Isles winning despite injuries

TavaresMoulson

The Canadiens are on Long Island Thursday to play one of the teams between themselves and the final playoff spot. The Islanders are only a single point in front of the Habs but they have two games in hand and have been playing some of their most consistent hockey of the season, despite suffering injuries in the last few games to three members of their defence corps.

New York has picked up 16 of a possible 22 points in their last 11 games (compared to Montreal picking up 11 of 22) and while their chances of reaching the postseason are not much better than the Habs, they have gained confidence lately. Their most recent two points — gained from a 0-0 regulation tie and then winning the post-game skills competition in Philadelphia — came with the Isles down to five defencemen.

But an excellent performance from goalie Evgeni Nabokov was the difference. He stopped 45 shots, many of the spectacular variety to move his personal record to 7-2-0 with 1.31 goals-against average in his last nine starts.

Nabokov is a pending UFA this summer and considered a target for teams looking to pick up a goaltender by the trade deadline, but he has a full no-trade clause and says he doesn’t want to move. His fine play makes you wonder if GM Garth Snow would even want to part with the former Sharks standout, considering all the goaltending problems the Isles have had in recent years.

Asked how he did it against the Flyers on Tuesday, Nabokov laughed and replied, “I have no answer. We stuck with the system, the boys were working their butts off and skating hard. We were down to five D again, and the guys controlled their forwards and our forwards collapsed when they had to.”

Dylan Reese, who was skating on the first defence pairing with Andrew MacDonald, suffered a knee injury, the third game in a row that an Islanders blueliner was hurt. It forced McDonald to play over 29 minutes.

The Isles’ blueline corps could be vulnerable as a result of their recent injuries, as the 45 shots against in their last game indicates.

Milan Jurcina had his elbow sliced last Friday during a win in Ottawa, then Travis Homonic needed surgery after being hit in the nose with the puck the next night against the Sabres. Neither Homonic nor Reese will play against the Habs, but Jurcina skated Wednesday and may return for the game. Aaron Ness made his NHL debut Tuesday and another player, either rookie Matt Donovan or Ty Wishart, could be called up from AHL Bridgeport if Jurcina can’t go.

It’s been a hard year in some ways for ex-Hab Mark Streit, the Isles captain. He’s minus-20 on the year (second to Jurcina’s minus-21), but that’s up from minus-24. His decision-making can be flawed, as Canadiens fans know, but he’s still the engine of the Isles’ power play which is sixth best in the NHL (19.8 percent). Their PK is good as well, eighth in the league at 85.1 percent.

All the attention this team has gotten recently starts with centre John Tavares, who beat out Evgeni Malkin as NHL First Star of the Month in January — quite a feat considering how dominant Malkin has been. He led the league in scoring in January, finishing with 9 goals and 13 assists for 22 points. He has 53 points on the season, tied for ninth in the league. The biggest improvement most see in Tavares this season has been his skating.

His chemistry with left winger Matt Moulson is exceptional. Moulson’s 23 goals are the Isles’ best, one more than Tavares. However, neither has a point in the last three games (which either means they are due or they are slumping). Right winger Kyle Okposo has shaken off a poor start and has 16 points in his last 18 games, rejoining that line recently after being replaced for a while by P.A. Parenteau.

But this is essentially a one-line team offensively. The Isles have scored 126 goals this season and the first line has accounted for nearly half.

Parentau and Okposo have each contributed when they’ve been on the second line but Michael Grabner, one of the game’s very best skaters, has not consistently applied his great offensive skills. It hasn’t helped that centre Marty Reasoner has been out with a broken thumb since Jan. 6 and won’t be back for at least another week. Centre Frans Nielsen is a good two-way centre but not really a top six player. Nielsen might have been dealt at the deadline as another pending UFA, but was just signed to a four-year deal this week, so he’s in the team’s plans.

Things are pretty much flat offensively among the bottom six. Second year coach Jack Capuano has noted the lack of secondary scoring as one of the team’s top weaknesses. Veteran Brian Rolston has become something like this team’s version of Scott Gomez — his former Devils teammate. At over $5 million a season, Rolston has been a healthy scratch for the last four games. He has 4 goals, 4 assists and is a minus-11 in 41 games.

One of the more interesting stats concerning the Islanders is that while they rank 10th (tied with the Habs) in the league in the number first period goals they’ve scored, they are next to last in goals scored in the second period and tied for 26th in goals scored during the third. Wonder if that means they are not a well-conditioned team.

