We're 20 games in, and in pretty unfamiliar territory. The "act like you've been there before" thing is hard to stick to. They haven't, and we haven't in a long time. The NY Islanders are in a virtual tie for first place in the division, during this season have beaten all of last year's division champs, the Stanley Cup champs and have some games in hand on the leaders of the other division leaders.
They're real, and they're spectacular.
Tonight started off as a more closely checked game than last night's adventure. There were two shots a piece through the first seven minutes. But momentum swayed the Isles way with Nick Leddy being particularly active rushing the puck and opening up some shots for the Isles.
The intensity was evident immediately in the tail end of this back-to-back. John Tavares laid a pretty heavy hit on terrible person Steve Downie which resulted in him taking a swipe at Tavares and Travis Hamonic fighting Downie. Hamonic would take the loss in the bout. I would love to watch Trevor Gillies beat Downie with a Ranger wrapped inside a Flyer.
Jaroslav Halak was huge on the night stopping 27/28 Penguins shots. In the first he came up huge while absorbing contact around the 5:30 mark. He did let a trickler through on a bad angle Evgeni Malkin shot, but shut the door after that.
The Isles took over play in the second, outshooting the Pens 13-7, but it took until 18:01 for them to crack through Thomas Greiss. The surprise being that speculative future scratch Matt Martin struck with an niftty crease crashing backhand for his second goal in as many games...leading to first star honors for the night.
With the game tied going into the third, the opening shift was chippy with Martin jawing with Downie and a little scrum with both sides getting together. The intensity and stupidity (on the Pens part) only picked up from there and really intesified after Anders Lee gave the Isles their first lead 2:38 into the period. He deflected in a Lubomir Visnovsky point shot which was dug free with some hard work from Ryan Strome.
A few minutes later, Downie went full Downie taking an interference/misconduct cheap shot on Thomas Hickey sending him to the ice and the Isles to their second power play.
This time, they capitalized. Brock Nelson got to double digits with his team-leading 10th goal, tipping in a feed from Kyle Okposo. The game was out of reach then, and the Isles kept the hammer down. John Tavares got off the schneid, sealing it at 15:46 by banging in the rebound of a Johnny Boychuk point shot. The rival was dispatched in convincing fashion, twitter was happy, optimism was chided, shoulders were shrugged.
Who cares? This is fun. Gloat, taunt etc. We deserve it. Wish I got to bet the over.
SOME THINGS I NOTICED:
- I can't really objectively recap a Penguins game.
- I don't care.
- Sidney Crosby wasn't mentioned in the recap. That is because across the two games, he was held pointless with one (1) shot on goal in 37 minutes. Defense is helpful. I'll bet AMac would've blocked that one.
- The Isles won the faceoff battle 36-23. I can't remember the last time they did that against the Pens.
- Hamonic added to his magical misconduct tour at the end of the game.
- The fourth line has been pretty good lately. Really good even. Now what?
- Jaro is up to .918 now. This is a good feeling. So weird to not be thinking "where is he going" or "why is he on his back" or "where is his stick" or "why did they pull him with 4:22 left" or "why is Mottau on top of him" or...feel free to add in comments. It can go on forever.
Quote of the Night
"He's like the Eveready bunny out there."
- Butch Goring on Kyle Okposo. Bless Butch for not being enslaved to branding accuracy
More divisional hate on tap with the Flyers on Monday followed by a home and home with the Caps, then the Devils. Your hockey weekend is over. Go watch the Jets and Giants lose. The Isles are the best team in NY right now. Embrace it!