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Maple Leafs 3, Islanders 2: Tavares-led comeback erased by...Blake!

The first period looked like a repeat of the Roloson Miracle game, except with Dwayne not in the mood to play God again. (He was good, he just wasn't 58-save good.)

The second period was a wash -- the Islanders entered and exited down 2-0, with each team thinking it had reason for a better return.

But the third period, aided by a period-opening powerplay: Now that was a different story. The John Tavares Machine was fully operational, working from JT's office to the side of the crease, and the Islanders comeback was in effect. Tied up with five minutes to go, we just might steal another point or two in Toronto.

Then Jason Blake scored and fist-pumped and that was that.

Game Sum. | Event Sum. | Recaps: | Isles official

Final - 12.9.2009 1 2 3 Total
New York Islanders 0 0 2 2
Toronto Maple Leafs 2 0 1 3

Complete Coverage >

But man if this game didn't give us some things to think about, in the napkin-sketching, roster-mixing kind of way. Take Tim Jackman out and you lose your de facto enforcer, but you get the chance to add another powerplay piece like Rob Schremp, who did not disappoint in that role ... and who held his own centering the 4th-line in limited minutes (9:30 total, 2:44 on the PP).

Kyle Okposo got the (quite beautiful) first assist on both Tavares goals, but the second assist was legitimately credited to Jeff Tambellini on the first and Schremp on the second. The powerplay actually looked functional.

Meanwhile, Schremp's 9:30 TOI was more than Josh Bailey, who ended up with a paltry 8:15 (just 0:23 on the PP). Bailey was also 0-5 on faceoffs. Hmmm...

We spend so much time (rightly so) fretting about this insufficient blueline. And lord knows Jon Sim and company get their licks for being used above their talent level. (Sim got 9:28, zilch on the PP, by the way.) But we can't forget the search for who on this team can score besides John Tavares and Matt Moulson -- who have accounted for all of the Islanders goals in the last week since Nov. 28 in New Jersey, when Richard Park scored the lone goal in a 6-1 loss. It's worth noting that without the ample powerplay time that Tavares gets, he doesn't have four goals in the last two games, either.

There remain several movable parts who have either not performed (one view) or not gotten the consistent chance to perform (the other view). In that group you'd have to include Bailey, Frans Nielsen, Tambellini, Schremp, Blake Comeau and Sean Bergenheim. With Bergenheim out, it opens up one more slot in the opportunity department.

Safe to say two of those guys (Comeau and Bergenheim) are destined to be non-top-six, two-way wingers with a focus on the defensive side. Two of those guys can probably only stick around if they can score consistently (Tamby, Schremp). And the remaining two are centers, centers with #2 potential, but centers who will need to show more than they have on the offensive side.

I'm not pigeon-holing anyone yet, but it would be fun to get more time with these guys being mixed up and down depending on performance and chemistry. Depending on the length of Bergenheim and Jackman's injuries, maybe that happens -- and maybe the people pining for more Schremp are at least temporarily appeased.

Or maybe somebody gets healthy again and Schremp goes back to the press box.

Either way, this now three-game losing streak is distressing, but it has put me back into the evaluation mode that I fully expected to be in all season. Which is a little different than living and dying with each win and loss to see how long the Isles can stick out this quasi-.500, point-per-game pace.

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Game Thread Thanks

If you saw the game thread, that, friends, is what a Pension Plan Puppets invasion looks like. (If you weren't in there live, the PPP participation was all contained to the 1st intermission/2nd period, except for some stragglers.) Thanks for playing along and being nice hosts; thanks for not shouting at them just because they speak a different form of English. And thanks to our PPP visitors for bringing their unique brand of Leafdom hallucinations; I swear, those Canadian pharmaceuticals are something else.

Since our in-game threads range from quiet to noisy depending on the day and the opponent, it's fun to do accept a visiting high-volume tribe every once in a while to see how these can go at max capacity. Some games you need to get more off your chest in-the-moment, so just know it's always there (and some days you wish your comments would go away ... which is why the threads are a little more disposable). We only had one flare-up -- not bad for a high-volume cross-team visit, so no worries. Generally, I just want people here to welcome visitors, ignore trolls (or in rare cases, stomp them with extreme prejudice before they are banned) and be cool with each other.

On that note, I know I read most sites a lot more than I comment. So if there are things you want or don't want here, just let me know via comment (or via email if you want privacy or insist on remaining a lurker). I can't promise I'll answer every request (That's a nice way of saying your comment goes directly to our Customer Service Department, where it will be considered very important and our people will respond within 6 to 8 weeks).

But if your request fits I'll try, and if I know what people generally prefer (time, type of post, topic, etc.), it will help me know how bad I'm ticking you off when I insist on doing whatever the hell I want anyway. But seriously, for a moment: I just run this place so Islanders fans and hockey fans have a welcoming place to chat hockey, and hopefully I have a good idea every once in a while. That's all.

Let's Go Islanders. Let's Go Second Line.