There was Gary Bettman smirking in a [Annoying Telco] Center luxury box, watching an 11-round shootout -- as if sticking it to me with penance right after I ranted about the parity gimmick. Whatever. A game of many chapters ended up a 4-4 with an unusual shootout, yet somehow the goalies not named Jose Theodore stole the show.
|Final - 11.11.2009||1||2||3||OT||SO||Total|
|New York Islanders||3||0||1||0||1||4|
How many heroes in this game? Dwayne Roloson, for turning his shootout competence on its head and stopping 9 of 11 -- after withstanding a pretty heavy barrage (37 saves) during regulation? Trent Hunter and the illness-handicapped PP unit, for tying it up with 2:08 left on one of just three precious extra-man opportunities? Alexander Semin, for scoring two beautiful goals -- and creating Sean Bergenheim's goal by making like a pee-wee playing his first game with bodychecking? (Seriously, the way Semin panicked and threw the puck to the worst spot on the ice was a breathtaking sight for a player of such talent.) Mark Streit, for a crucial break-up in front of Roloson that surely prevented Semin from nabbing a hat trick? Semyon Varlamov, for steadying the fort after Theodore and his teammates crapped the bed?
There's plenty more to consider -- much as I hate it, you could do a thesis on both sides' shootout attempts alone (to say nothing of the Captials' CSN broadcast annoyingly choosing a corner angle from behind the linesman's butt for several of the Islanders' attempts). But all in all, this was a competent tread-water performance from a team that can ill-afford the injuries and bugs that are hitting it right now.
While the Capitals have seen the Isles three times now, and their talent has had the better of play all three times, the Islanders again outscored the Capitals at even strength (3-2). Clearly whatever the Isles are doing is enough to send, well, every game into OT, and as WebBard said, the meme that teams "figure out" the Isles after seeing them repeatedly does not apply to the conference-leading Capitals. As TheMetalChick noted for numerology and occult fans alike, the Isles head into their Friday the 13th game with the rare record of 6-6-6. Ha.
Tonight's game was defined in part by the wacky first, where the Caps appeared to go through the motions after Semin scored just 8 seconds in. Perhaps the nicest sign was that the Islanders stormed back -- Matt Moulson converting just 54 seconds later, then Mark Streit and Bergenheim piling on to chase Theodore before 7 minutes were gone. Seriously, how many times last season could you have expected that kind of response when the conference leader gets an early, deflating lead at home?
Stunned but not defeated, the Capitals got one back in the first, then seized a PP opportunity to tie it, then take the lead in a 2nd period they completely controlled (Shots: 14-8). But the Islanders didn't fold, they made something of the third -- and that says something you couldn't say about them last year. Roloson helped keep the margin at one, and the Islanders earned two consecutive powerplays at the end, converting on Hunter's beautiful top shelf shot from Varlamov's left circle.
"It's big to come back on a team like that. They pride themselves on their third periods and putting teams away, and they couldn't do it."
Yeah, man. The Capitals are the more talented team. They have more firepower and again had more shots. But in each game against them this season, the Islanders have shown that's not how any given game is decided. And that's all you can ask.
Yays and Nays
... I didn't need to see the Caps three times by Nov. 11, but these two sides play entertaining games. 4-4, shots of 41-31, and only three powerplays aside. Mistakes aside, that's fun hockey.
... Tough to expect anything more from Rob Schremp -- he did get an assist -- in 9:38 of ice time with Nate Thompson and Tim Jackman. But I hoped he'd bury his shootout attempt; he simply went in too slowly to sell the backhand.
... Sweet to see Bergenheim bury his breakaway, his clearest chance of the season. Upon further review, Theodore left too much space to his left for Bergie's backhand, but he still had to lift it. In the shootout, he fumbled the puck twice on the bad ice, so it wasn't to be.
... What was with Varlamov almost raising his arms in victory when he stopped Hunter's five-hole shootout attempt? This: When you're skating backwards in goal, and you stop the puck under your pads, raising your arms against the crossbar is one of the few ways to stop your momentum without lifting up a leg pad and possibly letting the puck trickle through -- or letting your momentum take the puck across the line. It looked odd at first, but it was goaltending excellence by the youngster.
... Cheers to both goalies for their shootout performance. They stole the show -- outside of typically nice conversions by Jeff Tambellini and Semin -- and brought it to the point where a grinder would likely have to "win" the
... But the "hat trick" celebration after Semin's conversion? Fail. It's not a "goal," and treating it as such is just another way the shootout devalues ... oh, never mind.
... Islanders lost the faceoff war (30-39). Josh Bailey was 1-9, but otherwise had a strong game. Tavares was 11-6, but otherwise had a quiet game.
...How this blogger proves himself an idiot on a nightly basis: Downplaying Gordon's praise of Hunter's shot as the best release on the team, then watching Hunter tie the game at a crucial moment three hours later by displaying said release. Simply awesome to have Hunts back. Now excuse me, I'm crawling back into my Internet closet.
Carolina Friday the 13th, for an opponent that went its 13th game without a win tonight, with -- heh -- Manny Legace in goal. Like the Hurricanes' last 13 opponents, the Islanders will need to know Carolina will be hungry and dangerously desperate. (They'll also see an achievable slump-buster target in the Islanders.) Like the Canes' last 13 opponents, the Islanders can discover that the Canes can indeed be deflated if they jump on them early and accelerate Paul Maurice's spiral. God and health willing...