The Islanders dressed enforcer Trevor Gillies for his 2nd NHL game, but in the end he and his six shifts -- none in the 3rd -- were not a factor (unless you subscribe to the theory of an enforcer's presence making opponents behave). They did show more fight in terms of the after-whistle scrums and general tomfoolery that accompanies most of their meetings with the Flyers.
Far more significantly, the Isles again had a weak first period. The Flyers didn't really play that well -- changing their lines, they still appear to be a flawed team -- but their two first-period goals were enough to withstand periodic comeback attempts. What ails the Islanders, whether temporary or intrinsic to this squad, is up for debate.
Josh Bailey got the only Islanders goal on a play where Kyle Okposo rushed the net with the puck. That tendency, displayed most by Okposo and a bit by Sean Bergenheim, is an age-old technique that the Islanders could use a lot more of.
They appeared to be tentative -- again -- in the face of the Flyers, but perhaps with the help of a little fighting back from young Andrew MacDonald and Sean Bergenheim on Scott Hartnell, they found some courage. Coach Scott Gordon has talked of the size mismatch with these two teams, and at least Rob Schremp for one said before the game it was "comforting" to have an enforcer like Gillies in the lineup. To what degree the Islanders are actually rather than theoretically intimidated by Philadelphia is immeasurable; but after today's loss they haven't won in 14 games against the Other Orange.
This and That
Goaltending: An area where Dwayne Roloson makes Rick DiPietro still look rusty is how Roloson tracks the movement of the puck on every play (even when the puck is not shot, but could be shot) without losing position in his crease. Roloson is a fundamentally sound goalie wed to good habits. It's reassuring when he's in net; he gives them a chance.
Speaking of Roloson, I really thought he was going to lose it there on the goal that was later correctly waived off. I had visions of Curtis Joseph sliding in for the tackle. Thankfully he held up -- even thought better of trashing his stick -- which may have allowed the referee pow-wow that ultimately disallowed the goal. Which was the right call, by the way: Even before their body collision as the puck went in, Hartnell was in the crease making contact with Roloson's glove, which was trying to get to that space.
The 'Comeback' Attempt: The Islanders played well for the second half of the game. The waiving off of the goal that -- had it stood despite the interference -- would have made it 3-0 may have been a "momentum" turning point. If that's what it took to get the Isles in gear and realize they were playing today, that's kind of sad.
The Enforcer Effect: One result of a low-minute enforcer in the lineup is his linemates shift with someone from the upper lines, and it ultimately drags their ice time down. After Gillies' 3:16, Jon Sim had 8:44.
A Heavy Weight? I'm a little amused by people piling on Doug Weight as if he's holding this team back. His speed and durability is not what it once was, but he's playing 3rd-line minutes and manning a powerplay point that no one else has shown an ability to do better. Undisciplined (and soft) third-period penalty aside, that's hardly the obstacle keeping the Islanders from some great height. Sure, his presence is symptomatic of where the Isles are in terms of a free agent destination and meeting the cap floor, but it's not the cause, and he's not even a burdensome salary. And if this matters, the franchise's biggest future star speaks highly of Weight's effect as a mentor and sounding board while John Tavares makes the difficult transition from junior star to 19-year-old NHLer.
Hitting: By the end, I think the Islanders had been more physical than they've been in a while. Bergenheim and Freddy Meyer -- always good for a solid check or two -- were credited with four hits each. It's the rest of the team that could still pick up its physicality though, including one-time hit machine Trent Hunter (officially zero hits today). Maybe Jeff Tambellini can show them how a smart way to kick-start things when you're slumping is by hitting any chance you get; he's certainly been in that role before.
Danny Carcillo, General Tool: Let's see, so Dan Carcillo milked the boarding penalty on Meyer by playing dead and staying face down for a European-soccer-like amount of time to try to convert a two-minute minor into a four or five; he threw his head back dramatically on Weight's penalty when all Weight did was reach an arm up high; and he ran into Roloson and made Avery-like drama out of pretending to do it by accident. I've heard many stories (and seen some examples) of the unsightly part of his game, but I didn't realize it included so much melodrama. Whenever someone defends a pest who brings that much embellishment to his game with "You hate him but you'd love to have him on your team," my answer is always the same: Actually, I'd prefer not to. I just like my hockey with less cheese.
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Next up is Sunday in south Florida. Despite Roloson's solid work on 32 shots, with the back-to-back I assume DiPietro is starting against a Panthers team that's played the Isles pretty well this season. As with today and Thursday in Tampa, this will be another match with a team in that same congested cluster of the Eastern bubble. By Thursday, several teams will have made up some of those games in hand. If the Islanders hope to stay in the bubble conversation, they'd be wise to do Florida better than they did the mid-Atlantic.