The Islanders came up short against the Canucks on Tuesday night (and Wednesday morning for those watching in E.S.T.). The team seemed to be a bit slow and the rebound many were expecting from the game against the Oilers never materialized until late. As a matter of fact the team started off slower against Vancouver than they did against Edmonton.
Let's take a look at how they faired:
The Fancy Table
|#||Period One||Period Two||Period Three||Total|
|CF||CA||CF%||CF REL%||CF||CA||CF%||CF REL%||CF||CA||CF%||CF REL%||CF||CA||CF%||CF REL%|
|Player Data from War-On-Ice.com|
|Score adjusted data - five on five|
Perhaps the biggest surprise to fans would be that the team out-possessed the Canucks at all. The team felt slower than usual and was lucky to be tied at one all after the first period. The second period saw the Canucks score two goals, yet it was the Islanders running the possession game.
The most notable thing on a player scale has to be the combination of Calvin de Haan and Travis Hamonic topping the defense in possession. Obviously that role has typically gone to the Leddy and Boychuk pairing. While Boychuk and Leddy were positive possession players, their relative Corsi was in the negatives and their overall Corsi was far less than the Hamonic and and de Haan pairing.
First Star - Travis Hamonic
Hamonic has had a rough season so far. He's been the worst regularly dressed forward in terms of possession and hasn't exactly put up points. Tonight was a completely different story. He was one half of the top possession driving tandem for the team, racked up an assist, and was +1 if you put stock in that.
Second Star - Matt Martin
Much like Hamonic, Martin isn't known to be a point producer or a possession player. While he wasn't the top possession guy on his line (that distinction belonged to Cal Clutterbuck) and he was out for the first goal against, he who scores the goal scores the gold. He gets the nod as the second star.
Third Star - Calvin de Haan
De Haan probably had more to do with the possession driving than Hamonic did, but didn't put up any points. Without this pairing the team would have looked completely lost this game.
First Dud - Thomas Hickey
There's just no way around it, Hickey hasn't seen a game this bad all season. He was worst on the team in possession and his play probably resulted in at least two of those goals being scored. Just a bad game. In the interest of fairness he was playing on the right hand side. He typically plays horridly on the right hand side.
Second Dud - Nikolay Kulemin
Lost in the Lackluster play of the Hickey and Donovan pairing was Kulemin's poor performance. He was also a team low in Corsi along with Hickey and was also out for all three goals against. He clearly didn't have his best game tonight.
Third Dud - Michael Grabner
This was a hard one to decide as it could have also gone to Brock Nelson who put up negative possession and had a turnover which led to a goal or Donovan who was one half of a bad defensive tandem, but ultimately those players were brought down by the other players on their lines more than they had bad games. Grabner wasn't out for any goals against, but his possession numbers were bad. He and Martin seemingly switched bodies as he went out of his way for hits which didn't need to be made. Of course he's coming off from injury and he should perform better as he works his way back into game shape.
A Note on the Hickey and Donovan Pairing
In the last two full seasons that Donovan played in the A.H.L. he put up 93 points. Most of these came playing on the right side of Aaron Ness. When he played with Jon Landry he split between the left and right sides. When he played with de Haan he played on the right side. When he played with Ty Wishart he played on the right side. Almost all of his minutes came on the right side. When they put him on the left side, they always inevitably wound up putting him back on the right side. It's where he produced and he did that quite well. Even after adjusting for A.H.L. equivalencies, those 93 points over two seasons would translate to about 22 to 23 points over a full season.
Thomas Hickey on the other hand has never played the right side. He does not perform well on the right side. The last time he did it regularly was last season when they put him on the right hand side of Andrew MacDonald. MacDonald was a terrible possession player to begin with, but when coupled with Hickey on the right hand side those numbers got even worse. The sample size was limited, but he didn't exactly do well with de Haan when placed on the right side either.
All of this should add up to playing Hickey on the left side and Donovan playing on the right side, right? Not with our coaching staff. Donovan was lined up on the left hand side and Hickey on the right the entire game. It's hard to figure out why this happened, but it's not the first time they've done it this year either. When Donovan was partnered with Leddy, Leddy was on the right side. When he was partnered with Griffin Reinhart, Reinhart was on the right hand side.
The story doesn't end there though. Last year Hickey partnered with Donovan for about seven games or roughly 140 minutes. Hickey played on the left side of Donovan. The pair's Corsi percentage was over 60 percent. Donovan played on the right hand side of de Haan and put up a Corsi percentage of over 56 percent.
Perhaps they want the left handed Donovan to play the left side as lefty, but it's not working this year and it's never worked. Maybe it's a hard-headed approach that says Donovan is a young left handed defenseman so he lacks the capability to pay on the right side. In either case It's incredibly befuddling that they cannot accept the fact he's best suited to the right side particularly when their best defenseman over the past three seasons - Lubomir Visnovsky - is a left-handed defenseman that plays on the right hand side. It's even more bewildering that simply switching Visnovsky with Donovan is just not a possibility given the fact that they're quite similar in playing style. If there's some failed logic that says that Donovan cannot play the right side, then just play Strait there and trade Donovan because this ill-conceived project clearly isn't working for the team or the players.