Folks, it is great to be back in the saddle with you all once again. I have not yet had the chance to write a recap this season, and this one wasn’t the best way to return to the gig, but it’s lovely to write about Islanders hockey again. Hope you enjoy my words and such.
Flying Out the Gate
The Ducks may be birds, but it was the Islanders that were flapping their wings when the puck dropped. They took ten shots before the first commercial break, five of which reached the net and two of which nearly went in. Andrew Ladd fired a beautiful feed from Josh Bailey just wide of Ducks standout goalie John Gibson. Ryan Pulock put some juice on a one-time slapper that Gibson got in front of, but was so powerful that it got through the Anaheim netminder and nearly trickled in before sliding wide.
They carried this strong play through the end of the period and beat up on an already beat-up team that was missing its stars in Corey Perry, out for most of the season with an MCL injury, and Ryan Getzlaf, day-to-day with a groin/hamstring ailment. This is what you’re supposed to do, especially when that injury-plagued team is Randy Carlyle’s team, known for bleeding shots as it is.
But Sometimes, That’s Hockey
With the Islanders threatening again four minutes before the end of the first, Brock Nelson drew a high-stick while battling Josh Manson in front of the Ducks crease. That power play was ultimately unsuccessful, but they controlled the puck so well that most of PP1 never left the ice. Mat Barzal, in particular, showed off his slick mitts, skill that would sneak up again soon.
The tables turned on Nelson, who took a high-sticking penalty of his own on one-time iron man Andrew Cogliano in an eerily similar play to the one of which he was on the receiving end minutes earlier. The penalty, called with 24.8 remaining in the opening period, would only last about 20 seconds. The Ducks took quick advantage of the man advantage, firing two quick shots on Isles goalie Thomas Greiss that were turned aside. The second, a blast from the point off of Sam Steel’s stick, created a fat rebound that net-front presence Ryan Kesler buried with a backhand.
Barzal Sustains Pressure and My Life, All for Nought
The Islanders’ budding star knows how to make his opponents look like his pets sometimes, and through the first half of the game, he was a Duck Hunter. He took what seemed like a two-minute shift spent entirely in the Anaheim zone dipsy-doodling around tired Anaheim defenders. As his linemates changed, he found himself out there with Cal Clutterbuck and Anthony Beauvillier, demoted from Barzal’s line prior to tonight’s contest. Beauvillier’s pass/shot found its way to the crease, and both Clutterbuck and Barzal batted away at Gibson’s right pad to push the puck over the line for a goal called on the ice.
The Ducks felt, perhaps correctly, that play should have been blown dead with the puck under Gibson enough time to consider it covered. A team cannot challenge this particular rule, but Carlyle threw the red flag for goaltender interference. Possibly egged on by a whistle that wasn’t, the refs determined that Clutterbuck pushed Gibson’s pad illegally to help force the puck over the line, overturning the on-ice call.
Adding Insult to Injury, and Adding More Injury to That
As if the waved-off goal wasn’t crushing enough, Kesler padded the Ducks lead within minutes. It was a long-range soft wrister that Kesler shot as he and his line entered the zone, and though it was deflected off of Nick Leddy as he defended against the Anaheim centerman, it was a floater that Greiss probably should have had.
And, for further corkscrewing, Johnny Boychuk’s inside left ankle appeared to be shattered by a Marcus Pettersson slap shot. He couldn’t get up on his own and hobbled off to the dressing room when he was picked up. He did, thankfully, return to the team’s bench and tested out the ankle, and seemed to be okay enough to play.
But Sometimes, That’s Hockey: Part Deux
Less than a minute into the final frame, Max Comtois snapped a shot from along the goal line that bounced off of and popped over Greiss. Former Devils forward Adam Henrique was there skating across the front of the crease to knock the puck out of mid-air with a baseball swing to give the Ducks some insurance.
If you weren’t sure of it before this, you were certainly sure by that point that tonight just wasn’t the Islanders night. The Barzal line continued to control play as they had throughout the game, but John Gibson stood tall and dominated as he has throughout the first month of this young season. He did, ironically, surrender his shutout in the final minute of the game, when Scott Mayfield’s shot was deflected by both Ross Johnston and Casey Cizikas. But he still won by three goals because, on the ensuing face-off, Hampus Lindholm floated one into the empty Islanders net.
Thoughts of My Own on the Matter
The recurring theme of the late evening was that sometimes, hockey is a cruel beast. The Islanders, frankly, kicked ass from the first puck drop and there were at least four or five chances during the game that, just as they were saves, they easily could have been goals. If one of them early on goes in, we may be talking about (and writing about) and entirely different game.
You have to love Barzal’s game tonight. I know some don’t like when players take long shifts, but when he does it, he makes it worth it. And he doesn’t even start to look tired! The endurance on this guy, man. Beauvillier was definitely trying to prove that he was putting his back into the game, and was throwing his weight around all night. Scott Mayfield beat the ever-living piss out of Comtois, who challenged him to a fight. Greiss wasn’t at his best tonight, surely, but every goal was at least a little bit fluky.
You wanted more Islanders hockey? Well, you’ve got it, buster! The Isles will drive across the freeway (I have no idea how California works) and take on the Los Angeles Kings tomorrow night. It’s a 7:30 start, Pacific Time, which means it is a 10:30 p.m. start ‘round the right coast. We’ll see you then, if you decide it’s worth it to stay awake.