I have to tell you, folks: A week ago, I already expected the New York Islanders to lose this game to the New Jersey Devils. New Jersey had been flying. Even though the Islanders’ on-ice numbers had improved of late, they hadn’t played a team as strong as the Devils. While I was encouraged by the better play, I thought the weak competition was the main reason their expected goals percentage increased.
Then, they lost Adam Pelech to a scary head injury on Tuesday. I thought we were doomed.
Never listen to me.
Dressing an all-Euro left side and an all-North American right side, the Islanders’ defense contained the high-flying Devils. Combined with a complete buy-in from the forwards—who seemed to step up even more once they lost a couple of soldiers—the Islanders frustrated the Devils and jumped out to a big lead, one you knew they would need.
The Russian among the defensemen, Alexander Romanov, knocked the life out of Miles Wood with, no joke, the hardest, fully clean hit I’ve seen in any NHL game—not just the Islanders—in years. I know Dom linked to it in his recap, but I’m going to drop it here again anyway for your viewing pleasure. A hit that good should be appreciated. And that hit came after Romanov got the primary assist on the first two Isles goals.
In all the excitement from last night—and it was one of the more exciting games I’ve watched all season, making how impressive the win was even sweeter—you might have forgotten that the Islanders play again tonight. The Carolina Hurricanes have been hanging out on Long Island waiting for the Islanders, who will for the first time in 25 years don the Fisherman logo in an NHL game.
The last time the Islanders played Carolina, it was Josh Bailey’s 1,000th game, and the Islanders skated to a similarly impressive 6-2 road win against a team that recently had the Isles’ number. They’ll look to sweep a difficult weekend in their Reverse Retros.
About last night:
- You said it, Dom: Who the hell are the New York Islanders? I suppose it portends good things for the playoffs that they can shut down or find ways to beat top teams like this, but they need to play better against the bad teams to make sure they get there. Also, Anthony Beauvillier went down in the first period and did not return. [LHH]
- One big key: the physicality. The Devils have not faced much adversity this season, especially not since going on their run. They usually force teams to play their game. But last night, the Islanders imposed their will, and the hitting helped. [3 Takeaways]
- Romanov’s hit was thunderous and set the tone for the rest of the game, allowing the Islanders to restore their three-goal lead and then add to it for some much-needed insurance, staving off the onslaught of one the league’s top teams at generating offense. Speaking of generating, the hit generated articles from three different beat writers. [The Athletic | Newsday | NY Post]
- You’d be forgiven if you forgot the Devils scored first. This isn’t in the article, but I didn’t appreciate Nico Hischier’s “that was easy” celebration even if it was a pretty goal, and I don’t think the Islanders did, either. Bulletin board! [amNY]
- Brock Nelson scored twice, as did Anders Lee, who needed one badly. (Nelson may have tipped Lee’s shot, which would give him a hat trick, but he didn’t claim it.) Casey Cizikas also got his first of the season on a gorgeous play by the fourth line. [Rapid Recap]
- The Isles then survived over seven minutes of 6-on-5 time for the Devils, giving up only one goal. To his credit, Jack Hughes played the final 6:02 of the game, the longest shift in NHL history, dating back to 2009-10 when the league first started tracking shift length. [NHL]
- When you play a team as strong offensively as the Devils, the best way to win is to score early and often, which is what the Isles did, dropping four goals before the game was 25 minutes old. [Newsday | NY Post]
- The Islanders didn’t hit 17 wins until mid-February last year. Also, Lee and Nelson combined for 18(!) of the Islanders’ 32 shots on goal. [NYISkinny]
Looking ahead and around:
- A preview of tonight’s contest. I hope they win in these jerseys because I don’t want to hear fans of a certain generation start kvetching about them. [Islanders]
- Last night’s match was the first of an incredibly tough stretch for the Islanders. The win got them off on the right foot. [Newsday]
- It’s Teddy Bear Toss Night in Bridgeport! [B-Isles]
Last night’s NHL scores include victories for the Penguins, Capitals, and Rangers. Blast! All the more important that the Islanders won that game last night. Also, from the That’s Hockey Department: The Bruins, despite outshooting them 46-16, lost in regulation to the Coyotes. Boston had actually tied it with about five minutes remaining, but the ‘Yotes stole the regulation win with a goal in the final 14 seconds.
- It was also the Calgary Flames’ first game against Johnny Gaudreau and the Columbus Blue Jackets, but it seemed like they forgot they had a game. [Sportsnet]
- Jeff Skinner cross-checked Jake Guentzel in the face during the Sabres’ loss to the Penguins last night and will now have a hearing to answer for his crimes. [NHL]
- Jeff Marek can’t help but be annoying sometimes: He was actually upset that Buffalo Sabres’ coach Don Granato didn’t give Tage Thompson more ice time to go for the apparent single-game record of seven goals, set in 1920 by Joe Malone, as though an obscure record like that is what should be on a coach’s mind during a game. He scored five goals! It’s fun! Shut up! Which is basically what Elliotte Friedman told him to do. [32 Thoughts Podcast]