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A blog by a long time New York Islanders fan who stays true to the fellas wearing orange, white and blue…but thinks the Islanders organization has some shaping up to do.

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Friday, November 14, 2008

Joey Mac, PK the Ones to Beat In Ottawa

Islanders 3: Senators 1

With both recent and past history against them, one would expect the Islanders to have trouble against a team like the Ottawa Senators, who have faced some rough times as of late but have found the Isles easy to beat. However, much to fans' relief, it seems as though the Sens have bigger problems with themselves.

The Isles did what they needed to after losing to the Flyers 3-1, pelting backup goalie Alex Auld with shots and winning by the same score. Jason Spezza's scoring woes continued, as he tried doing too much to make plays and the Isles' D converged around him many a time, and for Ottawa as a whole, the transition process to a new coaching system continues, while the Isles despite their miserable record at Scotiabank Place (3-16-4) did everything right for the first time in days, making Scott Gordon a happy coach indeed.

The Isles did allow an early goal yet again in the first period, on a PP goal by Filip Kuba after a bad penalty taken by Sean Bergenheim. This came after a very good shift by the Isles in which they generated chances and took the first six shots of the game, all of them around the midsection of Auld. Then, two Ottawa penalties in a row caused the Isles to have two PP chances, and Kyle Okposo, yelling for the puck, made good on the second one, scoring his second career power play goal and second of the season, on which Josh Bailey got his first NHL point. Call it "poetic justice," as Howie Rose did- Okposo had drawn the penalty on Christoph Schubert in the first place. Also check out Bailey receiving more time on the PP- he seems to be comfortable playing on a line with Okposo.

Joey MacDonald hadn't been tested much in the first period, but he flashed the pads and showed his aggressive style of play later on, as the Senators started to cook. In the end, he made 29 saves, many of them spectacular, as he showed the consistent level of play that he has had since after his and the Isles' poor showing against the Buffalo Sabres in October. This kind of play has been exactly what the team has needed, especially with Rick DiPietro out with his injury. Although his record is 5-5-2, that doesn't necessarily underscore his ability in net; believe it or not, he is not the reason that the Isles have been inconsistent, but he has very much been one of the reasons why they won this game.

The penalty kill was also outstanding for the Islanders, not allowing many shots, and clearing fast and easily. A Spezza penalty for holding was called at 16:16, and Trent Hunter scored his team-leading 7th on the season on the power-play 1:15 afterward, unassisted. Although the Isles steadily became undisciplined, that wouldn't put an end to their chances: shorthanded, Sean Bergenheim and Richard Park came zipping down the left side on Auld, and Bergenheim's shot was saved. If Park had been on the right shot, he could've grabbed the rebound and smoked it past the goaltender.

An early goal by Bill Guerin on a nice feed from Doug Weight (who else?) put the Isles up 3-1 in the third, and head coach Craig Hartsburg couldn't have been happy with the way his team was playing or the amount of penalties they were committing. Moreover, the Isles chose this game to play well enough to preserve their usually precarious third-period lead; MacDonald was brilliant in net, and the penalty kill (Andy Sutton and Richard Park especially) made great moves and gave up the body. However, late in the third, Thomas Pock took a nasty and unnecessary penalty- a five-minute major for an elbow to the head of Ryan Shannon, that knocked Shannon out and left him with a concussion. NHL.com reports that upon his hearing and reviewing the play, Pock will be suspended for five games without pay for his actions. He will be able to return November 26 against Pittsburgh, leaving a roster spot open for an almost-ready-to-play Radek Martinek, recovered from his shoulder injury.

However, aside from that blemish, this was a good win for the Isles, one that they needed to snap their three-game skid, and one that may even carry over into Saturday's game on the Island. It will be interesting to see how Ottawa will respond to their loss, and especially after their uninspired play last night.


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