There are a lot of excuses to be made for tonight’s poor performance in Chicago, whether it’s the same-day travel due to the Christmas break or the injury to Cal Clutterbuck, but it’s clear this Islanders team needs some help on offense and help breaking down teams that just constantly forecheck. It’s past time for Lou Lamoriello to add some more talent to the roster, as a rotation of Ross Johnston, Michael Dal Colle, Tom Kuhnhackl, and Leo Komarov just can’t cut it long-term as substitutes in and out of the roster. However, the sky isn’t falling, the Islanders are still second in the Metro division, and maybe this is just a mid-season rut that will get righted soon enough. Hopefully.
Things seemed so hopeful when Ross Johnston opened up the scoring about five minutes in, going right to the net and putting in the puck off a great pass from Josh Bailey. Nick Leddy also was great on the play, driving into the offensive end to start the play.
It went downhill very quickly, though, as minutes later, Dennis Gilbert scored his first NHL goal, completing the prophecies that state every NHL rookie looking for a goal must score his first against the Islanders. That was the first time that the line of Kirby Dach-Dylan Strome-Alex Debrincat would completely dominate the Islanders that period.
Just a couple of minutes after that, another Blackhawks rookie, Dominik Kubalik, would score his 11th goal of the season, and shortly after that, Debrincat would make it 3-1. It was definitely not a great outing for Thomas Greiss, who was pulled after the Debrincat goal. He’s allowed at least three goals in his last three games, two of which weren’t full 60 minute efforts.
The Islanders came out strong to start the second, including playing well on a power play earned from a Matthew Highmore high stick, but they weren’t able to capitalize. The Isles were also able to kill a Nick Leddy penalty, and had other opportunities on the power play after Ross Johnston drew a hooking penalty. However, the Islanders couldn’t cut down on the Blackhawks’ lead, making the task at hand in the third that much more difficult.
Unfortunately, the Isles pretty much lost their chance at getting back into the game when Jonathan Toews stole the puck from Ryan Pulock less than a minute into the period and scored. Just two minutes later, Matthew Highmore made it 5-1, pretty much taking the Islanders out of the game. Mathew Barzal went to the box for tripping Patrick Kane (who was doing his best Mat Barzal impression in the offensive zone) but nothing came of that Blackhawks power play. Devon Toews had a good chance on goal but Robin Lehner made the save.
Frustrations boiled over at the end of the game, leading to Matt Martin taking a roughing penalty and a game misconduct, and Slater Koekkoek getting a misconduct as well. Casey Cizikas scored a shorthanded goal during that Hawks power play, but it was too late in the game to get a comeback going as the Isles lost 5-2 in Chicago.
Next, the Islanders head to Minnesota on Sunday to take on the Wild. Hopefully with some more time to get their legs under them, the Isles will be ready to win two points.