Hockey from the Blind Side, Good Teams Find Ways to Win Games

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The New York Islanders managed to pull out a win last night against the Saint Louis Blues, despite not playing well most of the night and probably deserving to lose the game. If it wasn’t for the impressive goaltending of Thomas Greiss, in fact, they Isles most likely would have been beaten badly. It was, to me, not the way I had hoped they would come out after losing at home the previous evening to the Boston Bruins.

On Tuesday evening, the Isles made a trip to Columbus and faced a Blue Jacket team that, at the time, had not won a game. Although I was a bit concerned about that game, Jaroslav Halak ended up stopping all 37 shots he faced and earned a 4-0 shutout. The game was actually 1-0 for quite some time after a first period goal from Nikolay Kulemin until later in the third period before the Islanders broke it open with goals from Thomas Hickey, Cal Clutterbuck and John Tavares. That was, at the time, the 4th win in a row for the Islanders, which was a nice rebound after the opening weekend against the Black Hawks.

Coming back home on Friday, the Isles faced the Bruins and things looked good with a 2-1 lead thanks to goals from Josh Bailey and Casey Cizikas. However, Boston scored four unanswered goals later in the second and early in the third periods to go up 5-2 until Thomas Hickey potted his 2nd of the season. At that point, though, it was a little too late, as the Islanders had already given up an empty net goal when Jack Capuano chose to pull Halak with 3 or so minutes left in the game.

The Islanders then went into Saint Louis on Saturday evening and managed to take a 2-0 lead with a power play goal from Kyle Okposo in the first period and John Tavares’s 5th goal of the season in the second period. The problem was, it seemed as if the team collectively ran out of gas as the third period progressed. The Blues managed to tie up the game, and it really seemed as if it was going to be another of those familiar situation in which the boys were going to squander what should have been a solid 2 points. Fortunately, Mikhail Grabovski tipped in the game winning goal in overtime to enable the Islanders to pick up an important win. As the old expression goes in hockey, good teams find ways to win hockey games.Of course, it is still early in the season, so I will not necessarily jump on my usual “consistency” soap box at this point. Nevertheless, I will offer my latest selection of “blind observations” for your consideration. This will include some general NHL notes as well as being Islander specific.

• I did not catch most of the Bruin game, but I was left scratching my head as far as Jack Capuana’s lineup changes for the Blues game. I do not like to join the “beat on” Brian Strait crowd, but ….. On top of that, I am not certain as to why Ryan Strome was benched. Perhaps I missed something on Friday, but that seemed odd to me as a choice for taking him out of the lineup.

• I was not impressed by any of the line combinations last night. Even the 4th line didn’t seem as energetic as they normally do. A few guys did seem to have their legs, but there was an overall lackluster effort by the offense.

• Thomas Greiss is quickly proving to be a valuable backup to Jaro Halak. He made some amazing saves last night, and truly was the reason why the Isles left Saint Louis with a victory. To me, he couldn’t have been faulted on either goal the Blues did score, and he stopped several good shots that proved to be Big saves.

• The win in Columbus and the win in Saint louis were opposite ends of the spectrum to me. In Columbus, the Islanders showed the “killer instinct” Al Arbour often spoke about, as they put away the Jackets and did not fold with a 1-0 lead in the third period. Last night, they looked too much like the Isles of the past, trying to protect a lead instead of adding to it. One could say that, at least, this year’s team came away with the win in the end and found that way to do so, but it’s not a style of play they can display every night and expect the same results.

• John Tavares has a 6 game point streak. He has 11 points in 8 games this season. Oddly enough, to me, he didn’t have an outstanding game last night either. Still, he found the back of the net and, at the time, gave the Islanders their 2-0 lead.

• Josh Bailey has 3 goals this season. He has, in my opinion, looked pretty good out there. Five points in 8 games sure isn’t a bad way to start as well. Perhaps, a “small sample size”, but so far, I think that’s a pretty good showing from #12.

• It took 9 games, but the Columbus Blue Jackets did finally win their first game last night with a 4-3 win over the Avalanche..

• On the flip side of the coin, the Montreal Canadians still have yet to lose a game after having played 9 of them. On top of that, they’ve only given up 12 goals in those 9 games …. Amazingly enough, this is the best start in their franchise history. Considering all of the great Canadian teams of the past, this is a fact that still astounds me personally.

• So, how old is Jaromir Jagr? Did he find the fountain of Youth and isn’t telling anyone? I think that guy will be able to play hockey until he is 60 …..

The Calgary Flames are the next opponent for the Islanders at the Barclays Center on Monday. I would expect to see Jaroslav Halak in net again. Hopefully, the offense will reconfigure back to its original lines and they will get back to scoring 4 goals a night again. Also, a good sixty minute effort of good hockey would be a nice way to start a week that will include 4 games in total for them.