The New York Islanders are not a team I track. But from what I gather, the problem plaguing the Isle is shoddy goaltending and defending. The team is in the cellar in the Metropolitan at 8-17-5 (21 points), and they last played the Los Angeles Kings on Saturday night. The Islanders were shut out in the game, and I always worry about facing a team following a clean sheet – chances are, they are hungry to score like I’m hungry for pizza.
A recent road trip put the Anaheim Ducks in
a tie atop of second place in the league. The Ducks are 20-7-5 and have 45 points, the same point total the two points behind the Chicago Blackhawks after they spanked the Florida Panthers Sunday night. It was a quick two-win roadie against the aforementioned Hawks and the St. Louis Blues that have reestablished the Patos' position.
This has the makings of a "trap" game. The Islanders were just shutout. The Ducks played the top teams in the league in the last four games (going 2-0-2), coming away with points in each. This is the first game back at home after this tough stretch and against an opponent who want to prove something. This could be one the guys overlook when thinking of the schedule ahead, which includes a much-improved possession team in the Minnesota Wild and a midweek rematch of last year’s postseason series in the Detroit Red Wings [Ed. Note: Not to mention three straight days off at home. -CK].
Keys to the Game: If everything I read is true, the Islanders are weak on defense and in goal. That makes this game pretty simple: enter the zone with possession and take shots from everywhere (the way Gabby had the team playing against Jaroslav Halak , who the team noticed was "off" in the warm-up) or dump the puck deep and beat on the blue line. I don’t usually prefer dump-ins, but there are ways to implement it with success, and it all depends on dominating play in the neutral zone. The Ducks have been moving the puck well in the last two games, so if it continues the Isles could be in for another long night, as they were in LA.
What Can We Learn From this Game: The return of Saku Koivu and Matt Beleskey have allowed the Ducks other lines to begin playing in more preferred roles. Along with Daniel Winnik and Andrew Cogliano, Koivu goes up against the top lines in most games and does pretty well. This frees up Nick Bonino and his wingers to attempt to work into better scoring situations without worrying about checking top competition.
On a personal side: I’ve been really pleased with Tim Jackman and Mark Fistric. The former isn’t someone who gets a lot of minutes, but the ones he gets aren’t costing us anything. He’s fleeter of foot than I suspected, and he has a good sense for applying pressure on the forecheck. Against bigger teams, I’m not as nervous about icing him as I was when he was acquired. (This isn’t a submission in the argument of whether a player like him should be iced in general. That’s for another day.)
Fistric has been solid in the role he’s been asked to fill. I’d have to check on this more closely, but it seems like he’s out with Hampus Lindholm primarily. Cam Fowler and Ben Lovejoy have obviously taken on the toughest competition in Francois Beauchemin’s absence, but Fistric’s played better than I thought he would. I noticed him a lot (positively) against Chicago and St. Louis, and I thought his penalty kill work in the last game was strong.
Fearless Prediction: I will fall asleep at some point during this game. This isn’t even a prediction, this is a guarantee. I will sleep. And watch, right when I nod off, a massive brawl will occur, and I’ll awake to MADNESS.
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