Here’s how they might line up on Thursday in Uniondale, and we’ll pencil in Jurcina for the moment:

Matt Moulson, John Tavares, Kyle Okposo
Michael Grabner, Frans Nielsen, P.A. Parenteau
Matt Martin, Josh Bailey, Rhett Rhakhshani
Tim Wallace, Jay Pandolfo, Nino Niederreiter

Andrew MacDonald, Milan Jurcina
Mark Streit, Steve Staios
Mark Eaton, Aaron Ness

Evgeni Nabokov
Al Montoya

29 Comments

  1. rhino514 says:

    What´s with the daily Tinordi love?
    He´s projected by hockeysfuture as a seventh Dman…6th if he reaches the very top of potential. He has no offensice upside. Seems if a guy is (edit: could become) big and tough automatically posters love him

    • Un Canadien errant says:

      Hockey’s Future is a good resource but not a perfect one. They only infrequently update their site and scouting reports.

      When Jared Tinordi was drafted, he was seen as a great risk by some because he was slow and uncoordinated and very rough around the edges. They cautioned that he may never be anything more than a slow defenceman with poor puck-moving skill or offensive sense, and might be never more than a goon. They also worried about his lanky build, thinking he might not fill out enough to develop the strength he would need. Those who loved him as a prospect said that his size, a great asset in itself, was a detriment for him as an 18 year old since he was still growing and would need time to develop his coordination. This is common in youths who experience a sudden dramatic growth spurt. Once he grew into his body, packed on some pounds and got his gangly limbs under control, the skills would develop/return.

      18 months or so down the road, the more optimistic picture is developing. He is impressing scouts with his performance in the OHL and at the World Juniors. He is the captain of the London Knights, and leads the OHL in +/- with a +30. He is showing leadership and toughness and gets better from the beginning of the season to the end, last season and this season.

      Meanwhile Hockey’s Future still has the original scouting report with the cautious tone. So they chalk him up as a 6th D, but the latest reports describe a potential #3 defenceman, the stay-at-home defensive stalwart with a mean streak and an intimidation factor. I think of a bigger Craig Ludwig or a toned-down but even bigger Rod Langway, and that’s pretty good.

      ———————————
      How about it NHL? No fighting, just hockey?

      http://relentlessineptitude.blogspot.com/

    • habbernack says:

      Do Gorges and Yemelin have offensive upsides rhino?

      ability is what you’re capable of doing.
      attitude determines how you do it

      • Chris says:

        Gorges is an interesting comparison. He had 41 points as a 17 year old, 59 points as an 18 year old and then 42 points as a 19 year old playing in the WHL. So when you look at how little offensive potential he seems to have now, he was much more offensively gifted than Tinordi as a junior hockey player.

        Tinordi is a good prospect, but he is still a long-term project. Don’t expect him to be contributing meaningful minutes to the Habs for at least another 2-3 seasons.

    • 24moreCups says:

      Actually Hockey’s Future projects him to be a top four Dman.

      “Talent Analysis;
      Tinordi possesses multiple talents that cannot be learned, such as an NHL pedigree and gargantuan stature. When at his best, he makes a habit of overpowering his opponents. He thrives when protecting the area around his net and in the corners. Tinordi skates well for his size, brings grit and toughness in the mold of a defensive defenseman, as well as leadership capability.”

      “Future;
      Playing for the OHL’s London Knights.

      Tinordi projects as a top-four defensive defenseman in the NHL.”

  2. harrow15 says:

    We have more star players than New York, we should win right? Our quality stars-to-be players like DD and maxpac are just as good as PA Parentau’s and the.. actually no, maybe not Grabner….

    Heads up, P.K.’s hip is coming.

  3. G-Man says:

    Great read, Stu. Shut down Tavares. Score on a hot goalie. Should be a good one.

  4. G-Man says:

    I can watch that 6-0 pasting of the Gooins over and over. :)

  5. Habitant in Surrey says:

    …the great Anwar Stewart released by Our Als day before His 36th birthday …NOT at all cool :(
    …will be missed and hard to replace for leadership, passion and His dedication alone …on the field, in the locker-room and in the Montreal community
    …good luck Anwar …I think there will be a few times next season the Als will regret not letting You retire with dignity as an Alouette

    Habitant means PASSIONATE HOCKEY
    http://www.nationalpost.com/news/story.html?id=423049

  6. j2w4habs25 says:

    habs win habs win!! thats all

    Carey Price #31

  7. Timo says:

    Battle of the titans. I predict a major stinker tomorrow.

  8. Habitant in Surrey says:

    …first, quite surprised Evgeni Nabokov has complete no-trade clause and does not want to leave the Islanders, because when the Islanders claimed him, I believe off-waivers (correct Me if I am wrong), Nabokov seemed very reluctant to join the team

    …second, also surprised that skilled Swiss big-man Nino Niederreiter only playing on their fourth line

    …with all their first-round high-picks over the last several years, One would think, besides Tavares, this would not be a stacked contending team

    …shows what poor drafting and management can do to a team

    Habitant means PASSIONATE HOCKEY
    http://www.nationalpost.com/news/story.html?id=423049

  9. Ah the Islanders, tanked for over 20 years and where are they now?

    Still Losers, fits them well.

    win win win Habs!

