On the bright side, the Hurricanes are banged up, with Erik Cole and Tuomo Ruutu still out, and Cam Ward sent home to deal with an upper body injury. So Ward won't have the Islanders to kick around anymore.
On the other hand, the Islanders have lost six in a row -- including one uninspired showing against these same Hurricanes (well, "same" plus Ward, which is no minor difference) -- and the Hurricanes won last night in Buffalo to make it five wins in seven games. Eric Staal extended his point streak to 11 games. Great.
I swear Southeast opponents are like a Siren's call to Scott Gordon's squad, luring them into a game of wide-open hockey they cannot win, save for when its the Thrashers doing the calling. (Upon reflection, I suppose among Nature's threats, thrashers -- despite their impressive song repertoire -- pale in comparison to wild cats and destructive storm systems.) It seems each team's star, be he Nathan Horton or Staal or Martin St. Louis and friends, always finds life easy against the NYI. (It also seems that being a fan allows for sweeping statements like that one.)
Newsy interruption: Martin Biron stopped
39 38 shots for Bridgeport last night, earning the 3rd star in a 3-2 OT loss in Springfield. The winning goal? From Ryan O'Marra, of course. Speaking of the Sound Tigers, here's a nice piece from Mike Fornabaio on the progress of Islanders sleeper pick Anton Klementyev.
The Islanders, hobbled by a 15.4% powerplay, do not score even as much as the Hurricanes. Their nine goals in the last seven games is a pretty good idea for why they've lost six in a row. John Tavares has been among many hitting posts. That they only netted one goal from the 11-0 shot pressure during the first half of the second period in Tampa Bay is symptomatic of what ails them: Even when they're playing right, goals are hard to come by:
"It has snowballed," coach Scott Gordon said. "Very rarely do you have your whole team go cold. It's hard to believe that we're not scoring on some of those chances and it's been consistent that we haven't."
Special Teams: Exasperation
The Islanders powerplay has been so pedestrian for so long, it defies the usual puns associated with power outages and -- doh! I did it anyway. A few times recently, they have experimented with Kyle Okposo going back to the point -- in the past he's only been there when Doug Weight was out -- with Weight down on the left-side boards.
A frequent problem has been their lack of assertiveness gaining the zone with the extra man, but even when they do that, they've suffered from a lack of creativity and puck protection. Of course, one thing about a reeling powerplay: It encourages the opposition to be aggressive with their pressure, counting on being able to rattle you and toy with your fragile snake-bitten psyche. It can be a self-feeding cycle. Somewhere here they have to catch a break -- or be far more inventive.
While the powerplay only scores a little over three times in every 20 tries, the penalty kill concedes a goal once in every four attempts (that's five in every 20, if you find math to be not worth the bother). That hasn't changed much lately; they've allowed one PP goal in each of their last six games. Their best bet remains to stay out of the box.
5-on-5: Also Exasperation
Of course, being in the bottom four at 5-on-5 (.82 GF/GA ratio) and bottom three in both special teams categories is ... well it doesn't leave a lot avenues through which to steal victories, now does it? I'd suggest trying to bribe the officials -- maybe offer a complimentary trip to China; say, how does next September sound?
Few teams are as bad as a six-game losing streak makes them look. I don't expect this to last too much longer (I mean surely luck will turn ... right?). But obviously with the Isles' young scorers snakebitten and the team deficient in all three phases, the team needs some stellar goaltending performances on most nights. Tonight, with Ward still out, a mismatch is possible. If the Islanders go back to Rick DiPietro tonight, a chance to be the hero on a Saturday night at home awaits; something tells me he savors those situations.
Recommendation: Try checking Staal a little more closely.
Prediction: The Islanders eke out some form of victory that the NHL renders as 3-2, regardless of whether the third goal shows up on a player's individual stats.
Query: I must say this is the first time I've thought about it in this context, but would you say Kyle Okposo is the third-best African-descent player in the league? (On that list, I'm bumping him up to #2.) In honor of Black History Month, Die by the Blade had that interesting rundown. Recently, I fully internalized that Johnny Oduya is both Swedish and of African descent -- not your common combination there. I tell ya', the world gets smaller every day. I fully expect the first Chinese-reared NHLer will owe something to Charles Wang.
Not only but also: In Olympic prep, Lighthouse Hockey user Hans und Franz here has done some nice work on the "lesser known" teams in the Vancouver Olympics (Did you know Latvia's team is mostly from one club team, Dinamo Riga?); part III is his FanPost on Germany and Belarus. ... If you didn't hear, Ilya Kovalchuk's first game for the Devils turned on its head in the final four minutes, as the Devils turned a 3-1 deficit into a 4-3 regulation win. Kovy earned two assists, though the heroism was led by others ... If you missed the news or BC's FanShot last night, thoughts and prayers to the family of Brian Burke, who lost their son Brendan to a car accident in this snowstorm that's swept half the country. At the SBN hockey hub, Travis Hughes (Flyers guy at Broad Street Hockey) wrote a nice tribute to the impact Brendan had in his too-short life.