I didn't want to be overly dramatic about it at the time, but were you as nervous as I was getting that five-minute powerplay so early in the game? "So early, no groove yet, I feel like if they don’t convert they will wallow in sad panda self-doubt." Sure enough it was a miserable powerplay from all involved, and when it was over the Isles had blown a chance to get the ol' "good start" this fragile team needed.
The Senators then scored a few minutes after the Zack Smith boarding major expired, with Bruno Gervais failing to see a weak-side Sergei Gonchar breaking in until it was too late. Gervais and Jack Hillen, the "Healthy Scratch Pair" from the season's opening weeks, were victimized again in the second period on the Senator's third goal, a Jason Spezza shot that squeaked through a multiple-Islander screen that handcuffed Dwayne Roloson.
Before that though, Roloson allowed a soft short-side goal up high to defenseman David Hale -- he of three goals in 308 prior NHL games. It was a great shot regardless of Hales meager resume, but Roloson was probably cheating a bit with Jason Spezza breaking through the slot.
Such is the tale of soul-crushing losing streaks.
The Islanders played better than their previous two debacles, and surely better than the first game against Montreal (Game 2 of this six-game losing streak), but not well enough to win most nights against most NHL teams. As many have discussed here, the road just gets tougher with a brief home stop against the Flyers Saturday followed by the West Coast March. Very dangerous time for this team, as that schedule combined with that injury- and talent-depleted defense on top of this losing streak, and you can easily imagine things being in a very poor state when they get back from California.
They will not play their sixth home game until Nov. 17, their 18th game of the season, and the way things are going right now they'll have quite the hole to dig out of by that time.
- Once again, the 5-on-5 story looks ugly: Three consecutive even strength goals against, followed by one powerplay goal for -- an admittedly beautiful passing play from Frans Nielsen to John Tavares to Matt Moulson, who still had work to do to beat Brian Elliott.
- Elliott, to be fair, was good. Not "wow he stole a win" good but solid when he needed to be and without the soft goal(s) his counterpart allowed. In the third when the Isles had a mild shot at a comeback, he stopped Blake Comeau (who looked a little gassed on the play) and Frans Nielsen (who had a clean break but didn't use The Backhand of Judgment) on breakaways.
- That said, the most dangerous Islander was Tavares, which I guess is what you want, in the grand scheme of things.
- The problem with miserable stinkers like the previous two games, plus the uninspired effort in Montreal, is that when you combine them with "we just weren't on nights" like tonight and the Montreal rematch you get a six-game stretch where the Islanders haven't even salvaged a point.
- To be fair to Gervais (14:42) and Hillen (8:51), they along with Matt Martin had the best Corsi figures of the night.
- Speaking of Martin, he did his job as a physical force, did his part to keep things alive in the third -- drawing a very debatable boarding penalty on Spezza, who did the old "if I turn my back at the last second you can't hit me" maneuver. To please the hockey gods, Martin also obliged Smith with a fight after he got out of the box, and Martin pounded him.
- JPinVA wins the First Islanders Goal pool for the night, beating out Marcos V via tiebreaker. With no repeat winners yet, at least we know something will be competitive every night this season.
What a curious first month this has been. I get the sense most expected somewhere on either side of NHL quasi-.500 was in November was likely -- certainly that was the deflated tone after both Streit and Okposo hit LTIR -- but who expected it to be "achieved" through the enjoyably fluky opening run followed by a losing streak so long that now even NHL quasi-.500 is in the rearviewmirror? (Oh wait, I know there are revisionists historians always only interested in telling everyone how right they were, even when they weren't -- but I mean besides them.)
I always tell myself the fun is in the journey, but this journey at present is bumpy enough to spill my beer.