That was a superbly played game by the Islanders, in front of a quite dead crowd at the Garden (other than the "FI-ER SA-THER" chants), in which John Tortorella kept running his top guys out there, but Glen Sather's compilation of lifeless players just wouldn't go. I almost shed a tear.
Dwayne Roloson was a minute short of a shutout as he outplayed Henrik Lundqvist, and get this: Jon Sim and Blake Comeau were not only the goal scorers, but also two of the better Islanders forwards. Both played the body, both went to the dirty areas, there were eight shots on goal between them, and Sim was a nuisance while Comeau broke up a 2-on-1 with a diving sweep of the stick. Those two as "stars" is not the recipe for a lot of wins, but their cohesive effort was reflective of a smart team game played by the entire Islanders squad. The score was probably closer than it should have been.
I do hope the "FI-ER- SA-THER" chants never make an impact. It is too much fun having him guiding the boo-shirts. As Chickendirt said, Sather is "the gift that keeps on giving." The Rangers had one shot in the first 16 minutes, so I was a little nervous when the Isles went to the first intermission with only Sim's miracle foot goal to show for their efforts.
Thankfully, the Smurfs only made a marginal push-back in the second, and Roloson was solidly in control the rest of the game.
Gabby Was Here
I was hoping someone would sneeze on Marian Gaborik's groin to put him on the shelf again, but no such luck. In nearly 27 minutes of ice time, Gaborik managed six shots on goal and attempted eight more. Yet I'd say the Islanders played him pretty well, mostly keeping his shots to the outside and not leaving him alone too many times. In nearly half an hour of ice time -- including four minutes on the PP -- a player like Gaborik is going to get his chances. But the Isles defense and Roloson combined to keep him off the score sheet.
And of course, for Sather's Rangers, if Gaborik doesn't score then...yeah.
Four Lines Rolling
John Tavares was probing, again learning what will and won't work at this level. Trent Hunter was noisy, Josh Bailey was getting shots on goal (!), Sim's line was a responsible nuisance, and Comeau mostly overcame his reluctance to leave the perimeter. In short, guys on all four lines were doing effective things, so it never felt like their rhythm faded.
No Rest for the Victors
So these teams have an encore tomorrow in front of a, heh, hopefully louder crowd than what we saw tonight. I don't expect a "Rangers hangover" -- that will come against the next opponent -- but I do have to expect the Short Island Smurfs will come out with a little more life. If not now, is there any hope for their season? Who knows, maybe even the neutered Sean Avery will figure out a way to be effective for a moment.
So I'd think the Isles will have to play a little better to pull off another regulation win, but everything they did tonight was a positive -- certainly a vast improvement over the Panthers debacle.
More to come during the day. For now, drink this victory up. The season series is now Islanders 2, Rangers 0. Nice.