The boys put together a very nice, solid effort tonight in their 3 - 1 victory over the Islanders. But for an unfortunate bounce of the puck, Mason could have had his 3rd shutout of the season. As Hitch said in the Dispatch this morning, the Islanders have a diffcult style to play against, and they did not disappoint in that regard. Despite the choruses of "Old McDonald" emanating from Section 108, MacDonald had a solid game for the Islanders, and was really the primary reason they were in the game at all.
Here are my plus/minus views for this one:
First the plusses:
Defense -- 3 solid periods of not giving the Islanders a lot of good looks, which is tough, given their style. Good communication and support, and great goaltending when we did have a lapse.
Special Teams -- Penalty kill was perfect and we got a power play goal. Yeah, we gave up a shortie, but that was a bad bounce, followed by a great effort. Have to mention a nice decrease in the stupid minor penalties, which keeps the PK team fresher. Also need to note 1 bizarre call and 1 borderline call. The borderline was the Umberger goaltender interference call that negated a goal for us. From my angle behind the goal, it looked like he was pushed into MacDonald, and the referee right there did not wave off the goal. The bizarre one was the Voracek diving penalty. A cross check to the head, and they call diving???? Please . . .
Possession -- Some beautiful work with the puck in the offensive zone, bringing the fans to their feet several times.
Goaltending -- Mason. 'Nuff said. (Check out the CBJ Vision tribute to him as Rookie of the Month in the CBJ Vision bar to the right)
Individual Efforts -- Tyutin, Commodore, Russell & Methot were magnificent all night. Hejda was good most of the time, but made some bad decisions and got caught more than once. Chimera's goal was a thing of beauty, and Voracek looks very strong. Malhotra came back with a strong effort, and Peca was more visible. Murray got a goal and spent a lot of time getting the hell beat out of him in front of the net. Even Backman looked better, which was a matter of concern coming in, due to the pressure NYI uses, and Backman has not been nifty with the puck. Great move on his breakaway, just couldn't finish.
Now the few minuses:
Finishing -- To our credit, after a couple of minutes of feeling out the opposition, we dominated a long stretch of the first period, but could not finish our chances. Ironic metaphor at the end when we had an empty net and hit two posts . . .
Clearing -- While I understand that the tendency against the Islanders can be to rush the passes, that is playing into their hands. We had too many sloppy clearing attempts, which created the few opportunities that the Islanders had, and negated our transition game.
Hitting -- While it may have been in our best interest to keep ourselves free of physical entaglements that could lead to odd man rushes elsewhere, we were badly outhit tonight. Again, more of a style thing, but something to keep an eye on.
While nobody will confuse the Islanders with the Sharks this year, they nonetheless play a style that has historically given the Jackets fits. We handled it with "competitive composure" tonight, and did not let our inability to finish or the late shorthanded goal against us in the 2nd get under our skin. We had a strong third period, and did what we had to to finish the deal. Well done!!
Let's take this show on the road and beat the Blackhawks! Go Jackets!