Islanders 0 : Thrashers 4
Let not the title fool you. This is not just about the fact that the Islanders were shut out for the first time this season, or that they are on a two-game losing streak. This is about the Isles' lack of confidence in their backup goaltender Wade Dubielewicz, who got the start in place of tired starter Rick DiPietro, who had made 18 straight starts. When DiPietro is in net, the defense looks confident and tight. They get everything right, and even when they break down he comes up with big saves to save the game.
The reverse may be true with Dubie, who doesn't have quite the same athleticism as Rick, nor the stickhandling ability. The D knows this, and they know that whenever he steps into goal during a game, they have to adjust accordingly. But last night, as Dubie made his fourth appearance this season against a Thrashers team on a losing streak, but with two offensive forces in Marian Hossa and Ilya Kovulchuk (league-leading 21 goals), the defense was not there.
Neither was anyone else.
Indeed, the Islanders failed to show up with their A game ready when they knew what they were up against, failing to score a goal, instead letting Kari Lehtonen pitch a shutout and the Thrashers skate all over the Islanders on the road, letting four goals go by. As I watched, I knew what type of game this would be when I saw Kovulchuk cruise by the D as if they were mannequins, putting the puck neatly by Dubie as he tried and failed to make a pad save- thirty-four seconds into the game, no less. No chance whatsoever to let the Isles even try to set their tone for the game. The Thrashers had asserted themselves that quickly. They then went on to score three more in the first period, leaving Dubielewicz completely frustrated and the Isles in panic mode, but not doing anything to reverse the roles. The worst period of their season, as I see it, turned out to be the one that did them in, as Atlanta didn't need any more goals, seeing as everything on our part that was thrown at Lehtonen didn't go in throughout the game. Soft passing, lack of communication and uncharacteristically unsound D (although characteristically ineffective offense was also a factor) didn't help. This game was overall a bust for the Islanders, who knew a win was needed at least to rebound from the Rangers game in which they also had trouble with their play. Moreover, it was not fair to a goaltender who turned into a cult hero with Isles fans quickly with the playoffs and now can't get a win or stop anything, it seems. This loss is not entirely on his shoulders.
On a brighter note, the Isles' youngsters seem to be making a statement, as in last night's game Sean Bergenheim had seven shots on goal and two takeaways, and LW Jeff Tambellini was also called up from Bridgeport to practice with the guys, and practiced on a line with Miro Satan and Mike Comrie. He could likely see some action against Boston on Monday night, and hopefully his play will shake up the O enough so that they can score some goals.
If he does play, I would expect Andy Hilbert to be the scratch, which brings me to something Christine and I have discussed a couple of times; Ted Nolan's comment about Hilbert following the Ranger-Islander game on Thursday night. She made a point during the conversation about the Islanders being another family to the players, and Nolan being the father, and that the comment he made to the reporters about Hilbert being out of line because that's basically kicking someone while he's down, and not only that, but it's like a slap in the face to someone who wants to play and wants to make his "father" pleased. It's something along these lines, and although my argument was one along the lines of the team and Nolan being frustrated with offense and that he hasn't done much of this before, so obviously he must be upset, I got the point of what she was saying. These guys are apparently very loyal to their coach, and they will probably skate through fire would he ask them to. For him to make a comment like that to a guy who's frustrated with himself, and whose teammates are frustrated with his play, is out of line, especially (and perhaps only, in my opinion) when it's in public, in front of reporters. What a coach says to his players behind closed doors is his business, because it's in private, and I think that this is one of those things that should have been dealt with behind closed doors, with no one else there- just between Hilbert and Nolan, to see what can be done to fix it. But in front of the cameras and pens is another thing, and now I understand and agree with Christine's point- it shouldn't be done, ever. So I give you credit for opening my eyes, one hundred percent.
Hopefully this will not happen again, and with Rick likely minding the net for us tomorrow night, let's pray to the hockey gods that the Isles find their legs and the opponent's net.
Welcome to the NYIslesScene!
A blog by a long time New York Islanders fan who stays true to the fellas wearing orange, white and blue…but thinks the Islanders organization has some shaping up to do.
Sunday, December 2, 2007
Islanders 0 : Thrashers 4