Imagine if 40 minutes meant anything. Imagine if 5 straight games, the Isles owned more than just the 1st and 2nd periods, Imagine if you could have seen under Dany Sabourin's 1/8 piece of blockers to see the puck which crossed the line for the tying Shoot Out goal.
The Isles led going into the 3rd period. Therein lied the problem. They have been unable to mentally handle what it takes to close out a game. The Penguins took advantage with a whopping 18-1 shooting differential for the entire period. This after several instances already cited and games dropped, it was simply stunning to watch unfold.
Coach Scott Gordon cited that the Penguins shot many weak angle shots, which let them sustain pressure. While the Isles seemed to be looking for perfect plays. He stated that they will be looking over the tapes to see what worked against them and how they acted in this 3rd period. He insinuated that this situation in the 3rd was not quite the same from previous issues there in subsequent games.
The No Goal
Andy Hilbert said it best when describing the shootout shot by Trent Hunter that was called a no goal on the ice and inconclusive on the review, and I adopted it as the theme since:
"You can use your imagination and guess where it was. But otherwise, it was inconclusive."
We fans could use our imagination and remove the 3rd period in these last 5 games and have 5 wins. However, the Isles 3rd period and mental fortitude and acuity seems very inconclusive, like a Sabourin blocker.
Joey MacDonald was certainly not the problem here. He made some excellent saves and held the damn along with a defense that rallied around him, despite failing to clear or outlet pass to get the team out of the zone. The D seems to know how Mac plays now, and able to give him better sight and angles on pucks due to their own positioning. They have worked much more in unison since the Ranger game.
After the game, he seemed to channel 30 Rock's Kenneth Parcell with his boyish cast and demeanor in keeping a positive face on another great effort squandered by a team around him.
Joey on 30 Rock?
But for those who are stuck on the controversy of the SO shot by Hunter, think on this:
They shouldn't have been put in that position to have a video review capitulate their outcome or at least tie. It was clearly inconclusive, despite anybody's conjecture. Sure it was over below a blocker. But, there must be conclusive visual evidence in Toronto to be able to overturn the call on the ice.
Anyone stuck on that shot is just trying to make a mountain out of a molehill NEXT to a giant 3rd period mountain, which is next to a injury mountain. You get the picture. A lot of mountain ranges on the proverbial landscape is really quite daunting when you think about it.
Meanwhile, the Isles have been letting those know about injuries now. Nate Thompson is projected to be out 2 to 4 weeks with a mildly strained groin. Tim Jackman, who was called up, performed admirably including slapping the rebound off a Dougie Weight shot.
No, there aren't any answers here. So you can imagine them getting themselves up to the task of 3rd period poise. Or imagine the Isles getting Hedman or Tavares at the next draft. Or imagine those returning from injury, whether DP, Witt, Martinek, or Meyer, and those being the pieces that are able to keep things from collapsing in the final 20 minutes.
Imagine what you will. This team will need some work and some leaders back on the ice to break this habit and hold leads. But what has been clear is that the system DOES work. It has generated shots and leads for a while now against excellent teams (Montreal), good teams (Rangers, Pens) and bad teams (Atlanta and Columbus). So it is proving itself successful even if the talent seems unable to keep it all afloat just yet.
Imagine if that actually satisfied you as you looked at the standings.