This is a tardy recap due to personal engagements, but there is plenty of "Where are we now?" to discuss as the regulation losing streak has grown to seven.
While the Islanders have scored a whopping 10 goals in their last eight games (including the 1-1 shootout "win" over Florida), at least the similarly offense-challenged Bridgeport Sound Tigers broke out last night for six at home over Manchester. Martin Biron allowed four, though Mike Fornabaio reports he was big in the final minutes against six attackers.
The Islanders may wish to ascribe some of their struggles to bad luck and posts and such; there
is was some merit to that. Very modest merit. (Last night: Jon Sim's post was followed by a quick whistle with the puck still free. A quick whistle also robbed Matt Moulson of a goal in a situation where we've seen the opposition allowed to continue banging away at Dwayne Roloson's pad to score.) But more importantly: Carolina rookie Justin Peters had an outstanding debut. As a goalie prospect it can't be encouraging to look up the depth chart and see Cam Ward perched above you, but last night Peters did all he could to make a statement.
To break out of this slump, the Islanders are going to have to play at a level luck cannot undermine, a level we haven't seen in weeks. They've lost convincingly to some very average teams during this streak; now they get to try to break it against good teams like Nashville or Pittsburgh. Good luck with that.
The penalty kill was excellent last night. Aggressive, smart and patient plays rather than the rushed jobs that end with the puck back in the hands of the opposition at the point. Nice reward for Blake Comeau's pressure to set up Frans Nielsen's shorthanded goal. With all the Islanders' struggles to finish (34 shots turned aside by Peters last night), it's too fitting that their only goal came in a situation where you're least expected to score.
As far as the scoring slump overall, I can't say Scott Gordon isn't trying to shake them out of it. Line combinations have shifted the last few games, and the second powerplay unit is seeing a few subtle changes. I didn't see any magical combos in this game, but to be fair the Isles did have moments of dangerous pressure. They just -- stop me if you've heard this before -- couldn't finish.
The DiPietro Experience
Are the Islanders playing better for Rick DiPietro, or is his puckhandling enough to relieve pressure and cut down on shots against? In his seven starts this year, he's averaged 25.7 shots against. (That excludes 21 shots in two periods of mop-up against Washington.) The Islanders' season average is to allow 31.2 shots per game. In the same period since DiPietro joined the Isles for that Western trip, Dwayne Roloson has faced 28.7 shots per game over seven full games (again, excluding the Capitals debacle where he was pulled after one period and 12 shots).
So the Islanders have cut down on shots allowed, period, since their post-Christmas mini-surge. But DiPietro, in this small sample, is benefiting even more.
The Wang Lighthouse Experience
I'm going to go out on a limb here and say Charles Wang doesn't go on between-periods air unless he wants to, with a specific goal in mind. I enjoyed his stern look at Howie Rose -- followed quickly by a wry smile -- before telling Howie "You shouldn't even be asking me" about the Lighthouse Project. Of course they were going to talk about the LP's (lack of) activity, which itself is in the eye of the beholder and one of those eyes might just be about to cast a different light on things. Maybe a tiny thread of Wang wanted to go on to assure people in the middle of a then-six-game losing streak that the rebuild is good. But obviously he wanted to deliver the "we haven't heard anything" from the Town and County message while maintaining the official "we're not talking about this in the press" high ground. To what end, or as preparation for what next step? I'm sure we'll find out one day -- or at least we'll find another side to the story.
Ah, the joys of PR's nuance and misdirection. How I miss it so ... so ... so not much at all, really.
The Tambellini Experience
So I've played the wait-and-see role to see if now, thanks to injuries and sheer force, Jeff Tambellini would get his chance to show he's at least a 3rd-line player with offensive upside to fill in at top-six. I suspect Garth Snow has held on to him this long because he believes, as many Isles fans do, that the 25-year-old has value. But I guess Scott Gordon has won this battle.
Doug Weight, who has stayed off the ice the past two morning skates to surely protect bumps and bruises if not lingering injury, got 7:25 of even-strength ice time last night (plus nearly four minutes on the PP). Richard Park got 8:01 at even strength. Jon Sim, effective as agitator and net-crasher once again, got 9:44. Tambellini? 5:11, plus a token 0:33 on the powerplay.
Up Next: Tuesday hosting the Predators, followed by the next night in Pittsburgh. Yikes. Top 2010 pick-related puns will continue in game headlines until the losing streak ends.