The Isles came to Washington last night with a lot of questions, being put back to earth with a .500 record. However, some of those got answered last night with wild game that saw Bill Guerin tear it up with 3 goals, and a stellar performance by Rick DiPietro in goal.
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By no means was this a one-sided affair. Before Guerin led them to closing the Capitals out, Washington was fighting their way back into it. Ovechkin was flying, 7 shots on goal, but had 5 others blocked by the Isles. The Islander defense raised their game to stifle Ovechkin and others by either blocking shots or neutering them by pressing skaters to the outside. What was showed was that they can rise to the occasion.
Offensively, Chris Campoli who also played well on defense, had four assists. Bryan Berard had a goal and two assists. Both were examples of important factors for the Isles longterm fortunes: strong defensive games as well as offensive tallies.
Sean Bergenheim had a goal, and the 2nd line continued to click and buzz with his inclusion. Miroslav Satan and Josef Vasicek both assisted on his goal.
Also, much kudos should go to Trent Hunter, despite not getting a point, he was annoying Caps goalie, Olaf Kolzig, by planting himself and creating havoc in front of the net. Hunter, and then the rest of the Isles, seemed to get under Kolzig's skin and throw off his equilibrium.
Ruslan Fedotenko had what looked like a goal denied, when the refs felt he swiped the puck in the goal with his hand. Video replays showed that the puck just went off his shoulder, as he went to block his face. So another strange call from the boys in Toronto, who measured self-preservation as intent.
Soon after, the momentum shifted, and the Caps rallied. But the Islanders persevered and closed the game out. And why the Isles might be better than a just a .500 team.
Aaron Johnson, awarded with a 4th line spot due to his efforts in practice, only got limited icetime and a dumb penalty. He did put his all into a run at offsetting an icing, beating out a Caps defender.
But, rather than Nolan awarding favorites, perhaps Johnson would be better off outplaying a defenseman and getting a spot instead. He was huffing and puffing, not used to the demands of a skating forward. Yes, he played forward on Columbus, but not especially well. Johnson has a lot of potential a defense if he can carry his game to the NHL level. But he has yet to outplay those dmen. Bruno Gervais and Campoli have only gotten better.
With Marc-Andre Bergeron's cannon on the sidelines, the Islanders better start thinking about the longterm of his role, as well as others, as they carry 8 men. Skill, besides energy and exuberance, has to count. Bergeron had 46 points last year, and in 5 games this season, a goal and 2 assists.
Commitments need to be made, and perhaps favorites shed for skill would be better served as long as MAB got the defensive message. Berard and Radek Martinek are playing well, but two men with a large propensity for getting injured.
If MAB's gaffes are not what the Isles want, then make a deal. MAB showed last season that he is more a benefit then a detriment when used correctly. Has he regressed? Or has the new schemes installed by Gallant and Chabot have created a big learning curve to get used to? Either way, MAB doesn't serve the Isles fortunes well on the sidelines.
It was apparent as game's end, that Guerin was back on the 1st line with Tank and Comrie. The 2nd line looks like it will continue as Bergenheim is really starting to show that he belongs on the top lines.
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