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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.

Islanders 2014-15 Season Mantra

Try not. Do...or do not.


Monday, December 31, 2007

Calling the Attention of One Colin Campbell

Dear Mr. Campbell,
I am writing to inquire as to your reasoning behind your recent decision regarding one New York Rangers enforcer by the name of Colton Orr.

According to the Daily News, during the Rangers- Hurricanes game on December 26, Orr got into a "collision" with Matt Cullen, while Cullen was carrying the puck and just happened to have his head down. Orr (rightfully, by the look of the hit) received a major misconduct penalty for interference, only to have it rescinded three days later, with no further action regarding a hearing or suspension, because you, Mr. Campbell, found it unnecessary and unworthy of a review. Now, I have seen this hit, and I don't believe in any way that this hit was clean- and how could it, when Cullen suffered a broken nose and a concussion (no matter what the Hurricanes say, he did- he was knocked unconscious, which means he did receive a concussion, check out MayoClinic.com)?

Reading the comments on YouTube regarding the video feeds of this hit, someone happens to remark that this hit was "no worse than a Scott Stevens hit", while others see fit to drag up the Chris Simon incident, both of which I have something to say about. Regarding Mr. Stevens, whose claim to the Hall of Fame is ridiculously vicious hits like this... just because the hit is clean, does not mean that the player does not have the intent to injure; they simply do it in a way that won't get them into crazy trouble with the league. Like my partner-in-crime Christine says, the only thing Chris Simon needs to do is improve his aim, and he'd be another Scott Stevens. And for those that argue that Cullen's head was down... big freaking deal. If anything, that should be a harsher punishment for hitting someone at their most vulnerable. What a dirty excuse.

The media had fun with it, too. John Dellapina of the Daily News, who fluctuated between calling this a "hit" and a "collision", even tried turning the tables on the Hurricanes, who refused to acknowledge Cullen's concussion. Stupid, yes, but no more stupid than finishing a hit on a guy who's got his head down when you have plenty of time to slow up and avoid an injury such as said conclusion. Dellapina would never admit that, though. This is a guy who wrote an article in Sunday's Rangers Insider for the News essentially praising Sean Avery for being what he is: a classless, low-lived cheap shot artist in more ways than one.

By the way, my bone to pick with "collision" vs. "hit": A collision is usually accidental, between two people who cannot control momentum between them. A hit is usually deliberate, and usually controllable- and in no way was Orr's hit accidental, seeing as he had time to slow down and he didn't have to bring his arms up into Cullen's face. So use one, or use the other, whichever one you believe. Don't interchange terms.

Back to the analysis... and of course, resident New York Post shock jock Larry Brooks just has to put his two cents' worth in, showing his usual lack of objectivity in writing an article screaming Orr's innocence. As if Orr has ever been innocent of anything, save for being a class act. The truth is, I don't see Brooks' articles as much of anything except worthless muck that just passes at the Post for journalism. See fit to correct me, if I may be wrong.

But as for you, Mr. Campbell, who have suspended people in the past for hits like this, and suspended Simon for 30 games for something that barely even injured Jarkko Ruutu (not that it wasn't deserved, but 30 games?)- you didn't even bother to look into something that has echoes of the Randy Jones hit on Patrice Bergeron that has Bergeron with a similar injury as Cullen, and has not seen his return to the ice as of yet. But Orr's hit was clean. Orr just happened to knock Cullen out- completely Cullen's fault, is that it? And I don't say this because I'm an Islanders fan, but this smacks of bias, and I'm starting to lose patience with waiting for something to justify the lengthy suspensions you have given in the past. This is a hit that has surpassed anything that Simon has put Ruutu through, and yet inadequate measures are taken- it's ridiculous.

I only hope that, had this been an Islander or a Devil, or any other player, in this situation, you would have been so kind as to give them the benefit of the doubt. But I wouldn't bet my life on it. Orr may not have meant for it to be that severe, but it was your job to make sure he knew to be more careful- and you missed it. Simple as that.

Next time, make it a strike, no matter the jersey.



P.S. Here's the hit, in case you'd want to study it again...


Sunday, December 30, 2007

Guest Blogger Jiggs Scores His Second Post

Isles 5 : Devils 2

Our friend Jiggs from Islander Mania graciously accepted a second invitation to help us out with coverage of the Isles. A BIG THANKS to you Jiggs for providing our readers with yet another excellent summary of the game.

Coming off a drubbing at the hands of the Ottawa Senators the Isles must have been relieved to be coming home to play the New Jersey Devils. After all the Isles haven't lost to the Devils yet this year (3-0-0)and own the best home record in the Eastern Conference (13-7-1).The numbers would seem to favor the Isles but this was a different Devils team than the one the Isles played earlier in the season as Martin Brodeur has regained his Vezina form leading the Devils to the top of the Atlantic division.

The Isles got off to a quick start in the first as Chris Campoli jumped into the play while shorthanded and converted a rocket of a slapshot over Brodeur's left shoulder to give the Isles a 1-0 lead 5 minutes in.

What followed about 5 minutes later set the tone for the rest of the game. Mike Mottau was getting set to field an Isles aerial dump-in at the Devils blue line when Mike Comrie gave his best Ronnie Lott impression and decked while Mottau was in mid-air. A chippy play that Mottau felt needed to be answered so the next shift he and Comrie went at it with Comrie getting some shots in rapid fire style and with Mottau answering with a heavy shot of his own. I understand that Comrie wanted to answer the challenge but Nolan can't be too happy that his top center is off the ice for 5 minutes. Then again Mike Comrie plays best when he's on the edge- so maybe it was a good thing for Mike and the Islanders. Isles gave the Devs three powerplay opportunities but their PK team was perfect even scoring a shorthanded goal leading to the 1-0 lead after one period.

The second period was even more chippier than the first with the captain Bill Guerin and Andy Sutton getting into tussles. It really shows the team toughness the Isles have in that they don't really need a "fighter" to take up a roster spot. The fighting ignited the crowd when the former Islander Aaron Asham took a penalty midway through the 2nd. Marc-Andre Bergeron, a healthy scratch often recently, was re-inserted on the right point of the Isles' powerplay and got the monkey of his back as his shot deflected in off a Devil's stick and into the net to give the Isles a 2-0 lead and all seemed right in the world. After that goal the Devils woke up and slowly started taking the play to the Islanders using their speed to cause chaos on the Isles zone. With under a minute left, Gionta made a nice tip pass on criss-cross play in the Islander zone to Parise who roofed a backhander past Dubliewicz's glove to cut the Isles lead in half at 2-1.

Isles went into the 3rd with a tentative 2-1 lead with the Devils coming on. Madden converted a rebound off of a point shot and "poof" it was a tie game. This was where the Isles showed me something. They could've folded but they didn’t. They just kept on coming in the third. Andy Sutton blasted a cannon past a screened Brodeur to put the Isles ahead for good at 3-2. Bergenheim converted another Sutton bomb from the point for his 2nd of the year and the Isles were on their way. Comrie scored the empty-netter for the 5-2 clincher.

This game was about redemption. Bergeron, Dubliewicz, Sutton, Bergenheim, Comrie, Guerin, Sillinger all needed to snap out of their funks and it seemed they picked tonight's game to do it. A packed house at the Coliseum were glad they did.

Friday, December 28, 2007

Captain Guerin Nets Two, But It's Too Little, Too Late

Islanders 2 : Senators 5

You know when you just want more time to a game? Like an extra five, or ten, or twenty minutes (wouldn't the players love that?)? Inexplicably, that was how I felt watching the Isles stumble against the Senators last night in Ottawa- not because they were good, by any means, but because Bill Guerin was their scoring machine, surprisingly. I just wished he would have gotten a hat trick.

