Flyers 3, Islanders 2: Gut punch, followed by division

Thank God the league slaps its logo on that net and on every collar -- else how would we guess what we're watching?

When a losing run gets this bad (the Islanders have points in only four of their last 18 games), you see a few things happen: (1) Criticism of ownership (a Brooks Sunday, check, check), (2) Fans turning on -- or clamoring for -- prospects for whom they preached patience just a month prior, (3) A low turnout (roughly half-full on Kids Day, reportedly the lowest total since the lockout), and most pressing: (4) Rumblings and questioning of effort within the locker room.

To point 4, Katie Strang's Isles Files post [quin FanShot discussion here] included this Proverbial Sign of Losing quote from an anonymous player discussing the lack of effort: "It's like a country club in here." Here we go.

Game Sum | Event Sum | Corsi - H2H | Recaps: NHL - BSH - Isles



I do sense the disturbance in the force, obviously. Feelings of frustration, hand-wringing all around. No one enjoys it when it's going like this, and everyone's just waiting for the losing (and the luck) to turn.

On the ice today, a truly awful first period was followed by a better second (albeit marked by failed powerplays) and a surprising, exciting, teasing 36-second stretch in which the Islanders both erased and claimed a third-period lead. But it's the Flyers, so always it seems it just wasn't to be. A Matt Moulson holding penalty that I heard some Isles people call a poor call and others suggest was a bad penalty gave the Flyers the opportunity they needed to tie with 8:26 left.

Under three minutes later, Daniel Briere -- no doubt managing to calm his fears of Imminent Frans Nielsen Attack for long enough to use his stick on the puck -- finished it off on a poorly defended 2-on-2. (More on that and other extended thoughts and quotes below.)

Game Highlights

Notes and Thoughts

Moulson Holding Penalty: I mention those differing interpretations because I didn't get a good look live, forgot to record the game, and NHL highlights like the above often omit important plays like that. So, thoughts on the call?

The 2-on-2: The above clip does show the Briere goal and how it happened. It was a broken play at first -- Jack Hillen poking the puck away outside the blueline but Scott Hartnell taking a good swipe at it to win it back and create the 2-on-2. So that leaves Frans Nielsen and James Wisniewski defending what amounts to a HIllen turnover. The pass lifts by Nielsen's stick to a way-too-open Briere, whom Wisniewski has given too much space, failing to adjust to the quick change in fortunes. To me, it was a fatally slow read by Wis, but I'm open to other suggestions and the highlights aren't thorough.

Jack Hillen Rebound? Despite Hillen's role in that goal, I do think his play has firmed up the last couple of games. Today I was reminded of one reason why: Since Hillen is undersized, his best asset is his skating. Today I saw him doing "the Hillen lean" -- it's a more exaggerated leaning defensive posture in 1-on-1 situations that allows him greater reach with the stick to keep the puck-carrier at bay, and it's possible because Hillen's backwards skating is so swift and mobile that he can lean this much while retaining balance and speed that an average skater cannot. When played right, it drives the forward to the harmless outside and even finishes with a Hillen bodycheck. Essentially, when Hillen is in form he can give himself more defensive reach than a player his size typically has, and that is a must for him to succeed.

Grabs and a Finn Named Jesse: Getting to see them work on a full rink without the limits of a TV screen, I really liked that line. They were the only line creating anything in the otherwise ugly first.

Sim-Sim: Jon Sim got a Sim Goal -- he went to the net, and Parenteau's slapper went in off Sim's skate.

Travis Hamonic: I'm thinking what you're thinking about young Travis -- stitch your #36 jerseys now -- I'm just not saying anything because is soon as I praise someone they get hurt.

The Frans: I got plenty of texts and comments when it looked like Nielsen might have won it for the Isles, as if it were a personal reward for this unabashed Frans champion. And while he could not stop the pass on the game-winning goal -- I do think he did all he could -- his immediate presence there after the turnover reminded me of one reason Nielsen is so quietly effective: He reads the play well and has the mobility to do something about it. He not only understands situational hockey, he anticipates mistakes and has the drive to do something about them. That's what you want in a center, the player with the most freedom on the ice to asses and put out fires. Frans is like your mother: He recognizes you're going to screw up before you do, and he might arrive in time to save your ass before it really blows up in your face.

