Wednesday, January 30, 2008

1/29/08: Senators 5, Islanders 2

I want to give them credit. I want to give them credit for not letting the floodgates open and not getting hammered the way the Lightning did right before the All-Star break. You know, the night Daniel Alfredsson's linescore looked more like an NFL defense. And I guess I can do that--give them credit for holding it together at 3-0, at least long enough to make a game of it. In fact, at about the 3-minute mark of the third, with the score 3-1 thanks to Sean Bergenheim's second-period tally, I actually thought that the Islanders had a chance to go for the steal. The Senators were being uncharacteristically sloppy with the puck, and the Isles were responding with spurts of sustained pressure in the offensive zone.

That's the reward you get for not completely collapsing against a powerhouse: the chance to grab points that you don't necessarily deserve. Before long, the score was 3-2 and that chance was a ripe piece of fruit on a low-hanging vine. Apparently, the Islanders are picky eaters and generous hosts. "Here," they said to the Senators, "have this fruit, which is neither ripe enough for our taste nor low enough for our reach." That is why I can only give the team credit where it is due begrudgingly. If I start giving things away, and they keep giving things away, we'll all be giving things away, it'll be anarchy. That is to say that the deficits the Islanders found themselves in during this game were the direct result of physical and mental lapses. It's one thing to be outclassed by world-class talent. It's another to provide the opportunities for that talent to stage its show.

I also want to feel positive about the power play producing the second Islander goal on a nice combination play by Miro Satan and Bryan Berard, two players whose offensive contributions have fallen well short of expectations. In actuality, my reaction was more along the lines of net half-empty than net half-full. The goal served more to magnify the frequent absences of these two players from the scoresheet, as well as the overall impotence of the power play. Yes, Berard has spent a good amount of time in the press box lately and it's really hard to score from there. But being scratched isn't exactly the kind of excuse you want to have in your back pocket.

Now for the good news (that's not to say that there isn't more bad news--five-game losing streak at home?). There was a time in this franchise's recent history when it seemed like every mistake, physical or mental, led directly to a goal by the opposition. These days, this collection of players seems more able to recover from such mistakes. They don't all end up in the back of the net. You can attribute that to greater composure in the defensive end and the instincts and reflexes of the goaltender. Against most teams, a number of lapses accompanied by a good number of recoveries may be good enough. Of course, just don't make those mistakes against Ottawa, because then they do all end up in the back of the net.

We don't want Rick lighting himself on fire.

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