Jack Capuano has coached both Nathan Lawson and Kevin Poulin at the AHL level, but I confess I'm puzzled by the yanking of Nathan Lawson after just 5:17 of play and three shots. A stab at shifting early momentum rather than a pure reflection of Lawson's play (one goal came off a lively carom from the end boards, the other on a breakaway), it was still a quick hook you do not see very often. I can't say it made any difference in the Islanders' play -- it was too early to even tell! -- but the bonus was we got an early preview of the touted Poulin, who did not disappoint in saving all 19 shots.
Capuano clearly wasn't pleased with his team, even icing the fourth line on the powerplay at one point, and remarking afterward: "It really wasn’t a game that we deserved to win." The Islanders ultimately outshot the Oilers in every period and 31-22 overall, but that wasn't very telling (they were outshot 20-16 at even strength, and failed on 13 powerplay shots). Ultimately, early leads are hard for thin teams to overcome.
(One more confession: The quick hook reminded me of a Globe and Mail post by Matt Sekeres on the WJC that essentially blamed Canada's loss on the failure to pull goalies at the right time for "momentum's" sake. That post is just awful. Apparently the entire secret to winning that tournament is just pulling your goalie when the Avery hits the fan.)
Notes of Brooding
- Thankfully the Isles got out to that early big lead -- well-earned, even if the Flames dressing their backup Henrik Karlsson (stats after tonight: .894%, 2.74 GAA) was an important factor. The second half of the game was a fire drill. Jack Capuano called an early timeout, and it may have helped, but it didn't prevent this team from having to survive a barrage. Still: Finding ways to win, taking the opening the opponent gives you.
- From the Oilers TV announcers: "I talked to Rob Schremp this morning, he's back at center, and he said he more or less hates the wing. Feels much more comfortable at center."
- Can't help feeling the game might have been different if Michael Grabner is able to score on that breakaway in the second minute of the game. He tried to get Dubnyk to move first, but Dubnyk held out just enough to get a piece of the shot.
- After the Oilers went up 1-0 on a juicy rebound off the end boards, the Islanders had a powerplay on which they managed a couple of shots but failed to convert. Can't help thinking it might have gone differently if they got the early equalizer there. Instead, Dustin Penner got the shorty late in the powerplay, Lawson was pulled for Kevin Poulin in the ol' shakeup maneuver.
- ...Aaaaand, can't help thinking, of course, that the game still turned on the Islanders' inability to get the tying goal on a late, 1:38-long 5-on-3.
- Or, you know, any powerplay goal would do. 0-for-7 doesn't get it done, but you knew after the previous games' four PP goals that luck's revenge would arrive.
- I'm sorry, but if you're judging Lawson's ability to be an NHL backup -- or even his role in this game -- based on three shots after he faced 29 shots (28 saves) the other night and 35 shots (32 saves) in his debut, then I'll soon be sending you a Jump To Conclusions Mat. I don't know his game, and I'm sure (and happy) that Kevin Poulin's future is far more important, but it will take more than parts of three NHL games to get a true read on Lawson. He's a late bloomer so skepticism is natural, but the man played 5 minutes. Five minutes.
- Speaking of late bloomers, I thought Matt Moulson was active all night. He went to his office, he got some chances, he just didn't have the luck he had last game.
- Nonetheless, Devan Dubnyk made a couple of big early saves and Lawson did not. And the Isles made a solid effort at a comeback, but bounces don't care about effort, and Dubnyk did his part all night long.
- Frans Nielsen did not play, and that made me a sad panda, and it also made the Islanders a weaker team. But I mean, I have to admit that's not the whole of it: Missing Radek Martinek and Mark Eaton (to say nothing of Mark Streit) sure doesn't help.
- I know some (including me) saw Kurtis Foster as a potential off-season acquisition last summer, and thus some are curious to see how he's doing with the Oil. He was a healthy scratch.
- In discussing Rob Schremp Hockey's return to Edmonton, the Oilers broadcast actually used a "shrimp dead in the water" motif -- complete with a plate of shrimp. Seriously. I wouldn't lie to you about such mundane tomfoolery.
FIG Pool: Cheers to Anarcurt, the FIG master, for what I believe is his third win of the year by picking Blake Comeau, who scored at 13:00 of the second, on a sweet one-timer from a nice Rob Schremp pass just after the powerplay expired.. And thanks again to ICanSeeForIslesAndIsles for doing the FIG tallying legwork. In addition to total consciousness on your deathbed for the season's overall winner, I now have an NHL "Guardian Project" poster to add. Lighthouse Hockey: You can win stuff!
Mark Eaton Needs Surgery
Apparently a second opinion will be sought, but Mark Eaton -- sent back to Long Island due to a case of Islanders Hip -- likely needs surgery. Sigh. It's as if everybody was a butterfly goalie in a previous life. [If that topic interests you, I touched on the nature of butterfly goalies and hip injuries a couple of years ago.]
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Well this road trip started off nicely with the win in Detroit and another in Calgary, but it gets pretty challenging this weekend: Back-to-backs in Colorado and Chicago, with the Colorado game Saturday an afternoon (3 p.m. EST) game.