The Final Push: In Wiz's defense, he made a great play keeping a couple pucks in the zone as time wound down with the extra attacker. In the dying seconds, he followed that up with a prescient and patient cross-ice pass to Nielsen for the last-gasp one-timer, which I believe Nielsen sent high or wide.

The Frans Goal: Um...I mean I know by spirit that was definitely a good goal, but the whistle did blow before the puck went over the line, right? Am I missing something? Is there an exception for "whistle still blowing as puck crosses line?" Or a "I accidentally blew the whistle, no way I should stop play" clause? You could say that was a lucky goal, trickling as it did over the line, but a closer inspection shows how Nielsen made a nice quick shift to release that shot hard and quick. He put extra mustard on that snapshot, and such mustard is required to beat NHL goalies -- even Russian ones who were anonymous two months ago.

Much Luck: Dwayne Roloson had a pretty good game, but he definitely enjoyed some post love. Technically those aren't official shots on goal and they only mean the goalie played his angles perfectly {wink}. But the post makes a nice shiny ringing noise that makes us all go "ooooohhh," so it is by mutual decree that they are called lucky for the goalie. And since all goalies are crazy, only the goalie union disagrees.

Comeau: I try not to pile on players who are already getting piled on in comments, but...what's going on here? Jack Capuano tried a shakeup to start the second, pulling P.A. Parenteau from the top line and putting Blake Comeau there. But multiple times today Comeau short-circuited his own rush either by pulling up at the blueline or by taking the puck all the way around the perimeter -- instead of driving the net -- and even taking it back to the blueline, once even accidentally leaving the zone. Comeau is not alone in failing to drive the net -- there are others -- but his reluctance may be the most maddening, since it has been abundantly clear in his career that good things happen only when he does that.

 

Thank Yous

For me personally it was a disappointing ending to an otherwise fun trip to NYC and surroundings. After watching the Friday game from the Puck Daddy gathering at Irish Times (where I managed to violate two bar rules within five minutes, and the owner was cool about it both times), WebBard and IslesOfficial and I took in the Sunday game live at the Coliseum, with nice seats in the corner where Blake Comeau took the puck back out to the blueline twice the Islanders shot twice. Before and afterward, I had the chance to meet or renew acquaintances with some fellow bloggers, fans and Islanders staff -- all of whom left me sincerely humbled by their friendly, welcome arms. (A There is a reason I, and all of us, do this no matter the record on the ice. For me it's because this sport is addictive and following it creates a familial feeling among your fellow fans. It's far from war -- or anything so serious -- that we all go through together, but sometimes the range of emotions feels that way.

When outsiders rip the team/market/fanbase you'll hear defenders who disagree on plenty of other issues sin in chorus that the Islanders fanbase is loud and passionate. From bars to train rides to random conversation, nothing on this trip caused me to doubt that. (Hell, you know it from the volume of frustration when things aren't going well.) But this funny sport requires investment both emotional and financial, and right now the team's performance isn't justifying that expense for enough people.

Links/Recaps

  • Wiz at Newsday/Isles Files: "There’s no second effort, there’s no second chances...Every time we get a good shot or good chance, we lose the one-on-battle on the wall or I make a bad pass from up top and they dump it down the ice."
  • John Tavares [Whoops, I meant Travis Hamonic] thinks the Islanders PP is getting chances. [NYIFYI] (I think they are waiting way too long to shoot potential one-timers -- how often must they settle the puck and take a weaker shot? -- and they aren't moving with the urgency needed to match a typical PK.) NYIFYI also quotes Parenteau on disappointment with the team effort.
  • Roloson on effort: "Bounces, you create them," he said. "If you're going to work, you're going to get those bounces. If we're going to sit back and let the play come to us, the other team is going to get those bounces." [nhl.com]
  • Konopka during intermission, and other thoughts on the disarray [Islanders Point Blank]
  • Dee with a full recap and a group picture with some clown in the middle. [7th Woman]
  • Eric Hornick's "The Skinny" [Forever1940]

Next up is Boston Thursday. No practice Monday, so news will likely be light. (He said, fearing inevitable jinx.)

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