Tuesday, November 8, 2011

BOS 6, NYI 2: After Abysmal Defensive Effort Dooms Isles, Time to Change Things Up

Last night, the New York Islanders played a game they'll want to soon forget, as the Boston Bruins scored early, and often, knocking out the Isles by a 6-2 margin.

Hockey is a two-way sport, and right now the Islanders haven't shown any sort of consistency in that department. The only thing that's been consistent is their defensive play, and for all the wrong reasons.

I said it before the season started and I'll say it again: There is not enough depth on the Isles' blueline.

Say what you will about the Islanders' winning record with Milan Jurcina in the lineup, or the fact that Mike Mottau's a Hobey Baker Award winner and how Mark Eaton has his name on the Stanley Cup.

Those are meaningless details in this case. Jurcina's situation is a mere coincidence, plenty of subpar skaters have won the Cup, and it wouldn't be the first time a Hobey Baker winner's gone on to have a mediocre NHL career.

Other than Mark Streit, Travis Hamonic and Andrew MacDonald, there aren't any real quality rearguards on this team, and that's been evident from the outset. The way the depth chart reads, the Isles were headed for disaster from the drop of the puck against Florida on opening night.

I will say that Steve Staios has been solid, and if you're still harping on his miscue that led to one of the Bruin goals last night, remember that if not for Staios, the score could've been 8-1. (His point shot lead to one of the islander goals, and he had two key defensive plays that prevented Boston from lighting the lamp on both occasions.

This team needs a shakeup. Maybe it's time to call up Ty Wishart and, the guy I've been screaming for since the get-go, Calvin de Haan from Bridgeport. The Islanders have absolutely nothing to lose by doing so.

De Haan would certainly help the powerplay, which has been struggling recently and has failed to convert over the last couple of games. I also don't read much into his slow start with the Sound Tigers this season: That's more a product of the relatively-slow start his team's gotten off to. He also impressed me during training camp and, more importantly, against NHL-calibre talent during the Isles' exhibition games.

Wishart would add some much-needed size and grit to the Isles' defense.

Of course, the other option would be to actually make a trade, preferably involving Josh Bailey and/or Blake Comeau, for a defenseman. It would have to be packaged correctly, but I believe there's a move to be made if GM Garth Snow aggressively pursues it.

But I digress...back to the game.

Nathan Horton scored twice, the red-hot Tyler Seguin potted his eighth, and Milan Lucic, Benoit Pouliot and David Krecji (empty netter) found the back of the net for Boston, which has won two in a row and appears to have put their disappointing start behind them.

If you're pointing your finger at Evgeni Nabokov, you're blaming the wrong guy. Thank the Isles' defense who left the front of the net WIDE open the entire game, let alone that first period. Sure, Nabby could've probably stopped that first shot, but where was the communication between Eaton and Jurcina? 

This wasn't the goaltender's fault, it was a complete and utter disregard for the fundamentals of defensive play. Eaton shouldn't have been standing where he was, and should've been in perfect position to receive Jurcina's pass and then clear the zone. 

Instead, the puck came out right in front of Nabokov to Pouliot, who was more than happy to jump on that loose puck for his first goal of the season. 

Off the very next faceoff, Matt Martin dropped the gloves and tussled with Boston's Adam McQuiad, in an effort to spark his teammates. It worked, at least initially, as Matt Moulson responded with a goal of his own to tie the game.

Unfortunately for the Islanders, a questionable (to say the least) cross-checking call by referee Stephane Auger sent Travis Hamonic to the box and Boston to the powerplay.

On the ensuing man-advantage, Nathan Horton converted on a gorgeous passing play by the Bruins, I don't necessarily fault the Islanders for that one, though the PK unit failed to take away any passing or shooting lanes. At the end of the day, it was a perfectly executed play, and Nabokov was just trying to steer the puck away because the defense sure as hell wasn't going to.

It doesn't help when John Tavares lets his man, Seguin, blow right by him in the slot for an absolute gimme, either.

Nabokov was subsequently removed from the game, not that it was his fault the Islanders decided to take the night off in their own zone. Al Montoya was incredibly sharp in relief, and, despite being hung out to dry by the defense, made 22 saves.

Offense was not the problem last night, nor has it been over the last couple of games, especially since head coach Jack Capuano changed up the forward lines. Matt Moulson and Michael Grabner broke out of their respective slumps, notching a goal apiece in the losing effort.

The first goal was vintage Moulson, a pinpoint deflection of Steve Staios' point shot, that beat B's goaltender Tuukka Rask to tie the game, 1-1. Grabner's tally came exactly the way the coaching staff envisioned it would, as Grabs picked up an excellent pass from John Tavares and then wired a wrist shot upstairs.

Moulson and Grabner each finished with two points (one goal, one assist). Tavares' helper was his fifth, giving him 13 points in 12 games this season. He also had five shots in this game.

Another rare, but noteworthy positive for the Islanders last night was that, for the most part, they stayed out of the penalty box and didn't take dumb penalties.

But when given the opportunity to make good on their opponent's lack of discipline, New York failed to do so, going 0-for-4 on the powerplay.

The Islanders have to put this game behind them, but at the same token, there's a lot to be learned from it.

It's not time to panic, the season's not over yet and there's still plenty of time to turn things around. But that has to start right now, not after the All-Star break.

Comments are welcome.


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