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Robert Moses’s Wet Dream: Lighthouse Hockey
The world tour-de-force continues tonight out past the bright lights of New York and on Lon’ Gisland, where the Hawks will be another test for an Islanders squad that fancies itself party crashers into the NHL’s penthouse. They’ve had a few of those lately, and they haven’t gone so well for the Blue and Orange.
The Islanders have had a great start to the season, showing off newfound depth both up front and on the blue line (partly thanks to the Hawks) that has seen them entrench themselves next to the Penguins atop the Metrosexual. While you probably already know about Tavares and Okposo on the top line, Nielsen and Grabovski on the second line and Brock Nelson on the third (along with the returned Michael Grabner) have all been big contributors making the Islanders a pretty dangerous and fun team. Matt Martin and Ryan Strome on the 4th aren’t a bad thing to have either.
The Isle were thin on the blue line, but just had to wait for Boston’s and Chicago’s GM to bone their cap situation and be forced into giving up useful d-men. The Islanders were able to acquire a whole new second pairing in Johnny Boychuk and Nick Leddy (NARRATIVE WARNING) to slot behind Travis Hamonic on the 1st.
The Isle spent the season’s first two months playing really fast, really explosive, really volatile hockey. They’re fourth in the league in goals per game, but are 24th in goals against. While Jaro Halak is better than whatever bilge the Islanders puked out between the posts last year, he really is only about a league average goalie and hasn’t been a star. He’s been especially atrocious on the penalty kill, helping them to the league’s worst PK at 71.3%. Even the Hawks could find some joy here. I mean they could, but let’s not go nuts.
The Islanders had something of a test this past week with two games against St. Louis sandwiching one in Minnesota. They lost them all, giving up 17 goals in the process. Part of the problem is they’re pretty beat up on the blue line. Boychuk and Hamonic have been out, forcing Leddy to the toughest assignments. We all love Leddy around these parts, but no one here is going to tell you he should be on anyone’s top pairing and the results are there to see. When he hasn’t had to play serious defense, he’s tied with Duncan Keith for best possession d-man in the league. Sigh.
Same goes for Lubomir Visnovsky in his own zone when he doesn’t have Hamonic to make up for him. Casey Cizikas, a pretty nifty checking forward has also missed time. All of the injured could return tonight, though Boychuk is highly unlikely, but all are more likely to not play which means it’s ya-ha time.
For the Hawks, Jonathan Toews is a go after attempting to put his face through wood on Thursday courtesy Dennis Seidenberg. While the Hawks’ handling of concussions in the past has been… loose, let’s say, you’d have to believe they’d be taking no chances with their most important piece so if he’s fine then he’s fine, I guess.
It looks like Scott Darling will start tonight with Raanta getting the Flames tomorrow at home, making it kind of clear who is going to stay and who is going to go when Crow returns next week. The Islanders still have a lot of firepower even with their injuries, so his rebound control is going to have to be better than it was Thursday or Okposo, Nielsen, Lee, Nelson, Martin and Strome are going to start slobbering as they all get to the net regularly.
The Hawks have won eight in a row and the Islanders have lost three. Either an early goal will shatter the Isle’s fragile confidence, or they’ll be really up for their biggest test of the season and taking out the frustrations of the week. While the Coliseum (where they come to see ’em) is an absolute crack toilet, anyone who’s been there when it’s full will tell you the place can be volcanic and assuredly will be tonight with the visit of the Hawks and the Isle’s position in the standings. Both these teams can get up and down with the best, and Capuano isn’t going to hit the brakes at home. Has all the makings of a fun one, as long as the Hawks don’t have the bus running on the last game of yet another roadtrip before returning home for four of the next give games before the Christmas break.
Nine is better than eight.