Sabres 6, Islanders 3: Roloson stinker puts Isles in the hole

As mentioned in the game thread, the Islanders came out flat in Buffalo, but Dwayne Roloson's bad game gave them an uphill climb. Jack Hillen had a nice rush and hit the post in the opening minutes, then Roloson opened the gates. Meanwhile, Ryan Miller was Ryan Miller. Put a young team against a hot, fast club in its home rink under those conditions, and that's going to be hard to overcome -- even if David at Die by the Blade was disappointed in the Sabres defense.

Game Summary | Event Summary | Recap | Isles Recap

First Five Games: A Comparison

Five games in, it's hard for me to fault Gordon when he has this roster, particularly this blueline. But how he handles this 0-for start to the season will leave a lasting impression. Speaking of which -- how does this squad match up with last year's? Let's take a look:

Record Pts GF GA 5on5 PP% PK% ShtF ShtA FO%
2008 - 09 2-3-0 4 2.2 3.2 .80 11.1 81.3 30.0 32.4 n/a
2009 - 10
0-2-3 3 2.4 3.4 .54 22.7 88.9 31.8 31.2 47.4

It's early, but the Islanders had a better start last season with a far worse powerplay, a weaker penalty kill, around the same shot differential, and better 5-on-5 play. (That "5on5" figure above is ratio of 5-on-5 GF to GA.)

Of course, their opponents last year were also weaker: Tampa Bay, St. Louis, Florida, as well as Buffalo and New Jersey. In this season's start, I don't think they've faced a single opponent they "should" beat -- and unfortunately that doesn't change tonight with the Sharks in town.

Video and plenty of game notes after the jump...

Roloson's No Good Very Bad Day

Tyler Myers' first NHL goal was nothing stellar -- although backhands are harder to read -- while Roloson looked bad on the penalty shot and simply awful on Tim Connolly's 2nd-period goal that made it 3-0. For good measure, Jochen Hecht's slapper to make it 4-1 was practically a change-up. Every goalie has bad games (Roberto Luongo thus far, anyone?), but the Islanders are paying Roloson and Martin Biron to have far fewer of those than last year's backup tandem.

Despite the flat start, I didn't think it was a bad effort overall. It's really hard to judge when your goalie is allowing back-breakers and not bailing you out (such as on the penalty shot). As WebBard pointed out, it was nice they didn't fold despite being down by 3 goals twice in the second period. The closing minutes of the 2nd was crucial: In that goalmouth scramble, I don't know how John Tavares or Radek Martinek missed their chances, but they each had open nets to bring the game within one goal heading into the 3rd.

Tim Jackman's Fight

Yikes. By the time the camera got over there, he was being handled to the point that I thought Gaustad had yanked him up and started pummeling him. Upon replay, that wasn't the case; Jackman had a fair chance at the start, and he got schooled. That's the risk when you don't watch where you are or "accidentally" end up on the goalie. I'm personally glad Gaustad didn't pick up an instigator for that.

John Tavares and Matt Moulson Continue

Moulson's goal was a nice redirect -- the product of being in the dirty areas and just getting it to the net.

Tavares's was a no-doubter, a gimme -- but a goalscorer's goal nonetheless. He put himself in the right spot, and he knew what to do with it, taking the puck in front after Miller's gift and burying it high. Put it this way: I could see Sean Bergenheim or even Josh Bailey just missing on any part of that sequence, whether the interception, the reaction, or the finish.

Jack Hillen Enters

Well, Hillen was on for three goals against -- but his minus-2 included the ridiculous Connolly goal which should have been stopped. Overall, I liked his presence. But again, the problem isn't that the Islanders need more of a Hillen; the problem is that the Islanders have one #1 defenseman and six #4-#7s. I'm not sure what amount of shuffling could fix that. Of course Andy Sutton picks up a late goal to undermine my point, but I'm going to need far more convincing than that.

Regarding the blueline, which I fear I'm going to harp on for a while, Martin Biron had this to say:

"This one hurts," Biron said. "We've been playing pretty well defensively and we want to pride ourselves on our defensive play and our ability to limit chances. That's why this one is a killer."

If that's indicative of a team commitment to defense, I'm all for it. I read that quote before I watched the game, so I assumed a defensive breakdown -- not an awful night for Roloson. Either way, the scoring chances will bear watching. The Islanders strike me as more confident in their defense than I am, but then again that's how they have to approach everything to face what could be a daunting 82-game season.

Other decent efforts: Doug Weight was creative, the Bailey/Bergenheim/Blake Comeau line had a few sparks, including Comeau's setup and Bergenheim's picture-perfect screen on Sutton's goal. Kyle Okposo seemed to have an off night by his standards.

I like the thought that the Sharks, coming off a 4-1 loss in Washington, might take the Isles lightly and assume they'll be able to roll. At this point, that's about all we have.

Query: By numbers or by memory, what do you think of this season's start vs. last year's? Last year's included a blowout by the Sabres, an OT win over the Lightning, and a 2-0 loss to Florida.

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