Every year there is a consistent trend that the Isles pick up. I'm not talking about the never ending changes to the Isles third jersey, (which actually looks mighty good this year) but the way they start and finish their games.
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First they went through this stretch where they would score the first goal and establish a comfortable 2 or 3 goal lead and then blow it either in the third period or overtime. Now, instead of creating a lead, they give one to the opposition and give their fans, and themselves, some hope with a last-minute come back in the third period. Sometimes it has paid off like it did in the game against Buffalo where the Isles tied it with 2 seconds left in the game. Or other times, (or most of the time), the game ends with a score that will allow anyone that reads the paper the next day to think the game was much closer than it actually was.
The Sharks opened up the game manhandling the Isles. I expected to see this type of play from a team that has yet to lose at home and only has lost a total of four times in regulation. It still leaves me dumbfounded that a team can be playing this well. However, down 4-1 in the third, the Isles were able to creep closer to a tie with Tim Jackman scoring on a quick rush to the net and Thomas Pock getting a fluky floater from the blue line in the final minute once again.
I'm sure the coaching staff is happier to see resiliency on the ice instead of the "roll-over and die" display that had been there before. In addition, fans that are holding out for Tavares still get their losses but are able to see positives in the way the team has played. Players such as Kyle Okposo, Blake Comeau, Sean Bergenheim, and Josh Bailey have been sticking out as of late.
KO has put up 7 points in the past nine games since his return for a total of 12 points in 27 games. He's scoring goals, setting up plays, and has contributed to the team's most effective line next to Comrie and Comeau. Blake has been impressive as well and looks like someone who can be a nice line mate for a power-forward type player like Okposo. He now has 6 points in the 14 games he's played. Together, both players average almost a point every other game. Not too shabby for two of our younger players.
Since being a healthy scratch, Sean Bergenheim has shown that he is capable of playing big time minutes. During the span of games where Sean was basically a non-factor on the ice, I started to worry that he was looking more and more like a checking-line fourth liner. The message Gordon wanted to be sent to Bergy must have been heard loud and clear, as now he has two goals in the passed three games. The first of the two was very impressive with him dipping his shoulder and crashing the net while carrying the puck, shrugging off a defender and avoiding the other. He also played a significant role in the San Jose game. Although he didn't register a point, he was blowing passed d-pairings and generating scoring chances for his line mates on most of his shifts. As long as he continues to play like he has he should be able to contribute to this team as a 2nd or 3rd line forward.
With all that being said, a late congratulations to Josh Bailey for scoring his first NHL goal. For him it must have seemed like it took forever, but either way, it was about time. We all have been able to take notice of Josh's skating and passing ability, but to see that he has a knack for the net is just as important. He's improved his play away from the puck and is starting to tighten up defensively and play more physical. This has led to him creating more open space for himself and his line mates and is one of the reasons why he scored his first goal against the Coyotes. A major congratulations to Doug Weight for scoring his 1000th and 1001st point that night as well. A huge milestone for a illuminated career that still has the possibilities of climbing the ranks of American-born skaters.
With these four players finally contributing on the score sheet, fans such as myself can believe that the youth movement is heading in the right direction. Soon Frans Nielsen should be returning to the lineup also. It will probably take him some time to get his game-legs back, but this resilient play that the Isles have been displaying as of late may help him get back on the horse sooner rather than later. Maybe they will be able to start a new winning trend in the near future as well.
If that is to happen, some adjustments need to be made on defense, and that is what I will discuss with you all very soon. Until then, let's hope the Isles can finish this west-coast road trip with added positives.
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