I did not text Matt Moulson my request, but he delivered anyway by becoming the Islanders' first 20-goal scorer since, heh, Mike Comrie (21) and Bill Guerin (23) in 2007-08. The rest of the night stunk. Rough way to start a road trip.
Make no mistake: The Islanders did not perform like a team that had any business winning this game. But it was an example of how an early 2-0 hole against a surprisingly organized team can sink you when you didn't bring your best. The Hurricanes converted a soft penalty on Josh Bailey (just his fifth minor of the year) into an early powerplay goal as Bruno Gervais stood pretty much in No Man's Land next to Rick DiPietro while Eric Staal (Oh, is he good?) put in his own rebound unimpeded.
Three minutes later Rob Schremp made a soft dump up the boards in the Islanders zone, and Matt Cullen used a bad-angle screen to pop a shot high over DiPietro. Half-way through the first, 2-0 down despite actually generating a few shifts of sustained pressure and dangerous chances. Then the Hurricanes went into smart, safe, lock-down mode, and the Islanders had no answer. (The Corsi results show the Islanders mostly in the positive and the Canes in the negative, yet anyone watching likely agrees the Isles didn't generate much; I'd call that a product of a few dominating shifts in the first (JT/KO/JB and Sim/Schremp/Bergie) and several outside shots during a comeback attempt.)
A shorthanded Stephane Yelle conversion and an empty-netter helped finish things, with Moulson's 20th in between.
So there's that.
Answering the Physical Bell with ... a Roster Move?
As noticed earlier this week and commented by Scott Gordon, the Islanders lacked any willingness to, you know, throw checks against Washington. Hits, a notoriously unreliable and subjective stat that varies from rink to rink, were recorded as 18 for the Canes and 12 for the Islanders. Did you notice any change in their physicality?
Related to that, Trevor Gillies, he of 1 NHL game and 21 PIMs, was signed to an NHL contract and will join the team in Philadelphia -- and the Isles have room on the 23-man roster to add him. I speculate this is Tim Jackman insurance (Jackman's still hurt) for Saturday to face the Flyers, one of the few teams that dresses enough fighters with actual skill (Ian Laperriere, Danny Carcillo) that you might need to dress one to do the NHL's testosterone dance of faux self-policing. If Gillies does indeed step into the lineup Saturday, hopefully he brings some fire; but it would also be thick with irony if a healthy scratch move for this four-losses-in-five team was only made to make room for an enforcer who is likely to skate five minutes, max.
The Goalie Rotation
Subjective but fun fodder nonetheless: If I'm wanting to make a push for the playoffs, I'm still making Dwayne Roloson my go-to starter and fitting Rick DiPietro in for long-term evaluation as opportunity warrants. Granted, Roloson was lit up in the first period by Washington, but the Islanders have road back-to-backs Saturday and Sunday, which is a great time to rotate your 1A and (theoretical) 1B. If that back-to-back premise is followed, it looks like DiPietro is set to get two of the first three games on this trip. (Counterpoint: Philadelphia is the toughest opponent for the Isles, so maybe you save your Rollie for that one.)
Regardless, despite a shutout and two nice victories, I still don't think DiPietro has been tested like a #1 yet. He hasn't had to stand on his head or face a deluge, save for his first start in Dallas which was filled with expected rust. Perhaps that's for the best: Ease him in after a year's layoff, and certainly if he's going to regain the old DiPietro form, it can't happen overnight. But in terms of the Islanders' stated goal of the playoffs, well this experimenting with the franchise goaltender is going to be a factor. We always knew that would likely be the case -- the alternative was introducing him when the Isles were out of the race -- but nonetheless, here we are.
On Coaching, and Preparation
The Islanders fell behind 2-0 vs. Carolina after coming out flat and awed against Washington. I have not seen anything that tells me this is a coaching problem -- pretty sure Scotty Bowman coached teams who experienced similar ruts -- but if that's your theory or if you have some other view of things that are not being coached right (special teams?), I'd like to hear what you think.
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Don't forget, Saturday is a 1 p.m. EST matinee in Philadelphia.