Are these New York Islanders for real? I believe so. It’d be tough to argue against it, that’s for sure.
The Isles beat a Boston team that only had two regulation losses the entire season, prior to tonight. They continue their success and make it 8-1-1 in their last 10, a run that deserves a lot of recognition. Analysts around the league have started to notice, and I’m sure many fans of the 5th-11th place teams in the East have as well. The only teams as hot as the Isles recently are the Caps, and perhaps the Blues (on a 5 game winning streak).
It all started with a quite shaky first ten or fifteen minutes. The Bruins were showing what kind of team they are, throwing their body around and getting tons of shots on Nabokov. At one point, the shots were 10-2 Boston. A veteran goaltender like Nabby does not get shaken up by that though. He keeps the team in a position to win. Nothing rattles him, and that’s perhaps the best thing about him, aside from his leadership and stellar play of late. He stopped 30 of 31 shots and has only let up 14 goals in his last 9 starts. However, on a nice drop pass from Mark Streit, Josh Bailey unleashed a wrist shot top shelf to score a huge goal, putting the Islanders ahead with just 20 ticks left in the first period.
One interesting positive that Zdeno Chara offers is the ability to take players out with his massive shot. He hurt a Devils player on Tuesday during a power play that led to a goal, and he did it again tonight. Warrior Casey Cizikas blocked a Chara shot and went down during the Bruins only power play of the game (The Islanders only had one as well, the refs seem to be putting their whistles away lately). He was taken out of the play and limped over to the bench, but did not miss any time. However, while he was on the ground, the Islanders had to run around too much to compensate and Seguin tied the game.
It was Josh Bailey night in Boston. 13 minutes into the second, recently healthy defenseman Adam Mcquaid flubbed a puck outside his own blue line. Josh Bailey picked it up, skated in and shot it off of Rask’s shoulder. It found a way to trickle in behind him for the game winning goal.
That feeling of impending doom when going into the third period with a lead (especially a one goal lead) is all but gone now. Of course, it’s natural to be nervous, but the Islanders history of blowing leads is far back in their rear view mirror. They’re 13-2-1 when leading after two periods– learning how to close out games, which will be huge if they make the playoffs. A win against Boston was huge, because the Capitals, Jets and Senators all won, so the Islanders needed the two points to keep their current position in 7th place in the East. With 7 games remaining, the toughest opponent is in the past now. The Rangers are next, and oh what a game that will be.