Why did Jack Capuano pull Evgeni Nabokov after his Islanders fell behind 3-1 14:07 into the first period, the munchkin with the mic asked.
"Nothing against our goaltending," Capuano said from the bench during the Versus clowncast. "We needed to wake our guys up ... D-zone coverage is the worst it's been all year." That degree of deficiency may be debatable, but it sure sums up all that went wrong as the Islanders proceeded to lose 6-2 despite making it close going into the third period.
Lots of blame to go around -- Milan Jurcina and especially Mark Eaton screwed up the first goal, John Tavares lost his man on the third goal, and Steve Staios made a mess of things on the Bruins' back-breaking fourth -- but in the end the Islanders treated both Nabokov and Al Montoya to abuse not even Dominik Hasek could have prevented.
They didn't exactly deserve it, but the Islanders did well to escape the first period down just 3-2, having been outshot 15-8. Credit John Tavares's wonder hands, Michael Grabner's shot and Matt Moulson's tip for that.
The second period was the Al Montoya show, as he came in cold (late in the first) to stop 16 Bruins shots in that frame alone. It was two quick goals early in the third that ended the undeserved dream of a comeback. Back to the drawing board after an abysmal defensive performance on the first leg of a cross-continent road trip.
Notice a pattern there? The Islanders were outshot 37-26 despite needing to comeback most of the game and having four powerplays to the Bruins' one. (The Bruins converted theirs; the Islanders came up empty on all of their own.)
Staios was just awful on the fourth goal. He stepped up in the neutral zone to try to short-circuit the breakout, lost that battle with Milan Lucic, Mark Streit had drifted over to the side to make it a full 2-on-1, Frans Nielsen didn't pick up the looming disaster quickly enough, and to top things off: Staios' lost man scored the goal. Poor.
Jurcina, who could have handled the first goal better but didn't get any help by Eaton, abandoned his man to gang up on Eaton's man on the Bruins' fifth goal. Awful game for that pair.
If Tyler Seguin plays like this, the Bruins are going to be just fine. Being able to toss him and Patrice Bergeron out there on one line, then Lucic, Nathan Horton and David Krejci on another line: Luxury.
Speaking of the Krejci line, it was no banner night for Frans Nielsen, but I can't help noticing Brian Rolston's aimless D-zone wandering not doing that line any favors.
Broadcast Woe: It's a shame Dave Strader is wasted on Versus. I have Center Ice, am addicted to NHL hockey, and watch a lot of games, but last night I realized I routinely avoid the NHL's U.S. rights holder because of voices like Mike Milbury and Pierre McGuire. The Blowhard:Content ratio is all out of whack.
Really scary to see Daniel Paille take a Staios shot in the face. Lots of blood on the ice, blood on his visor. Yikes. Naturally, Mike Milbury uses the occasion to say mandatory shields would be bad because they would mess with fighting.
Enigma I: Kyle Okposo, where are you?
Enigmas, II: Josh Bailey made several nice plays tonight. I don't know if they qualify as FOBs (Flashes of Bailey), but maybe he needs to rebuild his game and confidence slowly.
On the bright side, the Tavares-Grabner connection looked promising again. Great shift near the end of the second by them creating threatening possession all around the zone on two separate rushes, and finally drawing a penalty. Of course, between those two rushes was an excellent back-door scoring chance for the Bruins, so...
The early goalie pull: The Islanders actually established nice pressure when Capuano pulled the goalie down three goals with three minutes left. But then Moulson lost a bouncing puck on the boards and couldn't catch up, and that was the end of that: ENG.
Up Next: Questions and Issues
"We just had some guys that didn't show up," said the coach, whose team fell to 1-5-2 in its last eight outings. "I'm not going to mention names, but it was real disappointing toward some guys' work tonight, their work ethic."
Any of those guys going to sit for Nino Niederreiter soon? The "passengers" theme is interesting, but I think I want names. Or rather, I don't need the coach calling players out in the media, but I'm curious what names he has in mind. Because in my mind, several of them are veterans. And then one got a five-year deal this summer, and another barely avoided arbitration.
Will any see consequences?
The Goalie Situation: This is why I caution against using stats for your favorite goalie this time of year. Nights like this happen, and Nabby could share fault on one, perhaps two of the goals, and Montoya probably on neither. But where does Capuano go next?
Montoya gave them a chance to win that game which they didn't deserve. I view his four starts at the beginning of the season as a sign he's possibly in "the lead" for the bulk of starts, but even if he was in unfair storage as some of his fans fear, he made an excellent statement coming in cold, and after not playing in seven games, to nearly save their bacon.
The Islanders travel to Colorado Thursday and Vancouver Saturday. This is a really tough road trip: At 4-6-2 after tonight, they could easily end up 4-8-2 by Saturday night and completely blow the games in hand they have. Two more shots to avoid that.
Lines: Does Capuano stick with the new lines or alter things after tonight? I like the Tavares-Grabner combo. I like the Nielsen-P.A. Parenteau combo (although he and Parenteau had an off night). If I were doing Capuano's recent threat of "three lines and five defensemen" and making guys warm the bench, I'd look in the direction of Rolston (doubt it), Okposo (also doubt it) and Comeau (frequent but earned scapegoat).
I know it is common to wish for dream AHL replacements, who do not have the warts of familiarity these players possess, but I'm not sure how realistic that is. A forward or two, perhaps. But defensemen? None sound ready.
We'll see what the next few days bring.