If anyone has been reading as of late, I have been very upset with the way things are going on this road trip. Upset to the point that I decided to take a break from live game blogs last night because of the late start, my frustration and the fact I had hockey last night right before the game. I wasn’t anticipating a good game or even being able to stay awake throughout it. I don’t regret my decision as it seems that good play from the Islanders comes as often as the drips of a leaky faucet – sometimes it’s really leaky and sometimes you barely see any leak at all.
Where can you begin to break down what went wrong, when there are so many different things to talk about? For one – penalties, the Islanders were shorthanded a mind numbing 7 times. If anyone is wondering how the Islanders can be in 6th place in penalty killing, it’s easy when you only let in one power play goal a game – it’s fairly simple math. Despite their prowess while down a man, I would prefer that the team never puts itself in that type of position to begin with.
The causes of the penalties are fairly easy to summarize also – the Islanders cannot keep up with the quick style of play that western conference teams are known for. However, speed (in the Isles case the lack of speed) is only part of the problem. The Islanders have been horrendous in their own end the past several games and penalties have been taken out of desperation by the d-men. There are only so many times where you can justify hauling a man down or hooking an arm to save a goal – but looking at the stats from last night, Islanders defensemen were penalized four times (Sutton twice, Campoli and Witt). In order to support the continuing outstanding play of DiPietro, he needs his d-men to play smart positional hockey. Angle the men to the outside and keep the shots coming from the perimeter – much like every team thus far has been able to do against them. Screen are another thing that have been occurring lately – I would venture to say that 4 goals on this road trip were the direct result of DiPietro having absolutely no view of the shot because of a screen by his own man. This goes back to playing sound positional hockey – it’s not all that difficult to spot.
The forecheck has also become a dirty word all of a sudden, because I barely see one. It always reminds me of the Steve Stirling years when the current team fires the puck in and around the boards and fails to set up a forecheck. Sometimes they get lucky and capitalize off a low percentage play like with Comeau’s goal last night, but for the most part they need to get set in the zone and establish some kind of pressure. Passes have gone to the opposition and it has lead to odd-man rushes – sometimes on the same shift!
I would like to start to see the team take the body more – get in deep and pound the opposition into the boards. Make them pay for touching the puck – keep constant pressure on them and you can capitalize on their mistakes just like everyone else does to us. Cycle the puck, but skate – too many times I see the puck cycled and nobody drives to the corner or makes any attempt to get open and over skates the puck. I don’t know if everyone stopped talking on the ice or what, but it seems that they let their opposition dictate what to do and where to go – you cannot win hockey games like that.
I know for a fact that the coaches watched tape from the Edmonton game – one thing I hope they noticed is the positional play of Edmonton. At one point in the third period, they had a box keeping every islanders shot and pass to the perimeter. It almost looked like a penalty kill – except for the 3rd forward skating around and forcing an Islander forward to make a quick decision. I just wish the coaching staff would learn from their opponents sometimes or at least make adjustments to break the oppositions game. Vancouver also did a good job at keeping shots from the outside, but there were times the Islanders could break through and gain the front of the net.
I really hate being negative, I do – I even deleted a bunch of stuff from the Edmonton post the other night because I was embarrassed. The purpose of this blog isn’t to berate the play of the team – but I do like to be critical when I can. For those reading, I know I couldn’t do a better job than the Islanders coaching staff, but as a player – it is just as frustrating watching what happens as it would had I been a member of the team.
Shootout wasn’t anything spectacular either, DP was looking good until our old friend Linden out-schooled Ricky and placed a perfect shot over his pad. Satan answered with a goal that undressed Luongo – Satan was the only shooter to get the `Nucks goalie moving. In the end, Vancouver d-man Alex Elder ended the shootout with a timely shot that beat DiPietro for the win. Who knew defense would come back to haunt the Islanders…..no matter what?
Regardless of all the negatives from last night, the DiPietro flat out stole a point for the Isles. The point moves us into a tie with the cross-town New York Rangers for 8th place, although we jump ahead of them to 4th in the Division and the Conference standings because we have played less games.
In case you were wondering how I knew so much about last night’s game – I caught the first period, parts of the second through a nap and then I watched the rest from bed as I was fighting fluttering eyes. Once Comeau scored, I manged to wake up and watch till the final shootout attempt. So much for taking a break.
Other blogs with reactions and recaps of the recent woes on the road trip: