Here we have two teams coming off bonus point losses after coughed-up leads, but under entirely different circumstances with entirely different season-expectation subtexts.
New York Islanders (7-6-7, 5th/Atl) at Boston Bruins (8-7-4, 2nd/NE)
7 p.m. EST | [enema brand or touchdown or something] Garden | MSG+
Baahston wahtchas: SBN's Stanley Cup of Chowder | HBAdventure | Hub Hockey
The Bruins had a ridiculous, back-and-forth 6-5 OT loss in Pittsburgh (video highlights posted after the jump, because they are worth a look) in which only one goal came on the powerplay. Bill Guerin tied it with 0.4 seconds remaining in the game... just minutes after Sidney Crosby was stoned on a shorthanded breakaway that would've tied it... which was just moments after a Marco Sturm tip gave the Bruins the late lead.
While neither game was a happy outcome for the teams in question, the Islanders were at least playing their game. The Bruins got caught in a Gordon-esque shootout that surely turned Claude Julien's iconic dome red. Here's Derek Morris, relaying the company line:
"We scored goals, yeah, and we got a point, which was nice, but that's not our system we're going to play. We did things we don't normally do and we did them all in one game. We're lucky to get a point."
Shots were an un-Julien-like 33-33. Can you imagine the Islanders' and Scott Gordon's reaction after a game like that? They'd be disappointed by specific breakdowns, and by the result -- but you just know the idea of getting in a shootout is not anathema to them like it is for the B's. Plus, with the young-and-innocent theme the Islanders have going on, you know Jeff Tambellini (if dressed) would be there saying the team is going to take the positives out of the performance.
Talk Me into a Win, Please
Which brings me to the Fan's Mental Plan going into tonight's game. The Bruins were facing a Penguins team energized by the return of Evgeni Malkin, so it's not stunning they were subject to a Penguins scoring party. But certainly Julien will have his troops re-focused on a stringent defensive game. Seven of the Bruins' last nine games have featured three goals or less. They've also been shutout three times during that span, by Detroit, the Rangers and Tomas Vokoun.
Naturally I'm hoping the Islanders can dictate play initially and grab another early lead and give Julien more reasons to furrow, but goals may be tough to come by. Julien is one of those coaches who's fun to hear talk hockey -- and even more fun to watch grimace when his team isn't following orders. Yet as much as I want that lead, what I fear most is a repeat of that first Bruins encounter (the 50th minute 3-0 meltdown in front of Dwayne Roloson, spoiling a great early-season performance). Something like that coming after Washington, Carolina and Florida, and all my big talk about blown leads being a good problem to have will ring a little hollow. Of course, the Isles seem to like their symmetrical record, and an outright loss would make them 7-7-7, so...
Lineup Shenanigans: MacDonald in, Witt out
That's my fragile mindset, anyway. Meanwhile, the big story as of Sunday night was the call up of Andrew MacDonald to replace Brendan Witt, excused for personal reasons. As I mentioned in the previous thread, I doubt this will be a drop off -- but jumping into the lineup isn't an easy task for a defenseman, and if the Islanders take a lot of penalties, someone will have to make up Witt's PK minutes.
In goal: Martin Biron's turn, no? Unless Gordon "likes Roloson against" Boston, as he did for their first encounter.
And in other lineup news, what'll it be for Jeff Tambellini? He sat out two in a row, while fellow healthy scratch Josh Bailey was back in the lineup after just one game in the press box. Road trips have a way of popping up maladies and "personal reasons" and who-knows-what, so maybe the decision will be made for Gordon. Or maybe Tambellini goes back in and we see a newcomer to the land of healthy scratches. I can guess who several of you would like that to be...
Prediction: Odds are 50/50 we go to overtime...unless the Isles go for that whole record symmetry thing.