The Islanders visit Toronto tonight as part of a home-and-home that's big in terms of the slumping Leafs holding themselves up in the playoff bubble and the mildly revived Islanders giving themselves some hope of joining the party before the All-Star Break.
A high-scoring team for much of the season, the Leafs have scored more than two goals only once in their last six games and are fighting at practice but not in a serious kind of way . Their dependence on Phil Kessel and Joffrey Lupul to generate the offense is unsettlingly familiar for people watching John Tavares' line carry the Islanders.
Islanders (19-21-6, 12th/E) @ Maple Leafs (23-19-5, 9th/E)
7 p.m. | MSG+ (*unless you have TWC) | Audio: NHL - WRHU
[Airfare is cheaper than game tickets] Centre
Now media property puppets: Pension Plan Puppets
For those stoking playoff dreams -- I don't share them but certainly don't begrudge you if you do -- JoRiverside has a fun FanPost on what it would take, Hockey-Reference puts them at 7.6%, and Brian Compton points out the Isles are two points behind where they were at this stage in 2007. When they made the playoffs.
About that Offense
In truth, the Leafs offense remains comfortably in the top 10 of the league with 3.00 goals per game, and their 1.01 GF/GA ratio at 5-on-5 is 12th-best. Which of course means it's their goals against that's killing them (3.02 per game), highlighted by a PK that somehow continues to give up a goal one out of every four times shorthanded.
Their young draft prizes like Luke Schenn and Nazim Kadri have faced the trade rumor scuttlebutt, which comes with the territory when playing in that market or when Mike Milbury is your general manager. (Thankfully, no one has ever had to experience both at the same time.)
The Islanders' special teams have been fine, it's their 5-on-5 that remains the long-term challenge. Or, simply finding someone else to score.
12 Games of Streaking: Eric Hornick notes that since the first line swap of Kyle Okposo for P.A. Parenteau was made 12 games ago, Matt Moulson is 6-9-15, Kyle Okposo is 5-6-11, and John Tavares is 8-13-21. Tavares' 12-game point streak is the longest in the NHL this season.
Parenteau has put up 3-13-16 in that time as well, though some of that has also flowed through Tavares on the powerplay or on the 4-on-4 OT winner Saturday night.
The other day Parenteau and Jack Capuano each discussed the adjustments and attributes Parenteau brings to the second line now with Michael Grabner and Frans Nielsen:
"It’s a little different on my new line, because Grabner is a little faster. He’s on the go all the time so I have to move the puck a little quicker than when I play with Johnny and Matt. Frans is so reliable on both ends of the ice that we can take more chances in the offensive zone. It’s a little bit of an adjustment but it’s a good one and I’m just trying to play the same game."
The Evgeni Nabokov Waiver Claim: A Year Later
It was a year ago yesterday that the Islanders -- in the middle of a seasonlong goalie injury crisis -- exercised the right given to every NHL team by claiming Evgeni Nabokov off waivers. Nabokov and his agent sent a mess of confusing signals before and after the claim, and fans and media from various reactionary NHL outposts blamed the Islanders. Boo hoo.
Here was our recap of the waiver claim drama at the time, fun reading one year later.
Nabokov is 10-11-0 as an Islander, with a 2.35 GAA, a .919 save pct. and a .915 even-strength save pct. With Al Montoya injured (though now healthy and ready for duty), Nabokov was essential to the Islanders stabilizing over the last month. So gosh, all those critics must've been right about how pointless it was to claim him.
Any rational view saw that claim as a no-brainer. Probably people just prefer their archetypes stick to the image they have of them though, so some would rip the move no matter what sense it made; it's only natural. For example, the Rangers are battling for the top of the league right now, yet I still just see them as a spiritual carcinogen eating away at the soul of this fine sport nearly two decades after buying the Oilers' sixth Cup.
- Our visiting Leafs fans might get a kick out of Mark's most recent Lost Milbury Files: Bryan Berard.
- The Checking Line looks at the Islanders offensive contributors and heaps some praise on the Sound Tigers.
- garik16 took to the stats to disassemble the silly ESPN Top 25 Under 25 that left out John Tavares.
- Puck Daddy airs the Howie Rant and namechecks Keith.
Evander Kane is proof that any Canadian media market will eat its young.
Olli Jokinen has abandoned the booze. (Note: This happened six years ago.) Not sure if that's what's made his hair grow though.
Leave your First Islanders Goal picks in this thread.