As it was, Guerin scored two goals and was the only offense the Isles could offer last night against a conference-leading Ottawa team that was faster, smarter, and simply better than the Isles last night. At least, it seemed that way- or perhaps they got away with two points, seeing as Radek Martinek and Rick DiPietro, two integral parts of the defensive success of the Isles, were both injured and out of the lineup. At any rate, the Spezza line that had been stymied last match against the Isles, thrived last night, with Spezza and Alfredsson both scoring along with Nick Foligno, Antoine Vermette, and Mike Fisher. Backup goaltender Wade Dubielewicz, who got the start in DiPietro's stead, of course, was solid in the first but ultimately couldn't hold up forever against a speedy and persistent Sens offense, which struck early and often and dazzled the Isles defense, especially on the last two goals of the night. Mike Fisher seemed to be a big part of that, with an assist on Spezza's goal and then a goal of his own to seal the deal in the third.

As for offense, frustration is the word , as Josef Vasicek had some great chances that hit the side of the net, and as of late Mike Sillinger has become practically nonexistent. Only the captain could find the net, and he has been producing as of late, becoming the leading goalscorer with 12 goals (and before you laugh, look at the Rangers' stats- for all their offense, Brendan Shanahan is team leader with that same number of goals), as well as putting together a three-game goal streak. Maybe he's trying to increase his vote numbers for the All-Star Game, but at any rate let him keep it up.

- The Sens scored their first 5-on-3 goal of the season at the hands of Jason Spezza, as well as a Vermetter SH goal and three even strength goals. If you had a penalty shot and an empty net thrown in there, it would have been every type of goal you could score in one game.

- Islander quote of the week comes from the Daily News, from Wade Dubielewicz, about Brendan Witt: "If a couple of pucks would have gone past Witt, they would have gone in if they didn't hit me. You gotta give that guy credit- he's a warrior... I don't know what his quote is. It's something like: 'Pain lets you know you're alive.' He's crazy, man, but he does his job really well." Even Yoda loves Witter. You gotta love it.

- Radek Martinek looks to be out two weeks with his leg bruise, but Rick DiPietro reportedly might be back as early as Saturday night against the Devils. I wouldn't like seeing him in net only because I'd rather him take some time to really rest, as well as getting Dubielewicz to see some more ice time. The Devils are a good offensive team as well, but the defense has a chance to redeem themselves with a solid game against them.

Thursday, December 27, 2007

Isles Progress, Bloggers Digress

An upside to my not being able to make it to an Isle's home game is spending most of the game on the phone with Angie, like we do for away games. Usually after a few ‘did you see that?’ texts have been exchanged, one of us starts dialing. Here’s how it went during the game last night…

-Text message exchange:

Christine: why didn’t Comrie shoot right away?

Angie: because it’s like a disease with him. Holdontothepucktoolongitis.

Christine: he must score very soon

Comrie scores!

Phone call starts off loudly about Comrie’s goal. We agree that I have reached Ms. Cleo status and finally have proof in writing.

The digressions begin…

-Vasicek’s new nickname = JoVa the Hut

-Fedotenko’s name is best yelled FedoTEEEEEENKKKKOOOOO!

-If you want to make Angie laugh, yell the above.

-Christie Brinkley’s commercial has got to go. It looks like they interrupted her during Karaoke.

-The backdrop behind Butch and Deb needs to go. Not sure why but it just does.

-Campoli’s new nickname = Cannoli or Holy Cannoli! depending on how he’s playing.

-The Isle’s Christmas break was referred to so many times before and during this game that it could be a drinking game.

-Toronto coach Paul Maurice won the best tie contest vs Ted Nolan.

-Hilbert’s new nickname = Hungry Hungry Hilbert (if you played the game as a kid, you’ll know where that came from).

-Best dressed award went to Butch Goring for his fly suit and tie combo. Deb came in 2nd, her shirt was very flattering but her white bracelet looked like a hospital ID tag that she forgot to cut off, and it put Angie into a hypnotic state.

-There was actually a hockey commercial during the game…promoting other teams.

-New rule: Comrie is allowed no more than 2 taps of the puck before shooting.

-The Radio City Music Hall Christmas Spectacular commercial - please make it stop!

I haven’t been able to come up with a word to describe how our conversations go, but they sure seem to reveal that we both have some kind of HADD – hockey attention deficit disorder.

As for the game…what a game! Coordination of talent was on the rise! With the exception of DP leaving the game due to an injured knee, so many elements of the Isle’s style of play were right last night. The offense and defense seemed well connected throughout the game. The offense appeared to be taking more risks – what has seemed like the offense playing hot potato with the puck, has turned into more players taking ownership by zigzagging in towards the net. The defense provided perfect protection for Dubie, who after a few minutes of dusting off the cobwebs, defined grace under pressure. Way to go fellas!

This is the time of the season where teams separate themselves from the herd. Because teams have now had some time to solidify their performance, it will be harder for teams to take big leaps upward in the standings and even harder to knock down the kings of the hill, like Detroit and Ottawa. The Isles now face a challenging schedule, starting with Ottawa tomorrow night where Dubie will most likely start his third game of the season. Confidence is going to play a big part in how the Isles fair against this speedy goal scoring team. One effective psychological strategy for the Isles could be to stun Ottawa by scoring the first goal of the game. Because the Isles will be the team most on guard at the start of the game, scoring first might help to flip that around and help to deflate Ottawa. Two additional strategies for the Isles will be to avoid unnecessary penalties and avoid playing cat and mouse hockey –but if it happens – be the cat! The Isles beat Ottawa once, they can beat them again.


The Excitement Returns, Along With the Hands of Mike Comrie

Islanders 4 : Maple Leafs 3 (OT)

Twas the night after Christmas, and Jason Blake was in the house,
The crowd was raucous, and.... okay, I'm terrible with rhymes, but you get the point- a 4-3 OT win won with 10 seconds left to a shootout, on the stick of Mike Comrie in front of a loud audience at Nassau Coliseum makes for a very merry belated Christmas, indeed, for these fans. This was a game that saw three- yes, three- Islanders first-period goals, the first time that's happened since Opening Night against the Sabres, and five goals in total in the first, and only one other goal scored over the remaining two periods. It was also a game that saw Rick DiPietro throw in the towel after the first period, after taking a shot to the knee during warmups and aggravating it while playing. He looks to be day-tp-day, and playing it safe I'd say we won't see him til after the New Year. As for Wade Dubielewicz, who played in his stead, he was solid, especially in overtime (22 svs overall), where he stopped some point-blank shots by Maple Leafs players. Then, as former Islander Jason Blake juggled the puck, Richard Park (who continues to have my vote with three assists on the night) stripped him clean and was off to the races up the left wing, shooting at Andrew Raycroft, who made the first save but left a big rebound for Mike Comrie, who already had one goal, to put the game away. His hands look to be returning, although his penchant for holding on to the puck too long (as usual) was still prevalent; otherwise, he might have had a hat trick or more.

The excitement was at a huge level in this game, as it has been for the last couple of games- offense is waking up, defense is becoming strong as ever, and goaltending (up until now, perhaps) has been the one solid point. One bone I do have to pick as far as the fans go is the bashing that defenseman Chris Campoli takes, especially about the game last night in which he was manning the PP on the shorthanded goal by Alex Steen that tied up the game at 3. His game may have been off last night, but during this season as compared to 2006-07, his game has improved considerably, he has become more physical, and he is also showing the offensive form that he displayed in his rookie season- plus, he's becoming more confident in his play. He has his nights where he looks a little bit lost, and perhaps last night even more so, as his D partner switched from Bruno Gervais to Bryan Berard, and Gervais was placed with Brendan Witt, as Radek Martinek suffered a bruised right leg and looks to be out for a while. Perhaps that will be changed tonight in Ottawa, but whatever the case, fans shouldn't be so hard on a player who still has time to develop and time to grow, before we should officially worry about him. As for right now... I think he has potential to be a great defenseman.

Very Nice Indeed

The US beat Kazakhstan 5-1 at the World Junior Championship held last night in Liberec, Czech Republic. Soon to be Islander Kyle Okposo scored a goal and assisted Rhett Rakhshani’s game winning goal.

Americans open with win over Kazakhstan

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Boo or Cheer? part 2

When Christine asked me to write about this, I barely knew where to start, seeing as when I usually boo or cheer, I don't put any thought into it whatsoever. Perhaps after reading her perspective on it, I'll think more about it. Because what she says is true- in a way the fans are extremely detached from the inner goings-on of the organization, and the lives of these players. We're just witnesses to the product, not part of the equation itself.

