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Saturday, March 28, 2009

Joey Mac Earns Win of the Year vs. Former Team

Islanders 2: Red Wings 0

It doesn't take Albert Einstein or even Gary Bettman to realize the Islanders are pretty much done for the year. But with that in mind, they still manage to pull off some pretty amazing upset wins- one in a shootout against Vancouver, another two wins- one a shutout, one a blowout- against the Devils, and a couple of wins against Montreal.

Add this shutout by Joey MacDonald against a President's Trophy candidate to the top of the list.

MacDonald, a former Detroit Red Wing, made 42 saves, a few of them downright amazing, as the Islanders rolled to a 2-0 blanking of the Wings at Joe Louis Arena. With Doug Weight back in the lineup, the Isles had a crucial part of their forecheck back, and executed it well, although they came out to a slow start in the first period. They started out with a couple of penalties but kept the Wings off the board with aggressive penalty killing. Mark Streit even made a couple of great rushes for some shorthanded opportunities. Meanwhile, although Detroit got some shots to the net, many of them went wide or above the net, or were blocked by both the defense and some very brave offensive penalty killers. The play kept getting interrupted by whistles, whether for penalties or offsides, but that gave the Isles a chance to breathe and relax after coming into the first looking just the slightest bit jumpy against these guys, perhaps due to the amount of reverence younger players gave them. One thing we must remember, guys: yes, Detroit is a model franchise, having won 11 Stanley Cups in their lifetime as a team and countless division and conference championships, as well as a few President's Trophies. But, as the boys quickly learned, they play the same game any other team does, with a couple of better players and a few play variations. If you take the correct approach, you can beat them.

And so the Islanders did, as they came into the second period highly confident and also focused on the game. The Wings got some good chances in front that either their own players pushed wide or the Isles' D- particularly Bruno Gervais, who was excellent on both sides of the puck- knocked away. Meanwhile, MacDonald also held his own, and made perhaps his best save of the season- a glove save on Mikael Samuelsson on a basically open net. Jiri Hudler passed from the blue line to Samuelsson on the right while Mac was caught on the left, and Joey lunged over to snatch the puck and keep the game scoreless, to everyone's amazement.

Shortly afterward, Doug Weight took a hooking penalty at 7:54, and the Islanders ended up scoring first shorthanded. It started with Brendan Witt in the defensive zone who chipped the puck to Kyle Okposo. KO carried the puck into the zone and drew three Red Wings to him, leaving Frans Nielsen open on the right. Okposo passed to Nielsen, who closed in on Chris Osgood and deked to his backhand for a beautiful goal. It was the Isles' 12th shortie of the year, and incredible considering the Wings are a normally strong team on the PP, yet got nothing going on six man-up opportunities.

At 15:09, Josh Bailey padded the lead, after some great defensive hockey on the other end by the Islanders. Tim Jackman won a one-on-one battle with Henrik Zetterberg (yeah, you read right) and put the puck right through the goal mouth, where it landed on Bailey's stick. With Osgood still to the left, he batted the puck in and scored his sixth of the year.

After that, it was all up to the Wings to try to find a way to get back in it, and up to the Isles to deny them any opportunity. In the end, the Wings hit four posts in all, and Joey took care of the rest along with the D. Radek Martinek, Brendan Witt, Tim Jackman, Andy Hilbert, Doug Weight, Gervais- all of these guys, and a few others, recorded at least one blocked shot, and MacDonald amazed even Howie Rose with his saves before the final horn blew. Isles 2, Wings 0. The underdogs triumph once more against the big, bad model franchise.

Not to say anything terrible about Detroit, to be completely clear. I think it's wonderful that they have stayed so successful and given all other organizations something to aspire to. But still, every now and then it's nice to be able to say your team shut out the best in hockey. Now it's on to the Philadelphia Flyers tonight at the Coliseum, another strong team who proves to be a challenge. After a huge emotional win last night, here's to hoping the boys can do it again on their own ice.

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