Friday, November 23, 2007

The Boston Nooner

Rick DiPietro is in net for the Isles today as they take on the Bruins at TD Banknorth Garden. Last week, Ted Nolan was asked whether DiPietro would be getting a day off soon, especially with three games in four days on the schedule including the home-and-home with Boston. At the time, Nolan indicated that he would be giving serious thought to getting Wade Dubielewicz some action during this stretch.

After Wednesday night's game against Montreal, DiPietro was asked if he anticipated sitting out one of these two games. If you only read his answer, you missed out on part of the story. DiPietro absolutely bristled at the notion of not playing, not only in this two-game set but going forward. Check out the video on Islanders TV if you're curious (around the 5:30 mark). It will be interesting to see how Nolan manages the goaltending duties. Obviously, the team's best chance to win is always with DiPietro in goal. He's young and in superb condition, so playing the lion's share of the games is not a problem. The only question is what constitutes the lion's share: 70 games? 75 games? 78?

In this case of a home-and-home, DiPietro gets a little extra rest with the noon start today and a 7:00 PM faceoff tomorrow night at the Coliseum.

Today's game has been somewhat of an odd one so far. In the first period, it didn't seem to be the case that the players didn't have their legs due to the early start. In fact, both teams seemed to be skating well, but to no benefit. The Bruins put together some nice passing, but didn't generate many quality scoring chances as a result. The Islanders simply were not able to mount any sort of sustained attack. Bryan Berard did lay out Milan Lucic with a solid step-up hit. Overall, I'd have to classify the play as tentative and a little sloppy.

This continued until about halfway into the second period when things got a little chippy. Tim Jackman and Jeremy Reich squared off in an uneventful fight following a scrum around the net. Radek Martinek leveled Mark Savard with a questionable hit around the shoulder blade near the boards. Martinek probably got away with one there. These incidents seemed to add energy to the game, and a number of quality scoring chances followed. The Islanders had a stationary two-on-one in front of the Boston goal with Miro Satan finally ripping one off the post. The Bruins were awarded the game's first three power play opportunities and Glen Murray capitalized on the last one to give the home team a 1-0 lead.

The Islanders received their first power play chance with 13 seconds remaining in the second period. Their fortunes were boosted when Aaron Ward took a hooking penalty just 7 seconds into the third. However, the Isles executed poorly on the 5-on-3, low-lighted by Berard missing the net on a slapper, which rounded the boards out of the zone, and then getting blocked on a subsequent shot from the point.

With that opportunity to draw even squandered, we have now also witnessed Andy Hilbert clanging one off the post while the open space between the post and Tim Thomas dared him to hit it.

A Glen Metropolit gliding slapper from the left boards has beaten DiPietro to the short side, giving the Bruins a 2-0 lead. This was an atypical goal for DiPietro to give up, and the puck may have grazed Bruno Gervais on the way in. You can count the number of the times that the Isles have looked dangerous during this game on one hand. A 2-goal deficit with six minutes remaining looks insurmountable.

Wow, I just reverse-jinxed myself. Gervais, skating along the right boards in the offensive zone threw the puck toward the crease. Mike Sillinger, skating hard in that direction, deflected the mid-air puck past Thomas to halve the deficit with 5:39 remaining.

Brendan Witt took a high stick to the face with about 4:00 left, but no call was made. The Islanders get that power play chance back with 2:05 left when Berard is tripped by Zdeno Chara on a hard rush to the net. A conversion gets them a point and a chance at another. Failure, and they go home with another 2 points gone by the wayside.

Final score: Bruins 2, Islanders 1. Howie Rose sums it up nicely by saying that coming in, the Islanders' struggles on the power play have been noteworthy, but today they might have been the difference. There's little doubt about that. The team didn't do much to generate its own chances, but it was given enough opportunities to steal at least a point in this one.

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