As is the case with most young teams, the Islanders have had many interesting third periods in which they either lost the lead, or fought their way back after being down early. (Ahem…hence the abundance of overtime losses). Last night was a case of the latter, but not all late efforts will be rewarded, and Jason Blake made sure to remind us that with his late goal with just a few minutes remaining before the final buzzer.
That loss drops the Islanders to two games below .500, but if they can make good use of this December home stand they might be able to turn things around. They were able to handle two long road trips that have kept them out of New York for some time. You would think that things will get better with their return…and I expect a healthy DP return to inject some life and inspiration into the team as well.
A major cause of concern for this team that has existed all season long is a lack of secondary scoring. If you look at the Islanders stat chart, we have John Tavares with 26 points, Matt Moulson with 23 and Kyle Okposo with 20. Following those three is defenseman Mark Streit with 16 and Trent Hunter with 13. Keep in mind Hunts has only played 16 games. The next to follow is Tambellini with 12 in 22 games played and then Sean Bergenheim with 11 in 30 games played. That is a HUGE drop off in the forward department after Trent Hunter.
Although Bergenheim didn’t play last night since he is out with an injury, I am a little surprised that Tambellini, who has done more offensively in fewer games played, will continue to sit unless a player gets injured. Tambs has been under scrutiny for as long as he has been here, but this is the first time that he has shown glimpses of scoring potential. Give him time to put it under control instead of riding the press-box when the regulars are slacking.
A buddy of mine brought up an argument last night that has been bothering me for some time. It continually frustrates me that Bailey is playing on the third line with Jon Sim. He needs to play with people who are going to score. He was drafted for being a play-making center. Does Gordon really expect him to make plays between Jon Sim and Blake Comeau or Richard Park? I would like to see Bailey between Hunter and Tambellini. Speed, passing and scoring/checking all in one line. It would probably take time to gel, but at least the Islanders would be helping Bailey develop instead of diminishing his chances of producing.
One may then make the argument that it’s not good for Nielsen to be playing with those forwards either. Hey, I agree, but Bailey has much more up-side and is younger than Nielsen. The Islanders should give players such as Trevor Smith or Jesse Joenssu a chance if they’re not going to give it to Comeau or Schremp. I have a feeling those guys will bring more offense to the table than Jon Sim.
Although I did it in my last blog, I will once again give kudos to Tavares, Okposo and this time I will include Moulson too. That line was just fun to watch in the third period. They created so many chances and were the reason why the Isles were able to tie the game. Kyle put on a show and was the number one reason for Tavs’ two-goal game. He has emerged as a very good play-maker on that line and his skating is superb. It really has been a lot of fun to watch this line click. No matter what, Gordon shouldn’t separate them for the rest of the season.
However, although the Islanders late surge in the third period was solid and gave them a chance to at least get a point after being down two goals after the first period, if they do not have the fire-power to do so after Moulson, Tavares and Okposo, then we’re going to see more results like last night.