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Canucks 4*, Islanders 3 (*SO): NHL shootout mocks itself evermore

"Luke, there is another..."
"Luke, there is another..."

Nothing like a hard-fought game with 93 shots in 65 minutes of open play being decided by slow-motion breakaways only produced in a laboratory. But that's my tired lament and I don't want to sound like Howie Rose every time a new-age stick breaks. Still, fantastic game, eh?

Game Sum | Event Sum | Corsi - H2H | Recaps: NHL - NM - Isles

Final - 1.11.2011 1 2 3 OT SO Total
Vancouver Canucks 1 1 1 0 1* 4*
New York Islanders 0 1 2 0 0 3

Complete Coverage >

The Islanders were on the back foot for most of the first period, pushed around by a physical Canucks team and abetted by the officials' decision to ignore violent acts while penalizing marginal ones. But when the Islanders survived that Canucks onslaught only down 1-0 after 20 minutes, they made quite a game of it. With 5:36 left in regulation, they even had the lead. Thirty-four seconds later, they didn't.

Still, first period aside, to my eyes this was their most impressive performance of the three games they've played recently against the league's top teams. Naturally, they took four points in the other two (SO vs. PIT, OT vs. DET) while salvaging only one from this one. Hockey always works that way.

Game Highlights

Praise and Laments before another Shootout Rant

K-P {clap-clap}, K-P {clap-clap}: Really impressive, poised, square performance from the 20-year-old rookie goalie. (See Kevin Weekes' brief impression at the end of the page.) Even his few misplays, he recovered quickly. It was a little surreal to watch him match Roberto Luongo save for save (plus 10 more) over a decade after Luongo's buzz-inducing debut (43 saves over Boston) for the Isles. The MSG broadcast said Poulin's 48 saves tonight broke an Islanders rookie record, and I'm sure Eric Hornick will tell us whether that record was once Luongo's. [Edit: At minimum, WebBard notes that Valiquette had 45 vs. Ottawa. Hornick reports the record was Billy Smith with 55 saves on November 22, 1972 in Philadelphia.]

Vengeance, Interrupted: Michael Grabner had 7 shots on his old team, including one partia. Jeff Tambellini had 4. Both looked active (Grabner more so, honestly), but neither got that sweet revenge you know they sought. Tamby was stopped in the shootout, but his shot went pad-low, so we don't know if Poulin would have gloved it had it been vintage Tambellini.

Blake Comeau: Nice shot, kid. I was all set to whine that he took that shot from the blueline when he had lots of open real estate in front of him to get closer ... then I saw the huge screen he saw, the screen he used to slip it buy and temporarily make us think a win was at hand. (P.S.: He has won JP's race to 100 with his points tonight, being the first Islander draftee in aeons to collect 100 points in the NYI uniform.)

Bummer, Dude: That late tying goal looked a little too much like the first Canucks goal: Dig the puck on the right boards, throw it to the man in front, accept the reward. Mistakes were made.

First Goal Faceoff: Jeremy Colliton was tossed from the defensive zone draw, and his replacement Josh Bailey lost it way too cleanly. Earlier this year when Bailey was playing center again, his faceoff success actually went up above his career to date (small sample, but that's all we got). He's been on the wing most of the season now and so has only 176 draws, but his percentage is back down to 43.2%, which is unacceptable if he's going to become a center again. (The Isles four main faceoff men are all at least 47%.)

Comeback: The Islanders played a great second period, tying the game only to give the lead up again with just 16 seconds left. Ordinarily, considering the mismatch and the first-period imbalance, you might think that would be too deflating a hit to recover from. Not so.

John Tavares: On the aforementioned Ryan Kesler goal to make it 2-1, Tavares was at the end of the shift and caught reaching but not skating on the backcheck. Minus. (Moulson also looked bad on that goal at both ends.) Then came that huge one-timer powerplay goal to tie it at 2-2 in the third. Plus.

Andrew MacDonald: You just do lots of nice things.

