Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Isles Fall to Rangers 3-0, Have Much to Learn From Crosstown Rivals

The New York Islanders might want to hold onto the film from last night's 3-0 loss.

I say this because the New York Rangers put on an absolute clinic in this game. You want to learn how to win hockey games? Just watch what these guys did, the way they blocked shots and played superb defense all night long.

The Rangers never lost their composure, even while being outshot 11-2 during the last ten minutes of the middle frame. The Islanders lost theirs after Carl Hagelin scored his second goal of the contest.

Believe it or not, there were some positives for the Isles, starting with Mark Streit, who was a minus-two but made some good defensive plays and didn't turn the puck over once. Travis Hamonic had another outstanding night with six hits and five blocked shots, logging just about 25 minutes of ice time. Also hard not to like what I saw from Milan Jurcina, who was very active in the offensive zone with three shots-on-goal and at least four more that missed Henrik Lundquist and the 4x6 he defends.

Overall, the Isles were pretty solid on offense. They didn't score any goals, but that has more to do with the fact that the Rangers were blocking shots left and right. It didn't help that Lundquist was doing the same. Frans Nielsen led the way with five shots and had a number of chances, as did John Tavares, P.A. Parenteau, Matt Moulson, Kyle Okposo, Jurcina and Hamonic.

Ultimately, the Rangers just did a fantastic job taking away those opportunities, shutting down passing lanes and snuffing out shots. When their defense fell asleep towards the end of the second period, Lundquist was there to save the day. The Isles couldn't buy themselves a goal in this one.

Evgeni Nabokov was sharp between the pipes, stopping 28 of the 30 shots fired in his direction. He was on his game all night and certainly did everything he could to give the Isles a chance to win. Carl Hagelin beat him twice but I'd venture to say that neither goal was Nabby's fault.

The Islanders lost this game for two main reasons: (1) The Rangers (particularly Ryan Callahan and Carl Hagelin) were able beat them down low just about every time and (2) the Isles stopped skating in the third period. They generated a ton of pressure on offense over the last nine minutes of the second but failed to sustain it.

Last night's performance wasn't the Islanders' worst, but whatever the case, it wasn't good enough. Time's running out for them to get back into the hunt, and unless management shakes things up, this team's going to fall short yet again.

Comments are welcome.