A five-game winning streak meets a six-game losing streak. A team putting up 3.15 goals per game meets a team conceding 3.62. A team outshooting opponents 31.3 to 26.4 visits a team being outshot 29.2 to 28.8. (Okay, that's parsing a bit.) At least no matter what happens tonight, the Islanders cannot fall into the basement after New Jersey and Edmonton lost last night. So there's that.
The Flyers, on the other hand, could climb to the league's penthouse with a win. They're rolling utterly and completely, and losing Danny Briere's stick and all of its applications hasn't hurt a bit.Speaking of Briere -- and hopefully I needn't bring up Brave Sir Danny Ran Away, Away again in a while -- it was fun to hear Scott Gordon, who's normally diplomatic, just call the shenanigans part of last week like it was:
"He got called on that [crosscheck] but he had two others in the game -- one on (Trent) Hunter and one on (Trevor) Gillies," Gordon told Newsday. "Gillies gets six minutes, Hunter gets five and (a game misconduct), and here's a guy that thinks he just has free reign to cross-check people in the back, the shoulder, the head. I think it's well-deserved."
As far as the physical stuff and vengeance and what-not, Zenon Konopka spoke to Chris Botta about how he handles all that and Trevor Gillies told Katie Strang that telling an opponent you won't take their B.S. is a message delivered all season long, not just one game. And when Big, Bad, Scary Frans Nielsen and his 172+ lbs. and 24 career PIMs are "threatening" you, my goodness, time to take up arms.
But of course another reality was made painfully clear in last week's 6-1 slaughter: It doesn't matter that you came physically prepared to not accept cheapshots and Carcillo-like liberties, if you don't have the other more important components of your game (i.e. goaltending, defense, a competent transition game, finishing). Fans like to focus on the physical side, the intimidation and the stand-up-for-yourself angle particularly with the Flyers given their history and current roster, but it doesn't mean squat if the rest of your game isn't there.
Talent-wise this Atlantic battle is still a serious mismatch -- so the rest of your game better be there and in rare form.
Needs and Wishes
- The defense, as a whole, is limited by depth and injury; there's no escaping that. But the players who are here occupying bigger roles than they're accustomed to must play mistake-free. James Wisniewski can be better. Mike Mottau can and must be better. Bruno Gervais and Jack Hillen can too, though one wonders if it can happen together.
- People were talking about Josh Bailey and Blake Comeau proving their top six credentials in the opening weeks of the season. They haven't been backing that up the last week, and they need to do so and give John Tavares some help.
- This team shouldn't be as bad 5-on-5 as it's been so far, but they'll still be special teams-dependent. After completely squandering an early five-minute powerplay in Ottawa, that unit better be prepared to deliver whenever opportunity arises, no matter how early.
- Despite Dwayne Roloson's short-side softy and a stoppable screen shot in Ottawa, I'd still hope he gets the nod today. They can save Rick DiPietro's next trial for the West Coast trip, when the games happen in the anonymity of late night.
- Rob Schremp's been back a couple of games now and didn't look to my eyes that he lacked in the legs department. They could use production from him right now, and doing so with the team in need would be the right way to kick off his next contract campaign (even if it's not a contract here).
- Lines: With no one looking spectacular in the last game, but everyone at least being better than the two blowouts, does Gordon continue to juggle lines?
- Significance: However bad the mismatch with these two teams' talent and form of late, it is so abundantly clear that nabbing a home win against a hated rival right before another extended road trip would do wonders for this team.
Aside from Briere being out to complete his suspension, the most noticeable change from the last meeting is the ever up now, down later Nikolay Zherdev is on one of his "feels like playing" upswings. When bothering to bother, we know he can be dangerous. We'll see if he provides another actual weapon for the Flyers or just a theoretical one.
Game thread tonight. Mikb's fun with bad sports broadcasts earlier. First Islanders Goal (FIG) either in that game thread or here if you won't make it.
Closing thought: Gillies says "Let's Go!" (h/t Quin who created it):