Saturday, January 21, 2012

Tavares 2, Hurricanes 1

What can I say about John Tavares that hasn't already been said?

Sometimes it boggles my mind that the guy was born in 1990. On nights like Saturday (1/21), when he provided all the Islanders' offense needed to get a win, one can easily forget that he's just 21 years old.

Tavares, coupled with another outstanding effort in goal (32 saves) from Evgeni Nabokov, led the Islanders to victory over the Carolina Hurricanes. 2-1 was the final score, in overtime. For the Islanders, it was their third straight win, tying their season-high streak.

During the game, Isles' broadcaster Howie Rose went off on what can only be described as a five minute long rant against ESPN writer Neil Greenberg. Greenberg, who had failed to place Tavares in a certain "25 young players under (age) 25" list, was excoriated by Rose.

While I'm not sure a public flogging (Rose did not say the writer's name on air) is the route I would have chosen to make the point, Rose happened to be right in this case. How can anyone of fair mind who watches ice hockey for a living exclude the Islanders' star from that group?

Not only is Tavares one of the 25 best young players, he's one of the best in the league right now.

With his 2 points (both coming as goals) on Saturday night, he now has 169 points in 207 career games (0.816 PPG). He passed Dave Scatchard on the Islanders all-time scoring list and tied Jude Drouin. Next within John's sights are Shawn Bates (170), J-P Parise, and Claude Lapointe (both at 171).

While Tavares has found his form, perhaps the Islanders are coming into theirs as well. They are now just 2 games under .500 for the season and are teasing their fans with thoughts of a playoff run.

It's still premature to think about meaningful April hockey, but the team is just eight points out of a playoff spot. If they clean up against Toronto and Carolina (who they play twice and once more, respectively) to end January, the playoff whispers on Long Island will grow by many decibels.

Either way, the selection of John Tavares in the 2009 NHL Entry Draft looks like General Manager Garth Snow's masterstroke. Even if he isn't on your list quite yet.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Bailey Beats Bob And The Philly Curse

I can't figure the Islanders out.

They put up an absolute stinker at home against Nashville, digging a hole so deep that the game is effectively over after one period. They then travel to Washington and Philadelphia, dominate both teams, and let up a single goal over six periods.

Confounding, to say the least.

Whatever the reason (and a lot of it has had to do with goaltender Evegni Nabokov's top form lately), the Islanders finally broke their "0-for-Philly" streak on Thurdsay (1/19) night.

With 40 saves and riding a shutout streak of 159:11, the Islanders earned two points in a place that hasn't been very kind to them in almost five calendar years, Philadelphia's Wells Fargo Center.

It had been since April 7, 2007, a miserable streak of 13 games since the Islanders had last won in the City of Brotherly Love. But Matt Moulson, Josh Bailey, Mark Streit, and Michael Grabner powered the Isles to a 4-1 win.

Sergei 'Bob' Bobrovsky, who had been previously unbeaten by New York, took the loss. He's now 7-1-0 against the Blue and Orange.

As the home broadcasters were saying, it's a huge monkey finally off the back of a team trying to claw its way back into playoff contention.

There were some notable events in the game that deserve mention, besides Nabokov's masterpiece. Josh Bailey tallied a breakaway shorthanded goal for his 100th career NHL point.

John Tavares continued his slow takeover of the league with his 45th and 46th points of the season, but more importantly his 11th game in a row recording at least one. It ties the top mark in the league this year, set by Boston's David Krejci.

Lastly, the Islanders became only the second team in the league this season (Chicago) with three 40-point scorers (Tavares, Moulson, Parenteau).

Hopefully the Carolina Hurricanes and a little snow in the forecast won't be able to slow the suddenly surging Isles down on Saturday (1/21) night. They are still ten points out of a playoff spot, but looking to make up ground quickly in their upcoming games.

News and Notes:

- Kyle Okposo had an assist on Moulson's goal, upping his season total to 12. He has 23 points in 42 games (11-12-23).

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

First Line Just Fine

What's working this year for the Islanders?

The first line, at least since Head Coach Jack Capuano moved Kyle Okposo back into it.

Over the last six games that John Tavares, Matt Moulson, and Kyle have played as a unit, the trio has notched a collective 26 points, or 4.333 per game.

The breakdown is as follows: Moulson had scored 4 goals and 4 assists. Tavares has a whopping 12 points at 3 goals and 9 assists. Kyle has chipped in with a mere 3 goals and 3 assists. He contributed a goal and an assist in the win over Detroit on Tuesday (1/10) night.

In that game, a 5-1 win (aren't they all so easy against the Red Wings?), Evgeni Nabokov was the winning goaltender. He now sits one win away from 300 in his NHL career.

Looking ahead to future Islanders scorers, top prospect Ryan Strome stayed hot in the Ontario Hockey League.

Fresh off his 3G-6A-9P World Juniors stint, Strome didn't miss a beat as he scored a goal and assisted twice on Saturday night for Niagara. He is having a very nice season for the IceDogs, as you can clearly see here.

Let's hope he can come to Long Island next year (or at the end of this season) and add some secondary scoring that the team desperately needs.