In hockey they have "three stars of the game," in soccer you'll often hear of one "man of the match." We don't want to hold ourselves to any specific number, but we do want to provide a forum to pick your standouts of a given game. This feature will appear...when we feel like it.
It's hard to carve out tangible credit for defensemen when they don't put up pretty offensive counting numbers, especially when they're used in a heavily defensive role. But the combo of Andrew MacDonald and Travis Hamonic carried the load enough in Tuesday night's 4-1 win to earn consideration for stars of the game.
Against the Flyers these days, the chief threat comes from Claude Giroux and whoever he's helping these days, in this case Jakub Voracek and Scott Hartnell. Hamonic and MacDonald drew that task, facing Giroux's line for nearly 12 minutes of their team-high ice time.
Though they were victimized on the Flyers goal, it was a set play out of the Flyers zone that caught several Isles napping, and was not representative of the tough work these two had to do in their own zone. Overall, MacDonald logged 24:29 while Hamonic logged 22:37. They had two blocked shots each. They ended up with positive Corsi/Fenwick figures, putting the Giroux line in the negative on that front.
Though their were a few hairy moments controlling the puck, to my eye those looked like ice problems rather than player problems, and each of them impressed with their positioning boxing out Flyers forwards and collecting rebounds for Evgeni Nabokov.
For me, the pair are the Men of the Match.
- When real scoring chances were scarce, Michael Grabner single-handedly generated one and expertly finished another on the game-winning goal.
- The second line with Frans Nielsen, Kyle Okposo and Josh Bailey were the forward version of MacDonald-Hamonic, drawing about 10-12 minutes themselves against the Giroux line. Again, hard to account for chicken and egg here, but those three definitely helped the shutdown D pair do their job.
- Evgeni Nabokov was "only" called on for 27 shots, but he deserves recognition for allowing just one goal on a night when his team wasn't always sharp. His rebounds were directed well, he picked up pucks through traffic, and aside from one near-scare he played the puck well behind his net.
Who gets your vote?