As a younger fan, I can't give much of an opinion because this is honestly the first time as an Isles fan that I feel I have some familiarity with a former player from their tenure on the Island. In 05-06, in my rookie year as a fan, upon seeing Michael Peca at the Coliseum (as a Leaf, ironically), I didn't feel the kind of emotional attachment or like/dislike that I might feel upon seeing Blake in a Leafs jersey tonight. My younger compatriots may choose to boo or cheer tonight, based on whether they like him or not. As for me... I don't know what I'll do.

Fans have a relatively small part in the experience, but even so, they have a part in knowing how they feel when someone leaves the team, especially the way Jason Blake left. And no matter what may be going on in the player's life, fans- especially younger fans, who do have lessened maturity and ability to analyze a situation like this- will boo Blake, because of what they believe- he's a jerk, he's useless, he's greedy, cancer notwithstanding. Others, who can find it in their hearts to look past the way he left and look at his predicament as a player undergoing treatment for an illness- or simply a person who has needs and desires just like the rest of us- will cheer him. Whether they are part of it or not, fans react emotionally to any situation, and this is no exception. So while it may not be right, there will be some negativity among the crowd.

The best thing to do would be simply to respect the player. The argument may be that booing is disrespect, but whether it is or isn't barely matters- Blake will expect it, just like other players coming back to play a former team would. It's the chants and insults that make it worse, and make it look as though our fans are clueless, classless, and obscene, and those that I disagree with completely. Either way you go, remember to give him the same respect you would want in his place.

Signing off, Let's go ISLES!!!

News from NHL.com - NHL Insider

Masks a window into goalies' souls

To Boo or Not to Boo, That is the Question

One of the many threads going on over at Islander Mania is a ‘boo or cheer’ poll being taken on whether or not an Isles fan would boo or cheer for Jason Blake when he arrives tonight as a Maple Leaf. One IM’er predicted a mixed response from the crowd:

“I think the older fan that sees more of what goes on behind the scenes and understands the business part of the game will be booing. The younger fan that doesn't understand that part and only saw Blake as a 40 goal scorer will cheer him.”
-Dan (NYI1058)

I’ll ask Angie to post her viewpoint as a younger fan, as the older fan of this duo I say au contraire mon frere. I’ve been an Isles fan for 34 years - yes maturity has brought about an understanding of the infusion of politics and business into sports, but that understanding has only lead to realizing that there is quite a gap between what I 'know' and what actually goes on in the inner sanctum of the players, team, and organization. I am no more ‘behind the scenes’ than I was at age 5…now I’m just OnTheNYIslesScene (sorry, could not resist that one). This doesn’t appear to be an issue of age, but instead an understanding of subjectivity vs. objectivity…and with what Jason Blake is going through health wise, an issue of humility.

Booing a guy who is going through treatment for Leukemia?...trying to stick around to see his children grow up? But wait! there’s more! Some seemed to base their vote on separating the man from the player (although he’s going through treatment while playing hockey so how anyone can do that would seem impossible), supporting their boo vote with ‘evidence’ of Blake’s attitude while playing for the Isles, popularity among his Isle teammates, comments made about the Isles organization and the fans (attendance), and selling out for more money. Wow I didn’t realize so many fans had SPOKEN to Blake about his decision and why he said what he said and wowee I didn’t realize so many Isles fans were PRESENT at the meetings leading up to the decision. At best we have snippets of what actually happened.

If some Isles fans want a little payback for Jason Blake, maybe they should try cheering on their team. Wouldn’t the Isles beating the Leafs be the best ‘up your nose with a rubber hose for leaving the Isles’ revenge?

The voting stands, at the time of this post:

Boo [26] [16.05%]

Cheer [119] [73.46%]

Meh [neither] (17) [10.49%]

Whether they were younger or older fans, I breathe a sigh of relief knowing that 83.95% of voters are grounded in reality.


Monday, December 24, 2007

News From the Atlantic Division

The division looked as tight as ever as of Sunday afternoon, with the Devils leading the way just barely, their 41 points rendering them at the top of the Atlantic. With their win last night against Calgary (Martin Brodeur's 95th career shutout, 1-0), they were able to pad their lead to five points over the Rangers, who had a chance to climb closer to the top spot with a game against Ottawa last night, but fell short, 3-1, despite a strong showing and resident shock artist Sean Avery returning to the lineup after wrist surgery. The Penguins were in a three-way tie with the Islanders and Flyers prior to their game against Boston, in which they burned Alex Auld for four goals to win 4-2 and tie with the Rangers for second. Meanwhile, the Flyers' six-game losing streak leaves them at the bottom of the division with the least amount of wins, despite once being on top of the Atlantic; with the Isles winning their last two straight games, they have the same amount of points as Philadelphia.

So, in case you didn't understand that, here's how it looks:

Devils- 20-13-3, 43 pts
Rangers- 17-15-4, 38 pts
Penguins- 18-16-2, 38 pts
Islanders- 17-15-2, 36 pts
Flyers- 16-14-4, 36 pts

This is a very competitive division, with once-strong teams (the Rangers, Flyers) fading and once-struggling clubs looking to get back into the race (Penguins, Isles). Most surprising is that the Devils, who had a sub-par start, now heading the top of the Atlantic Division, mainly because Martin Brodeur has shaken off his early-season slump to return to top form, though you can't overlook the efforts of the offense either.

After the Christmas break, the Rangers and Isles both have home games on Wednesday night, against the Hurricanes and Maple Leafs, respectively. As the Isles look to keep up the steady offense, stingy D and 60-minute effort, the Rangers will no doubt try to rebound from losing 8 of their last ten, and try to get some offense going, to crack the 40-point barrier.

Sunday, December 23, 2007

Richard Park, A True Blue Islander

Islanders 3 : Capitals (OT)

As if people didn't know it already... the play of one Richard Park last night against the Washington Capitals proved it once more.

During OT, Park had a terrific drive against the Caps (which was helped by Mike Green being cut by the stick blade of his teammate and consequently taken out of the play), resulting in the OT winner, and his sixth of the season. After scoring the goal, he put his arms up in the air and met the fans along the glass in joy, shortly before being mobbed by his teammates. His play earned him the first star of the game, and rightfully so.

Bill Guerin got the second star, and may well have been the first if not for the unbelievable tying goal scored by Alex Ovechkin with 55 seconds left to play, in which he didn't even pick up his head to look at the net- he flung it, and it went in, Ovechkin's 25th, what are the chances. As it was, however, it may have been fitting that the game went to OT, seeing as although the Islanders outshot the Capitals 27-16, neither team really dominated. This marks the second straight win in OT (last one- December 8th vs. TB) for the Isles, and the second straight win, to leave a good vibe until after Christmas, at least.

Radek Martinek is another Isle in the spotlight- in 23 shifts and 26:03 total ice time, he had four takeaways and a blocked shot, and was very effective on Ovechkin along with Brendan Witt, at least until the tying goal he scored in the third. Until then, Ovechkin was kept off the puck well throughout the game, as the D did what they did Friday night on Sidney Crosby in Pittsburgh, and the offense also challenged the young Washington defense quite a bit, though Olaf Kolzig (24 svs) was up to the task- until OT, that was.

Now the Isles can enjoy the break, and breathe a little easier knowing that they got all four points they needed, while still aspiring towards more afterward.

Saturday, December 22, 2007

This Is How You Win- With Effort, Confidence, Grit, and Offense

Islanders 4 : Penguins 2

For the first time since November 1st (a 4-0 win against Tampa Bay), the Isles scored four goals to lift the team to a 4-2 win at Mellon Arena, over a Penguins team that had played three games in four nights, but more importantly is having some serious issues in the net, with Dany Sabourin perhaps luckier than he was good (20 svs). Miro Satan, playing in his 900th NHL game, started off the scoring 44 seconds into the game with his ninth of the year. When asked by Isles broadcaster Deb Kaufman how he stays healthy, his essential reply was, "Just don't think about it."

