RECORDS: Islanders 29-15-4 Hawks 17-24-9
PUCK DROP: 7:30
NO ONE LEAVES THE ISLAND: LighthouseHockey.com
The Hawks are one game away from a nine-day break that encompasses their bye and the All-Star game. So either that means they can leave it all on the ice tonight, or given how the season has gone, they’ll probably already have the buses running and lay a true, dense, unforgiving egg. I know which one I’d bet on! Still, if they’re still claiming that the season isn’t over then they’ll make a lot of noise about hitting the break with momentum carrying on from Sunday’s win–the now regular thrashing of the Capitals in the middle of the winter–to a second night. But when has that happened with this team?
We’ll start with the Hawks, who will put Cam Ward in net. I know this is going to send most into hysterics and apoplecticia, which isn’t a word, but it makes sense. Delia had his first rough outing last Sunday, so get him to the break to reset without the risk of backing it up with another bad one tonight. With Ward you’re at least guaranteed a bad one and everyone can go about their day. The Hawks had an optional this morning so no idea bout lineup changes, but it’s hard to imagine there would be any changes from a team that just put up eight. The one you’d expect is Jokiharju coming back in for Koekkoek, but they’ve talked about not pushing The Har Ju and giving him rest here and there, so maybe they’ll think a full two weeks off will have him primed for the rest of the season. But then trying to figure out what the Hawks think is why I drink. That and the crippling emotional problems, but mostly trying to figure out what the Hawks think.
To the Islanders, who are the league’s biggest surprise. While the Capitals, Penguins, and Blue Jackets were all doing a “Here, you take it” routine with the Metro lead, the Islanders rushed up from the background and took it themselves and ran off. They’re three points clear of Washington and Columbus and four of Pittsburgh. And no one thought they would be here. That tends to happen when you win 15 of 18, as the Isles have done since the middle of December.
How did they get here, David Byrne? As you might have guesses, since December 15th when this silliness began, the Islanders have the best SV% in the league at .952. The next best after that is the Stars at .942. so yeah, that’s something that’s sure to continue. Because the rest of their metrics are just middling, ranking 11-15th in the league in just about all of them. The 9.2% shooting-percentage since then doesn’t hurt either, but it’s their ridiculous goaltending for six weeks or so now that has seen them rocket up the standings.
This is a Barry Trotz team, so you know the drill. They’re going to be bothersome all over the ice, they never take a shift off, and they most certainly don’t ever trap. No sir, no trap here. Never heard of such a thing! Don’t be ridiculous! And they’ll get timely goals from the talent they have, which isn’t nonexistent here.
That’s a problem for the Hawks, who really need a defensively wonky opponent to create openings for their thin offensive skill. Sure, Kane will find ways against whoever, but after that DeBrincat is going to have to be more creator than he’s been asked now that he’s with Strome and a surge or two from Saad wouldn’t go amiss either. Trotz will have the generally confused and drowning Hawks defense under constant pressure, moving his trap up to the Hawks blue line as he’s been doing for a decade now. They will simply sit on the boards, both at the half-wall and the points, daring the Hawks to go up the middle or over their heads. The Hawks didn’t cope at all with it in their first meeting, giving up 721 shots or around there to the Isles before losing in overtime. They’ll try and do better tonight, we hope.
And then we all get a break from Hawks hockey! Doesn’t that sound nice?
Game #51 Preview Suite