Isles Younger Players Continue To Emerge
Anytime you win a game against an opponent by the score of 6-0, you will obviously have plenty of positives to talk about, but the most important part of this Isles win is that the younger players are owning the score sheet.
Chris Osgood was forced to return in net at the Nassau Coliseum last night. He heard a few cheers from the crowd that remember him from his brief stint on Long Island, but that of course did not prevent the fans from treating him like any other goaltender with the "You Suck!" chants from behind the glass.
The crowd also gave Kenny Jonsson a nice ovation as well, honoring him as one of the best defenseman to ever play for the Islanders. I caught him walking around the rink after the game on my way out of the arena. He was stopping to talk to a few fans and even took a picture with one of the security guards, acknowledging that it's always great to be back at his former building.
As far as the production on the ice, the Islanders probably played the best 60 minutes of hockey that they have all season. "This by far this year was our best 60 minute performance," said a smiling Scott Gordon during the post-game interview.
The goals came from Moulson, Okposo, Gervais, Streit and Schremp, who scored two. Bailey continued his point streak with a pair of assists, and KO's goal was his fourth in the past four games. This is exactly what this team needed after coming home from their road trip heading into the second half of the season.
Spoken like a true leader, Streit now has two goals in his passed two games as well, and I had a moment to talk to him about getting back on track offensively. But he wasn't so much concerned with himself as he was with the rest of the team:
"Until now it felt a little bit like a roller coaster, we had great games and then the next game was kind of like the opposite. But I mean it's important for the young guys, the forwards. If they score a couple goals and play with more confidence it's just like night and day. They hang on to the puck, they try to make plays, they feel more comfortable, they make the right decisions at the right moment. Once one puck goes in, then a second one...Josh Bailey, Okposo, JT...all the guys they feel just more comfortable and having the confidence makes a huge difference."
It's evident that Streit sees each game through a bigger lens than just putting himself under the microscope. If this team is to be competitive, the guys he referred to need to contribute.
Robbie Schremp seems to finally feel comfortable in an Islanders uniform as well. He's playing the best hockey he's played all year, and probably in his NHL career. He created the opportunity for his second goal of the game, forcing the defenseman to turn the puck over along the boards before displaying a flashy move on the heels of his skates that brought fans free chili at Wendy's. "It's just been a matter of opportunity. I've gotten a chance to get on the ice and play," said Schremp. "I wanna make sure that I can prove that I can be here and play. It's all opportunity really, I don't think my game has changed much, I'm just on the ice more."
I didn't hear anyone else ask him, so I had to before he finished getting undressed. I wanted to know if he scored a hat trick if a crazy celebration was planned since he might be rivaling Ovechkin for the best celebration award after each goal. He let out a laugh and said, "I didn't know what I was going to do, I didn't really think about it, but I'm sure I would have done something for the crowd."
Bailey played on the wing last night next to Tavares and Okposo. It's a move that Gordon started a few game back, interrupting the nature of Bailey's usual center position. I asked him if he wanted to move back at some point but he seems very comfortable for the time being. "It's not my decision. I'm pretty happy on the wing right now. I feel like I've found a home there and hopefully I'll just keep riding that train for a while now, as long as I can." Josh currently has 13 points in his last 7 games played with four goals and nine assists.
With the playoffs still in sight, the youth movement is making a strong push to end the season better than expected. With the younger guys continuing to blossom into the players they are supposed to be, each game has been that much more fun to watch. No matter the opponent, the Islanders continue to prove that they are capable of winning and being successful with this roster.
Keep in mind, this does not mean that I think this team is playoff bound. My original prediction was for the team to play this well at this point of the season, but probably fall in the 12th or 13th slot in the East when it's all said and done. But who knows? A healthy Ricky playing with rollin' Roloson may make all the difference.
They will have a better chance to prove themselves when they host the Buffalo Sabres this Saturday.
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