Postgame thoughts: Islanders 5, Devils 4, OT (1/31/13)
Not so special: Safe to say, the Devils were dominated on special teams — which is nothing something you say often with this team. Usually the Devils are extremely strong on the penalty kill and their power play has been coming along. Tonight, they ran into an Islanders team that is extremely dangerous a man up and it showed with
three two power-play goals. Two of those goals you might be able to blame on bad bounces or bad luck, but like Marty Brodeur said after the game, the Devils create their own luck to a certain extent. As for the power play, I said it on Twitter a lot as the game went on — way too passive tonight. After games against Boston and Montreal in which it seemed the power play was really starting to morph into a nice mix of last year’s system and this year’s shoot-first scheme, the Devils were incredibly hesitant to shoot tonight. They were constantly looking for the perfect play, particularly of the backdoor variety, and Evgeni Nabokov knew it. Every time the Devils went backdoor on a power play, Nabokov was there waiting for the shot. The Devils’ offense may have gotten a boost from Adam Henrique’s return, but it’s still not good enough to blow five power plays, including one at the end of regulation and into overtime that pretty much encapsulated everything that was wrong with the man advantage tonight. Also, Marek Zidlicky’s penalties are a serious problem. I understand what he brings to the game from an offensive perspective and on the point during the power play, but for crying out loud. He killed them tonight with sloppy, stupid penalties.
John Tavares: No fancy pun for this kid after the game he had tonight. While the Devils did a really good job of shutting him down at even strength, he showed how special he was when the Isles were on a power play. His second goal in particular was immensely impressive in a couple ways. For one, Tavares isn’t exactly known for being a speed demon, but to borrow a phrase from Marty, he’s got “deceiving speed.” When Tavares gets a step on you, he’ll keep it and he’s able to do that because of how strong he is in his legs. His legs were the legs and strength on the puck on that goal were also impressive. Despite having Bryce Salvador leaning on him and Marty coming out to challenge, Tavares controlled the puck and snapped a perfect laser around Brodeur and just inside the post while never breaking stride. The kid’s a treat to watch and you can see watching him play why DeBoer is such a fan.
Welcome return: You couldn’t script a much better return for Adam Henrique. Well, okay, maybe if that fourth goal was the winning goal or the Devils found a way to pull it out at the end of regulation or in overtime — but still, an impressive game from No. 14 in his first game back. He started out on the fourth line, but had moved up to first line left wing (FLLW) by the start of the second period. He played just over 14 minutes, but it felt like a lot more than that. He was all over the ice in the third before he scored that goal and he just seems to have a knack for finding the net with that timely goal.
Not so much: Not quite an all-that-happy return for the other Adam making his season debut. The Isles’ third goal deflected off his stick and changed direction just enough to fool Marty despite him having a clear view of the original shot from Mark Streit. All in all, I thought it was a good first game back. He got a little bit of time on the power play and a little bit more time on the penalty kill. I would have liked to have seen him more on the man advantage, but what are you gonna do? You can’t throw him to the wolves in his first game in weeks. I certainly think he played well enough to merit playing in the next game, but we’ll just have to wait and see there.
Marty’s off night: Whether it was the five or six time she mishandled the puck/had trouble clearing it or the rebounds he gave up that led to goals, it just didn’t seem like Marty’s night. It’s hard to blame him for the way the Islanders scored the first, second and fourth goal. On the first two, Tavares and Aucoin, respectively, did a good job of sinking behind the Devils’ defensemen and waiting on the far post to bat in a rebound and that’s exactly what happened. On the fourth goal, like we discussed above, Marty had the point shot from Streit dead to rights, but it just deflected off Larsson’s stick blade and the puck snaked around Marty’s outreached pad. The third one you can argue maybe he came out too far, too fast on Tavares, exposing too much of the net and taking out his own defenseman, but as I said it above, it’s hard not to marvel at that goal from Tavares’ perspective. The game winner, though, the game winner that you can put on Marty. He said after the game that he thought he had time to play the puck behind the net, but it was at least the fifth time he tried to clear a puck and ended up creating a direct scoring chance for the Isles. An off night for sure, but he’s going to have these at his age and it’s up to the Devils to play sound enough hockey in front of him to help him out.
They are who they are: That’s an exact quote from DeBoer’s postgame presser when asked if the Isles are a different team than the Devils had faced in years past. What he went on to say was that the Isles are a team that feeds on mistakes and power plays and the Devils made plenty of mistakes and committed plenty of penalties. But that also goes to show that this is an Isles team you have to take seriously. No longer are the Islanders a night off on the schedule, especially this season. The Devils play the Islanders three more times and you can bet every single one will be a one-goal game. As long as their goaltending is healthy, these Isles are for real.