Andy Graziano, SNY.TV Twitter
In the world of professional sports, there isn't a player that will tell you mental preparation isn't important. In fact, it's almost as important as having more skill than your opponent which leads to victories. Sometimes, the sheer will to win outlasts a more talented foe.
- The Islanders follow, arguably, their worst loss of the season in Dallas with a solid performance in St. Louis, beating the league's second-best team, 5-2, behind a three-goal first period. The up and down nature of this club under Jack Capuano has continued a bit under Doug Weight, as statistical genius Eric Hornick noted. The Islanders have lost eight games under Weight by three or more goals. They have won the following game each and every time.
- It's almost, at this point, an unexplainable lack of mental preparation on part of the players. Yes, we've argued many times about the 'value' and 'worth' of a head coach, but at the end of the day, you shouldn't need to remind NHL players to get up for each game in what is shaping up to be a hotly-contested Metropolitan division. The system works when played properly, as we've seen, so this is squarely on their shoulders, in my opinion.
- Ryan Pulock hasn't played poorly, that's for sure. But Weight made mention of his lack of shooting and getting pucks to the net as well as physicality as a potential reason for the defenseman's scratch last night in favor of Dennis Seidenberg. He likened the 'process' to that Josh Ho-Sang is currently going through. The eye test tells me Pulock has looked more comfortable each passing game but still suffers from expected jitters at an extremely tough position.
- As far as Ho-Sang is concerned, he scored his first goal of the season last night on a nice play behind the net by Alan Quine after committing another brutal defensive turnover in the first period deep in Islanders territory. All told, it was not a bad performance in 13:13 of ice time, but the rookie must figure out that less is more at this stage of his career. Keep it simple.
- Thomas Greiss was outstanding last night in his 100th career appearance for the Islanders, making several highlight reel stops, including two that led directly to goals at the other end. You can sure use a momentum changer at the position and Greiss, thus far, has solidly outplayed Jaroslav Halak when given even a smidgen of defensive support. He has stopped 58 of his last 62 shots against two very high powered offenses.
- Is there anything prettier than watching Nick Leddy skate? As we saw last week against the Edmonton Oilers and super-sophomore Conor McDavid, there aren't many -- if any -- that can outskate the defenseman. He is easily the Islanders most valuable defenseman, and made a super, simple play on the goal by Casey Cizikas in the first period. Instead of wasting the puck by throwing it into the corner or trying a risky, cross-ice pass, he threw it on goal at a perfect angle for a rebound, which came, and was buried by Cizikas.
- All six members of the Islanders top two lines (Lee-Tavares-Bailey, Ladd-Barzal-Eberle) are driving 5-v-5 possession at over 50 percent. They keep going at that pace, it makes New York an incredibly difficult one to defend for even the most staunch of defenses.
- On the flip side, I talked in the preseason about defense being my main concern surrounding this team, and 17 games in (9-6-2), I haven't really seen anything yet to alleviate my fear. They seem to get running around easily when forechecked and suffer mental mistakes on the simplest of plays. How many times can a team attempt to clear their own zone and shoot it directly at the opposing defenseman at the blue line? 50? 100? Crazy.
- Things get real tough for the Islanders coming up. Two games against the Carolina Hurricanes, who always seem to give New York fits (58-65-9), sandwiched around a meeting with the league's top team, the Tampa Bay Lightning. After that, a home-and-home with the Philadelphia Flyers (100-129-26).
Thanks as always for reading. Follow me on the Twitter machine, @andygraz_SNY, and tomorrow night on the Secondary Assist podcast [http://secondaryassist.com/], we welcome NHL.com's Brian Compton to the show.