For some reason that only the benevolent hockey gods can explain, the New York Islanders have had lots of recent success against the Detroit Red Wings, particularly at Joe Louis Arena, and now that the Islanders are a top team in the league the hockey gods have not yet seen fit to change that.
A close yet convincing 2-1 win Friday night made the Isles 8-1-1 in their last 10 against the Wings, including 5-0 in Detroit. This goes back several years, several coaches, much roster turnover, and even some uniform changes. It's just one of those things.
The refreshing part Friday night, however, is that the win at the Joe came not through a fortune's wheel-contrived shutout that required many goal posts saving Joey MacDonald. Rather, it came in impressive fashion by an Isles team that outshot the Wings 32-18 and kept most of the Detroit pressure to the perimeter.
The goals came not from the Isles household name stars, but rather from the "kids" who have increasingly been keys to the Isles' 22-10 start this season: Brock Nelson (who tied it) and Anders Lee (who got the winner in the second), though Ryan Strome was kept off the scoresheet.
As a bonus, the struggling Islanders penalty kill even squashed both Wings power plays, conceding only one shot on Jaroslav Halak.
- Travis Hamonic and Johnny Boychuk both returned to the lineup and played around 17 minutes each (Hamonic a little more, Boychuk a little less). No coincidence that the defense looked tight.
- Jimmy Howard left after the first period, but you can't really say that was a factor in the Isles getting the win. Petr Mrazek was tested early, robbing Nelson on a power play one-timer at the doorstep.
- Nelson's goal was downright impressive, with a diving stab at the rebound ahead of being swallowed up by the human blanket named Jonathan Ericsson.
- Nelson was key to the winning goal, too, initiating a turnover and shot, which allowed Lee to knock the loose rebound in.
- Mike Babcock praised Lee's "heavy" play around the net before the game, so of course it was Lee, being "heavy" on a rebound, who sunk the Wings.
- Entering the third period with a one-goal lead, things rarely felt threatening. Jaroslav Halak did have a bit of luck when the early shot that hit the post landed safely behind him. He was only required to make 17 saves overall.
- Though Detroit has had trouble generating offense, they are obviously a good team, only two points behind the Isles after this meeting. This, in short, was an affirming win for the Isles.
And now, time to repeat the feat against another good team at the Coliseum Saturday night. The Tampa Bay Lightning come in after a shootout loss to the Devils Friday night. (Yes, someone actually lost to New Jersey in a shootout.)
Quote(s) of the Night
"I like their team. I think they've got a good team. They play fast, they play hard."
-- Mike Babcock on the Islanders
"You really . . . you can't . . . we're fortunate in certain ways."
--Jack Capuano, in Newsday, on the Isles' "domination" of the Wings in Detroit