Well, that first period was nice.
I had two on-ice contests to still really cheer for -- both of them this week -- and the Isles dropped the ball on first one with an awful 5-on-3 and some lovely one-piece stick luck. The season series finishes "3-3" from the Isles' perspective, but their December OT win means the Rangers took the points and the glossier 3-2-1 record.
I'm not a big believer in the Church of Momentum as it's tossed around by broadcasters, but I do believe in the collective confidence and psychological shifts within a team. Getting a 2-0 jump on your rivals, then giving one back and failing to convert on a minute-long 5-on-3 can certainly change the collective confidence levels among two fragile squads.
In fairness, the 5-on-3 was not bad. They created chances, they just didn't convert. Stuff like a shot wide, a good pass to the slot eluding Matt Moulson ... those were the breaks that extinguished it. But a rival gives you a chance, you have to make 'em pay. The rest of the 2nd period lacked the assertiveness that got the Isles the early lead.
Scott Gordon Post-Game, with lots of Experience Caveats for Garth to Fix
How about that Prescience?
Just yesterday BenHasna and I were discussing Blake Comeau's ideal position and how he's more dangerous when coming down the left wing on his offhand shot, as opposed to when he comes down the right side and tends to circle the perimeter. Sure enough, early in the first Comeau breaks down the left side to fire an assertive shot that Henrik got a piece of, but could not keep out.
How about that Prescience ... Not so Much
It's automatic: Any time I discuss a line as if Scott Gordon might stick with it ... well I should just assume that line will be no more within 24 hours. Jeff Tambellini not only didn't play with John Tavares and Comeau, he didn't play, period (healthy scratch). As a lineup decision, that doesn't bother me -- though keeping level at even strength, the trio hadn't created any offense in the previous two games -- but as a chronicler of events it does warn me not to think too hard about anything, because it will change tomorrow.
Cue Howie One-Piece Stick Rant
On the Islanders' first powerplay, which came from the Rangers' jaw-dropping early too many men penalty, John Tavares broke his stick on the initial faceoff and had to go straight to the bench. This is two minutes into the game. Later, Mark Streit's stick broke on an attempted one-timer during the 5-on-4 that remained after the failed 5-on-3. Finally, Kyle Okposo's stick broke on an attempted clear in the Isles zone, and what looked like a harmless under-control play became a quick turnover and they tying goal over Dwayne Roloson's shoulder.
That's some Yugo-esque reliability for a stick that retails somewhere around $200. When the equipment manufacturers can sell most of the NHL on sticks that cost $200 but continually break at critical moments, the terrorists have already won.
But hey ... at least those lovely RBK (vowels not included) EDGE uniform SYSTEMS have increased player speed league-wide.
This and That
Why Vengeance is Hard: Trevor Gillies' roughing penalty late in the 2nd was really soft but by the book. Which points to the whole danger of having enforcers exacting your revenge for you. Brandon Prust dangerously decked Tavares from behind earlier in the game. The best response is always to lay a weasel out (or that weasel's star teammate) with a good hard check -- or maybe even an illegal check, if necessary -- during gameplay. Not during scrums when refs are looking for excuses to put their mark on the game.
Welcome Sight: John Tavares using his body to win puck battles and make defensive plays.
Unwelcome Sight: I really don't know what Prust was doing killing penalties during the Rangers' playoff push, but checking Tavares from behind is both a stupid and dangerous tactic. Shame the Isles never made him pay.
Welcome Sight: Fire from Streit and Okposo on Brandon Dubinsky after Dubinsky mildly poked at Dwayne Roloson. As a fan, I really hate post-whistle scrubs -- really, they're simply ridiculous displays of misplaced testosterone 85% of the time, one of those pointless features that's ingrained in the game and makes Don Cherry tear up. But this team will need some band-of-brothers displays from time to time as they evolve, and it's nice to see guys like Streit, Nielsen and Okposo will be among those to show it.
Welcome Sight: Mark Streit unleashing that cannon we need more of on the powerplay. Later, at even strength, it made the loudest clang off the crossbar that you ever did hear. Tough luck with the puck in his skates on Gaborik's go-ahead goal though.
...More: It could be just my Frans fanaticism, but I like this Frans Nielsen on the powerplay point. He's a good puck mover and a quick decision-maker, and a bonus is he's another to help win the faceoff.
...and More: Welcome back, Andrew MacDonald. Twenty minutes, +1, and a goal-saving shot block (one of three).
...and Finally: The way Comeau's second goal dribbled in was even funnier than his first.
The Finn with the Random Pulse Hates the Dane Who's All Heart: Olli Jokinen, who somehow "earned" first star, is apparently jealous of Frans Nielsen's ability to show up night after night. Olli took a 15-foot long charge attempt against Nielsen (it just missed) in the first period. In the second, on an invalid faceoff where Olli was thrown out, before departing the dot he up and cross-checked Nielsen. I hope Glen Sather decides to keep him around for many millions that shall be earned once every seven games.
Quote of the Night: Dwayne Roloson, on the whole rivalry thing: "Every loss is a loss."
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Mild Solace: Every team the Rangers are chasing won. So there's that.