The Islanders gave up the first goal yet again, and their play was generally pants. Jack Capuano shuffled the lines early in an almost desperate bid to wake some of the underachievers -- his post-game presser talked of "selfish" and "disturbing" play getting them away from their systems -- but to no avail. All of the Islanders' flaws were on display, but every time I wanted to really vent about their poor execution, lethargic effort and questionable decision-making, I was reminded that this was the fifth game in seven nights, and the end of yet another back-to-back.
That doesn't excuse the performance, but it does lend clarity to the reality of the situation: They aren't as bad as they looked tonight, but they should be better at avoiding looking this bad, even on the business end of a heavy schedule, even with the weather preventing any chance of an inspiring home crowd.
Still, this game had its entertaining moments. Thank Michael Grabner and P.A. Parenteau for that.
- Well, Capuano talked about disappointing players in the post-game -- even not "rewarding them" for things they don't deserve rewards for -- but many of us amateurs believe the biggest problem right now is the trio of Rob Schremp, Blake Comeau and Josh Bailey. None of those three look right, right now, and they appear to be dragging each other down into a lethargic, confused funk. There are likely positional and stylistic factors for each of them, but collectively they have a chance to make this team a three-line team and they aren't seizing it.
- On the other hand, Michael Grabner and P.A. Parenteau very much did look right. Parenteau is still hustling and playing smart for all 200 feet of ice. Grabner potted a goal -- to tie it briefly at 1-1 - and an assist to continue his hot streak this month.
- On that note, Capuano talked about how Grabner does a lot despite not getting prime ice time (no powerplay time, essentially). Indeed.
- Extreme Corsi of the Night: Here's a minor reflection of how well Grabner's line with Frans Nielsen and Kyle Okposo did: Their primary defensive opposition, Jamie McBain and Joni Pitkanen, were each -17 in Corsi on the night. No other Hurricane was anywhere near that much in the red.
Matt Moulson also showed he's serious. Not a great game for him but he wasn't taking shifts off, and he rushed to John Tavares's defense when he was getting mugged by Ryan Carter at the end of the second period.
- On defense, the Isles tried a different look to break up the Bruno Gervais-Dylan Reese third pairing: Radek Martinek was in charge of babysitting Reese (and they were victimized on the first goal), and Jack Hillen was with Gervais.
- The depth-challenged defense is clearly an on-going problem for this team, but they weren't the problem tonight -- or, no one was playing far below their expectations the way the RSH/Comeau/Bailey line has. Andrew MacDonald misplayed things on the Canes' go-ahead goal though. His goal late in garbage time didn't really make up for that -- nor did he celebrate it (his first of the season) like it would.
- In all, it was a 4-1 game with a late goal making the score look closer. All four Canes goals came at even strength. EV shots were close -- 23-21 for Carolina, but mistakes and run of play were not.
- FIG Winner: Cheers to vwrc, whose pick was within two minutes of Grabner's actual goal time.
Shift Charts: These aren't the easiest charts to read, but once you get the hang of manipulating them the shift charts at Timeonice show you who played with whom, and when. You can drag players up to next to each other, and as you scroll right you can mouse over a bar and it will tell you the name of the player. For example, you can see Schremp spend the second half of the first on the bench, and get a shift on the fourth line in the second. (By the way, to get these for other games, you go to the TOI home page and enter the game number, which is available in the URL of the nhl.com preview/game summary/recap etc.
All-Star Break Reassignments: The Islanders returned Kevin Poulin and Reese to AHL Bridgeport after the game. You can read two-way money matters into that, but the Sound Tigers have games this weekend so there's a compelling competitive reason to send them the help.
Garth Snow Speaks: If you didn't see them, you can see on the official site clips of Garth Snow's "state of the team" interview with Howie Rose that they showed on MSG. Nothing earth-shattering, some Nabokov talk, talk of the priority to sign Moulson, and talk of letting the goaltending/Poulin situation play itself out. I'll embed them here if they become available that way.
Update: Those Snow videos are now viewable on a dedicated page on the official site.
That Guardian Project Thing: Oh, just vote in this thing and end it already. Wait...that's a Facebook link? Oh, go ahead and "like" Lighthouse Hockey on Facebook while you're at it. Then tell me what that means and how I should manage it better.
The Story about the Fist
First of all, if you were called for that horrendous goalie interference call in Pittsburgh last night the way P.A. Parenteau was, you might think the refs were out to violate you, too.
Second, after a frustrating night -- poor play, though not by Parenteau, plus three Islanders shots hitting the post -- the last thing you want is for another unlucky bounce to spoil your last chance at getting one more goal back.
Third, because of the very sparse crowd, MSG was picking up on-ice player audio all night long. You heard someone, maybe Rick DiPietro, drop a big F-bomb right after the Hurricanes' first goal. You heard lots of chatter and hollers. Great television, honestly.
So this was the scene in question:
It's 4-2, just 16 seconds left, and the Islanders have the goalie pulled and are pressuring in the Canes' zone and are just trying to mount one last push, just for the hell of it. Just because you never give up. Because hey, they're about to go on break, might as well try to nab one goal back, right? But the puck bounces waaaaay up in the air behind the net -- like high enough where everyone just has to stand there and wait for it to come down within reach.
Except Joe Corvo has body position for the puck, with the net blocking the only route to meet him like a an opening tip. And if you're PAP, you know what he's going to do: He's not going to catch it, or even high-stick it, or wait for it to hit the ice. No, Corvo is ready to swat at it, handball-style, and send it careening out of the zone.
So Parenteau does what you would do: He pops the Hurricane in the back at just the right moment to keep him from swatting it away. Well, maybe it was more of a pop. Okay, yeah, it was maybe a crosscheck. Definitely a penalty. But with 16 seconds left, maybe PAP is thinking, "Come on, let us play? What can it hurt."
But the ref -- it seemed like fine officiating tonight, for a change -- calls it right away. And Parenteau's jaw drops, and in language that can be heard over MSG audio as clear as Howie and Butch, Parenteau goes: "Are you fist-f#$%ing me?!" [YouTube]
No, P.A. He's not. It just feels that way.
* * *
Alright, I've given that minor moment too much attention. But it was a hilarious scene, a fair summation of the season, and sadly one of the high points in our game thread, as Parenteau's frustration was palpable and understandable. Discouraging, depressing end to the first "half" of the season. New Jersey lost to Detroit tonight though, so the Islanders still enter the break just a hair above 30th overall.