Wednesday, March 16, 2011

NHL Game Recap: Controversy Aplenty as Isles Fall to Rangers 6-3 at MSG

John Tavares and the New York Islanders would probably like to soon forget what happened at Madison Square Garden this evening.

The Isles have become accustomed to poor officiating, and following last Saturday night's Stephane Auger debacle, the referees in this game kept the trend alive.

It's unfathomable how little respect this franchise receives, and on how many fronts.

The press can't get enough of the idea that the Isles are better off playing in Winnepeg or Hamilton, players view the team as a complete joke and the NHL has been rather harsh with the players who wear the blue and orange.

Obviously, this attitude has a trickle-down effect, and the league's referees have essentially given the idea a "thumbs up."

Entering tonight's game with a sense of excitement and a positive vibe, the Islanders had that optimism yanked from under them, coming up flat in the first period and giving up 21 shots, the most they've allowed in a first period all season long.

The Rangers capitalized, scoring two goals and jumping ahead 2-0.

At the start of the second period, John Tavares decided that enough was enough, personally setting up two quick goals, just two minutes into the second frame.

First, Tavares circled behind the net and fired a gorgeous no-look pass back to Jack Hillen, who took a shot that hit Matt Moulson on the way into the net.

It was Moulson's 30th goal of the season, making him the first Islander with consecutive 30-goal campaigns since Mariusz Czerkawski.

Then, JT found a cutting P.A. Parenteau and sent him an excellent feed right in front of the net. Henrik Lundqvist couldn't make it across in time, and the puck crossed the goal line for Parenteau's 17th tally of the season.

Unfortunately, it was all downhill from that moment on.

The Islanders ran into penalty trouble all game long, most of the calls being of the questionable variety.

Of course, the Blueshirts were simultaneously benefiting from non-calls. Sean Avery could have gotten away with a murder, had he decided to commit such an act tonight.

With the Rangers already on the power play, Michael Grabner was called for a phantom tripping penalty, giving them a two-man advantage, which led to the tie-breaking goal.

From that point, the rout was on, as the Isles finished the second period trailing 5-2.

Al Montoya's night would end as soon as the second period buzzer sounded, as Nate Lawson entered the net for the start of the third.

I really felt that Capuano should have kept Montoya in the game. You can't really fault him for the sequence of events that transpired in tonight's contest. I thought he was one of the best players on the ice for the Isles, especially considering the amount of shots he had to face.

There's probably only one goal he should have stopped, and even then, you could make the case that Bruno Gervais left his man all alone on the opposite side of the net, leading to what was probably the easiest goal Ryan Callahan will ever score in his career.

Marian Gaborik had two goals in this game, notching his second marker on a breakaway, the only goal Lawson would give up.

I truly felt that by starting Lawson for the final 20 minutes, the Islanders were waving the white flag and announcing their unconditional surrender.

Bryan McCabe netted his first goal on Broadway, and how fitting that it came against his former club.

The defense was absolutely horrendous tonight, as many players who usually have strong games were virtually ineffective. Andrew MacDonald and Travis Hamonic were practically invisible in this game, though Hamonic did confirm his existence towards the end of the third period, when he got involved in a scrum and somehow managed to earn a double-minor.

We can blame the referees all we want, and don't get me wrong, it's absolutely justified.

However, as @BCISLEMAN pointed out, you can't completely blame officiating for a loss and to a certain extent, I definitely agree.

You can't directly blame the officiating for a loss, but one conclusion you could make about the referees, is that they have the ability to swing the momentum drastically, from one team to the other.

After the Isles fought back to tie the game, they were on a high. Everything was going right, but once the whistles came to life, the Islanders found themselves on the receiving end of a series of poor calls.

These young Islanders have shown that they can succeed in the face of such adversity, but sometimes the situation just reaches a boiling point.

When you're spending so much time worrying about potentially doing something "wrong," it's nearly impossible to focus on offense, which is exactly what the Isles needed to do after falling behind on the scoreboard.

Psychologically, they simply were not prepared for this.

I thought that was extremely apparent just seeing the way Islander defensemen were lying back instead of aggressively pursuing Ranger puck-carriers tonight.

Additionally, you can't establish a fore-check if all that occupies your mind is the thought of being sent to the penalty box.

Despite all the negative aspects of tonight's matchup, I thought the team certainly showed some heart toward the end of that game.

John Tavares capped off yet another fantastic offensive performance, scoring his 26th goal of the season and becoming the youngest player in Islanders history to reach 50 career tallies.

Matt Martin got involved with his fists, and there was lots of pushing and shoving in the final two minutes of regulation, as the Isles would not go down without a fight.

If the New York Islanders want respect, they need to go out there and earn it.

This team does not have Sidney Crosby or Zdeno Chara, and the NHL does not view this franchise as a serious contender.

I truly believe that the Isles are a stronger team after tonight simply because it is now clear what must be done to reverse all this.

Should the Islanders continue to blossom, it won't be long before the National Hockey League, its governors, officials and fans will have no choice but to respect them.

And when the Isles finally get the courtesy they deserve, it will be because they silenced their critics and became a winning hockey team.

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