It suddenly occurs to Sean Bergenheim he still owes Sparky $10.
Well, it's one longer, isn't it? It's not 10. You see, most teams, you know, will be streaking at 10. You're on 10 here, all the way up, all the way up, all the way up. Where can you go from there? Where? Up to eleven. /obligatory Spinal Tap
You can't judge a coach's effect based on one game just three days after he even had an inkling he might get a new job. But Jack Capuano made a few evident adjustments, ones that theoretically could make a difference soon. The Islanders played a little more compact on defense when breaking out of the zone -- a little more traditional, if you will. The Matt Moulson-John Tavares-P.A. Parenteau line was by far their best, and Capuano kept them together both at 5-on-5 and on the powerplay.
However, Lightning coach Guy Boucher has two weapons Capuano does not: Steven Stamkos and Martin St. Louis. So when Boucher split those two up, it forced Capuano into a choice (i.e. whom to put Frans Nielsen against?). The lucky Frans-free recipient was St. Louis, who gave the Isles the usual trouble.
We also saw some of the same mistakes and flaws, as seen on the Lightning's 3rd and 4th goals, each of which extended late leads to two. The Islanders hit the iron at least four times -- and Blake Comeau hit the side of the net after Josh Bailey sent him in alone with a pretty threaded pass. So any of those breaking differently could have changed things. But there were scrambles for loose pucks that could easily have been goals at both ends, and the Isles were outshot most of the game. It was a fair result.
Post-Game Interview Clips (featuring mo-money probs Ellis)
James Wiznieski Talks Powerplay
Matchups, and Going with Who's Hot
Tavares-Moulson-Parenteau took some long shifts -- and they were mostly deserved, because they spent a lot of time pressuring the Lightning. This may sound familiar to fans who like to hate on fourth-liners: The Bolts used Nate Thompson against Tavares a lot -- 8 minutes at even strength alone -- and the Isles got the better of that matchup.
On the flip side, Martin St. Louis ate up the Isles once again, aided by his coach forcing Capuano into the previously mentioned choice: Capuano went with putting Nielsen against the hot Stamkos, and Blake Comeau ended up being the forward who faced St. Louis the most. Comeau's line with Doug Weight and Josh Bailey had its brief moments here and there, but generally failed to pose the secondary threat.
Now, that's perhaps a little unfair: It's not like Stamkos and St. Louis are easy to defend, and Stamkos still was a serious threat while facing not only more of Nielsen but also a whole great deal of Radek Martinek. Essentially, Boucher said, "I have two stars who can pose problems even when separated. I'll let them do their thing and take my chances with Thompson against the Tavares line." Advantage: Boucher.
- The joke in game threads is that Ricky is rubbing off on Dwayne Roloson. Certainly he's had his share of ugly scrambles behind the net leading to turnovers and scoring chances. When he starts looking off his defenseman to send the puck up the boards, then we'll know it really is contagious. [EDIT: That glosses over another 37-save performance from the man. Obviously the goalie was not the problem.]
- Matt Moulson, who scored the Isles first goal, also hit the post and had several close chances. He just continues to do his thing and produce. If Garth Snow and/or his pro scouts have two major coups, they are Mark Streit and Moulson.
- The Lightning's 3rd goal -- an insurance goal that sealed the game before the Isles got one back late -- was a cluster. The Isles allowed St. Louis to pin them in almost singlehandedly, then were late in covering him when he gave up the puck. Strike that, they didn't cover him, period. Combo effort from Mike Mottau, James Wisniewski and Michael Grabner on that one.
- The Lightning's 4th goal was abysmal communication. Once again, the tired Isles let the Lightning pin the puck around for a while -- Thompson leading the way this time. A clearly fatigued Tavares won the puck but sent one of those "yours or mine?" passes cross ice where Comeau vacated and Wisniewski didn't move to grab it. Thompson happily grabbed the loose puck and placed it in the empty net. Awful mistake from all three, but also the kind of sloppy mistake you make when you're tired.
- JT the Scrapper: When Moulson was boarded from behind by Ritola, it was cool to see Tavares jump in their and mug him enough to send a message without completely squandering the five-minute powerplay that was coming. (JT got two minutes, leaving a 3-minute Isles PP...where they did nothing.)
- The first powerplay may have been the most threatening. I liked Moulson out there with his linemates rather than Comeau. Still, close does not count.
- FIG Winner: Martylnd. Lots of picks of Moulson (smart, very smart), but Martylnd's pick was the closest at 36:09. (The actual goal was at 37:26.)
Well, that's most of what I saw after Game 1 of the Capuano Interim. They have two more days now before the next go-around, so we'll see what adjustments (if any) he makes between now and Saturday night against the Cats. The margin for error, as it always was, remains thin.