Tavares-Matt Moulson-P.A. Parenteau: Pretty nice game from them. I don't know what the scoring chance figures were (though their Corsi were level), but those guys faced Kevin Bieksa and Dan Hamhuis quite a lot and those two can be a tough pair. They also faced Kesler a lot, and Kesler is a beast.

The "Officiating": Butch mentioned it on the MSG broadcast: When you're at the bottom of the league, the refs rarely give you the benefit of the doubt. Well, is it just me or has it been worse lately? Is it just because the Islanders are in more games lately that I notice it, whereas earlier this season the Islanders problems in any given game went waaaay beyond anything a ref could do? There were some pretty ugly ones out there, which make by-the-book holds and hooks look silly in comparison:

  • Very early, Raffi Torres threw the kind of late, from-behind, blatant interference hit on MIchael Grabner, who hadn't touched the puck in about an hour. It was so obvious I had to rewind a few times to see what woman the refs were staring at. It was the kind of late and overaggressive move that is often described as a "stupid penalty."
  • Later, Milan Jurcina threw a heavy check on Mason Raymond, and Raymond got up and speared him. Speared him. Big no-no...and no call. Shortly after, Jeremy Colliton was called for a minor for holding.
  • And do I even mention the high stick to MacDonald's face in OT, which led to a Canucks scoring chance? Was that a "see no blood, it's OT, this game matters" non-call? Dear refs: I know this game is really important to Vancouver and all since they're in a real race, but we wouldn't want to throw things at you if you, you know, called those.

Jack Hillen: That's the smooth-skating, safe-D decision-making, calmly get out of traffic Hillen I remember.

Matt Martin v. Tanner Glass: That was a fight! Bunch of haymakers, no idea how many landed, but Glass's final one sure did. Martin left briefly for the proverbial repairs near his right eye.

Skip This Part (and Honk) if You Love the Shootout

Sorry for beating this tired drum; I speak not from an Islanders' fan perspective but from a long-time hockey fan's heart: Tonight's shootout just gave me that feeling like the NHL's "The People Demand a Winner" breakaway drill contest is drifting ever further into the theater of the absurd. The only two or three actual game-like hockey plays -- P.A. Parenteau's rush and the slower but still plausible John Tavares break-in and Jeff Tambellini's shot from the high slot -- were stopped, while three plays that are impossible in open play decided the third standings point handed out on this night. If it weren't worth half a regulation win I could maybe get over it (and I realize SOL's 50/50 luck help weaker teams look better).

I don't blame Rob Schremp for using that slow-mo approach in the shootout -- the league allows it, after all, and it's funny to watch. It's just really uncomfortable knowing what I'm watching is impossible in game situation unless someone bodysnatched all 5 opposition skaters. I don't begrudge Mason Raymond that stop-and-spin-like-an-oil-tanker move, since it's the in thing among the shootouteratti lately. But likewise: Seems poor that a goalie can play 65 minutes without having to face that, then wind the groin up one more time for a few circus moves. And Ryan Kesler, I don't know if he uses that slower-than-a-bag-skate move a lot (only in the shootout, of course) or not, but I couldn't help seeing it as a response to Schremp: "Oh, you think you can do absurd? Watch this." At least that one made me chuckle, when I thought about it that way.

I don't consider myself a purist, but I guess I do like hockey a certain way. Cleaning a landing strip down the center of the ice so a few players can dance while their teammates take a load off isn't that way. Not after 65 minutes fought to a draw. Not when the reward is half a win.


Twitter Exchange of the Night

KevinWeekes: VERY impressed with what I'm seeing from Kevin Poulin of the Isles,hope they handle this kid the right way !!!

webbard: @KevinWeekes Milbury's not there anymore, so I'm sure the right way no longer involves trading him to Tampa for Magical Beans

KevinWeekes: @webbard LMAO



Cheers to IslesinAZ who was the only one to pick Jack Hillen for the First Islanders Goal. There is no single-game prize, but if you take the season-long pool, on your deathbed you will receive total consciousness.

Which is nice.