The Isles certainly weren't thinking about it in this one- their all-around effort was tremendous, despite a couple of mistakes that led to goals, the most glaring one on Pitt's second goal, Jordan Staal's third (a PP goal no less), in which Andy Sutton and Rick DiPietro got tangled up with each other, leaving a wide-open net for Staal to shoot at. Other than that, however, DiPietro made 24 saves, a couple of which were great, and Mike Comrie even got in on the saving act, denying Jarkko Ruutu flat-out on an empty net when DiPietro got caught out of position.

On the other side of the ice, the offense was buzzing. Aside from Satan, Andy Hilbert scored his third of the year after a great odd-man rush by him, Bridgeport callup Blake Comeau, and Tim Jackman (who played a very good game with Hilbert and Comeau), and then Comeau got his first career NHL goal in the third period, which was essentially the game-winner, and a great one for him, as well as the assist on Hilbert's goal. Add on an insurance goal by Trent Hunter less than a minute later, and that equaled the Isles skating out of Pittsburgh with the two points.

Brendan Witt, who had a strong defensive game as well as a goal on Wednesday night, continued that play, but also was very strong on offense, getting a few shots in as well as recording an assist. With a +1 rating and an assist on Miro Satan's goal, he looks to be getting comfortable with offensive play, as well as being a great presence against dynamic Sidney Crosby, who was held to just one assist. Overall, he has been putting forth great effort, and moreover is, as Christine says, a perfect Islander, which is just what we need- a guy who loves playing, who wants to play on the Island, and who has grit and character. Witt is all of that, and as you can tell, I can't stop singing the guy's praises.

On an even better note, the Islanders' TV ratings have skyrocketed, rising up 176% from last year, which is incredible. More incredible is that that jump in the ratings is the highest in the entire NHL- which shows that Islanders fans are supporting this team in more ways than just going to the games. Now, if the Isles can do something about those Christie Brinkley commercials...

link- http://islanders.nhl.com/team/app?articleid=347405&page=NewsPage&service=page

Some Isles News...

Mr. Campbell, would you like some ground pepper on your foot?

Chief: Colin Must Apologize to Simon

Friday, December 21, 2007

Oh Caption My Caption

Please don't skate away angry, I meant it when I said you were special.

Oh my god like no way! like this is so awesome ya'll! like totally!

Thursday, December 20, 2007

It's Not the Broken Stick...It's the Execution

Whoever insinuates that last night's game was lost at the hands- or rather, the stick- of defenseman Brendan Witt, which snapped in the third period just before Maxim Afinogenov's shot went in to make the score 2-1 in favor of Buffalo- can stop talking right now, before they go any deeper into a hole.

It occurred to me that perhaps some people thought it was Witt's fault that Buffalo won the game, and while he did take an unnecessary penalty at the end of the second for cross-checking (Christine has already enlightened us on the aspect of penalties- just don't take them), he redeemed himself with the only Islanders goal of the game in the third, shortly after coming out of the penalty box. Plus, those who blame it on him didn't see the whole game, or else not the stats at least- or else they would have asked, "Why on earth wasn't this an Islander win?"

43 shots, ladies and gentlemen. 43 shots, 42 of which Ryan Miller saved with splendor, making enough of a difference for the Sabres so that they stole two points out from under us and evened the season series at 2-2, when it should have been 3-1 Islanders. Then again, it's no one's fault but ours. We had the chances, we had the opportunities- but we also had the penalties to run us down and cost us time.

Speaking of costing time...dump-and-chase hockey? With precious little time on the clock, you're going to waste it by spilling the puck into the offensive zone and then having to chase after it, when a Buffalo player- or any other team, for that matter, as the Isles have been playing this way all season- has already gotten to it, to have you running again? It's a poor strategy- no skill, no thought, no creativity, and we are suffering because of it. I mean, I know we are supposedly starving for talent, but even a passing play done quickly enough would suffice. Quick passes, quick shots- that's all I ask for. Not this mindless hockey that the Isles have been playing as of late. Granted, last night's game was full of effort, but not execution. Of all of the shots that the Isles threw at Ryan Miller, the score should have been 4 or 5-1, as Christine said yesterday on the phone to me, and we just didn't do enough to make that happen. No screens, no traffic in front, nothing... and it cost us. Not Witt, who did what he could and was simply put in a bad spot.

I expect- or at least hope- that whatever Ted Nolan does next to wake up this team, they'll come out tomorrow night in Pittsburgh ready to blow up the opposing net.

Farewell Fu Manchu

Islanders 1 : Sabres 2

Let’s see now…43 shots on goal, better positioning, great PK, not allowing as many turnovers, Witt’s Fu Manchu gone, and an overall consistent effort made by the Isles. What went wrong?

Bergenheim – 2 minutes for hooking
Jackman – 5 minutes for fighting
Guerin – 2 minutes for hi-sticking
Martinek – 2 minutes for holding
Witt – 2 minutes for cross checking
Guerin – 2 minutes for interference
Meyer – 2 minutes for hi-sticking

Shouldn’t there be a memo circulating around the locker room about this? Possibly stating that any player causing an unnecessary penalty has to wash dishes or run laps?

After the 1st period ended with the Sabres ahead 1-0 (goal by Roy) the Isles appeared to be in great shape for dominating the 2nd period if they could keep up the pace and pressure, avoid penalties, and get the puck past Miller. Shortly into the 2nd period the Isles appeared frustrated with their shots on goal labor not bearing fruit. Yet the Isles continued on in decent form despite an undertow of penalties for fighting, hi-sticking, holding, and cross checking. Luck was on their side though with a no goal due to Hecht’s toe-in. And so the 2nd period came to end with the hope that the Isles would utilize the break to shake the frustration off and get back on their game.

The 3rd period started out with Witt in the sin bin for cross checking – here’s where you either believe it or not – shortly after Witt exited from his ‘time out’ I sent a text to a friend of mine stating, “Witt seems disgusted, only thing left 2 do is score goal.” BAM! Witt scores. Why doesn’t this kind of thing work with the lottery? Anyway Miller didn’t stand a chance against Witt’s slap shot which flew by him so fast that he looked around trying to figure out where the puck went in. Although momentum seemed to build after Witt’s goal, the Isles could not convert on their next power play (Tallinder, hi-sticking) and at this late hour of typing the rest of the 3rd period went a little something like this – Guerin took his second penalty of the game for interference, no conversion on Stafford’s tripping penalty, Comeau made a nice wrap around goal attempt, Meyer’s hi-sticking penalty, Sillinger and Hunter’s awesome drive to the net that was denied by Miller, Witt loses his stick (Nolan later stated Witt’s stick was slashed), Sabres score with Afinogenov’s snap shot goal, DP pulled from the net, Vanek gets a hooking penalty with 33.4 seconds left in the game, and with a 2 man advantage the Isles were a no go with scoring before the buzzer sounded.

Currently the Isles are 15-15-2 and .500. Might be time to institute a dish washing, lap running policy.


Some Isles News...

>This week the Isles organization participated in two community events as reported on the NYI website. On Monday the Isles took their annual sleigh ride out to visit local hospitals bringing toys and good cheer to children, followed up with what must have been true Islander Mania. On Tuesday Mike Bossy handed out $250.00 gift cards to 251 children who were chosen from written responses sent in about what the holidays mean to them. These lucky kids were then let loose to spend their gift card at the Modell’s in East Meadow. Entourage’s Kevin Connolly was on hand to support the event.

>Former University of Minnesota right wing Kyle Okposo will be joining the Isles roster. Let’s hope this move makes forgoing a college education worth it (he was a sophomore). In a posting on the Gopher’s website:

“While I’m disappointed Kyle is leaving at this point of the season, his dream has been to play pro hockey,” Minnesota coach Don Lucia said. “It is unfortunate that the Islanders put him in a very difficult position. I think our team has made strides the last few weeks and I’m looking forward to the second half of the season.”

Anyone else feel a chill in the air after reading that?

