Winging the Lottery- Isles/Red Wings Pre-Game
Detroit Red Wings Goaltender Jimmy Howard has 99 career wins in his young National Hockey League career.
He will look for number 100 against the New York Islanders.
Easier said than done.
The New York Islanders have won three consecutive games against Howard and the Red Wings. In their last meeting on December 31, 2010, a 4-3 overtime win for the Isles, P.A Parenteau scored the game-winning power-play goal in the extra session.
Even with the recent success against the Wings, the 2011-12 Islanders are fading quickly in a tightly contested Eastern Conference. Their most recent road trip started out with a dramatic shoot-out victory in Carolina, followed up by a listless third period in a 4-2 loss at Anaheim and a 5-1 drubbing by the Phoenix Coyotes that saw Shane Doan collect his first hat trick in 1160 career games. Evgeni Nabokov started his 9th straight game for the Isles and took the loss. He allowed five goals, including the 3rd goal by Doan with 0.1 left on the clock. He will likely get a welcome rest shortly as Kevin Poulin will probably be in goal tonight and Al Montoya looks close to returning from a concussion. Poulin has started one game this season for the Isles, a 3-2 home loss December 15th against Dallas. He started off slow this season as he returned from a knee injury but during a week of trials and tribulations for the Islanders, he had the best week of his young career.
Poulin collected three consecutive shutouts and was named AHL player of the week. Partially due to that success, he was called up on a emergency basis and will take the place of Anders Nilsson. This likely means that workhorse Evgeni Nabokov will be in the back-up role Tuesday night. Good opportunity for him against a high powered offense. This move is two-fold; it allows the Islanders to give Nabokov a breather and bring in a red-hot goaltender that has played at the NHL level. The move also keeps Nabokov far away from the Wings. He has gone 8-17-2 with a 3.53 GAA in 29 games against Detroit, all as a San Jose Shark.
The Red Wings are currently in a three-way tie on top of the Central Divison. On Sunday Night, they defeated the Chicago Blackhawks 3-2 in overtime. Pavel Datsyuk scored the game-winning goal at 3:08 of overtime after shooting the puck off of Hawks defensemen Nick Leddy from a sharp angle. It was their fifth win in seven games bringing them to 26 wins on the season. The Wings enter Tuesday with an 11-12-0 record on the road versus a league best 15-2-1 mark at Home.
Players To Watch For:
Jimmy Howard- Howard would be on a very short list for the Mid-Season Vezina Award. His 24 wins lead the league and his GAA and SVP are all above his career bests. His confidence has grown with each passing game. A minor hiccup in Toronto will still be fresh on his mind and he will, on a personal level, be looking for that 100th win milestone. Think back to last season when the Wings were looking to bring in Nabokov to help their goaltending situation. What a difference a year and some confidence makes!
Niklas Lidstrom- The accolades speak for themselves. 4 Stanley Cups, 7 Norris Trophies, 11 All Star Games and the most important to him 19 seasons with only the Detroit Red Wings. A guaranteed first-ballot Hall-Of-Fame recipient and the best defensemen of his era. Watching a player that makes it looks so easy is worth the price of admission. His offensive numbers are down from last season, but he is a +18 and is on pace for 50 points.
Valtteri Flippula- The Red Wings have waited a long time for Flippula to reach his potential. This season has been a breakout year for the 27 year old from Finland. He’s tallied 14 goals this season and is on pace to shatter his career high in nearly every offensive category. He is always around the net and skates well. With each game he plays, coaches and fans alike continue to sing his praises. Just another piece to a very well put together puzzle in Detroit.
This started as a minute and I will try and keep it that way...no promises. I am truly conflicted on what I want to see from the team going forward. Their record stands at 14-19-6 good for 34 points and last place in the Eastern Conference. With all the pomp and circumstance surrounding the team this season a one win improvement (13-20-6) from last season just isn’t acceptable. Fans, myself included, expected this team to compete for a playoff spot in 2012. I went as far as guaranteeing a playoff appearance. 40 games in, I couldn’t be more wrong.
The four game home-stand brings four unique opponents to Long Island. Detroit, on paper, is the most difficult game of the four. I see it far differently. Detroit plays a wide-open style which leads to a lot of opportunities for both teams. The Islanders have to play 60 minutes to get the two points. If I coached this team I would have them watch the last meeting between the teams on Long Island over and over again. They played as close to a perfect game that night as you could. The game was 6-0 and it could have been worse. Forget what happened in Anaheim and Phoenix. No team will play 82 great games. There is absolutely no room for error, every game is a must win going forward.
This home-stand could be the last games for Jack Capuano if the results continue to be losses. Columbus, last place in the league and coming off a 7-4 massacre in Anaheim, fired their coach. He needs to have this team ready to go for 60 minutes, no matter what. The effort shown in Phoenix looked similar to what Scott Gordon dealt with during the tail end of his illustrious coaching tenure with the team. If the players aren’t buying into what he is selling, it's time to find someone that can instill a winning attitude. Ken Hitchcock inherited a 6-6-1 St. Louis team with no identity. They are currently tied with Detroit and Chicago for 1st place in the Central. Let Doug Weight help on the Power-Play and continue to groom him for a coaching opportunity down the road. The Islanders need a coach with fire and emotion to resurrect this sinking ship.
Losses to Phoenix and Anaheim made it apparent that the Islanders are not a playoff team in 2011-12. Four Wins at home this week might change my stance. The hole seems to deep to climb out of for this group of players. I want them to win every game but when is it time to look once again to the future. The next four games will give a clearer insight. My prediction is 4-2 Islanders. I have a strange feeling that there is one more unbelievable victory in this team.