    Shane Oliver
    http://www.Sholi2000.com Inc.
    Custom Sports Figures
    Brandon, MB,Canada
    R7B 2R7
    hockey@sholi2000.com
    Ph- 204 724 8418

  10. third generation haber says:

    Please, please, please, for the love of god! trade Kaberle to any GM desperate enough for a power-play QB. I love his offence but he is terrible defensively and refuses to hit. I’d much rather watch Frederick St. Denis! He won’t bring much offence, but he won’t help the opposition score either.

    j.p. murray

    • G-Man says:

      What is this love for tiny tot Dmen? Kaberle is a point getter.

      • third generation haber says:

        St. Denis plays much bigger than Kaberle. He hits and battles for pucks. Kaberle produces points for both teams with incredibly soft play. No wonder he’s never injured, he avoids physical contact like the plague.

        j.p. murray

  11. third generation haber says:

    Travis Moen! We need to re-sign this guy. There is absolutely no chance we should let him go for a draft pick (probably 3-4th rnd). He is part of the solution, and makes Eller and kostitsyn play 2 inches taller. Plus, it sends a message to other UFA’s that Montreal is a place they can plant roots.
    j.p. murray

  12. Habitant in Surrey says:

    …Hard Habits (aka ‘call Me Dave’), says be patient for a ‘tank’ because it will take, in His estimation, 3 seasons before the Habs will be close to being a Cup-worthy Team
    …when One looks objectively at the current Montreal Canadiens, are We that far away ?

    …We have the best PK in the NHL, …a defence with great quickness, youth, character and potential for growth with complimentary skills to integrate and compliment a fast skilled offence …probably missing a large physically dominating addition that can skate with the existing group (Tinordi ? or another burgeoning today in Our system) …must dos, though, include ridding Us of Kaberle and Campoli

    …Our offence, 5 on 5, holds Their own with most Os in the NHL with the addition of Cole …I think We can say We have 4 to 6 power-forwards that can hold Their own as a group with most other Teams (Cole, Patches, AK, Bourque, Moen and even Leblanc) …how many other teams have that depth at power-forward as We ?

    …where do We lack ? …We lack an elite dominating centre that can consistently control play and put the puck in the net, and would make what talent We have better by opening up the ice (which must be addressed best in this summer’s draft, rather than hocking Our Future for a UFA or high cost trade) …as well, We lack a truly intimidating energy 4th line, made more difficult by the season-long White injury and failure by Gauthier to sign a Kenopka-like physical and faceoff presence

    …the big difference between Our current position near the bottom of the conference and second to fourth in the conference was our putrid power-play (more a ‘coaching-issue’ ?) and lack of a real energy fourth line

    …this is NOT a 3 season project to fix ! …it is a very doable thing to fix with prescient use of this summer’s draft, and beefing-up the 4th line with size AND skill

    …to Me, that’s 3 to 4 good decisions of a credible General Manager to fix

    …as far as ‘buying out’ an unproductive Scott Gomez, …with Geoff Molson already taking a financial whack missing this season’s playoffs, I would be very surprised if He can afford the financial cost to do so

    …so, bottom-line to Me …We are only a few good moves away from a strong Team with the personnel We have …We must roll-the-dice realistically to maximize this summer’s draft …and, pray We will not be decimated by injuries next season as We were this season …and, though I think Randy Cunneyworth looks like a real Coach that will excel in this League, I doubt He will be able to deal with the language issues, and for the Montreal market, a Patrick Roy would make for ‘excitement’ and possibly even a solid Coach

    …so, to Hard Habits, Me dun tink 3 to 4 seasons of struggle is Our destiny

    Habitant means PASSIONATE HOCKEY
    http://www.nationalpost.com/news/story.html?id=423049

    • Habitant in Surrey says:

      …sorry for repost, but this Stu Hackel cat snuck-in a new thread same-time …and, since I have nothing better to do tonight than to waste mine and Your time on HIO, I felt ‘why not ???’

      Habitant means PASSIONATE HOCKEY
      http://www.nationalpost.com/news/story.html?id=423049

    • third generation haber says:

      Agreed! We don’t need to tank to the bottom for several consecutive years to be a contender. We need to develop our young core, as well as our prospects. If we continue to draft well and get some help via free-agency we could become a consistent playoff team like Philly, Detroit, S.J., N.J.. These teams have not had a multi-season tank, they scout well and manage well.

      Price, Subban, Eller, Desharnais, Pacioretty, White, Leblanc, Kostitsyn, Emmellin, Diaz, Beaulieu, Ellis, Tinordi, Kristo, Qualier, Gallagher, Bournival, 2012 1st rnd. pick. Nice building blocks!

      j.p. murray

  13. habs17 says:

    HABS WIN 3-1

    I support Scott Gomez


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