If only we'd known. Considering that the bitter rivals had totaled 21 goals in the first two games of the season series, you had to figure Round Three would be lower scoring with tighter checking. Fine. But what we witnessed probably set hockey back a century. To say this was a yuck fest would be an understatement. So brutal was the play of the first period that the Islanders didn't register a shot the first 15 minutes with the Rangers leading 5-zip. It was like being on Mars. By its conclusion, John Tortorella's more organized club led Jack Capuano's 6-3.
Usually after such a sleepless period, play picks up and shot totals increase. However, this was unlike anything we've ever seen. Aside from Ryan Callahan catching Frans Nielsen with a right elbow which Jesse Joensuu immediately answered, there wasn't much to get excited about. The atmosphere for the rematch was so dead that several tweeted about it. Perhaps the lack of energy filtered down to the players on both sides.
At the very least, Ranger fans saw a power play goal from emerging defenseman Marc Staal. A rarity on home ice. The play was made possible by Brandon Dubinsky. The same player who was MIA the previous night, out hustled an Islander to a loose puck keeping the play alive long enough for Derek Stepan to work a give-and-go with Staal, who proceeded to blast his fourth with Alex Frolov screening Dwayne Roloson. The same Frolov who played mostly fourth line but got a reprieve due to Sean Avery being Sean Avery, which was enough for Bill McCreary who didn't have his finest game. Avery got 12 minutes for breathing and Jon Sim was sent off for a goalie interference after he was pushed into Henrik Lundqvist by Steve Eminger. That's what you get these days in this confusing league.
Staal's goal held up in part due to the odd style the Islanders employed under Capuano. How else to explain the passive trap which too often saw the guys in the bright orange, blue and white struggle to get out of their end, pinned in by the more aggressive Broadway hosts. After 40 minutes, they had 10 shots to the Rangers' 17. How do you expect to win playing such a bland style, which is the polar opposite of how they played under Scott Gordon, who amazingly enough still works for the Islanders? Disturbing is one way to describe what's going on with Charles Wang's operation. Sure. They turned it up in the third finally showing desperation. Despite having the puck more, all they could muster was seven shots with Lundqvist barely breaking a sweat during his fourth shutout of the season.
King Henrik made one save at a time, foiling Matt Moulson, John Tavares and
Simply put, the Islanders don't have the guns without Kyle Okposo, Mark Streit and recently demoted Josh Bailey. Ranger pest Blake Comeau tried all night but couldn't pad his total. Amazing to think he's got only four goals with three coming against the Rangers. It should be higher. But then, you could say the same for Bailey, who the Isles took ahead of Tyler Myers, Erik Karlson, Mike Del Zotto, John Carlson and Mattias Tedenby. All could definitely have aided Garth Snow's rebuilding franchise. Leaving out the four defensemen for a second, imagine the speedy and super skilled Tedenby playing with Tavares. Then, Okposo who'll eventually return along with promising Nino Niederreiter perhaps as soon as next Fall. At least Michael Grabner is looking like a steal thanks to Vancouver.
There's still the giant question mark in goal with franchise man Rick DiPietro. At least Travis Hamonic looks decent. Maybe he's joined by Calvin de haan next year, solidifying a struggling blueline. What's the plan moving forward? Almost as baffling as the play yesterday.