There are two conventional theories about how to take advantage of a team playing the second half of a back-to-back: Jump on them early to crush their spirit, or failing that, make sure you're in position to grind them down late.
Despite entering the first intermission with a 1-0 lead, the Islanders definitely did not do the former. Thanks to a second Josh Bailey goal, they were able to pull off the latter.
The result was a tight but assured 2-1 win in Boston, their first over the Bruins in three tries, their eighth win in the last 10 games, their 45th and 46th points of the season, their latest scalp on the road to a playoff spot that increasingly looks within reach.
Heroes tonight? Everyone. Certainly Bailey with his two goals, Evgeni Nabokov with his 30 saves, and Travis Hamonic with his medical-marvel return after appearing to pretzel his leg. But all lines got it done. All lines created chances. Everyone but Matt Carkner and Brad Boyes forced a save out of Tuukka Rask, who stood on his head to stop 34 shots.
The Islanders were outplayed pretty badly in the first period, but Nabby kept them in it and Bailey gave them a charge with a long blast in the top corner after another great breakout from his line with Frans Nielsen and Kyle Okposo. That one came with 21 seconds left, in the time where the Bruins were already feeling unlucky to leave that period with the game scoreless. Oops.
The second was much better, even though the Isles gave up the lead just 3:41 in. That came on a tough-luck play on a tough-luck penalty (Boyes: Puck over the glass) after Casey Cizikas was felled by a Zdeno Chara blast to create a 3-on-1 down low. The Isles ended up outshooting the Bruins 19-8 in that period, with multiple stretches highlighted by the top two lines hemming the Bruins in their own zone.
When Bailey potted his second at 13:12, it stuttered over the line yet felt inevitable. Could have been a goal by anyone.
That was all they needed, as the third period proceeded in what has become a familiar drill for the Isles: Not falling into a shell, but not taking unnecessary risks in the offensive zone that leave them vulnerable to counterattacks. That approach has become so routine during this streak, I don't think Isles fans would've even cried the sky was falling if they'd blown this one.
But they didn't. They kept this thing rolling. They're even getting the "scorching hot" treatment from nhl.com.
- Jesse Joensuu used his body well again. It's hard to make too much of an impact in 11:52 from the bottom two lines, but he's embraced his role. Good to see.
- Seriously, I don't understand how Hamonic is walking right now, much less skating the full game. That was scary. Bullet dodged. And probably wrongly called penalty on the play.
- Lubomir Visnovsky and Thomas Hickey were again absolutely dominant -- quick to get the puck out of their zone, and essential in keeping some of the aforementioned smothering shifts alive in the Bruins zone.
- Hamonic and Andrew MacDonald again faced the tough assignments, blocking nine shots between them.
- That said, Jaromir Jagr is still amazing and gave them fits.
- Nabokov was quite good. The goal by Tyler Seguin was short side, but it was a sniper's placement after a wide cross-ice pass.
- Rask was arguably even better: Several stunning saves that kept this game from becoming 3-1 or 4-1 or even 5-1 by the second intermission.
- Like so many games during this streak -- or any streak -- there were moments where a loose puck or a screen shot could've gone a different way. But luck was on their side, and more importantly they limited chances for luck to bite them. This team is playing as it should be right now, and the rewards are rolling in.
- We are so, so, so clearly in playoff season in terms of officiating. The refs have "let them play" for the majority of this 8-1-1 run.
About that consistent approach:
We’ve been approaching every game the same way, focusing on what we need to do. We’re playing the right way and we have confidence.
Jeez, it's like they're growing up before our eyes.
Game Thread Comment of the Night
Wow...made of diamonds
-The Black Map
(and several variations of the above)
It's April 11; do you know where your Islanders are? With seven games left, they are tied for sixth in the East. Nice.