Pin this one on Sergei Bobrovsky. Not one to applaud "good efforts" after losses here, but tonight was just one of those nights. The Islanders outplayed the Philadelphia Flyers through the first two periods yet came out of it down 2-0. They kept pouring on in the third and Kyle Okposo got one back just 22 seconds in to make it 2-1.
But not enough went their way. Sean Couturier potted a nice insurance goal with 90 seconds left, and John Tavares made that insurance necessary by netting his 15th with 16 seconds remaining.
You can blame Evgeni Nabokov for setting up the second goal through poor puckhandling (and ceding a bad-angle shot), but he was quite good otherwise. Perhaps gripe with the officials for enabling the first goal, but in truth the difference was "Bob," the little goalie that could, standing on his head as his defense helped prevent second opportunities by boxing out and protecting well as the Islanders swarmed the net.
Among Bobrovsky's highlights was robbing Michael Grabner solo twice -- once when he outwaited Grabner on an early penalty shot, the other when he read the high backhand move and robbed him in frame-that-photo fashion.
The Islanders outshot the Flyers in every period and 35-22 overall. Outhit them 28-22 too (if you buy that stat category). That really is a fair reflection of the night, and the kind of frustration that has you thinking when a team has your number, it doesn't matter what you do. Martin Biron, Ray Emery, Michael Leighton, Bob -- you get the feeling they could dress Garth Snow or Ron Hextall and still stone the Isles.
Incredibly, the Islanders have played the Flyers quite well both times this year (and lost) and this one was considerably better than the first. Yet they get a regulation point out of the previous one and zero points out of this one. That's how it goes sometimes. These are the occasions when it is okay to compliment the effort in defeat.
- Mark Streit looked like Good Mark Streit all night long. Dangerous forays, good decisions, poised puck handling at the blueline, good work on the powerplay, cannon firing from the point all night long. Don't know how much having Milan Jurcina next to him instead of Steve Staios is a factor, but please keep up that combo.
- Michael Grabner also erased any worries his groin is bothering him. Another game, another couple of breakaways (and a penalty drawn on the third). This time it wasn't the finishing, it was Bobrovsky.
- The refs were pretty bad. Not pinning this on them -- they had head-scratchers in both directions, but even the Flyers announcers noted what was interference on Travis Hamonic three minutes into the game was not interference on a Flyer a few minutes later. Andrew MacDonald was carrying the puck and they still missed a blatant high stick by Claude Giroux that drew blood.
- The Staios-Talbot Hit: They didn't overcall a Steve Staios hit on Maxime Talbot though. Initial hit looked good but may have had the dreaded elbow/head contact on the follow through. Talbot certainly was vulnerable. My replays weren't clear, the refs didn't call anything to begin with, so their conferencing afterward made me nervous. (And the league may yet review it, though Talbot didn't miss a shift and thus lacks the "evident injury on the play.")
- The hit honestly reminded me of the league's first Rule 48 video when they used a similar pinch and hit by Chris Pronger as an example of a "clean" hit because the forward on the side boards is supposed to expect that hit (even to the head(!), at least a year ago). He may need to expect the hit, but not a hit to the head.
- Respect: Staios appeared to be grinning from the bench at one point in the aftermath -- he was being jawed at by Flyers, of course -- and the Flyers announcers spoke of a lack of respect for fellow player. Which is a good point. But having seen Talbot not respect his "union brothers" in numerous on-ice instances, it's hard to picture him commanding it from others. It's a vicious cycle, that respect thing, and everyone thinks they're the innocent party.
- Lavi Gets His Audience: On that play, the official gave Peter Laviolette plenty of one-on-one explanation time at the bench. Have you ever seen a coach get as much gentle counseling as Laviolette does? Just something I've noticed, even before the 24/7 action, that Lavi seems to get to call a conference whenever he desires. I miss him for many reasons, but if he has that Platinum Coach Card Service too, well that's one more reason for envy.
- Danny Briere took two minors for hooking and has 43 PIM on the season. Heh.
- Another game, another couple of points for John Tavares. That's what he do.
- It ended up not mattering, but excellent read and break-up on the odd-man rush by Andrew MacDonald, breaking up a tricky Jaromir Jagr pass while the score was still 2-1. Alas, Couturier later added the insurance with a sweet top corner shot on Nabokov.
- The suddenly fifth-ranked powerplay was 0-for-4 tonight, but it wasn't for a lack of good work. They moved the puck well, evaded aggressive Flyers PK pressure and looked dangerous every time. (This, too, was noted by Flyers announcers on Comcast.)
- Travis Hamonic and MacDonald were on the ice for, and played a big part in, both Islanders goals -- A-Mac getting the second assist on each. That wasn't a coincidence. They moved the puck well and they possess that skill which is (outside of Streit) in low supply for this club.
Jack Capuano Post-Game Video
So that's 1-18-5 against the Flyers in the last bit of forever. They have work to do yet.
But who'd have thought this? After a tough, blown-lead loss to the poor Ducks, followed by a pretty bad loss to the average Coyotes, I did not expect the Islanders to dominate the Red Wings and outplay the Flyers at home.
Hockey, it confounds.