>Chris Simon has been suspended for 30 games, the longest suspension in NHL history. Not exactly the record setting we all would have liked him to be known for. Some are now claiming that Simon has tarnished the image of the Isles and NHL. Anyone who displaces what Simon did onto the Isles or the sport of hockey is clueless. The publicity may provide a push towards furthering dialogue about what needs to change within hockey organizations in dealing with conduct problems sooner than later, and the NHL being consistent in consequences doled out - both being way overdue for meaningful resolutions. Players are now more likely to get the help that they need before things get out of hand. From the ashes could rise Simon’s actions being a catalyst for positive change within the NHL.

One more thing before putting this subject to rest - there is no excusing what Simon did but would the drama kings and queens please stop describing it as ‘stomping’? Taken from dictionary.com:

Stomping v. tr. To tread or trample heavily or violently on.

That is something he did not do.

My vibe sent to Chris Simon – as my 96 year old grandmother says, “Better days are coming.” Make the most of them.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Only in Darkness Do We Seek Out Light

I’ve dreaded going to the message boards since arriving home from Saturday night’s game knowing that some Isles fans (not all) would use Chris Simon’s misconduct as justification for being just plain ole’ mean. Yes Simon again put a bulls-eye on his forehead by overriding his conscience with anger - many Isles fans are frustrated and disappointed with what he did, understandably so, but bashing Simon is basically doing the same thing he did...kicking someone when they are down. For anyone who finds it necessary to go beyond his recent game indiscretion to assaulting Simon’s character, may I offer this piece of advice - try not to be so blinded by judgment that you overlook the fact that sometimes what a person does is not always a reflection of who they are. And if you find yourself pointing your finger at Simon, make sure you also look at the three fingers pointing back at you.

It’s alarming how many Isles fans are stating that they let Simon’s hit on Hollweg go because it was in retaliation to Hollweg knocking Simon so hard his neck snapped. I saw both hits and the only hit that made me nauseous was the force of Simon’s revenge. Simon’s potentially lethal force was ‘let go’ because someone did it to him first? On Saturday Simon was reckless but certainly not as direct in his recklessness as he was towards Hollweg, yet NOW he should be thrown off the team or out of the NHL? Having some kind of awareness of his anger issues in the past, Simon should have kept his position as the wound instead of turning into the knife – he took the bait and got yanked from the frozen water. He’s paid the price for past misconduct but obviously experienced these altercations in vain, which meant he was destined to repeat it, a.k.a Ruutu.

As for the charge of misguided loyalty by Ted Nolan - standing by one of your own is not the same as enabling them. Beyond that Nolan is one person participating in the collective decision making process and not THE person deciding Simon’s fate with the Isles. Although in all fairness Nolan (publicly) came down harder on Hilbert for missing an open net than he did on Simon for missing the boat on impulse control. Even so, considering Nolan’s reputation as a coach, there must be circumstances with Simon that most of us are not and will not be made aware of. At this point, NO ONE knows why Simon did what he did EXCEPT Simon - quite possibly Simon doesn't even know why he did what he did. The answers may likely reside in the subconscious – as a result of unresolved childhood stuff coming up to bite a person in the butt. As ugly as anger can look coming out, it is way more poisonous on the inside. I once read a great quote but cannot recall who said it (my apologies to him/her) – “Whoever angers you, controls you.” What Simon may ultimately be held responsible for is bringing personal stuff into his professional life.

As a fan, I am on board with support because he is an Islander AND because we all make mistakes - sometimes we keep on making the same mistake. Sometimes it takes a brick in the head to really make a person realize something has got to change and usually by that point, has to change asap. What I’ve come to believe so far is this - first the universe sends the ping pong ball, then the Nerf ball, then comes the brick. The goal is to be out of denial enough, therefore enlightened enough to feel the ping pong ball and pivot at that point so that there is no need for the Nerf ball and brick. All three are not thrown with the intention of causing harm (no penalty pun intended), instead they are catalysts for lessons we are meant to learn. Lucky for us humans (although it doesn’t always feel lucky) the universe is stubborn and loving enough to not give up on delivering the goods.

A child is part of a family constellation, as the child grows s/he joins up with other family-type constellations - friends, work, team and so on. Every new family-type constellation has a similar make up to a family of origin…parents, siblings, extended family, a crazy uncle (oops…that last one is my family) and experiences similar family dynamics such as power struggles, rebellion, bonding, camaraderie, alliances, sibling rivalry just to name a few. The Isles are a ‘family’ and Isles fans represent either extended family or the community. Understanding the organization and team’s progress can be done in part by looking at the individual, group and family dynamics going on within their constellation.

Regardless of taking a break from the team, Simon is still a part of the constellation which means that even though he won’t be on the ice, his absence has the potential to affect the team more so than if he were present. I believe this to be the case with Hill’s departure because upon checking the Wild’s roster again last night, Hill’s picture is still the same one from when he was an Isle – which to me is symbolic of a lack of closure, a team wound that I hope one day is recognized, healed and closed…especially with Witt being a Pisces – now without the other frick-and-frack fish of his sign, which Hill once was as a teammate.

Once again Simon has become the ‘Identified Patient’ (IP) of the Isles family. Although this is one of the hardest roles to be in, the upside is that the IP is considered the strongest of the family, possessing enough ego strength to act as the family tuning fork that lifts up the carpet to reveal what has been swept underneath. The IP is usually the one ‘with the problem’. In the darkness of the IP’s symptoms comes the family’s search for light, usually without initially realizing that if it hadn’t been for the ‘problem child’ being the one to finally throw a brick, the family would not have been in the position to pivot in a healthier direction. On many occasions, loved ones of the clients I have worked with eventually thank their family member for enduring the role of scapegoat in order to lead the family, and if I may re-direct Ted Nolan’s statement about the problem, towards the light of healing and not fixing. He ain’t broke Ted but I think we all know what you meant. : )

The Isles organization has responded in either PR or Zen-like fashion - they offered Simon a way back. Who hasn’t at one time or another in their lifetime needed someone to offer a popcorn trail back towards redemption?, with some needing more chances than others. I would be shocked to hear a response to this question other than crickets chirping. The challenge for the Isles organization is to not make Simon the scapegoat of the team and instead figure out if his outbursts have been symptoms of a larger issue within the organization, granted, while also holding Simon accountable for his individual contribution to the problem. A healthy/effective approach for the NHL to take might be to recognize that a fixed number of game suspensions has not worked in the past with Simon and overall may not be the best approach for players in general and under certain circumstances. Maybe the NHL could align with and expand upon the Isle’s organization approach and make his return to the game conditional, spelling out clearly for Simon what he must accomplish before returning to hockey. It may be a pipedream but the other option seems to be career ending which doesn’t seem like a punishment that fits the crime. Yes he has had many other conduct problems leading to suspensions but that’s actually a point that needs to be made…how was he ALLOWED to get away with this kind of destructive behavior for so long??? The brick thrown at Simon has the potential to be a lesson that everyone under the NHL umbrella can learn from, encouraging hockey organizations to acknowledge and respond sooner than later before someone really gets hurt…or worse. In an aggressive sport like hockey, conduct problems are like tissues, pull one out without getting to the root of the conduct and another one is bound to follow.

Although Simon’s statement seemed to hint of a farther departure from the Isles than a break, I hope that he will follow through with the help that has been offered, take an honest self-inventory, and transform into a Phoenix that rises from the ashes. The choices before Simon are his and his alone but from the comments made publicly by Charles Wang, Ted Nolan and some of his teammates, he is not alone.

Now more than ever the fellas need to re-group as they move onward and upward…of course beating the Sabres along the way!


Tuesday, December 18, 2007

The Game Is Over For Simon...For Now, At Least


I first heard this news at about 5:45 in the morning while reading the feed from ESPNEWS and debating on whether I wanted to get dressed early for once, or not. Once I read that Chris Simon has taken an indefinite leave of absence from the Islanders following his match penalty on Saturday night for purposely kicking Jarkko Ruutu, I texted Christine as quickly as I could, never mind she was probably sleeping. (Hey, had to make sure she knew, right?)

