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New York Islanders prove they don’t need Tavares; blow out Toronto 6-1

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I don’t even know what to say.

Toronto Maple Leafs v New York Islanders Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images

Tonight was one of the most anticipated games on the NHL schedule this year. Toronto Maple Leafs legend John Tavares returned to Long Island where he watched his youth fade away and a decade of his career go to waste. Before the game the Islanders faithful tailgated and enjoyed the outdoors around the old Nassau mausoleum, the smallest arena in the NHL and one of many the Islanders play in cbecause no one actually wants the team in their city.

I’m not sure, what was more entertaining tonight, the game or the fans on Long Island.

The Maple Leafs put out the Matthews line to start the game, keeping the focus on hockey. The Leafs win the draw, take the puck to the Islanders zone and the Isles respond with a vicious icing. That leads to a line change and the broadcast crew is almost drowned out with boos as Tavares takes the ice for the first time. The game is fast paced and back and forth, we got a few minutes without a whistle and that gives the teams a chance to get a real feel for each other.

The Maple Leafs go rushing into the Islander zone and Auston Matthews is rushing into the zone and ends up colliding with Isles goalie Robin Lehner, knocking him into the back of the net. Matthews gets a goaltender interference penalty, giving the Islanders 24th overall power play a chance to score.

In the first minute of the penalty, the Leafs PK does an excellent job of blocking the shooting lanes, forcing the Islanders to pass the puck around so much the fans start booing the PP. The Leafs get it out into the neutral zone and the Isles can’t get back into the groove, so the penalty is successfully killed.

After the penalty expires the Leafs pin down the Islanders in their zone and get some pretty good plays set up, but nothing can get into the net. Nylander, Matthews, and Rielly are doing really well in trying to score a goal for John.

Jordan Eberle, the next big UFA to leave the Islanders, almost scores, but Sparks makes the save on him, and the Leafs take the puck out of the zone again and down the ice.

The Maple Leafs take the attack right back to the Islanders after the TV time out, but the Islanders voodoo magic goalies are keeping the pucks out of the net. Sparks has also kept the net empty, but the Leafs defense is actually doing it’s job and keeping shots to the perimeter, New Yorks?

As they get back into it, the play goes right in front of the Islanders net, again, and Zach Hyman knocks in a Mitch Marner deflection. The Islanders were too preoccupied with trying to lay a hit onto Tavares, which was successful! But the sad part is those don’t count towards the score.

The play continues and Tyler Ennis gets a good 1 on 3 entry into the Islanders zone, and gets ridiculously close to scoring a goal IN A ONE ON THREE, but he doesn’t. However, play goes back to the Leafs zone in a three on one and Josh Bailey gets a nice fast pass across the net to Anthony Beauvillier who scores glove high on Garret Sparks.

William Nylander and Connor Brown skate deep into the Islanders end with a nice set up to score, but Nylander doesn’t hit the net, and the game stays tied. Behind the play Valtteri Filppula gets called for hooking Patrick Marleau, so the Maple Leafs will get their first power play opportunity of the game.

The Islanders win the face off and dump the puck out, but the Leafs bring it right back in and their set up is to feed the puck to Tavares so he can score. He doesn’t, and the Islanders survive a minute of this before dumping the puck out again. The penalty is killed by the Islanders and the period ends seconds later.

The second period ticks off with a nice attempt by Matthew Barzal, and I say attempt because it is not a goal. The pace has slowed a bit from the first period, the crowd has as well.

Tyler Ennis has the puck in the Islanders end, and tries for a wrap around which isn’t successful, and Nazem Kadri doesn’t connect on the tap in either. Ennis has been having a good game tonight, but seems to be a magnet for the Islanders hitters.

Jordan Eberle brings the puck down into the Maple Leafs zone and passes, Brock Nelson beats Andreas Johnsson to the puck and he gets a pass across to Anders Lee who scores to give the Islanders the lead.

