The Islanders had recent success against some of their more challenging opponents in the Red Wings, Sabres and Devils over the past week but have been unable to stay on board that train to the end of January. First they lost a tough one to the New Jersey Devils, and last night they were embarrassed by Alexander Semin and the Washington Capitals.
It was a rough one to watch from the Blog Box as the Isles lost 7-2. Half of the crowd was on their way home mid-way through the third period, with many probably debating leaving after the first after being down 4-1 heading into the second period. The final goal of the first came from Alexander Semin, who had two goals on the night. He split the defense (something that many of the Capitals players were able to do frequently) and walked in on Roloson. He tried to make a beautiful pass that was inadvertently kicked aside by Gervais to land right back on his tape. He backhanded it off of Gervais' leg and into the goal behind Dwayne with only :05 seconds remaining in the period.
"They control the puck, they frustrate you," said Doug Weight after the game. "They have an unbelievable skill level and we actually had three or four really good chances early in the game, and a couple of turnovers by them and Theodore makes a save, we miss the net, and all of a sudden Semin snipes one."
The Isles were down two goals early but were able to get one back on the powerplay after Rob Schremp sniped one of his own over Theodore's shoulder just under the cross-bar. But that wasn't enough. The Isles had two more powerplays that were virtually back-to-back a few minutes after Schremp scored and were unable to get themselves back into the game.
"It's gonna happen once in a while. We gotta get back to basics," said Weight. "We talked about it during the streak and I think what happens is that it kind of drifts away from you slowly. You stop finishing every check, then you maybe start making some plays at the blue-lines...you forget what kind of got you there. For us to beat whether it's Washington or anyone else in the regular season let alone a seven game series we're going to have to play more perfect, less mistakes than the other team and play harder. It didn't happen tonight, we made a lot of errors."
Those plays at the blue-line happened a lot and it was frustrating to watch. The Capitals didn't even seem to be trying once they started the second period as the Isles just looked flat-footed.
"We need to all be playing and doing our jobs. We were doing a lot of covering up today for each other. That's not going to work. We certainly left our goalies out to dry."
DiPietro relieved Roloson of his duties for the final forty minutes and let up three more goals before the night was over. Overall, the defense looked thin throughout the game and the forwards couldn't generate much of anything besides the goal from Schremp and the other from Okposo.
"Teams like this, if you get them a little confident early, they were tic-tac-toeing the puck around and made us look stupid. It's disappointing, it's an eye-opener, but in this league it doesn't mean that you can't beat that team," said Weight.
Despite the terrible loss, Weight, the team Captain, still seems very confident that his team can compete in a seven-game playoff series against any team in the Eastern Conference. This road trip coming up will be very important if the Isles wish to climb back up in the standings and put themselves in playoff contention.
With that loss they are now sitting in the 12th spot with 54 points. Six spots up sit the Boston Bruins with 55 points. Yes, at this stage of the game a win could propel the Islanders from 12th to 6th.
In other news, Jack Hillen was hit in the face by a slap shot from Alexander Ovechkin last night. He dropped to the ice and left a pool of blood in front of Roloson's crease. Roly immediately left the net to attend to Hillen before the whistle blew and a medical trainer ran onto the ice to check on him. Even Ovie went over to apologize and see that he was alright. Both Capitals and Islanders players hovered around him while he was slow to get off the ice. He did not return for the rest of the game.
It has been reported that Hillen has a fractured jaw and will be out six to eight weeks. It's disappointing to see something like this happen to such a young kid who has been having a great year for the Islanders. Since his injection into the line-up, he has played top-four minutes and has been one of the team's more reliable defenseman. The only positive about the timing of this injury is that at least two of those six to eight weeks will be during the Olympic break.
Speaking of which, the Olympic break will be a good time for many of the Islanders to rest, collect their thoughts and hopefully bring them back to basics, as Weight said. Such players as John Tavares, Sean Bergenheim and Frans Nielsen, who have all been struggling lately, need the rest. Tavares is the more notable forward as he has been very quiet after scoring his first 15 goals or so. He was seen limping after the game last night too. A few weeks off could certainly do a lot of good mentally and physically for the first overall pick.
Thursday night the Isles get a chance to redeem themselves against the Carolina Hurricanes, a team that is playing for a draft pick. The Islanders were in their shoes last season so they should know exactly what to expect.
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