This will sound like excuse-making, but it can't be avoided: The Islanders played a strong game in Anaheim. (Aside from that whole failure to finish part. Which is generally a talent/personnel/luck thing, not an effort/coaching thing.) Despite being tied most of the game, they outshot their opponents 21-13 at even strength. Go ahead and chide me for that -- and tip your wait staff -- but it's how I saw it. If it didn't extend a now-eight-game losing streak, this game would go down under the "snakebitten" column. Instead it's a sign of sustained misery.
The Ducks came out on this second of a back-to-back like you'd expect the Isles to come out Thursday night in San Jose: Flat, lacking jump, just sort of hanging on. The Islanders earned their powerplays by pressing the Ducks, and their failure to convert wasn't from a lack of imagination -- it was from a pure inability to finish. I even liked all four lines Scott Gordon mixed together tonight (more on that later).
But it's my understanding you need to score to win, and no one's going to cut you "just not your night" slack when that night is your eighth regulation loss in a row. This is what it looks like when you score six goals in six games:
- P.A. Parenteau had a nice game overall -- did you see his likely goal-saving backcheck in the slot in the second period? -- but a weakness in his game continues to haunt: He gets open, but his shot from distance simply is not threatening. This may even be hurting his effectiveness on the powerplay, because while it's great he can handle the puck off the half boards, if his shot poses no threat you can give him more space and concentrate on his potential pass recipients.
- Speaking of non-threatening, Blake Comeau likewise is not getting very dangerous shots on. I liked his line with Josh Bailey and Parenteau -- Bailey looked very alive and was threading delicate passes in all three zones. But Comeau couldn't finish the service, and Parenteau just hasn't been a shooting threat. In terms of flow, they were a nice line; in terms of results, they join the rest.
- Bailey's passing looked so smart, you start to dream (again) about if he can keep that up and if, maybe some day, he'll have someone to finish them more regularly. As with every year, the jury remains out on Comeau, though those two at least have a knack for finding each other.
- Matt Martin absolutely leveled Lubomir Visnovsky head over heels at center ice and, as a bonus, he retrieved the puck for a 2-on-1 with Trent Hunter. Adrenaline on his side, Martin elected to shoot but it wasn't to be. There is no golden rule on the offensive side of 2-on-1s -- you're damned if you do, damned if you don't -- but his shot was representative of the Islanders' failings.
The Powerplay: Yes, the Islanders only had six shots on goal during their six powerplays. Not swell. (The Ducks for their part had zilch on two opportunities.) I still saw enough positives -- new ways of gaining the zone safely, for example -- to keep me from crucifying the powerplay any more than the rest of the team's flaws. Fans are funny in that they expect 20-25% of their powerplays to be converted yet they also expect 85-90% of their PKs to work. Sometimes reality gets in the way.
I will say Comeau continues to confound me on the powerplay; it's normal to put men you expect to be top-six on your PP unit, but his decision-making rarely seems in sync on that unit. Maybe it's just that he shouldn't be the one carrying the puck into the zone.
But Chemistry, Perhaps?
That Hunter/Martin line centered by Frans Nielsen was always steady, in control even when pressed in their own zone. Generally I saw good chemistry from all four lines tonight. Which brings up...
The Jon Sim-Doug Weight-Zenon Konopka line was quite tolerable for a fourth line -- Grumpy Old Men, you could call them. I'm not sure if it was the fatigued competition tonight or the fact rolling four lines makes it easier on everyone, but that combo made me wonder if Gordon either needs to keep scratching Gillies or else trust Gillies with a regular shift until he makes his own bed. Konopka was very lucky to escape penalties on multiple occasions though.
The Moment When I Knew It Wasn't To Be: When Michael Grabner used his outside speed to create a 2-on-1 that the Ducks D had to play into an angled one-on-the-goalie for Grabner, and Grabner placed a heavy shot that Curtis McElhinney blocked, but Grabner batted the rebound out of the air and past McElhinney...only to see it bounce on top of the crossbar and over.
That Grabner line with John Tavares and Matt Moulson had no luck tonight, but again, they had chances. Tavares almost tied it with a backhand in the slot he lifted high. Grabner had his two close ones, and Moulson buzzed the net as per usual. Grabner is either going to make it and blossom in a role like this or he's going to end up in the discard pile, so I don't mind more trials for him here.
So I liked these lines. But all of that probably requires a big caveat in that the opponent generally played like lethargic doo-doo.
The Only Goal: Again, tough luck. After an Islanders scoring chance, the Ducks were able to attack 4-on-3 and executed it perfectly. Bruno Gervais and Doug Weight had a moment of miscommunication in their own zone -- intentionally caused by the Ducks overlapping -- but it didn't matter much, because it was the extra trailing man high (Saku Koivu) who scored the goal. And why was that man free? Because all the way back in the Ducks zone, Teemu Selanne dumped Josh Bailey into the referee behind the Ducks net and then took off with speed to join the rush. It wasn't necessarily a penalty -- Bailey recently had the puck, and you could argue Teemu was just, uh, jockeying for position, but it was a bad break for the Isles that freed up Selanne and left an Islanders marker on his butt behind the Ducks' goal.
- The Moment I Questioned "What Would You Say...You Do Here?" While driving from home to my babysitting locale and listening on the radio, there was an Isles PP and I heard names like "Gervais" and "Mottau." We really are thin, no?
Dwayne Roloson, Cagey Bastard: As mentioned, I heard both the Ducks' radio feed and TV feed (via NHL Network) at various times. Both remarked multiple times about how Roloson "bends the rules" and is "smart" and "knows how to get away with" sneaky things. 2006 was brought up a lot. His bumping of the net off its mooring when he got caught DiPietro-ing was a true instance of this charge. But when they acted like he was making a big deal of Corey Perry's typical rushing the goalie -- kneeing the head, in this instance -- after the puck was smothered, I had to wonder: They've seen Perry play, right? Douche is his game. Which is fine, but at least acknowledge it.
Radek Martinek's fight. Yes, Radek Martinek's fight! Who here wasn't nervous as hell when that happened? Who here didn't chuckle at the constant annoyed expression he had throughout that fight, as if the whole thing was an uncomfortable nuisance but okay well let's get it over with? Who didn't laugh seeing him almost cerebral in probing how to land a punch in under Ryan Carter's windshield visor?
- Even if he was a Cheater McCheaterton on the winning goal, it's still cool to see Selanne flying around and producing at age 40. It must've hurt Dwayne Roloson a little to have to stop his fellow old man on that breakaway.
This always looked like the most winnable game of this Western trip. Yet despite a strong game throughout, the Islanders couldn't score. Surely their luck will swing back the other way a little, but this missed opportunity -- to say nothing of an eight-game streak -- doesn't bode well.
Comment of the Night
I saw the game but missed the game thread (apparently being a godfather entails occasional babysitting -- WTH is that about?). So going through the thread afterward, this one doubled me over, no doubt appropriate at any point in the first two periods in which the Ducks registered a whopping 7 shots:
it seems like [tonight's] the night in retrospect we might have started DP. He could have handled that one shot.