There are those of us in Islander Country who had a few choice words to describe the play of rookie goaltender Mikko Koskinen in his first NHL start. Myself included. Tonight however, Koskinen made a believer out of me, making 37 stops, including several dazzling ones, and turning aside all four Canadiens' shootout attempts, to help the Isles defeat Les Habs in Montreal tonight 4-3.
So having said that, I would like to offer my deepest apologies to Mikko Koskinen, for having (somewhat rightfully) ripped his performance against Toronto to shreds the other night, and for doubting he could play well tonight. He looked anything but shaky in the net tonight. He played with poise and control and made it a relatively frustrating night for Montreal's shooters.
He obviously needs to turn in games like this on a more consistent basis before declaring him the next great goalie on LI, but nonetheless, a job well done tonight, and I don't think there were many Isles fans who thought he'd turn it around like that against the Habs.
John Tavares (one of my "players to watch") broke his 10-game goal-less streak (as I predicted he would in my preview). He played well the entire game and had several other point-blank opportunities to score, only to be robbed by Canadiens' goaltender Alex Auld. Great game for him.
Michael Grabner (another one of my "players to watch" from the preview) turned in the type of performance that we have come to expect from him lately. He scored two big goals, created several shorthanded and even-strength chances with his speed and drove to the net whenever the chance existed. He is becoming a major part of this team, and he needs a contract extension...like yesterday. Get on it, Garth.
Kyle Okposo (the third "player to watch," that's right, I went three for three) played well in regulation, doing all the right things and using his size and skill to keep plays going. However, his biggest contribution came in the shootout, ripping an absolute rocket-propelled wrist shot into the back of the net for the only goal by either side, clinching the win for the Isles.
One more player who will not show up on the score sheet, but deserves an honorable mention for tonight's game, is Josh Bailey. Bailey played with a lot of hustle and energy tonight, especially in the first period, where he drew not one, but two consecutive tripping penalties by charging after loose pucks and driving to the net while the Isles were shorthanded.
Now that I've mentioned the great things about the Isles' performance tonight, there are still some areas of concern:
1) The Power Play—they did not take advantage of their opportunities while the Canadiens were short-handed. The power play needs to start clicking. They just looked very sloppy and were not able to really set up the PP with consistency in the zone during this game.
2) There were a few times in this game where the Isles just looked like they were running around, and the Canadiens were really able to get a lot of opportunities to score goals (and they did score), taking advantage of the Isles in those situations.
All in all, great game tonight! Let's go Islanders!