Now TSN is reporting that Simon has decided to take some time away from the Isles to "seek counselling" before meeting with Colin Campbell today. Early yesterday, TSN reports, owner Charles Wang met with Simon to discuss what could be done to give Simon the support he needs. Wang also met with Ted Nolan, Garth Snow, Bill Guerin, Brendan Witt, Mike Sillinger and Rick DiPietro on the matter. And now... it's clear that Simon is in for the long haul.

This is a good move, for both Simon and the organization. The Islanders definitely want no part of the antics that he has displayed over almost two years with the team, and it's clear Simon needs help beyond what the league can simply do to make the situation "better." His actions have not only been harmful to the team, as I have stated, but they are also harmful to him as a player and as a person, as it has been made evident by his leave. The best thing the Islanders can do now as a team and as an organization is to give him full support in his time of need, and do whatever they can to make sure that when and if he comes back to the Island, nothing like this will happen again.

Despite something like this from Marty Henwood of hockey.com, who obviously doesn't know Simon enough to realize that this is much more than a simple stunt during a game:


The Isles should find it imperative to support Simon, at any rate.

Sunday, December 16, 2007

The Line Has to be Drawn...Somewhere

The Isles could have won a game last night. They could have at least gotten a point last night. And they very well almost did, despite the antics of one forward who has stretched the limits of this fan's patience.

Chris Simon, a left winger with some talent, but a shorter fuse than anything, took a match penalty late in the third period for deliberate attempt to injure, when he stepped on the ankle of Jarkko Ruutu in front of the referees and the bench. Now, after being dismissed from the game, he is likely facing further disciplinary action by the NHL yet again, no matter what anyone says- whether Ruutu sold it a bit, as some people suggest, or not.

The truth is, this is very serious, not just because he physically harmed another player and disrespected the honor of the game, but because he once again has done something to put the Islanders in a very bad situation, not to mention himself. The incident in the past that automatically comes to mind is the March 9 incident against the Rangers, where Simon infamously swung his stick into the chin of winger Ryan Hollweg. I was able to allow for this, not because it was against the Rangers, and not because I simply don't like Ryan Hollweg (which is true... comparing him to Simon, I would still take Simon any day), but because of the fact that Simon may well have been concussed by the hit from behind that Hollweg put on him, and I consistently have disliked Hollweg because of the hits he puts on opposing players.

But this is an entirely different situation. The Islanders were down a goal with a bit of time left on the clock before Simon decided to take his anger and frustration out, under no duress from a concussion or a hit, on Ruutu's ankle. It was uncalled for, and it was another sign that Simon simply does not have it all in his head. He does things without thinking, and no matter what his intimidation factor may be, or what Nolan thinks of the man, he is not the player that we need on this team because at times, he cannot control his emotions and consequently puts his team in bad situations. There has to be a line drawn somewhere, and it has to be done by Nolan, a man who has a personal connection to Simon- he helped him fight off his alcohol addiction in juniors, and the two are great friends, basically maintaining a father-son- type relationship.

This also calls into question the decision to keep Simon and get rid of Arron Asham, who I believe has a greater talent and a more complete game. Asham will stick up for his teammates, can win fights against most opponents his size, and also has a decent scoring touch (if only he would shoot more!). I enjoyed watching Asham play on the Island, and I think that given a better chance, he could have found his groove. But it's too late for that... and instead, Chris Simon is here, and he is faced with another possible suspension in about 40 games. In my opinion, the tradeoff wasn't a good one, but here we are. Let's hope that this isn't another 25-game suspension looming.

Talent Shmalent, The Isles Have It

Islanders 2 : Penguins 3

This is a game the Isles were capable of winning. I continue to be baffled by the abundance of Isle penalties this season, with the Isles taking 8 penalties this game compared to the Penguins 4. Judging by the comments made by Isles fans sitting around me and Angie’s ‘what the?!?!’ texts during the game, I am not alone in bafflement. Wow bafflement is really a word so says spell check. After making it through the 1st period, Penguins up by 2, the Isles started out strong in the 2nd period leading to BAM-BAM goals by Park’s PPG and Vasicek’s tip in (within 45 seconds of each other) and then WHAM-WHAM consecutive penalties on Witt and Vasicek (Whitney for Pens.) which led to Kennedy scoring the game winning goal on the PP. The Isles continued to play strong in the 3rd period but weren’t able to nab a comeback win…Sillinger showed us how a ‘holy cow he sooooo missed the net!’ breakaway attempt is done and an Isle who shall remain nameless until later on in this blog entry created an short handed uphill battle for his teammates by (insert your own description/opinion of what he did to Ruutu here).

In one of our many debates Angie and I recently disagreed on whether or not the Isles have talent. There has also been much talk amongst Isles fans lately about the Isles lack of talent – that the Isles need to acquire (or get rid of) this or that kind of player in order to win more games and salvage the season. To this doom and gloom type of chatter I say NEY! If better talent is what it takes to win, explain the NY Yankee’s performance last 3 seasons, or should I say performance enhancing. Talent isn’t the problem with the Isles…coordination of talent is, although I certainly think the Isles are trying their best to get it together and find their groove. In a previous blog entry I suggested a goal for the Isles this season – attunement. Sensing where your teammates are around you is an important skill to master in a fast-paced sport like hockey- where a player doesn’t always have the time to visually find a teammate or see through an opponent to a teammate. This is where the ‘third eye’ becomes as important as the other two. The Red Wings seem to get this concept somehow and it’s a key element to their flow as a team, appearing effortless when at their highest level of attunement. It’s also the ‘chi’ of the Isles that needs some attention. The chi, the life force of the Isles does not appear in a state of attunement. The Isles can exert all the chi they’ve got individually but if they don’t harness it together, sculpt it into attunement, what it can lead to is a team of frustrated artists – struggling with the transitions from primary process (raw material), to secondary process (process of creating) to tertiary process (finished product). Maybe it’s a good time for the Isles to go back to the drawing board and reinforce their hockey 101 skills – working on positioning, accuracy in passing and shooting, peripheral vision, and my sister’s biggest peeve with the Isles, keeping their sticks down on the ice, especially in front of the opposing team’s net. Maybe some off ice team building workshops as well.

As for Chris Simon – what he did to Ruutu sucked big time. Mix potential weapons like a stick, puck and skate blades with the force of the body and a player’s ill intention - not only do you wind up with an intention to cause injury penalty but you also have the potential to end someone’s hockey career (including Simon’s own career via retaliation). In the words of a Starbucks employee (Rangers fan) said to me as I walked out the door after discussing Simon’s antics, “There is no ‘I’ in team but there is ‘me’.” It appears that Simon needs to decide who he is playing for…the team or himself. Like the child’s game…Simon says: take one step towards anger management classes.


Friday, December 14, 2007

And Here I Am Again...

Islanders 3 : Coyotes 2

After my trusty computer decided to get rid of my posts TWICE as I was writing them, here I am again, to say that this post and last night's game have been brought to you by the founders- whoever they may be- of the age-old argument that crops up every so often, and brings much debate and deliberation with it: do the Isles have talent, or do they not?

Well, Christine and I differ somewhat on the topic- as she is more on the affirmative side of this rope, I'm the mark in the middle. But whatever the case, the Isles proved they can win with what they have, using team play, an aggressive forecheck, and their traditional work ethic, despite some lazy plays here and there. Even as they fail to crack the four-or-more-goals mark for their eighteenth straight, Bill Guerin scored two goals as the Isles crashed the net often and played hard, especially winger Sean Bergenheim, who had four hits to start off the game in the first, and Richard Park, who had a few chances shorthanded. However, the Coyotes would score shorthanded, on a Nick Boynton shot for his first of the year, after Guerin's first and Marc-Andre Bergeron's power-play tally had made it 2-0.

There was a feisty, never-quit feel to Phoenix's game, as Niko Kapanen scored their last goal, and they pelted the net with shots up to the end, where a lively scrap occurred with three seconds left on the clock, resulting in Brendan Witt and Shane Doan getting to shower and dress a bit earlier. While it wasn't smart, it was pretty entertaining- at least more so than quite a few East vs. East games the Isles have had.

