Andy Graziano, SNY.TV Twitter
The Islanders just went through yet another tumultuous week where an expected coaching change never materialized and general manager Garth Snow broke his silence with the media, speaking to reporters after Friday's practice, in what was thought to be a forced move after Frank Seravalli of TSN revealed details of a discussion the two had in Toronto at the GM meetings.
With some sarcasm, snark and ill-advised humor, Snow offered a vote of confidence for his embattled head coach, Jack Capuano, whose system is either not working anymore with the current roster of players at his disposal, or the players have simply tired of the message being preached and have tuned it out. He also gave support to said roster, all while feverishly working the phones looking for offensive help.
The Islanders appear a rudderless ship right now, lacking the cohesion to keep the deck clean and a captain to whip them into shape. Capuano has them playing a dump and chase, grind game with a roster of speed and finesse players. The result has been, well, to be expected in such a case.
One of the few Islanders playing well, and there are candidates, make no mistake, is 19-year-old rookie Anthony Beauvillier, who scored a beautiful breakaway goal last night on a Stanley Cup winning goaltender after a blunder at center ice by Penguins all-star defenseman Kris Letang. It was the youngster's second-career tally, and it "earned" him a team-low 11:53 in the contest. Shane Prince and Anders Lee played about a minute in the final 10 of the third period, although they were hardly passengers in this one.
Insufficient competent passing is destroying any chance of the Islanders executing a breakout, leading to transition through the neutral zone and entering the offensive zone on carries, which in turn, leads to zone time which tires out an opposing defense. In other words, New York looks like the New Jersey Devils of the 1990s, only without the wins, Stanley Cups, goaltending and defense.
The beleaguered backline, still a strength for this hockey team, is simply defending too much, as last night once again proved the Islanders futile in keeping possession. The Penguins showed their class and outshot New York 35-22 (28-15 5v5) and out-attempted them 74-47. The two Islanders goals came on a perfect Ryan Strome feed to Brock Nelson, who converted on the power play and the aforementioned beauty by Beauvillier on an egregious turnover. Outside of that, it was a quiet night for Matt Murray, who faced only five shots in the first and third periods.
In overtime, it was Nelson who got beat off the boards by an outstanding move by Penguins captain Sidney Crosby - which, you know, happens with a player of that skill level - and Prince lost Letang as he circled behind besieged Islanders goaltender Jaroslav Halak for an easy conversion of the Crosby pass. It was a play Nelson took responsibility for in the locker room postgame.
"I got beat on that last play there, and it cost us," Nelson said in a dejected locker room. "You get one point but it's not the end result we wanted or needed. It's real disappointing. That focus is we have to stick together, pick our heads up and get back to work."
People often ask about the "feel" in the locker room, speaking to morale and general tone. I can say this in response. Last night was the shortest I can remember ever seeing and hearing captain John Tavares speak (clocked at 1:04), who, along with many others, has simply not been good enough to lift his team out of the funk they currently reside in.
After finishing with four shot attempts in 19:57 and winning only seven of 17 faceoffs, the captain was almost as much at a loss for words as we are running out of logical questions to ask.
"I didn't think the first was great, in the second we got a little better," Tavares said. "Not our best in the third, we simply didn't sustain offense and they created some opportunities. They're obviously a good team, but you have to find a way to gain the momentum back and create your own chances. You have to go out there, compete and want it and execute."
Heading to California now for a three-game swing that will take them to Anaheim, Los Angeles and San Jose, the Islanders need to show how much they "want it." For if they come back with anything less than four of six points, there might not be much to be thankful for this holiday season.