Islanders fans everywhere were relieved to hear Blake Comeau was finally called up from the AHL -- even better that he takes the place of goalless Jeff Tambellini, who accepted an AHL conditioning stint despite the two-year one-way contract Garth Snow gave him over the summer. Tonight, in his 11:04, Comeau showed the speed and hockey sense we remember from his surprising stint last season. But alas: the last-place Thrashers and their whopping 5 goals on 17 shots were too much.
Though Bill Guerin opened scoring in the first minute on the power play, that unit is really failing the team (5 shots in 5 tries against the worst PK unit in the league). Also, it may be time to give Joey MacDonald a rest.
MacDonald''s not losing us games -- thought tonight was no beauty -- but he's not winning them right now, either. He looks a little mentally fatigued. He's getting out of position at time thanks to overcompensating on his angles. Despite his many saves in the Capitals game, he was still making mistakes and overplays that can stem from falling into bad habits. Since the Isles don't exactly have a playoff spot to contend for, it wouldn't hurt to give him a break and see if Danis can show us something. For example:
On the Thrashers' third goal: MacDonald slides way too far to the side to guard a bad angle shot by Crabb, and that's why the rebound for Boulton is allowed to slip easily into the far post. He overcompensated on a low-percentage shot, and he paid for it positionally. He's increasingly looked like this in recent games -- often getting away with it -- so I think it's time to give him a game off.
In that regard, it may be telling that Scott Gordon didn't find fault in the effort of his team, who outshot Atlanta 29-17:
"We had some pretty good energy," Gordon said. "We spent almost the entire game in their zone. They had one forecheck in the beginning of the period, and our guys from my standpoint played with a lot of effort."
Could he be ready to rest Joey Mac, too? We'll see.
The Thrashers' fifth goal, meanwhile, was an example of Operation Overspeed biting back. Mark Streit had pinched in, which was fine -- we're down 4-1 at that point -- but after the Isles hit two posts on the same shift, Streit's horizontal pass down low creates a 2-on-1 the other way. Streit is the Islanders' "second" man back, and as he sprints all the way back, he can't do enough do disrupt Thorburn as Thorburn takes the pass from Kovalchuk and buries it by MacDonald.
The Never-Ending Tambellini Question
Jeff Tambellini, meanwhile, heads back to Bridgeport, where he's already had so much success. I'm ambivalent on this move. He's proven himself over and over at the AHL level -- I don't see how doing it again will magically repair his confidence. On the other hand, if he doesn't score even in the AHL, then what?
He was actually starting to do some decent things in the other parts of his game up here -- and I think what he needs to focus on is being a responsible NHL player. If he ever scores in the NHL, it sure isn't going to be a lot. He's not a sniper waiting to be unleashed. He's a kid with speed and talent; one who -- if he demonstrates acumen in the other sides of the game, could be a depth forward with a little bit of bonus scoring touch.
That said, there's a thousand opinions on this kid, and I can't definitively refute any one of them. Whatever they try is fine with me. Got any better theories out there?