The Islanders hosted the 2nd placed New Jersey Devils today at the Nassau Coliseum and won a decisive 4-0 victory for Rick DiPietro's first shutout of the year in only his third game played, putting the Isles to 9-2-1 over their past 12 games.
You can tell that the Isles 15-year man is regaining his confidence in net. At least twice he was seen catching the puck with his glove and throwing it to himself to bat it down the ice. Maybe he and Schremp work on that together in practice.
All kidding aside, Rick played a very sound game and once again did not have to make many highlight reel saves. Although those are always fun to watch, it's not something people may want to see right now. The less Rick has to extend himself at this point the better. He is just finding his way back into the line-up despite having started two games in a row.
In the locker room he hinted that he may not want to talk about his injury recovery for much longer. He had this to say after acknowledging that it's going to be every reporter's job to ask how he is feeling:
"I'm taking as much Vitamin C as I can to stay healthy. I'm going to continue to work hard, take care of my body, listen to the advice from doctors and trainers, they've done a great job so far, and just look forward to continuing."
The Isles head to Pittsburgh to play the Penguins tomorrow night at 7:30PM, and I'd say its a 99.9% bet that Roloson will get the start. Although Ricky feels great, management and the coaching staff are looking at this as a gradual process. There's no reason for Rick to start back-to-back nights after only being three games in on the season. Plus Roloson deserves to maintain the starting role for the time being after the way he has performed all year.
As far as the game this afternoon, the Islanders pretty much controlled it from the opening face-off. All three zones were owned by the Islanders as they held an enormous shot advantage over the Devils all game and even chased the future Hall of Fame inductee, Martin Brodeur, out of his net.
"Everything we do has a purpose," said DiPietro. "You're seeing a team here that's a young group of guys that's coming together, that's really playing for each other. We're playing hard every night, every shift."
Rick isn't kidding. There were plenty of times where the Devils had possession of the puck in the Islanders zone and couldn't register a shot on net. The Islanders finished the first period with an 18-7 shots advantage. In the second period they managed to get another 14 while the Devils only mustered a pitiful four shots on DiPietro.
"You look at the Tavares-Bailey-Okposo line, they know where each other is without having to lift their heads up," said Rick. "That's all positive stuff. I think our work ethic is extremely good right now. We just need to keep it going and not get complacent."
Matt Moulson scored his 18th and 19th goals of the season, his first one coming within the first two minutes of the first period for the second game in a row.
"It was just great to get the win," Moulson said. "I think everyone is pretty confident right now. We seem to be going well with all four lines, all six D, and every goalie we have every game. It's a real positive outlook."
After Moulson scored that first goal, the Islanders had a goal from Richard Park waved off because the ref lost sight of the puck. It appears Parky can't buy a goal if he tried, but it wasn't long before the Isles got it back on the powerplay from Mark Streit. The other goal of the game came from Josh Bailey in the second period when he redirected a shot from Jack Hillen passed Brodeur.
"I think we stuck to our game plan and we were very aggressive on our forecheck," said Moulson. "We were pretty sound defensively all over the ice, making sure we didn't give up odd-man rushes up against these guys."
And they didn't, but the Islanders managed to have a few odd-man rushes of their own and forced the Devils to ice the puck on several occasions.
Like Rick said, this team is coming together at the right time. This win puts them in sole possession of 8th place in the East and just one point behind the 7th placed New York Rangers, and a win behind the 5th placed Ottawa Senators, who are tied with the Boston Bruins. However, the Isles have to be conscious of the Canadiens, Flyers and Thrashers, who are just two points and three points behind them, respectively. But these teams mentioned do not control the Islanders destiny; only the Islanders themselves can dictate where they will finish the season.
Travis Hamonic, one of the top defenseman for Team Canada at the World Junior Championships and current WHL defenseman for the Brandon Wheat Kings, was being shown around Nassau Coliseum today by former Islander enforcer and current scout, Eric Cairns. I interviewed him over the phone in October while he was Captain of the Moose Jaw Warriors. He has yet to play with the Wheat Kings as he is rehabilitating an injury he sustained in the semi-final game of the World Juniors. Before he got hurt, Hamonic registered 39 points in 31 games played (10-29-39) for the Warriors. He is a player that many Islanders fans are excited to see in an orange and blue uniform, possibly next to World Juniors teammate, Calvin de Haan.
When I heard he was in the building I knew that I wanted to get a chance to meet him since we spoke on the phone a few months back. When I entered the Islanders locker room after the game, I saw him with Cairns in the weight room getting a tour. He wasn't wearing a sling, as he injured his shoulder, and appeared to be in good shape. But since he was busy I didn't think I was going to get to speak to him.
To the contrary, as I left the building with Jeff Tambellini behind me, I saw Hamonic walking with Eric Cairns to their cars. I shouted to Travis and introduced myself. I was glad to see that he remembered me and complimented me on the article I wrote about him. He said he was feeling better and enjoyed being back at the Coliseum as he visited once last year too.
When we spoke about his injury, he said that he felt that if it didn't happen to him, it could have happened to someone else on the team. With that statement alone it was visible to me that he already has a great attitude and the capability of being a future leader on this team since he puts his teammates before himself.
I told him that many fans, (myself included), are looking forward to him playing here. He said that he was probably just as excited as we are.
We might not have to wait too long.
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