Overall, this game was one of the better ones by the Isles, and one that showed that the Isles have talent, but what they rely on more is hard play- keeping your head up, being physical, and getting to the net as much as possible. Park and Bergenheim reflected that completely, and I've noticed that they are great together- they create good chances and both move their skates, even when Comrie and Guerin seem to be having a hard time of it. Give credit to the captain, though- his second was the game-winner, which is a great thing given he had previously gone seventeen straight without even one. Also, Rick DiPietro saw his team get outshot by just a slim margin, which isn't saying much considering these were the two fewest-scoring teams facing each other, but aside from a goal he let in while out of position, he was sharp. He just has to remember to stop trying to overwork even with his D out of the play. Still, he was the second star of the game for a reason.

Next up... a game on Saturday against Pittsburgh, and this looks to be an opportunity for the Isles to string wins together. Since Marc-Andre Fluery's exit with a high ankle sprain (he looks to be out up to two months), the goaltending situation in the Steel City has been even more grim. As the Isles still need to get some offense going, this could be a prime opportunity to light up new starter Dany Sabourin- granted Guerin, Mike Comrie, Mike Sillinger and the others are up to it.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

One Step Forward... Another Step Back?

Islanders 3 : Sabres 5

I sat home all day with a stomach virus, and last night didn't make my gag reflex subside, unfortunately, as the Islanders end their road trip 1-3, having lost six of their last seven games, the latest loss at the HSBC Arena in Downtown Buffalo to a talented yet inconsistent Sabres squad. Nolan Pratt (first goal as a Sabre), Toni Lydman, Ales Kotalik, Derek Roy and Jochen Hecht all scored for the Sabres, and Jason Pominville had three assists. On the Isles' side, their offensive woes continue as they fail to score more than three goals (Miro Satan, Richard Park, Mike Sillinger), and penalties galore made this a special teams game, which is not the Isles' forte at the moment, the PK having given up PP goals in each of their last few games.

Buffalo is by no means an extremely confident team right now, especially as far as their defense goes, but the Islanders failed to do anything to capitalize on the chances that they gave up. And the same goaltender that they lit up for six goals in the season opener October 5 was stronger and luckier this time around, as he saw practically every shot that we threw at him. It also helped matters that once again the Isles were outshot, 41-31, and took way too many penalties, particularly in the second period, that cost them.

After the game, Ted Nolan talked about Bryan Berard, who he benched after the player took an unnecessary hooking call late in the first period. Berard stayed on the bench the entire night, and the postgame interview that Nolan gave brought to light that he is no doubt agitated with this squad for taking penalty after penalty and not being smart with their play. He has a right to, but then again it is up to him to do something, anything, to get the point across.

The bright spots of this game were young Sean Bergenheim and Richard Park, who sparked the team with their hustle and hard work. Park scored a great goal off of a Bergenheim feed, which pulled the team to within two. The Isles continued to work to come back, but this kind of play is not what will win us games- on the contrary, it tires us out more, as Billy Jaffe pointed out during last night's broadcast. It's taking a toll not only on our energy, but on our confidence. We need to play hard from the start and take leads early, which is what will hopefully happen tonight against Phoenix, at home. The last time the Isles and Coyotes played- in Phoenix, to start off the 06-07 season- the Isles were lit up for six goals; it seems less likely that that will happen again tonight, but anything is possible. At any rate, we can't go on another skid, and something needs to be done to- at risk of sounding like a broken record- end the penalties and crash the net. Let's get it done tonight.

Sunday, December 9, 2007

A Win! A Win! And One We Were Due For

Islanders 3 : Lightning 2 (OT)

The slide had to come to an end eventually, and so it did, as the Islanders snapped their five-game winless streak in Tampa last night against a talented Lightning team that had their own three-game win streak ended. I watched with alternating feelings- joy, excitement, and frustration- as the Isles did let Tampa come back twice on the PP with Brad Richards scoring both regulation goals, but hey, look! Bill Guerin scored a goal, his first in 17 games and one that went in over at least five people's heads- who'da thunk, man? Then Andy Hilbert scored his second of the year off of a great feed by Trent Hunter who stripped a Tampa defenseman behind the net.

Tampa refused to let up throughout the whole game, capitalizing on power-play chances, and banking on their goaltender Johan Holmqvist, who made as many big saves seemingly as the goaltender on the other end, our own Rick DiPietro (32 svs) did. Despite having to rely on Rick for making critical saves while the offense was still trying to get through Holmqvist, there was a tremendous effort within the whole team, compared to the listless output in Sunrise the night previous against the Panthers. Last night's game was also a very entertaining one, as any game with Martin St. Louis, Richards, and Vincent Lecavalier going up against a solid defense and a much-improved DiPietro should be. And as the game stretched into OT, and the Lightning started to unravel, with Filip Kuba and Paul Ranger both going to the box for consecutive penalties, you started to feel the buzz going through the players- they knew they had to score. That power play time gave Mike Sillinger and Chris Campoli some time to discuss puck movement and offensive strategy, which paid off handsomely- Sillinger scored the game winner, with Campoli getting first assist. How's that for communication?

One player who had a great game was Andy Sutton, formerly erratic in his own zone, but who was strong last night- most noted for his crushing hip check on a Bolt early in the first, but who also had three blocked shots. Radek Martinek also had three, and Brendan Witt his usual puck-eating self with four (one that went painfully off of his foot). The only thing that needed to be helped was the discipline issue- once again we take too many penalties, and because of that, the PK can't hold up as well, causing it to slip further and further down the rankings with every game. But other than that, it was a great and much-needed win for us, to pick up our confidence and hopefully get us working harder and string some wins together. Maybe four, five games... start off small... *grin* Next game isn't until Wednesday at Buffalo, which gives the Isles some rest and a chance to play against a Buffalo team that is changed, but is still going strong (they beat the Sharks 7-1). If any of our success against them earlier in the season factors into this game, we should of course have a win on our hands. The trick is to keep playing our game.

Saturday, December 8, 2007

One Day Later.... One Hundred Degrees Cooler

Islanders 0 : Panthers 3

"Why are we weigh'd upon with heaviness,
And utterly consumed with sharp distress,
While all things else have rest from weariness?
All things have rest; why should we toil alone,
We only toil, who are the first of things,
And make perpetual moan,
Still from one sorrow to another thrown;
Nor ever fold our wings,
And cease from wanderings,
Nor steep our brows in slumber's holy balm;
Nor harken what the inner spirit sings,
'There is no joy but calm!'-
Why should we only toil, the roof and crown of things?"
-"The Lotos-Eaters; Choric Song Part II" by Alfred, Lord Tennyson

I am no great analyst of poetry or literature, although I love to read and am a writer myself. However, when I happened upon this verse by Lord Tennyson and read it through, the first thing that crossed my mind (no joke, seriously) was that it would be perfect for this blog post. As it is, the Isles have slipped unbelievingly into a five-game losing streak, only recording a point in those five games. And after a good road game against the Panthers, save for a couple of bad plays, this team has seemingly taken a step back into failing to score goals and relied on, once again, Rick DiPietro as well as the penalty kill to keep it a close game.

Not only were no goals scored, but over three periods, the Islanders were outshot 41 to 24 by a Panthers team that I have to say I gave little credit to- they were fast and aggressive, and skated all over the Isles from start to finish, although failing to score in the first. DiPietro was given little help by the players in front of him, who were continuously chasing the play and spent way too much time in their own zone. Our lack of speed was obvious, as was our lack of pressure- the Panthers just kept blowing by the D for offensive chances. By the time Sean Bergenheim kicked in the puck for a no-goal call, I was completely frustrated, complaining out loud to Christine on the phone. The fact that the Isles are on this skid nearly made me forget about my obligation to be analytical, not critical to a fault, and thankfully she reminded me of that.

