If giving Peter Mannino his first NHL start was, as some have jested, part and parcel of the Tank for Tavares plan, Mannino must have missed the memo. With his parents smiling and beaming at each save -- and catching the frequent eye of the MSG+ cameras -- the 2005 Frozen Four MVP had a game to remember.
"I couldn’t ask for anything better. That’s the dream come true: to get a start in the NHL and to get a win on the first one with a lot of shots like that," said Mannino. "It’s picture perfect."
A slumping Blackhawks team that knew it needed a good start indeed came out firing. But Mannino answered every call in the first period and turned aside all 12 shots. The second period brought more -- including three breakaways, the penultimate one by young star Patrick Kane -- as he turned away 17 shots. Mannino gave the road-weary Isles the breathing room they needed to stun a far better squad.
Having received his debut in mop-up duty during the ugly Bruins blowout in November, Mannino came into this game with a .625 NHL save percentage. After 40 saves in his first NHL win, that career number is just a tad prettier: .900.
Much more, plus Mannino video highlights, after the jump ...
The Power Play Turns Around
The Islanders came out looking cold and lethargic on this second road matinee in as many days. The power play that emerging leader Mark Streit criticized after last game continued to struggle -- yet its breakthrough is what gave the Islanders a taste of blood today, putting the young Hawks squad in an uncomfortable position in front of its home crowd.
As if out of ideas, the power play returned to what has worked all season: Create space for Streit, and let him blast one of his cannons over the goaltender's shoulder. How about do it twice? With his 14th and 15th goals and his 37th assist, Streit has now surpassed 2007-08 scoring leader Mike "bad apple" Comrie's point total (49) from last season.
Ice Time and Defense
Streit logged another near half-hour of ice time (27:20), and Bruno Gervais again looked comfortable logging almost as much (26:04). In fact, Bruno's recent ice time is more impressive when you consider he gets half the power play time that Streit does. Earlier this season, Scott Gordon would sometimes give Bruno such heavy loads out of what seemed like injury necessity. But for the past couple of months, it seems to be the result of confident trust in Bruno's game. Where have you gone, Chris Campoli?
The number of breakaways allowed was particularly alarming -- and uncharacteristic of the Islanders recently. But Brendan Witt, Radek Martinek and Bruno Gervais each did enough to at least provide angling pressure on the Hawks breakaways -- without taking a penalty -- allowing Mannino to play the angle and squarely cut down the shooting openings. This sound, square positioning was a staple of Mannino's afternoon.
Young Hawks Failed to Respond
As the Islanders caught their breaks, you could see the dread set in on the Blackhawks squad, particularly after the United Center crowd turned on them and then literally deserted them. "We've played hard, we deserve to be ahead," their body language seemed to say. But the Islanders, seeing their opportunity as they entered the third up 3-1, played a textbook road-weary period: Keep it simple, let the other team's frustration undo themselves. Not pretty, but just what the doctor ordered on the final day of travels.
The Hawks mounted one final push late in the period, pulling their goalie with nearly five minutes left to create repeated 6-on-4s and even a 6-on-3. But like the Quenneville-coached teams I remember in St. Louis, creativity was wanting when it mattered most. They appeared not to know what to do with their multiple extra men, and might have benefited from simply stashing all extra bodies in an umbrella above Mannino's crease.
But that's not to sell Mannino's effort short. He indeed faced a barrage at the end of the game, and he stood tall when his defensemen weren't able to stand in the way for him. It was just odd to see the Hawks simply blasting away rather than create more side-to-side movement to draw the Islanders desperate triangle out of position.
Certainly this is a game the Blackhawks should have won. The fact the Isles stole this one doesn't feel good for Tavares-oriented eyes. But seeing Mannino stand on his head in his first real NHL action, and watching his parents thrill in the show their son was putting on -- well, I guess that makes it feel okay.