Something about nasty snowstorms when the Canadiens visit. Something so much better about sending their fans back on the road disappointed. These conditions were far worse than last December 19, and the County Executive asked residents to stay off the road except for emergency (an Islanders game does not qualify). But the teams were there, some refs were there, so Colin Campbell and Gary Bettman said the game must go on. For the Islanders, a couple of their resurfacing heroes and a couple of recurring heroes, it's a good thing it did.
Blake Comeau opened scoring on a breakaway set up by a beautiful Rob Schremp seam pass that still required a beautiful reception by Comeau. Carey Price played Comeau's backhand deke in a most curious way, but that move and the pretty passing to set it up made it an NHL highlight of the night on an evening that featured 10 other games.
The Islanders would have their traditional ugly period before it was over, but once again Dwayne Roloson held the fort with 38 saves. P.A. Parenteau and Michael Grabner helped pile on, as did James Wisniewski who joined Comeau in reminding us about those who ignited this team during the season's opening weeks.
This time the Islanders' ugly period was the 2nd: They started it with 1:26 of powerplay but couldn't get anything done. Then they proceeded to be outshot 16-7 in the period. A logically-there but video-inconclusive goal by Matt Moulson was waived off on the ice, and you started to think bad things. (Pretty sure the puck was well over the line, but Price obscured the overhead angle, and the best other angle was too sharp to say aye.) The Islanders received a powerplay immediately after that bad break, but they whiffed again and you started to think bad things.
But then Michael Grabner used his speed to advance a Frans Nielsen-forced turnover, take the breakaway and finish a fantastic forehand move on Price to make it 2-0 with 1:42 left in the period. You started to think good things.
Notes from a Snow Fort
- For the timeout fans: About that ugly second period...Jack Capuano saw things going downhill and called his timeout just over three minutes into the period. I did not observe an immediate change in their play -- a Canadiens' scoring chance came after the ensuing faceoff -- but hey, they won the game.
- Lines: My, the Josh Bailey - Frans Nielsen - Michael Grabner line is a beaut'. Two fantastic two-way players flanked by a young speedster who is still realizing his potential. And thank goodness for that, because Rob Schremp and Blake Comeau have a nice little thing going.
- Weird night for Price overall, between the Comeau goal, the misplay that led to the Moulson would-be goal and other unriveting moments on the way to 21 saves on 25 shots.
- Penalties and Karma: Blake Comeau earned a crosscheck penalty. Maxim Lapierre did not deserve a diving call on the play. But I didn't mind Lapierre receiving such a call because I've seen the punk play. Karma, she goes around. Ironically, while Lapierre's call evened it up unjustly (unless you consider the entirety of Lapierre's career, in which case...when do the debts end?), to have it at 4-on-4 after that sequence was just: Mathieu Darche followed up Comeau's crosscheck with not just a slash, but an attempted kick behind the net. (Clearly a kick, but I'm sure it won't garner a second glance from the league.)
- Karma only lasts so long: John Tavares's hooking penalty mid-way through the second period was a bit of a joke. (And to be fair: Mike Cammalleri's slash a little later may have been a make-up call.)
- Shots: The Islanders were outshot 34-13 at even strength, and the five-minute major in the third was obviously a huge part of them blowing the game away. But it wasn't as bad as all that. The second period was the worst stretch, and the rest, well teams with the lead tend to sit back a bit and do the rope-a-Hab drill.
- Ice Time: Moulson and Tavares led the entire team with 21:30-ish each. Andrew MacDonald had 22:25, Travis Hamonic had 20:42. 7th D Bruno Gervais logged 8:43. 7:04 of Wisniewski's 18:55 came on the powerplay.
Putting the Game Away: Not sure what Max Pacioretty was doing when checking Mark Eaton from behind there early in the third. Unnecessary play. He got the no-brainer major and a game, the Isles scored twice (the second on a 5-on-3), and that was that. Hilarious to see Scott Gomez complain about his tripping call that created that 5-on-3: His stick blade was lodged in Wiz's skate!
- Scoring Table Gazing: Another couple of assists for Frans, another couple of points for Parenteau. PAP is now tied for the team points lead at 20 with Tavares, Comeau and Wisniewski.
Streaking? Butch on Capuano
For your discussion, here's Butch Goring, during the first period:
"As we've seen the subtle little changes in this hockey club [under Jack Capuano] ... One of them for me is the center drive, where the wingers are staying more on the wings and the center is driving to the net for whoever happens to be in that middle area, and it's creating a lot more offense for the Islanders. People say it's more traditional hockey, but it's been very effective for this group of guys."
Well I see what he's saying and I think it's helped a little bit because the players seem to want the whole "simplify" meme. But I'm not sure it's been that kind of a difference. The Islanders are on a decent roll and have settled down, but there are many factors of unknown weight here. And while the last two wins have been multi-goal victories, they couldn't have gotten those without Roloson creating the room.
Still, a 4-0-1 run? I'll take it.
Since70too, via tiebreaker, for picking Comeau at 13:13.
And tomorrow, we do it all over again at the Garden. The blizzard won't be stopping that one either.