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Watling: the Good, the Bad and the Ugly in a Penguin Thumping

After an emotional game three in which the Islanders could not hold momentum to save their lives, the blue and orange put it into overdrive in Saturday’s 4-1 victory.

The Islanders played their best game in recent memory, playing low-event hockey in the first period with just 16 total shots and two high danger chances per team, according to Natural Stat Trick. It was not until the second period when the Islanders really dominated, starting with the first goal of the game by Josh Bailey.

Ilya Sorokin was back in net for the Isles, and he quietly had a masterful game with the help of the defense in front of him. Despite one bad bounce, Sorokin was lights out in the most nonchalant 29 save night one will ever see, again a nod to the excellent play in front of him.

While there were not many minuses to take away, there was certainly a lot of good.

The Good

The Power Play: When was the last time Isles’ fans could be proud of the power play? Certainly not in recent history; however, this was the case on Saturday afternoon. The Islanders scored a pair of power play goals within 24 seconds from Oliver Wahlstrom and Jordan Eberle. While Wahlstrom’s was a bit of a fluke, it defined the mantra “good things happen when you get the puck on net” beautifully. On that power play, the Islanders had solid puck movement and control. More specifically, on the Wahlstrom goal, he did a great job getting lost in coverage while Mat Barzal had the puck along the half wall. For the Islanders to continue their success, look for Wahlstrom to continue to contribute and power play to be a big factor.

Eberle’s goal was wildly different, as the Islanders jumped on the Penguins, playing with a bit more pace. The Isles were less passive as they entered the offensive zone, not so reliant on the point. Instead, the Isles kept play on the far side of the ice, waiting for Eberle to again creep in and find an opening near the slot. The Penguins’ defense was wildly out of position and Eberle made them pay.

Brock Nelson and Co. Frustrating the Heck Out of the Penguins: It has always been “Death, Taxes and Kris Letang taking a boneheaded penalty.” Sure the interference on Adam Pelech was a bit more palatable than his usual cross-check to the back of Nelson — as it could have prevented a rush the other way — but Letang always seems to get frustrated by this Islanders team, specifically Nelson – or in this case, Wahlstrom. 

The Penguins’ frustration seemed to show at the worst times, and the Isles did an excellent job avoiding the muck. Every Islander was seemingly on his best behavior, which helped lead to the team drawing four more penalties than Pittsburgh.

Legendary Cameos: Celebrating the Isles’ win tonight was a myriad of former Islanders including Matt Moulson and Shawn Bates – P.S., could either of them please slap a jersey on and take over on Barzal’s left wing? 

Also at the game was Zach Wilson and the New York Jets who certainly enjoyed their time on Long Island.

Anthony Beauvillier:

How about six shots in just 18:23 in time on ice for this Energizer Bunny? While Beauvillier was not able to bury one in the back of the net, he was all over the ice. This is the type of play the Islanders need from Beau and the middle six, generating offense, especially off the rush. 

For Beauviller, he could be the difference maker in this series. Tristan Jarry has not been good at all in the two Islanders’ wins, and Beau seems to have a knack for scoring those flukey goals through high pressure play and a sneaky shot. Beauvillier already leads the forwards in points with three through these first four games and will surely look to add more.

READ MORE: Mandell: In-game changes helped Barzal thrive in Islanders’ game four win

The Bad

The Goal Post: Speaking of Beauvillier, he was two inches away from scoring, after he clanked a puck off the iron.

Beyond Beauviller, the Islanders hit at least two posts in the game, both coming in the scoreless first period. It is a genuine surprise that the Penguins did not head back the other way and score on an odd man rush after the Beau post. This is nothing the Islanders could control but if someone told me the Isles would go on to lose this game 1-0 after a play like that, I would not be surprised.

The Ugly

The Penguins’ Lone GoalI don’t know why Nick Leddy was sliding on his back like a turtle that was knocked over but man did Sorokin deserve a shutout.

Mathew Barzal’s refusal to shoot: While Barzal had two assists on Saturday, there were numerous times he decided to pass up possible scoring chances. Some of them more infuriating than the rest. Game five on Monday will be huge and the Isles can’t afford to have Barzal refusing to shoot.

 

 

Follow Matt on Twitter at @MattWatling99

 

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