Saturday, March 14, 2009

Isles Drop Hard-Fought 2-1 Decision to Bruins

If you thought the resurgent Islanders might start dropping more points against top teams on the road, you might be a realistic Islanders fan.

If you thought the resurgent Brendan Witt could still occasionally be taken advantage of by younger, faster players, you might be a realistic Islanders fan.

If you hoped this whole post was going to sound like an old Jeff Foxworthy routine, you might be out of luck.

Indeed, Phil Kessel did make Witt look silly as the two met up at the Islanders' blue line early in the first period. The meeting didn't last long. Kessel left Witt flat-footed before feeding Marc Savard, who beat Yann Danis to give the Bruins a 2-0 lead before five minutes had elapsed.

Just over a minute earlier, Kessel had found himself the benefactor of a fortuitous bounce. He easily buried the loose puck to get the Bruins off to a fast start.

The Islanders played a first period that was much less fluid than their recent efforts. They fought the puck and made poor passes as the Bruins gave them little time to make plays.

It took a little longer than it did the other night in Montreal, but the Isles did eventually right the ship and put up a good fight in this 2-1 loss.

Kyle Okposo plays like a fullback who refuses to be brought down as three linemen and two linebackers jump on top of him. I wouldn't be surprised if one day he scores a goal by skating the puck across the goal line while dragging three opponents with him. How long before we start calling him El Toro?

As if that's not enough, on a second period power play, Okposo skated the puck back behind his own net with Patrice Bergeron in pursuit, and then turned up ice and skated away from Bergeron to lead the rush. Apparently he wants everyone to know that he could be a tailback too.

And there were other pluses to recount. Mark Streit displayed his brilliance once again on an individual effort, 3/4 of the rink rush to score the only goal of the game for the Isles. Streit took advantage of the extra space on a 4-on-4, and a wrong guess by Zdeno Chara allowed the Isles' leading scorer to burst through the offensive zone and get a clear look at Tim Thomas.

Bruno Gervais look as confident as he ever has carrying the puck through the neutral zone.

Danis was not at all fazed by the two quick early goals. And, just for comparison's sake, Danis has been playing solid to spectacular goal for two months now, not just one.

On the questionable side, Scott Gordon continues to take liberties with his game strategy. Despite his recent positive assessment of Joel Rechlicz's ability to contribute at the NHL level, Gordon didn't roll the agitator out there for a regular shift. Wrecker played a season-low 3:35 over five shifts.

Gordon also played clear favorites with his defensemen. Jack Hillen only saw the ice for 13:57, while Thomas Pock got off the bench for a scant 9:19. Fortunately, Gordon does have a solid core of four to lean on, so he can distribute major minutes to the pairings he prefers. Streit, Gervais, Witt, and Radek Martinek all played between 22 and 27 minutes.

Finally, if your power play has been struggling, and your second unit features Jeff Tambellini (fine), Andy Hilbert, and Witt up front, maybe it's time to take a look at Mike Iggulden's big frame down low with the man advantage instead of experimenting with Witt there.

I'm all for rewarding a hard-working, gritty player like Witt once in a while, but I'd like to think that the strategies Gordon employs now are geared toward future implementations. I don't think this one follows.

All in all, though, the Islanders continue to play entertaining hockey. That's all anyone can really ask of this season at this point.

(This post was originally published at


Tom said...

Lots of respect for the Isles after this one. They've still got some really questionable guys on the roster, but I was really impressed with:

Okposo - You put it well, the guy plays like a bull. I like seeing a young guy who's not a punk, but knows when to get physical.

Streit - What a steal. Thank you for ruining the Habs by taking this guy.

Danis - Why does nobody talk about him? He looks more solid than any Isles goalie I've seen in years.

Islanders Outsider said...

I'll tell you, Tom, the Islanders community is talking about him plenty now. I think there was reluctance to get carried away too soon about a guy without an NHL track record. Any goalie can get hot for a while. But this is a significant stretch of play now.