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New York Islanders 5 (EN), Boston Bruins 3: Special teams theater leads to Bruins angst

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It was a real Clutterbucker out there.

Hahd.
Hahd.
Winslow Townson-USA TODAY Sports

SB Nation 2014 NHL Preview

The New York Islanders won a wild one over the Boston Bruins, a preseason game with quick lead changes, lots of power plays, chippy play but no fights, and eight goals in total.

Cal Clutterbuck scored the winner late in the third period after streaking from right wing to left wing, blueline to blueline, before unleashing one of his patented pick-a-corner wrist shots off the rush. Scott Mayfield made it a 5-3 final with a long scoop out of the zone into the vacated Bruins net.

It's preseason, so the win means little, but there were some interesting job candidates involved, so what follows are a few notes on those.

Boxscore | Game Sum | Event Sum


Defensemen of Note

Griffin Reinhart: There is something about his quiet positional game that is reassuring, to the point you get why this is the way he is praised by people who have watched him coming up. Not flashy, but with a calm, constant assessment of the situation around him and an ability to use his body to impede offensive flow. The NESN announcers and NHL Network studio talking heads praised him, justifiably so in my book.

(Speaking of NESN, the Jack Edwards gale of "hear me now? how about now? NOW?" was at full capacity. After explaining to the accidentally national audience on NHL Network that they'd use this preseason game to mostly talk about the Bruins roster, he offered plenty of thoughts on the Islanders, some of them even informed.)

TJ Brennan: He was the lone defenseman on a nicely functioning power play. He combined with the magical hands of John Tavares pivoting on the boards, Kyle Okposo and Frans Nielsen gaining the zone, and Cory Conacher in front of the net. Brennan followed up a shanked shot from the point by blasting in a goal, Conacher providing part of the screen.

Overall, Brennan skates really confidently with the puck on a string, and -- preseason caveats aside -- I'd take him on the powerplay now with no further questions asked.

Matt Donovan: In contrast, Donovan was an (easy?) target of Bruins forechecking. He also took and drew a couple of penalties, somewhat sketchy ones on both sides -- but worth watching since accumulating minors seems to be an issue for him. His game began with some poor luck on the Bruins goal that opened scoring: Patrice Bergeron eluded John Tavares behind the net and scooped a wraparound try at Kevin Poulin. Donovan niftily kicked the rebound away with his skate...but it ended up right back on the stick of Bergeron, who snapped it blocker side on Poulin.

Donovan looked worse on the Bruins' third goal, when he turned it over in the neutral zone and he neither disrupted the pass to Brad Marchand nor pursued him enough as he approached the net. Just the ol' lazy slash on the stick after Marchand had already deked Poulin. He got better for the rest of the third, and found openings on the power play multiple times, but overall it was not the kind of night Donovan needed.

Forwards of Note

Cory Conacher got a great opportunity on the top line and the top power play unit, and he contributed on both. On the power play (see above) he had the net-front role. At even strength, he scored on a nice high-slot snapshot from an excellent John Tavares feed after the Islanders broke out of their own zone with several good diagonal passes.

Matt Martin nearly engaged with Bobby Robins (yes, real name) after Robins took a run at Thomas Hickey early. That's Martin's role, but then he didn't encounter the Bruins pest again despite Robins playing the human pinball against various Islanders all night. If anything, Cal Clutterbuck was the one who got under the Bruins' skin with a really solid check on Patrice Bergeron at center ice -- and of course his game-winner was the ultimate nuisance.

John Tavares, Kyle Okposo and Cory Conacher actually had more physical involvement thanks to some coincidental roughings from post-whistle scrums, a Jordan Caron punch to Okposo's chin, and a slash by Adam McQuaid (which Tavares returned in kind).

Ryan Strome did his best to be active, but his line did not appear to have much chemistry. He, Nikolay Kulemin and Josh Bailey weren't much on the same page, aside from one down-low chance (which Bailey passed, predictably). Bailey had one memorable instance where, with the neutral zone clogged, he skated back, back into his own zone and then turned it over with a bad backhand up the boards. Poor.

Strome and Bailey were involved in the go-ahead goal, however, with Strome part of the distraction that allowed Kyle Okposo to arrive at the net unimpeded after he spun in the corner, ridiculously splitting and shaking off two Bruins checkers including the very wealthy David Krejci. Just an absurd goal by Okposo, which he finished with a pump fake that made Bruins goalie Jeremy Smith look foolish.

(It was a tough entrance for Smith, who came in at the halfway point and conceded goals on two of the first three shots he faced.)

Strome was on the second power play unit and started a third-period power play off well by gaining possession and setting up Kevin Czuczman for a golden opportunity in the slot.

Overall the powerplay was impressive and the penalty kill was good. But the shorthander obviously took away from the PP's night.

Kevin Poulin was generally solid and quick to cover his rebounds. He was beaten cleanly with a sharp, postage-stamp shot from the left wing faceoff dot by Matt Bartkowski for a shorthanded goal. Then after that powerplay expired, the Isles completely checked off to allow Marchand his partial breakaway goal.

The Takeaway: Few Opportunities, Unless You're on Special Teams

The Bruins began and finished the game strong, with Clutterbuck's goal against the run of play. But the overall game is not really here nor there. If i had to handicap, I'd say Brennan and Conacher improved their cases, Strome held serve, and Donovan did not improve his case.

But the sheer volume of special teams opportunities for both sides (17 minutes in total spent at uneven strength) meant several players like Strome, Jack Skille, Anders Lee and the fourth line (Casey Cizikas sat out the third with tightness) just did not get too many shifts to impress. Conacher and Brennan happened to have gobs of power play time -- about seven minutes each -- so no surprise they left impressions that the others didn't.

Post-Script

Evidently the Bruins took this meaningless loss hard. Like closed-door-meeting hard:

Or hey, maybe it was just roster meetings: