This game featured the top two rookies in scoring this season. The young man playing at home fared better than his road counterpart, and the same could be said about the teams for whom they play.
Scott Mayfield’s flailing elbow would be the source of a goal for both teams in the first few minutes of the game. Right off the first face-off of the penalty kill, Andrew Ladd was sprung by Adam Pelech and took off like a rocket for a breakaway, scorching it over the shoulder of Anders Nilsson, former Isles behemoth. (Side note: around this time last year, I was pretty critical of the Ladd signing, but credit where credit is due - he’s been fantastic thus far this year. Playing with Barzal and Eberle most of the time helps, but he’s looked more fluid and aggressive, and his numbers are greatly improved.)
The Canucks evened things up quickly after, though, after other old - but brief - friend Thomas Vanek and Loui Eriksson exchanged cross-ice passes; Vanek, in particular, was glaringly left open by one Jason Chimera.
Two goals toward the end of the period gave the Islanders a 3-1 lead entering the first break: Calvin de Haan fired a one-timer from a tight Josh Ho-Sang pass and Jordan Eberle, off the bench, completed a beautiful triangle pass from Mathew Barzal and Johnny Boychuk. It was Eberle’s 400th career point.
Looking like an early blowout, New York went up by three after Mayfield sent a shot from the side boards toward the front of the net that, after some mild confusion, snuck in by way of Anders Lee.
Vancouver kept themselves alive with a shortie of their own, a snipe just inside the far crossbar from Bo Horvat. It is not even December yet, and the Isles have allowed eight shorthanded goals, but there are worse things.
Aside from a couple back-to-back chances around the 4:00 mark and a chance for Eriksson that was blocked by Ho-Sang and Boychuk, the Islanders controlled the period. The Ladd-Barzal-Eberle line, specifically, had a field day. Barzal and Eberle’s chemistry was the subject of several quips by the Vancouver media finding joy in Edmonton’s unwise decisions (and really, who doesn’t find joy in Edmonton’s self-destruction?)
eberle and barzal look good, wow. how did the islanders get those guys?— Jason Botchford (@botchford) November 29, 2017
(Barzal too)— Arthur Staple (@StapeNewsday) November 29, 2017
Despite the score, the Islanders still held serve in terms of shots for the period, actively holding down the lead rather than sitting on it. The shots Vancouver put on net were kept out by Jaroslav Halak.
Seemingly a reward for that effort, the three-goal lead was restored in style: Lee chased a dump-in behind the Vancouver net and looked one way before holding the puck and sliding it the other toward Tavares cruising in. Tavares took the slick feed in stride and cradled a bit, getting Nilsson to lunge just enough for him to fire a 45-degree angle shot into the top right corner.
Thoughts & Feelings
As mentioned previously, another superb effort on the part of the so-called “second-line.” Amazing what this team looks like when Tavares’ line isn’t the only one that can be relied upon for a goal (oh, and his line had a pretty good night themselves, I must say).
15-7-2 for 32 points; 8-0-2 at home; four straight wins, and seventh in their last eight games to complete an 8-3-1 November; second in the Metro, one point back of the Blue Jackets with a game in hand. The 9.6% team shooting percentage may be a bit too high to sustain, but it may still be talent-driven. It is still early in the season, but they’re tracking pretty well.
And I’m more excited about the team than I have been since they were in full-swing in the fall of 2014.
No games for New York until Friday night, when they host the Senators. Should be a hoot, friends.