
Their past two road games, however, are something to build on.
Winners of two straight road games against the New Jersey Devils and the Buffalo Sabres, the Isles’ come into Chicago with careful optimism and a red hot goaltender.
Al Montoya has been the backbone for the Islanders during this stretch of solid play. He stopped 24 shots against the Devils on Saturday Afternoon and stole two points on Tuesday night making 30 saves, including a highlight reel glove save on Derek Roy as the Sabres, on a 5 on 3 power play, stormed the goal looking for the tying goal. He is 4-3-1 with a 2.01 GAA and will be making his third consecutive start. The game also marks a homecoming for the Chicago native and his first career game against his hometown team.
The Isles’ continue to have anemic offensive production. They are 30th (last) in goal scored and have no player with double digit goal production. They have been proactive getting pucks to the ‘net, but most rebound opportunities have been cleared away or not taken advantage of. John Tavares started off the season on a tear, but has not scored since November 5th against Washington. In his last 11 games he has zero goals and four assists. Michael Grabner is getting opportunities aplenty, but like the rest of the team, not enough have been put into the back of the net.
While the Isles’ struggle putting the pucks in the ‘net, their opponents struggle keeping pucks out. The Chicago Blackhawks are coming off one of their worst efforts of the season. A 4-1 home loss to Phoenix, in which, a late garbage time goal helped them avoid being shutout. Starting goaltender Corey Crawford was pulled in the third period and hasn’t been all that reliable this season. He comes into tonight’s start with a 11-7-2 record, a 2.86 GAA, and a .898 save percentage. His record is a byproduct of playing on a good team with a great offense. If their is a sophomore slump in hockey, he is having one.
For all their goaltending issues, the Blackhawks are blessed with a wide array of scoring options. Jonathan Toews leads the team with 13 goals and 12 assists playing to a +8. The Patrick Kane ‘experiment’ appears to be over. He will return to his natural position, right wing, just in time for the Islanders. Their top line also includes Viktor Stalberg, who has five goals this season. Patrick Sharp and Marian Hossa are both strong offensive weapons for a team that averages a goal and a half more per game than the Islanders.
Duncan Keith anchors an offensive minded defensive unit. The Islanders top line will see a lot of Keith and 20 year old Nick Laddy. Keith has averaged over 26:00 total ice time in his past five games while Laddy is averaging a little over 23:00.
Getting a win tonight will give the Isles’ some real credibility and that ‘big win’ against a great opponent. Al Montoya will likely being under siege all evening. The first 8-10 minutes will be crucial. If Montoya can control his emotions playing in front of family and friends and continue to the backbone we’ve come to expect, the Islanders will gain confidence with each passing second. Their will be opportunities to score tonight, Chicago isn’t a shutdown team like a New Jersey or Pittsburgh. Getting chances and putting chances in the back of the net are way separates a 14-8-3 team from a 7-11-4 team. We’ll see tonight which one we are.
Feeling good about tonight, Chicago is in a big of a rut, Isles’ look like a confident team again. 4-3 overtime win on a Michael Grabner special!!! See you soon!