Tonight was Rick Middleton Night at TD Garden, and the number-retiring celebration pushed the start back an hour. There’s always the fear that the adjusted start times in these situations, the extra time waiting around in the locker room, will mess up the players’ routine and cause sluggishness that can sink a team.
Neither the Islanders nor the Bruins showed lasting effects of the delay, but the game was a low-scoring affair nonetheless. In the end, the team that played slightly better came away with the win during the coin flip, because That’s Hockey.
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The Young Lad Does What He Does
The two teams started the game off slowly after the ceremonial delay, mostly trading possession in the neutral zone or without much offense to show for it. Play began to pick up in the Islanders’ direction, though, due in part to the play of Mathew Barzal.
During some extended zone time, the wunderkind drew a delayed penalty call as Jake DeBrusk, a player selected with one of the three consecutive 2015 first round picks with which they passed on Barzal, interfered with him. After the interference, Barzal passed back to Scott Mayfield on the half wall, and he wound up a slap shot that was blocked by Tuukka Rask. Barzal poked the puck away from the reach of both Rask and Torey Krug, and Anders Lee forced it through the legs of the Bruins goalie to give the Isles a 1-0 advantage.
They carried that momentum to the end of the period and entered the second with that lead.
Special Teams Issues Are Becoming a Recurring Theme
Unfortunately, that momentum evidently dissipated some time during the intermission. Boston came out flying in the second period and maintained that pace through most of it. I don’t necessarily wanna say the Islanders sat back and watched, but they weren’t able to generate much at all. Including on the power play they received - they should start denying power play opportunities when the other team takes a penalty, to be honest. They just can’t get anything going right now. They would be better served putting Barzal back on the first unit, loading it up and going for broke. The love isn’t being spread as the coaches have hoped.
And, to make matters worse, the Isles took a penalty of their own and allowed the Bruins to tie the game on the ensuing power play. Mayfield lost an edge and crashed into the end boards and he got right back up, but the damage was done. He wasn’t able to get back in position in time, and the tic-tac-toe passing was completed by that rat-faced rat bastard Brad Marchand.
Trading Chances in the Third
It may not be a perfect way to describe it, but you could reasonably say each team controlled one of the first two periods. The third was not dominated, per se, by either team, though the Bruins probably got the better of the play. Rask and Robin Lehner had to remain on their toes to keep the score at 1-1, and Lehner in particular made at least one stunning save to stay alive.
The one that springs to mind is the one he made on DeBrusk with less than two minutes left in regulation. Boston was swarming in the Isles’ zone and DeBrusk nearly gave the Bruins the game on a backhand, but Lehner sprawled out to get his right pad on it.
Overtime & Shootout
The extra frame was its usual heart-attack-inducing thriller, and the Islanders had plenty of chances in the first couple minutes of it. They were also denied a goal via what must have been determined to be goaltender interference, though referee Brad Watson never actually explained himself to the crowd. Anthony Beauvillier was tripped into Rask by DeBrusk as they approached the crease at opposing angles, and the call on the ice was “no goal.” And no goals would be scored through the duration of overtime.
In the shootout, Ryan Donato scored the only goal in its four rounds to give the Bruins the extra point. DeBrusk, Barzal, David Pastrnak, Brock Nelson, Brad Marchand, Valtteri Filppula, and Josh Bailey all went goalless. I guess the scouting report said that Rask is really good at stopping slick breakaway moves, because none of the Islanders shooters made any significant dekes. They all skated in and fired away, and not all that dangerously.
It’s here. The long-awaited return to the Coliseum is upon us. The Blue Jackets will do battle with the Islanders in Uniondale this Saturday at 7:00 p.m. You may remember that Columbus was the last team to play a regular season against the Isles at the Coliseum. They’ll be the first to do so since then, in what I’m sure is just a coincidence.