Today’s game against a team that is already mathematically eliminated from playoff contention had to be two points, preferably in regulation. That didn’t really happen, though.
In what could be described as an omen of misfortune for the day, Casey Cizikas was announced as a late scratch. Late, late scratch. Like, 7 minutes before puck drop late. He was pulled off the ice during warm-ups and officially listed as day-to-day with a lower body injury. Perhaps there’s more to his absence in practice yesterday than “low tank.” Tom Kuhnhackl took his spot in the lineup and Leo Komarov took his spot on his line.
Unfortunate First Three Minutes, Recovery Commences
The game started off fine. Conservative, for the most part. But the Islanders found themselves in a hole early by way of some bad luck. Andreas Athanasiou entered the zone and threw it toward the slot. There were no Red Wings there, and you might even argue that he was just trying to throw it into the corner, but it plonked off Ryan Pulock’s leg and through Thomas Greiss. Sitting on the couch all by myself, I said out loud “oh God, it’s gonna be one of those games isn’t it?”
Detroit’s initial lead would not last too long. The Islanders were granted a man advantage and, while most of it was typically lackluster, they generated some pressure toward the end of it. The Red Wings tried to clear the zone down the ice, but Devon Toews intercepted the weak flub at the center line and touched it on to Brock Nelson. He and Anders Lee glided down the wings in a somewhat of a 2-on-1 and, similar to the late winner against the Canadiens, Lee finished the cross-ice pass past the goaltender, getting his 26th of the season.
The period ended with the Islanders up 16-7 in total shots on goal, but only a slight advantage in high-danger chances, according to Natural Stat Trick.
Utter Dominance Tinged Red
The Islanders controlled the shot share and the high danger chances handily in the second period, playing an excellent Barry Trotz game against a bad team that was playing out the string. And yet, it would be the Wings that would get themselves on the scoresheet in the second, capitalizing on one of the few breakdowns the Islanders really had in the game. Athanasiou again would be credited with the goal.
Detroit had New York buried in their own zone and moved the puck around to get the Isles out of position. Athanasiou found space to the right of Greiss and was sent an uncontested pass from Tyler Bertuzzi at the point. Greiss was unable to get over to block it.
Unable to Break Bernier
It wasn’t for lack of trying, but the hockey gods were not on our side today, and it was “one of those games” I bemoaned early on. It was frustrating to watch puck after puck get flubbed away, shot wide, or stopped spectacularly by Jonathan Bernier. There was one flurry toward the 6:00-mark where Bernier made three stops in tight, each better than the last, including throwing his stick out to block the last shot in the stretch.
It also didn’t help when Pulock, receiving a gorgeous pass from Mathew Barzal as he snuck into the zone late, had a wipe open net and tons of room and rang it off the post, but I guess that’s going to happen from time to time. The sequence was capped off by a Cal Clutterbuck penalty in the final two minutes, effectively ending any chance of securing a point.
To add insult to injury, or vice versa, more accurately, Barzal was shaken up by blatant interference off the very next face-off, and the Islanders at one point had their goalie pulled for 15 seconds without putting out the extra attacker. They nearly tied it again when the puck squirted out from behind him to Toews, but he couldn’t corral it to put it in. Bernier finished the game with 41 saves on 42 shots
Thoughts (My Feelings on This One Are Too Vulgar to Post)
This is a game that needs to be won. This wasn’t a team that’s playing carefree and flashing its hidden skill, it’s a team playing like it has better things to do. And it led most of the game. It wasn’t really until the last ten minutes of the game that the Red Wings remembered they had a hockey game today and, while the Islanders undeniably played well, it is hard not to think of it as some form of painful regression. Seems like the Wings captured the luck of St. Patrick’s Day more than the Islanders had.
Trotz was disappointed with the result, of course, but was pleased with the overall game the Islanders played. We all are, I’d say, and remember that Bernier made 44 saves against them back in December. But if the Islanders fall one or two points out of home ice advantage or the division title, this game will sting. Hopefully, it doesn’t come to that.
The Penguins got blown out at home by the Blues, so that helps. And the Capitals have to play the Lightning. Tampa, by the way, has the potential to clinch the Atlantic Division and Eastern Conference with a win and Bruins regulation loss, so they’re still Going For It. Still, though, even if it turns out that both teams lost, not capitalizing today is gonna hurt.
Gotta let it go and come back hard tomorrow.
Quick turnaround in the road back-to-back. The Islanders visit the Minnesota Wild for a 6:00 p.m. puck drop. I imagine a few Isles players will have some fans in the stands. Minnesota will also play tonight, so both teams will be on a back-to-back. While the Islanders should be desperate to get the best possible standings finish, the Wild are desperate to even remain in the playoff race. Should be a tight one.