The ice is tilted towards that end, as the Leafs spent most of the first there and now the Islanders are getting lots of time as well. When the Leafs get out, Lehner freezes the puck so we get a face off in the other end. Zach Hyman tries for his second goal, but ends up just bumping around Lehner. The puck goes out, but Mitchell Marner brings the puck back into the Islanders end, passes to Hyman, and gets hi 15th goal of the season. The Islanders challenge the goal, and Zach Hyman was called offside so the goal is waived off. Hyman wasn’t completely over the blue line before the puck, but his skate was above the blue line so it’s offside because ¯\_(ツ)_/¯.

After Sparks makes a diving on his stomach save, Casey Cizikas and Cal Clutterbuck try to goad some Leafs into a fight because that’s all their good for, but no one bites. Clutterbuck tosses a punch at a player while the ref is separating them, and that’s it for the rough stuff.

As the second period progresses the Islanders seem to be playing with a bit more pep in their step than the Maple Leafs. More hits, more attempts, moor oomph. The Leafs do get into the Islanders zone, and Matthews tries to score, but Lehner stops the puck just on the line and the whistle blows for an Islanders penalty. Former Leafs Leo Komarov gets called for holding Matthews. The Maple Leafs power play gets another chance to tie the game.

The Leafs power play doesn’t get any quality shots off, and a lot of time is spent not in the Islanders zone. The Islanders take the play back to the Leafs after a Jake Muzzin turnover and ends when Casey Cizikas scores a short handed goal to increase the lead to two. Isles lead 3-1.

Minutes later Garret Sparks makes a last minute ditch save on Anders Lee to keep the score from going up by one. A whistle blows and we get a face off. Kapseri Kapanen gets into the Islanders zone and his point shot is blocked, allowing the Islanders back into the Leafs end. The Leafs get it out, the Islanders come back in, and so on.

As we enter the final minute of the period, Valtteri Filppula parks himself in front of the net, and Justin Holl decides to stand in Sparks’ way, and Filppula gets a rebound into the net to make it 4-1 Islanders.

After play resumes, John Boychuk goes to elbow Mitch Marner into the boards, fails and Marner’s skate comes up and cuts him up in the chin area. The period ends with the Leafs scrambling around the Islanders goal. 4-1 New York as the siren goes.

So, I showed the heat map midway thorough the first, this is where someone would ask me “and then what happened?” Well, here it is after two periods:

Blah.

The third period opens with the Islanders in control, and 33 seconds later Casey Cizikas makes it 5-1 Islanders.

So, I’m the type of guy who won’t go on about needing someone big and tough, and gritty, but the Islanders have been running over every Leaf they come across all night long and it’s clearly working in the Islanders favour.

The five minutes after the fifth goal is basically the Leafs getting flattened into the boards, Sparks making crazy panicky saves, and the Islanders just flinging the puck all over the Leafs end because they can.

Nearing the half way point the Brock Nelson makes the game 6-1:

Matthew Barzal has come close to plenty of goals tonight, but Sparks is ready for the young star. Robin Lehner has been stopping everything that has come his way since the Leafs last scored. Connor Brown almost scores into an open net, but the puck bounces off the post.

The game ends with a 6-1 victory for the Islanders, and the season score becomes 10-1 in New York’s favour.

Tonight’s game was probably the most important one for the Islanders this year. All year they’ve played better than expected and reached 8th overall in the league when no one expected them to be out of the draft lottery. They came out, played hard, and kept playing at full speed thorough the second and third periods.

The Maple Leafs came into New York knowing they would have the most hostile environment they would face this season (or maybe this decade) and played strong for half a period before slowly giving up until the third period looked like the Islanders were smacking around a house league atom team.

It’s hard to separate emotions and reactions from a more clinical look at a game - for example the expected goals were 2.9 to 3.1 - , but that’s for tomorrow. Tonight I’m mad. And disappointed in all of the Leafs. You can’t see it but I’m giving the Leafs my best Dad Look right now.

The Maple Leafs have tomorrow off to figure out their shit and get things back together before hosting the Buffalo Sabres at home on Saturday night. The Sabres always get up to play the Leafs, Jack Eichel especially. It’s a more friendly crowd too, if that’s what was throwing the Leafs off.

Flintor came up with the tweet to sum things up: