If you're a person who likes to look ahead at a team's schedule (like I am), you couldn't have felt too optimistic about the road trip the New York Islanders began at the end of November. Looking at their opponents; New Jersey, Buffalo, Chicago, and Dallas, was likely enough to give even the most stout fan a case of heartburn.
Islanders fans, however, have learned to expect the unexpected. After some tough fought battles and seesaw games, the Islanders managed to take seven of the eight possible points from those teams listed above.
Matt Moulson, who scored seven goals during the stretch, nearly single-handedly won the contest in Dallas (12/3). His four goals staved off a potentially devastating mid-game collapse. Moulson, who struck early for two goals, watched as his defense and goaltender, Rick DiPietro, let the Stars knot the game at 3 in the second period.
Moulson sprung into action, though, restoring the lead for the Isles, capping a five goal flurry by both sides in the span of 3:09. He added a goal in the third period to give him his first four goal game in the NHL.
John Tavares, who hasn't hit the net in 13 games, has stayed productive. He has had more than his share of close calls, but in the meantime has notched 9 assists during his goal scoring drought.
P.A. Parenteau has contributed as well, putting up 7 points on the road trip.
Though he has looked better of late and scored in Chicago, Kyle Okposo hasn't yet hit a steady scoring stride with more than 20 games played. His curious tweet last week makes you wonder if his past injuries were bothering him this season more than he led most of us to believe.
I'd also be remiss if I didn't mention Al Montoya. Montoya is absolutely carrying the team in net right now. I'm not going to pile on the Rick DiPietro hate-wagon, but Al has made one big save after another of late at crucial moments. His season numbers between the pipes are an outstanding 2.17 GAA and a 93.1 save percentage.
The defense needs tightening up; there are only a few D-men playing really well. It's not my style to single players out who are underperforming, but Mike Mottau has been poor, Milan Jurcina has had some serious defensive lapses, and before he was injured I felt that Andy MacDonald was capable of better play (he left with an injury with a -9, worst among the team's defensemen).
However, the Isles won 3-2 in New Jersey, slipped by Buffalo with another single goal margin (2-1), and escaped Chicago and Dallas with two 5-4 games (a shootout loss and a win, respectively).
Looking at the bigger picture, as I tend to, here are some franchise notes I jotted down after the most recent win:
- John Tavares has now cracked the top 50 in franchise scoring. His 142 points equal former captain Mike Peca's Islanders total.
- With his four goal game on Saturday night, Moulson passed both Lorne Henning and J-P Parise in the Islanders franchise goals leader column (74).
- Also in Saturday night's affair, DiPietro and Michael Grabner left with groin injuries. More seriously, Nino Niederreiter, fresh off his first goal of the season, left with concussion like symptoms. The hit by Mark Fistric that sent him off has to result in a suspension. Replays showed the Stars player's skates leaving the ice during the hit.
- Congratulations to David Ullstrom for his first NHL point, scored in Buffalo on 11/29.
- Lastly, the Islanders franchise regained their position above .500 after spending a day below the mark. They now sit at 1321-1319-347-79 (W-L-T-OTL) all-time.