Welp, the Islanders face a wicked tough test tonight at the Gahden against a very well-rounded Bruins team. Having spent the first twenty years of my life in the greater Boston area, I feel relatively vested any time these two teams go at it. (By the way the lettah ‘r’ will only be omitted from words in this paragraph; I won’t do that to you the rest of the way). Also, if you recognize the Dropkick Murphy’s (Woody Guthrie lyrics) reference in the title, you get bonus points today (tell your boss) and you too, may have chowdah-head roots.
Looking back: The Islanders are coming off a come from behind win last night in Toronto. Two wins put together (Lightning and Leafs) would constitute a winning streak folks, albeit a small one. Winning streaks can cultivate confidence. The Isles will need all the confidence they can muster tonight against the 2-1 Bruins, who are hungry to bounce back after their Tuesday night loss to the Rangers in Manhattan.
Changes to note: Since they last met in the ’11-’12 season, the B’s have a new (old) face in net. Tuukka (that’s two u’s and two k’s kids) Rask is now the headlining goalie in the hub; and he is very capable. More on the goalies later. Additionally worth noting, the B’s have kept the 2011 – 9th overall draft pick – 19 year old blue-liner Dougie Hamilton around, and for very good reason. Islanders fans probably remember him from the 2010 draft. At times this year, he has been paired with Zdeno Chara on the top pair. And he hasn’t let them down so far. That’s how much they like this kid. Some descriptives: mature, 6’5″, capable of manning the point on the power play, skates well, etc. I don’t wanna gush too much about him here, but put it this way; I though the Islanders should have drafted him in ’11 with the 5th pick, however Strome was taken in that draft by the Isles. Strome will finish the season in the OHL and most likely lead the league in scoring. Let the ‘managerial’ discussions begin.
If the Islanders are going to win they will need to . . .
1) Continue to play well disciplined hockey. The Isles are perfect on the penalty kill so far and have only been in the box 11 or so times in three games. Not bad. The reason I mention this is because the Bruins are going to bang the every-loving crap out of this team and they have one of the games great agitators in Brad Marchand. With all this being said. The B’s have not developed a potent PP unit yet, but with their talent and skill, it’s inevitable that it will get cooking sooner or later.
2) Get through the neutral zone. When the Isles have struggled in the 3 games played so far, getting through the neutral zone has been an area of weakness. It will be exceptionally difficult tonight against a staunch Bruins defense (Chara, Seidenberg, Hamilton, McQuad, Ference) and Selke award winner forward Patrice Bergeron in the middle of their second line.
3) Get consistent and steady play from all 4 lines. Listen, what the Bruins have is depth. They’re stacked and healthy in front and in back. They arguably have the deepest group of forwards in the league. On the flip side, the Islanders secondary (and tertiary?) scoring has appeared and is in full swing. All four lines for the Islanders will need to continue to score.
Final thoughts: As announced by various media outlets early this afternoon, Rick DiPietro will start in goal tonight for the Islanders in Boston, his hometown. In my opinion, this is a mistake, but not from a timing perspective, as it works out great in that it gives Nabokov a blow on the second night of back-to-backs. It’s a mistake because DiPietro is an emotional cat. What that means, among many other things, is that he gets ‘up’ easily for games that he starts. I simply think DiPi will be too hyped tonight with his first start of the season coming in Boston in front of friends and family. To his credit, he is a professional and has played big games in the past (can’t quite recall one right now but I’m sure he has). Long story short, He will need to regulate himself tonight to be successful. Lastly, why throw a rehabbed Ricky out there against a skilled, aggressive, and physical hockey team? Logic says; to save Nabokov, to keep him physically and mentally fresh. I guess Ricky is taking one for the team.
If you’re looking for more Bruins banter; I recommend checking out www.daysofyorr.com. Those guys are nuts (in a good way).