When you're down 4-0 the game is over, even if you haven't given up. The New York Islanders never gave up in Denver, but they were down by four just 10 minutes into the second period, making the rest of the game academic. So it didn't matter that the Isles continued to fire the majority of the game's shots at Semyon Varlamov, the damage had already been done
Varlamov was good, Chad Johnson wasn't. The Islanders got more shots (40-23 overall) and more power plays in each period but not, sadly, more goals. The 5-0 final makes it look like a whooping, and of course in most relevant respects it was, but damn it, you also gotta talk about the goaltending. The Avalanche had it.
The Isles conceded just 2:34 into the game on Cody McLeod's first goal of the season. A critical missed opportunity came when they failed on two power plays that could have tied it late in the first period. That was followed by the next pivotal, fatal -- stretch: the seven-minute span in the second period when Nathan MacKinnon scored his first of the season during an ugly goalmouth scramble on the power play, Marc-Andre Cliche scored his first of the season from an awful angle, and MacKinnon added one more after the Isles were lazy on a Colorado dump-in.
That segment was all too sloppy and chaotic, with multi-car defensive pileups and without any even strength offense nor bail-em-out saves from Johnson, Meanwhile, Varlamov stopped everything. As he continued to shut the door, the Islanders moved the puck well and got good looks -- fun to see even the fourth line sustain offensive pressure and cycling -- but all appeared out of ideas for how to beat him. His was a well-deserved shutout.
- Travis Hamonic is expected back this weekend in San Jose. The Isles mixed up their D pairings in the middle of the game, Nick Leddy with Lubomir Visnovsky, Calvin de Haan with Thomas Hickey, and Brian Strait with Johnny Boychuk.
- Regression came hard at one end, rudely avoided us at the other: The Isles' run of big offensive games came to an end with a shutout. The string of three-or-more conceded continued. Before the night's games, the Isles had been the second-highest scoring team in the league thus far, the Avs the third-lowest.
- We know these goalies are historically better than last year's. It hasn't shown in their numbers yet.
- This was obviously not a good game, but it was also a reminder of the bounces and goaltending streaks upon which this sport turns. The Nielsen line generated a golden chance to tie with five minutes left in the first, but the puck bounced on Mikhail Grabovski. On the failed power plays immediately afterward, captain John Tavares hit the crossbar shortly before the buzzer. Either would have made it 1-1 at the first intermission, and might have goaded the hockey gods into re-orienting the night's narrative.
- That said, worrying flaws are there, etc. Also 6-4, etc. Choose your lens by your mood at the time.
- Winning six of 10 isn't bad at all; but it feels like the last two were missed opportunities, and we all know the fierce California swing and our own November demons loom.
Abridged Battle Level Report
Too depressing and too late in the night to do a separate battle level post. (For newcomers, we usually have a tongue-in-cheek "battle level" immediate reaction thread after each game. There's usually more blogger battle level than this.) Here's the quickie:
HAHD: I'm still waitin'.
SMAHT: Hey, Leddy, Okposo and Conacher were the only guys without minuses tonight. They gotta feel smaht.
WARRIORS: Waitin' there too.
PASSENGERS: They know who they ah.
OVERALL BATTLE LEVEL: Whatya gonna do?