How rare was yesterday's "explosion" of five regulation-time goals by the Islanders? It's happened just four previous times this season -- twice against the Thrashers, once against Detroit (hee hee), and once against Buffalo. Two of the now-five games were shutouts (6-0 over Detroit, Biron's 5-0 blanking of Buffalo), and two were occasions where every goal was needed (last night, plus a 6-5 shootout win over Atlanta).
Today they try again, presumably with Dwayne Roloson (unless the Biron Showcase continues), facing a Senators team that is flying in from Detroit after being turned back 4-1 by the Red Wings yesterday in Matt Cullen's Senators debut.
Despite the end of their recent Capitals-light 11-game winning-streak, the Senators would still be called, in the parlance of our times, "hot." Their 8-2 record in their last 10 mirrors the Isles' 2-8 pre-Olympic plunge. They're right there in the hunt for the Northeast title and a top-three seed, and they've firmly put themselves ahead of the East's Bubble of Mediocrity.
The Sens are without old Islander Chris Campoli for at least a month, but his 3-11-14 line in 54 games this year does not suggest you wouldn't, say, package him and a few extra picks for a shot at Calvin de Haan.
Speaking of the Sens' blueline, one interesting guy now up with the club again is 2005 first-rounder Brian Lee, who's had trouble making the club. Interesting Silver Seven FanPost on that topic here.
Another storyline today is the hardly gradual transition each team's best players will have to make to prep for the most elite tournament in the league this week. Mark Streit, Daniel Alfredsson, Anton Volchenkov, Jarkko Ruutu and Czechs Filip Kuba and Milan Michalek each play back-to-back this weekend -- the Sens even flying here from Detroit -- then scurry off to Vancouver. Streit, Alfie and A-Train all play Tuesday: Streit vs. USA, Alfredsson vs. Norway, Volchenkov vs. Latvia. Yes, Streit has the tougher draw.
For Streit, we've remarked that young Andrew MacDonald has eclipsed him in minutes in recent games -- yesterday Mac and Andy Sutton had about four more minutes -- and I wonder if this is a small gesture by Scott Gordon to ease Streit's pre-Olympic load.
Bryan Elliot has been the go-to guy for the Senators lately, but he played yesterday in the loss. For the Isles, I really hope they're going with Roloson on this second of back-to-backs. But if they're not, you know this is Biron Showcase Week. Here's Biron on his last two games:
"I still feel like I've got plenty more I can do," said Biron, who's been the subject of numerous trade rumors as part of the Isles' three-headed goaltending combination. "These were two big wins, but I am my own worst critic and I feel like I can play even better."
I would hope he can play better. Biron made several key saves in the final minutes to seal the win yesterday. And there were defensive breakdowns on the goals he allowed. But if I were considering acquiring him, it would be in the hope that he can pull off more thefts spread across 60 minutes.
The penalty kill for these two teams are miles apart, with Ottawa at 83% and the Islanders at 76.3%. But the PP is not far apart, 15.8% for the Sens to 15.1% for the Isles. One of these days the Islanders are going to catch a little luck in this department. Maybe they catch the Sens napping on the even of a two-week vacation.
A win today would put the Islanders still in 12th, but within four points of the eighth seed going into the break. Yes, that's how mediocre the Eastern bubble is. That positioning would change my thinking, but it would look pretty on paper as we head into two-plus weeks where the standings will not change.
Prediction: Richard Park scores again; John Tavares gets his first goal in 15 games.