Three weeks ago the Islanders' only four-game win streak of the season came to a crashing halt in a 6-3 loss to the Bruins that looked even worse than the score. For Boston, that began a season-high seven-game win streak. For the Isles, well they picked themselves right back up, shutting out the Kings in convincing fashion on their way to going 5-2-3 since.
The Bruins played last night, losing in OT to the Sabres after giving up 2-0 and 3-2 leads. The Isles have been waiting at home for two days as part of this 3-0-1 homestand. The Bruins are playing for a top seed, hoping to keep Montreal away in the Northeast and finish above the Southeast winner too. The Isles are playing to prove, Dennis Green might say, that they are who they think they are: A growing team to be reckoned with in March, April and all of 2011-12. A win tonight coupled with a Devils regulation loss would put each at 64 points.
Who says spoiler time hockey isn't fun?
I Swear I Will Stop with This Dead Horse...Someday
The Islanders are also a tough team to play against. Even with tough guy Trevor Gillies suspended once again, they still have plenty of muscle in the lineup with Zenon Konopka (league-leading 239 penalty minutes, 21 fighting majors in 68 games), Matt Martin (108 PIMs, 10 fighting majors in 54 games) and recent call-up Michael Haley (59 PIMs, 3 fighting majors in 13 games). Konopka, who's 75 minutes ahead of second-place Steve Ott in the PIMs race, has dropped the gloves with Adam McQuaid in each of the first two meetings between the clubs this year.
I may be completely blinded by an Islanders lens here -- and I know Zenopka tends to get in fights as easily as his pet Hoppy's species reproduces -- but it's funny how the Islanders' defense of themselves has become part of a tough bully image almost overnight. Outside of the Penguins game which, well, let's just say beware the fury of a patient man, the Islanders haven't looked much like aggressors in their fights. Rather, they've looked like guys who no longer need to be poked twice, as when Micheal Haley responded to Barret Jackman's end-of-the-game high elbow by dropping the gloves immediately.
And honestly, despite recent events, I see the Bruins the same way. A Claude Julien team doesn't strike me as out for blood, but rather quick to make sure you're not out for theirs.
Certainly tonight the Islanders don't need to worry about intimidating the Bruins; they need to worry about playing patiently and methodically against Julien's scheme, which despite the defensive reputation also happens to produce three goals per game -- including 80 in the third period this season. The Islanders have 47 points since Dec. 16, the Bruins have 49 -- no other Eastern Conference team has more in that span.
- It wasn't all on him, but Nathan Lawson gave up the first three goals in that 6-3 loss to the B's last month. Al Montoya, who gave up the next three, gets the start tonight.
Blake Comeau sat out yesterday's practice with a recurrence of neck spasms -- a shockwave from the Chara hit in Montreal? -- and the Isles say he's a gametime decision tonight. If he can't go, by my count that leaves 11 forwards unless someone takes the Joel Martin Emergency Shuttle.
- Speaking of the Chara hit, he says he's not "changing [his] game or style," which honestly makes sense. It was a penalty, a blatant and dangerous interference that I think the league should have sanctioned with a short suspension in the name of player safety. But it wasn't indicative of a "style" in my book, just a poor decision that ended very badly.
- EDIT: Sadly, as ICanSeeForIslesAndIsles pointed out in comments, Evgeni Nabokov ("Winning!" 2-4 weeks) is a scratch.
- The Bruins are 0 for their last 19 powerplay chances. Release the Grabner.
GM Show: The Islanders did another Chris King sit-down with Garth Snow, and it's quite thorough. Video link is here, and it's also embedded below. Talk on Anders Lee (who made the All-Rookie team and 2nd team All-Conference), Brock Nelson, Anders Nilsson, Nino Niederreiter, the Natural Born Kirills, etc. ... Snow on the Nino decision versus Josh Bailey two years ago: "We're in a different place, a different world as a team now." ... On trading the 1st-round pick: Anything's possible. ... also addresses the timing of the James Wisniewski trade.
- As part of that "Islanders Top Shelf" series I mentioned last week, here's another, with Dee "7th Woman" interviewing Bobby Nystrom before that "Skate with the Greats" event. Nystrom's voice never gets old.
- Jesse Joenssu had some blunt words after the Sound Tigers blew a third period lead by allowing four goals to the same guy.
Garth Snow with Chris King on Prospects
From the whole LHH staff here: Thanks to all you commenters for some great contributions and discussions lately. Lots of fun perspectives to think about. I swear every day I come here and learn and laugh way more than one should from a wee little hockey site.