Tonight, the once-hottest-but-really-luckiest team of the season in the Columbus Blue Jackets came to town for a spot of tea and a game of hockey, hold the tea. Whenever the Islanders play the Jackets, I’m reminded of this excellent tweet from the Harambe incident and subsequent memes:
just saw the gorilla thing. what kind of thoughtless, negligent parent would raise their child in ohio— rob whisman (@robwhisman) May 29, 2016
(Sorry Cheepnis and other Ohio Isles fans. All in good fun.)
Weight said Lee skated this morning, felt sick, had a 'don't know where it's gonna come out party' #isles— Andy Graziano (@AndyGraz_SNY) January 25, 2017
Anthony Beauvillier is nursing a sore foot and Anders Lee is dealing with an illness, while Andrew Ladd returned to the lineup for the first time in the Doug Weight era. These lineup changes would make for some pretty ugly lines:
#Isles starting with Kulemin-Tavares-Bailey, Prince-Nelson-Strome, Chimera-Quine-Gionta, Ladd-Cizikas-Clutterbuck.— Arthur Staple (@StapeNewsday) January 24, 2017
Prince-Nelson-Strome seems intriguing, but I believe it’s also been tried in the past without much success. The Blue Jackets were without Markus Nutivaara and David Savard. The goaltending matchup: Thomas Greiss vs. Sergei Bobrovsky.
MSG+ has had a serious problem broadcasting the game lately, and I’m pretty sure I’ve been with you folks every time. For the first ten or so minutes of the game, Fox Sports Columbus provided us the visual, while Brendan and Butch provided the audio. Thankfully, MSG+ repaired itself after the second commercial break. Anyway, on to the hockey!
First Period: Wake up Mr. Weight!
The Islanders didn’t manage to generate a shot until the first commercial break, continuing the theme from the weekend’s two games where they came out sleepwalking. It would cost them, as Ryan Murray sent a floater from the point that deflected off Nick Leddy and apparently Nick Foligno that would make the game 1-0.
Later on, Shane Prince took a painful shot from Johnny Boychuk, one bad enough that a few on LHH speculated that he would not be able to return. He would return in time to be on the ice for a slashing penalty by Dalton Prout on Brock Nelson that would give the Isles the first man advantage of the game. This came right after Cal Clutterbuck nearly tied the score with a breakaway chance.
Nikolay Kulemin played the role of Anders Lee this evening, not only the top line but also on the power play. He stood in front of the net, but he certainly isn’t as offensively-gifted as Lee, as evidenced by a shot that went toward the net that Kulemin couldn’t corral and send home. This and a rip from the slot off the stick of Nelson were the Islanders best chances of the power play that was ultimately unsuccessful.
Jason Chimera revealed his fighting prowess when he sparred with Lukas Sedlak. He held a pretty sizable size advantage over the younger Sedlak, though.
Second Period: Bailey gets to 100
The middle period had a fluky beginning. The Islanders sent a hard shot against the back boards the bounced up near Bobrovsky and nearly banked in off him. Next, after Greiss made a big save on a 2-on-1 chance, the Isles went the other way and John Tavares gave a pass to Josh Bailey on the wing. Bailey threw it at the net toward Kulemin battling with Seth Jones, and the puck went in off Jones’s skate. The goal was Bailey’s 100th career goal.
As the period unfolded, Scott Hartnell delivered a dangerous hit to Ryan Strome. Strome had his back turned and numbers out the whole time, and while Hartnell appeared to pull up slightly, he still leaned into the check. A minor scrum would ensue but amounted to nothing, and Strome would return for his next shift, so I doubt the Department of Player Safety will be responsible for enforcing its rules this time.
The Islanders controlled play for most of the period, making up for their lackadaisical first period (or first half of the first). They only allowed a few shots to get through to Greiss. Among their own decent chances was a shot off the rush from Strome, set up by a pretty centering feed from Prince.
Given the effort they put into the period, it was only fair that the Isles would take the lead. A face-off in the Columbus zone happened because Dennis Seidenberg threw a hard clear off the back boards, reminiscient of the carom from earlier in the period, that came right to a streaking Nelson. Bobrovsky covered up, but the ensuing face-off was won by Tavares to Seidenberg, who fed de Haan for the slap shot from the point. Into traffic the puck went, redirecting off Tavares’s leg right to Kulemin, ready and waiting.
Anyone still mad about Kulemin on top line? 2-1 #Isles.— Brian Compton (@BComptonNHL) January 25, 2017
Yes, but that is neither here nor there. An excellent period would end with the Isles up 2-1.
Third Period: The Anaconda Plan
(Get it? Because they’re the Blue Jackets, like from the Civil War? Haha. Ah, I crack myself up.)
The final third of the game got off to a quick start, and a relieving one for Brock. Nelson carried over the line and used the players moving in front of him as a screen for a laser of a wrist shot that painted the top nearside corner.
For extra good measure, Jason Chimera carried over the line and ripped a wrist shot from almost the exact same spot that Nelson scored. Bobrovsky was standing up and barely reacted, prompting angry troll doll John Tortorella to give him the hook for Joonas Korpisalo.
Chimera has played better of late and has had quite the hot stick, and it’s always a good sign when your team chases one of the best goalies in the league. Well, you can’t say I didn’t try. I had this written right after his goal, and then he went and gave it away to Cam Atkinson to lessen the deficit.
Too little too late, however, and the Islanders went on to win 4-2. The win is their fourth in five games and, as of this writing, puts them three points out of the second wild card spot behind the Flyers. Feels pretty surreal to say, and it’s encouraging that they’ve looked good doing it. That being said, the Bruins and Red Wings are playing currently, with Detroit leading 3-2 in the third period. If Boston secures a point, they move ahead of Philadelphia and increase the deficit. Still, though, hard to have seen any of this coming in November.
What are the Isles Doing Better?
Here’s a nice clip of the coach talkin’ hockey eh:
The Islanders return to action on Thursday night for the fifth game on this largely successful (thus far) six-game homestand when the Montreal Canadiens come to town.
It is also the last game before the All-Star break AND ALSO a black-and-white cookie night (Brooklyn Pride jerseys). A 7:00 p.m. start as usual will be broadcast on MSG+, hopefully by MSG+.