Two National Anthems For The Price Of One! Islanders/Canadiens Preview
The New York Islanders can take a lot of positives out of their last game against the New York Rangers.
Unfortunately, two points wasn't one of them.
The Islanders look for only their second win in 12 games as they welcome in the Montreal Canadiens to the visitor friendly Nassau Coliseum.
The Habs’ will play their second of back to back games. They dominated the Carolina Hurricanes last night 4-0 in Montreal. Carey Price made 25 saves for his first shutout of the season and P.K Subban had a two point night with a goal and an assist. The top line of Max Pacioretty, Eric Cole and David Desharnais were a combined +3 and each contributed an assist. Recently, like their opponens Thursday night, the top line has been the primary contributor on the scoresheet.
Montreal will likely dress three rookie defensemen Thursday Night. Hal Gill and Jaroslav Spacek are both nursing minor injuries and did not dress against Carolina. Frederic St-Denis had an assist and two minor penalties in his NHL debut. Even with the lack of experience, the Habs were able to shut down a high powered offense that recently scored five goals against the stingy Pittsburgh Penguins.
The Islanders come in to Thursday’s game with a streak that nearly mirrors last season’s futility. They have one win in their last 11 games, (which was last Saturday against the Washington Captials), and have seen a 3-1-0 start to the season become a last place 4-8-3.
Scoring goals has been the main issue for the Isles. They have a league low 31 goals scored. In nearly every offensive category, they rank near or at the bottom. As a team they are a minus -75. John Tavares, Matt Moulson and Michael Grabner have 18 of the teams 31 goals this season. Secondary scoring is few and far between. Kyle Okposo, Blake Comeau and Josh Bailey have a combined 1 goal and a minus -19. Comeau is coming of a career high 24 goals in 2010-11. Okposo was a healthy scratch against the Rangers and hasn’t looked like the player he was prior to having right shoulder surgery last season. Bailey finally ended his scoreless streak against Colorado last Thursday, but his botched clearing attempt late in the game against the Rangers led to Brad Richards game winning goal.
The goaltending has been quietly solid. You never know who will be in goal each game, but the trio of Al Montoya, Evgeni Nabokov, and Rick Dipitero have kept the Isles in most games. Nabokov nearly stole them a point against the Rangers. For nearly three straight minutes he stood on his head as the Rangers worked on a 5-on-3 power play at the end of the second period, and a subsequent 5-on-4 to begin the third. This was a huge momentum shift in the game and led to Moulson being able to bring the Isles score at 2 on their own power play.
Expect a different goalie Thursday, knowing Jack Capuano.
Time is running out for the Islanders. I know it’s only November but the gap continues to increase with each loss. I hate using the term ‘must win’ but this is as close as it gets. They welcome in an inconsistent Montreal Canadiens team coming off a game last night. Expect to see back up Peter Budaj in goal for the Habs. Normally, this would benefit a team, but for whatever reason any goalie that plays against the Isles’ this year becomes Patrick Roy for a night.
This is a winnable game for the Isles. They will need to take advantage of the inexperience on defense and take their chances on the power play. It’s one of the wonders of the world why their power play always looks so discombobulated. It’s time for Matt Martin to be utilized as a screen in front of the opposing goaltending. Tomas Holmstrom has made a career out of screening the goalie and scoring dirty goals. The Islanders want clean pretty goals. Martin needs to score those dirty goals off of rebounds from the point and cause havoc and attention to himself. This will allow Brian Rolston and Mark Streit to be better utilized on the power play. Shots from the point with no traffic in front are easy picking for the goalie.
I want to see Rick Dipitero in goal against the Habs. If Nabokov is being shopped, we need to know how much/if Rick can contribute this season and beyond. He is signed for a vey long time, 2021 in fact. Playing once a week is not helping any goalie get a rhythm and could be a reason for the recent slide, even though they are playing well. No other team is rotating like this. Nashville knows 60-65 games a year that Pekka Rinne will be in goal, period. Carey Price will play 60-65 games for the Canadiens. Knowing you have ‘the guy' is really important to a team, professional or not. The merry-go-round was a fun ride in the beginning but when you go upside down and lose your lunch, you want to get off the ride as soon as possible.
My last gripe tonight is about our arena. This isn’t another ‘We need a new arena..etc’ I want to go to a home game and actually have a home crowd. My wife and I have season tickets for the Islanders and try to make every game. Two nights ago we were especially pumped for the rivalry game against the hated New York Rangers. After sitting in bumper to bumper traffic for nearly an hour, we arrived at the game and went to our seats in 102x. After starting lineups were announced, the National Anthem was about to commence. As everyone stood up I saw a sea of blue jerseys, not an Islanders in sight. It’s sad that at a home game, visiting fans made up 75% of the crowd.
I don’t blame Rangers fans for buying tickets. I blame Islander fans for selling their season tickets to Rangers fan and not supporting the team. I know we are second fiddle in New York, and I’m ok with that, but it’s a disgrace that the loudest the building has been all season was Sean Avery scoring the first goal for the visiting New York Rangers. Fans complain about the arena, the team, the owner. If you are such a fan of the New York Islanders, show up to the NVMC and root root root for the home team. They practically are giving away tickets and fans still don’t attend any games. They may not win, but it’s a shame to be a visitor in your own arena.
I was confident going into the Rangers game and thought the game would be tight and the Islanders would steal it 4-2. My score was correct, the team sadly for the 3,000 or so Islanders fans at MSG 2 last night, was incorrect. I worry about a Rangers hangover, even though they lost. If Kyle Okposo is in the lineup, expect a different player Thursday Night and a stronger team. Islanders 4 Canadiens 3.