John Vanbiesbrouck - # 1 star of the game, 37 saves, carried the team on his back
Mariusz Czerkawski - after a solid 2 game road trip (1 goal, 3 assists), tonight he looked one step behind each play; do we see a fourth line demotion in the future?
With the win in Atlanta and the hard fought tie in Washington, the Islanders are beginning to develop an identity as an extremely gritty team with a chip on their shoulder. No longer can their foes in the National Hockey League take this team for granted. They are battling hard each and every game, scoring the big goals when they count most, getting clutch goaltending, and providing fans like myself with some entertaining and competitive hockey.
With the Isles coming into tonight's game on a two game unbeaten streak (1-0-1-0) and the Canadiens riding a five game unbeaten streak (3-0-2-0) you would figure something had to give. Following the buzz in New York surrounding the Subway Series, the Isles came out like a Game 5 Derek Jeter lead off home run. From the drop of the opening puck, the Islanders looked strong in every aspect of the game. They were skating with determination, finishing their checks with authority, and playing a sound defensive game. The Connolly/Kvasha/Parrish line was dominating and at times it seemed as though Connolly had the puck on a yo-yo. However, it was journeyman and defensive specialist Mike Stapleton who opened up the scoring for the Isles 12 1/2 minutes into the game for a 1-0 lead.
The second period continued just as the first had ended. The Connolly line came out flying once again and it was reflected by a beautiful goal by Mark Parrish. After a deflected pass ended up on Connolly's stick in the corner, he put the puck between defenseman Darryl Shannon's legs, seemed to effortlessly dance around him, and released an off balance, tape to tape pass to Parrish, who fired it into the lower corner for a 2-0 lead. Unfortunately, with the lead, the Isles seemed to get complacent (maybe the Islanders were fooled by the malfunctioning scoreboard that at times displayed a score of 150-0). Montreal out-hustled the Isles to loose pucks, won the battles in the corners, and controlled the play (dominating in shots 20 - 9). As a result, the Islanders spent most of the second period in the penalty box. Five consecutive penalties to Chara, Lapointe, Parrish, Isbister, and Hamrlik had the Isles reeling at the conclusion of the second period.
Now, if you want to talk about a real "snoozer" go no further than the 3rd period at the Coliseum tonight. Have you ever heard of the term "defensive shell"? Let me define it for you:
- when one team ( in this case, the Islanders) rests on a lead, seemingly forgets where the offensive zone is, relies heavily on icing the puck, and readily depends upon the goaltender to protect the lead. As the third period progressed, the Islanders were increasingly content with a lack of offensive punch and it showed. For a majority of the third period, the puck was in the Islanders defensive zone. Icing the puck became commonplace and if not for the play of the "Beezer" the game could have gotten ugly. Throughout the third period Vanbiesbrouck was his usual steady self, turning aside the frozen biscuit almost effortlessly to maintain the precious 1 goal lead (Rucinsky ended "Beezer's" bid for a shutout with 78 seconds remaining). With Jose Theodore pulled, in the waning seconds of the third, Trevor Linden let go a laser of a shot that cruised over the crossbar and could have easily tied the score at 2. When the final buzzer sounded to end the third period giving the Isles an important two points, the crowd erupted into a frenzy that I haven't seen or felt in a long time.
tidbits about the game you may have missed
Did anyone not notice the new fog horn at the Coliseum? Heck I like that thing so much, do you think we can play it even when the opposing team scores? And how about that scoreboard? Do you think maybe it is unsafe? Should we evacuate the building? (just a little poke at the previous owners).
Vanbiesbrouck's show of emotion (a big smile and pump of the fist) on being named the #1 star of the game was amazing. The "Beezer" stands on his head, Connolly continues to impress with dazzling moves, Garry Galley plays in his 1100th NHL game, and the Rangers lose. Sounds like a perfect night of hockey to me!
Until next time..."Have a Hockey Life"