Islanders hoping for more physical play from blueliners vs. Penguins
UNIONDALE, N.Y. — After the Islanders' 5-0 loss in Game 1, coach Jack Capuano said he met with a few of his players and told them that to stay in the lineup, they had to play more physical.
Travis Hamonic wasn't one of them.
The scrappy nature of the underdog Islanders can be traced back to the third-year defender, who has 14 hits and eight blocked shots in nearly 25 minutes of ice time per game in the series to go with 14 penalty minutes. Hamonic knows that for the eighth-seeded Islanders to spring the upset, they need to do a better job defending Penguins stars Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin and Jarome Iginla, who've combined for 16 points in the series.
“They're obviously a high-powered team up front,” Hamonic said after Monday's morning skate at Nassau Coliseum. “I think we still have to continue to be harder on their guys. We don't want to make it too easy for them out there. I think if we have an opportunity to be tough on them and hit them and be hard in the corners, I think we can do a little bit of a better job at that.”
In Sunday's game, Hamonic stood up Malkin along the boards, followed the play and then knocked Malkin to the ice in the corner with a pair of forearm shivers to the chest. Hamonic succeeded in getting under Malkin's skin as he and the Penguins' bench were upset no penalty was called. But too often in this series, the Islanders' physical style has turned reckless, and the Penguins have capitalized on their power-play chances, going 6 for 13. In 5-on-5 play, the Penguins have scored seven goals, the Islanders six.
“Obviously, you've got to watch the fine line you're on and try not to cross it,” Hamonic said. “Honestly, it's tough sometimes. You get two, three, four slashes on you and the ref doesn't see it, and you want to do something back, and that's always when you get bit with it. It's frustrating because it's tough to hold your emotions. Nobody wants to be the guy to take a dumb, stupid, retaliatory penalty.”
Capuano insists on physical play, but he acknowledges the need for restraint in certain situations in order to limit the opportunities of some of the world's best goal scorers.
“We've got to be more disciplined, there's no question,” Capuano said. “With their quickness, we need to make sure we defend them a little bit harder and a little bit smarter.”
Hamonic said he believes that for the Islanders to even the series, playing hard-nosed defense is key.
“I like taking a challenge and playing against those guys and trying to affect the game the way that I can,” he said. “It's been a good battle the last couple games, and I assume it's going to continue.”