It's a shame, this was a very winnable game. The Islanders had plenty of scoring opportunities -- not the least of which was an impotent 48-second 5-on-3. But more dangerously: posts from John Tavares (a nightly tradition) and Doug Weight, a Matt Moulson backhand that Kris Letang sprawled to save, and a net-crashing shot by Jesse Joensuu that somehow walked itself out. (Okay, Marc-Andre Fleury helped walk it out.)
But it wasn't to be. Couple bad plays, one soft goal on Dwayne Roloson right after the wasted 5-on-3, and you have another growing pains loss despite outshooting an off-form Penguins club 38-28.
Jeff Tambellini and Jon Sim were the healthy scratches, making quite the prodigal couple. With those two out, there were no ice time goats: Sean Bergenheim had the lowest total among forwards with 12:46; Dustin Kohn logged 12:35 as the sixth defenseman.
Rookies Matt Martin and Jesse Joensuu were less noticeable than last night but hardly invisible. Martin engaged in his first NHL fight -- and the Islanders' first since Dec. 26 ... so that makes them win, right? -- after he checked Tyler Kennedy and Kennedy responded with an invitation. Judges unanimously scored the decision for the rookie.
This and That
Sort of don't want to dissect this one too much, but here are a few thoughts:
- The 5-on-3. It was just uninspired, and unimaginative. No urgency gaining the zone, no urgency moving the puck -- and no creativity at all. With a 5-on-3, I don't want to see just shots from outside; but if you are just shooting from outside, at least do it after you've forced lateral movement from the goalie by moving the puck quickly.
- Roloson made some very good saves -- all in all, he was in better form last night. But the save they needed most was the five-hole shot from Chris Kunitz that came right after the squandered 5-on-3. That was a backbreaker.
- Thanks to Frans Nielsen's backhand (of course), on a nice feed from Bruno Gervais, the Islanders pulled within one and looked to mount another comeback. But Blake Comeau, demonstrating perhaps his weakest tendency, took the puck in deep but then made a hurried or panicked pass from the corner that missed a rushing Mark Streit ... and created a Penguins quasi-2-on-1 that ended the comeback.
- At the moment of the Comeau turnover, the puck was loose on the boards and Gervais raced from the far point to get to it in the neutral zone. I guess he thought he knew Bill Guerin's speed from two years of playing with him, but that was a bad read. Gervais did not win the race -- and worse, by the time he got to Guerin Kunitz had raced up to make it a 2-on-1, and Gervais wiped out, leaving Kunitz an uncontested break-in on Roloson. A cluster, from one end to the other.
- After getting 28 minutes Tuesday night, Andrew MacDonald skated a more humane 23:26.
- Somehow John Tavares was not credited with any shots on goal. If true, then he hit a second post on a one-timer in the third, though Fleury's pad got over in time to likely stop the low shot.
- Three times refs called coincidental penalties, though one time Freddy Meyer IV was called with an extra two minutes for daring to engage Evgeni Malkin. So the penalty kill only had to kill once, successfully. The powerplay on the other hand...have I mentioned that it needs fixing? I'm shocked by how often I can't even tell what the plan is out there. (There is a plan, right?)
- The question came up in the game thread of current expectations. Always fun to check our pulse amid this roller coaster. The Islanders are currently five points above 28th place, so at this point I'm watching to gauge the progress of the prospects. Right now, many of them look like they could use the Olympic break.
Ah well. Young team. Full of growing pains. Missing Josh Bailey and Jack Hillen. The last month before the Olympic break has done one thing: It has given Garth Snow cover to do right at the trade deadline. A GM wants to be careful not to appear to "give up" on the locker room, but at this rate even the players -- the last to lose belief, per the job requirement -- will come to realize that they never gave Snow a choice.
P.S. Watching the Ducks game I noticed they are also among the teams who use "Bro Hymn" as a goal song. Coast to coast, why it's the 2000s' version of "History of Rock and Roll Part II"!