With the Devils' OT win over fellow gutter-scraper Edmonton last night, the Islanders are now in last place overall. After a briefly nice start rightly looked at with suspicious eyes (not that I'm going to apologize for also living it up while it lasted), the Isles are back in familiar territory thanks to a nine-game winless streak.
One thing that has gone right is the play of former King Matt Moulson, who through 16 games (6-4-10) has continued what he started last season (30-18-48).
More on Moulson after the jump, but for other dialog there are three recent FanPosts that run the spectrum of topics: 1) JPinVA asks, "How did you get here?" 2) TMC asks: Is there a psychological element to the team's offensive struggles? (A tough-to-peg yet timeless topic I love, because despite cold stats -- get this -- players behave like humans.) and 3) If you've got your towel in a tossing grip, check out BC's initial look at draft class 2011.
Matt Moulson changed his life by winning a spot in training camp last year and securing that spot with 10 goals in his first 21 games of 2009-10. That hot first quarter sent him on his way to the 30-goal milestone and graduation from "Garth Snow bargain find" last season to Arbitration Eve cash-in over the summer. Now making $2.45 million, he can still determine his price as a UFA next summer depending on his own consistency (and a little luck).
But the important thing for him is he earned himself a place as a legit NHLer, a two-way player who can score at even strength (22 of his 30 goals last year, 3 of his 6 this year). I imagine after the buzz wore off from last season, he has to be relieved to have started out this season putting the puck in with some regularity.
And how regular has that been? Well, I think most around here agree that scoring over any short individual stretch is somewhat at the mercy of luck and opportunity. So I'm not projecting a thing, but Moulson is again on a 30-goal pace. And his shooting percentage (13.3%) on just 45 shots (still too small a sample) is in the vicinity of last season (14.4) and his career norm. Both are early hints that even if last year was a peak, it was no fluke.
As for opportunity, Moulson is getting 3:32 per game on the powerplay (a decent chunk but less than fellow forwards John Tavares, P.A. Parenteau, Blake Comeau and Rob Schremp when dressed), but the impressive thing about Moulson's game since he arrived last season is that he is legit at either end of the ice. Despite shifting roles that sometimes puts him with Frans Nielsen but more often with John Tavares (who actually held Moulson back mid-winter last season, rather than vice versa), Moulson is one of the few Isles forwards who doesn't bleed red in Corsi.
In short, there's nothing in his game that tells you last year's 30-goal season won't be followed up by another 20-30 this season. He continues to be responsible 5-on-5, and he continues to go to the net without reluctance (something Blake Comeau is still learning, to our frustration) while showing deft, high-percentage hands once he gets there. On a roster filled with youngsters who can entice one night (or week) while confound the next, Moulson is steady like Frans or Martinek. He's a keeper...at the right price. With the Islanders' lack of developed NHL depth, unlike the Kings I doubt they can afford not to match that price.
Quotes That Look Damning Out of Context
"He’s a great guy to play in front of," said Mottau. "He competes. He comes up with the save, he never gives up on the puck and he gets out, plays the puck well and he makes the right decisions. As far as the d-man going back, it’s important to be on the same page as your goaltender and I think he’s been doing a great job not only stopping the puck but playing the puck as well."
I've no idea whether that was intentionally or merely subconsciously spoken with another goaltender in mind, but it certainly was the first thing that came to my mind. (And I'm not a habitual DP basher; I'm just looking for a few good
- Looking for glimmers of hope: It's not Okposo or Streit-level losses, but the Kings are without Willie Mitchell and Alex Ponikarovsky.
- Crushing those glimmers swiftly: The Kings are off to their best start in franchise history. They have a lot of weapons up front and on the blueline, and we only have one Frans. If he plays center again, tonight would be a good night for Josh Bailey to be a second Frans.
- The Kings PK is working at a league-leading 91.5%, so no respite for the Isles PP there. The Kings PP is middle of the pack so far.
- Bridgeport scored quite a bit last night, but still lost their 4th in 5 [Fornabaio tweets] Also: ex-BST Greg Mauldin notched an NHL goal for Colorado, shorthanded.
- Missed this the other day: Sharks coach Todd McLellan spoke fondly of his brief time as an Islanders draft pick in the late '80s. [Mercury News]
- There has been a lot of banter about the First Islanders Goal (FIG) pool, whose start has coincided exactly with this nine-game skid. I am all for joking about superstition, but I'm also about pushing through it. So: The pool stays! Let them play, let them play... I do humbly request that when leaving your pick (either here or if possible, in tonight's game thread, you check if there is an existing subthread of FIGs and leave yours as a reply to those. Helps keep the house in order in a not exactly Germanic way.)
Let's Go Islanders. Please? I'm asking you nicely...