Which brings me to this verse by Tennyson. At the time, I felt as though we were the only team feeling the effects of our weaknesses. Of course, there are teams on a skid as well- the Rangers, the Senators. But I neglected that last night and vented to Christine, and thankfully she didn't tell me to shut up and stop being stupid. The Isles are a team that obviously has to work hard for every point, and even though they seem to have enough talent to score, they haven't. They're not the only team that has had to work- for all the offensive talent they have, that other New York team has been struggling to score and usually banks on unsuspected scorers to put the puck into the net, and they're also on a three-game losing streak. It's up to Ted Nolan, or at least one of the leaders on this team, to give the rest of the team a wake-up call, and make them realize that they are at the bottom of the Atlantic Division (even though standings don't seem to mean much at the beginning of December), they have relied on a sharp goaltender that can do seemingly everything except put the puck into the net himself, and they haven't been supporting him by crashing the net as Florida repeatedly did- and the time is now to start doing things differently. We have to be stronger on the puck, and we have to make plays and finish on them. As players and coach said last night in interviews, they're not going to give up (or as Tennyson puts it, "fold their wings") and they haven't run out of options, as one reporter suggested. They just have to work for it.

Now, on to a matter of player and coach confrontation. At least, that's what it seemed like two games ago, as embattled defenseman Marc-Andre Bergeron and assistant coach Gerard Gallant were seen in a heated debate about the defenseman not being on ice on a 5-on-3 during the game at Atlanta. Although Gallant said it was nothing, as Greg Logan reported in his blog, last night Bergeron was a game-time decision, and at game time he wasn't on the bench. Apparently, Nolan, who made it clear that he wasn't okay with it as quoted by Logan, wasn't going to be so easy on the D, and he was right to do so in my opinion. Coaches have a reason and a method to the madness, whether or not that reason is obvious, and although Bergeron felt that maybe he could have helped, in no way do you get into an argument with coaches during the game. Clearly he will have to show in a better way how he can contribute to the game, especially to the PP, which he had been put on repeatedly in previous games. Tonight, at Tampa Bay, would be a great time to do so- provided he plays, of course.

Link to Greg Logan's blog- http://weblogs.newsday.com/sports/hockey/islanders/blog/2007/12/bergerons_backtalk_upsets_nola.html

Friday, December 7, 2007

More Goals + Hard Play= Just What We Needed... Right?

Islanders 3 : Thrashers 4 (SO)

Picture the scene Wednesday night at my house in Brooklyn. I'm freshly showered and frantic, with an Isles game to watch, an article for my journalism class due the next day, and a strained knee from I have no idea what... so in-between typing, swearing, quoting, swearing some more, and trying to keep up with the score via my favorite message board (*grin*)... I realize the game has gone to OT, with Trent Hunter's late PP tally in the third. My article done, I am now limping as fast as I can go from my living room to my bedroom to turn on the TV and watch, and limping back to find that my trusty old computer has faithfully frozen up on me. By the time that problem is resolved, I limp back to see the shootout... and Ilya Kovulchuk's (predictable) game-winner.

Hey, at least we got the point.

But is that enough anymore?

By some standards, the Isles may have been lucky to rebound from a 3-1 deficit (built upon TWO shorthanded goals by the Thrashers) and come back to even earn a point. But after a stronger game (albeit STILL plagued by soft passing and low-percentage plays), the Isles (13-11-2) should be able to hold leads when scoring in the first. They are overall 7-3-1 now when scoring first, so it should be a snap for them to hold the lead they made for themselves off of slowly-sparking center Mike Comrie's ninth of the season. But errors on the PP made it all too easy for Atlanta to tie and then take the lead.

Ted Nolan did make some line changes in this one, again, going back to the lineups he had at the beginning of the season- with Ruslan Fedotenko, Comrie and Bill Guerin back together as the FA line, and Bergenheim back on the fourth line. The Comrie line seemed to click well (Comrie has two points in as many games- hey, it's better than none) and Hunter as well as Sillinger scored much-needed goals, especially from them. However, defensive strategy was erratic in some places (although Chris Campoli was good both offensively and defensively) and Rick DiPietro let in a rare soft goal by Marian Hossa, which happens every so often, of course. Plus, although nine of nine penalties were killed by the ever-consistent PK, it is so important to stay disciplined, so that fewer chances are given by Atlanta's Kovulchuk-Hossa tandem to score.

Next game, at Florida and a Panthers team that has had some blowout wins against the Isles- but this should be a win; of course, providing that the Isles play another good road game like they did Wednesday, minus the giveaways and penalties. Defense as usual should come first with these guys, but what's also important is what was done last game- getting to the net, creating traffic, and playing a good offensive game as well.

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

Last Night... Problems and More Problems

The following post is brought to you by a very, very generous man by the name of Jiggs, who kindly wrote this up as neither of us was able to see the game last night. MANY THANKS to you Jiggs, our first guest blogger!!

Islanders 1 : Bruins 3

So the Islanders came into this game not having scored more than 2 goals at home since the 3-2 win against the Rangers on November 6th. As a result, Ted Nolan decided to mix the lines up for tonight's game against the Bruins. The main beneficiary of this shakeup was youngster Jeff Tambellini who was 7-14-21 in 20 games for the Islander's minor-league affiliate Bridgeport Sound Tigers. Tambellini skated on a line with Mike Comrie and Miroslav Satan with the hopes that his speed and forechecking ability would open things up for the two struggling stars. The rest of the lines were: Bergenheim-Sillinger-Hunter, Fedotenko-Vasicek-Guerin, and Simon-Hilbert-Park. Bruno Gervais was a surprising scratch tonight as he has been one of the Islanders most steadiest defensemen this year. Nolan's decision could have come back to haunt him later in the evening. The Islanders came out flying with Jeff Tambellini sending Dennis Wideman flying with a nice hit on the forecheck. Glen Murray came into the game on a tear and he continued on that track as he scored a PP goal at 10:38 of the first as he placed a perfect snap shot over Dipietro's glove into the upper right hand corner. The Islanders could not figure out Thomas in the first as he stopped all 11 shots he faced. Thomas came into the game leading the NHL in save percentage, a stat that is especially telling as to how good Thomas is playing. It can be a meaningless stat especially if the team in front of the goalie is very good defensively but in this case Boston is just not that good defensively. So for Thomas to lead the league in that stat speaks volumes as to how he's playing. He's standing on his head- much like Dipietro has been for the Islanders this season. The second period was fairly evenly played except for one miscue by the Islanders that led directly to a goal by former Islander prospect Petteri Nokelainen. Nokelainen was moved up to the third line by coach Claude Julien tonight having impressed the coach with his physical play along the boards. He rewarded his coach in the second period as Andy Sutton mishandled the puck at the Islander blueline, allowing Nokelainen to skate in all alone against Dipietro and wrist a shot high up into the net for his first of the season. It must have been a great feeling for Nokelainen scoring against his former team to make the score 2-0, the eventual game-winning goal. Sutton has been all too erratic in his own zone this year and probably should have been scratched instead of Gervais who has been much more consistent in his own end. Comrie took a penalty, tripping Glen Metropolit off a draw in the Islander zone which led to a goal by Chuck Kobasew early in the third to make it 3-0. At this point the Isles looked very lethargic and started to take penalties out of frustration. These guys are squeezing their sticks out there and its showing- they're pretty much shooting wide on every other shot as they missed the net 15 times. This usually happens when a forward is challenging the points aggressively or when you try to be too precise with accuracy, trying to make the perfect shot. The Islanders also didn't seem to be getting any screen shots on goal, which would make life difficult for Thomas. Campoli finally scored a PP goal to make it 3-1 Bruins and ruin Thomas's shutout but it meant nothing except proving to the Isles that they could indeed score. After being shutout by Atlanta I'm sure they were beginning to wonder. Nolan in his postgame conference thought the Islanders were not bearing down enough in order to get those goals and he was right. The Isles outshot Boston 34-22 and most of those shots were of the un-screened variety outside of the slot. When they had a chance closer in, it seemed they were squeezing their sticks too tight to make that one extra move to score. This team is tight and they need something to change this scoring drought. Maybe a fight here or there would be nice...just to wake everyone up.

Sunday, December 2, 2007

Time to Make the Distress Call

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.

Play Smarter, Not Harder

Islanders 2 : Rangers 4

After one delay followed by another I finally made it to MSG only to find the game sold out. At that moment the two year old inside of me wanted to drop to the floor and throw a tantrum but instead the Isles/Rangers tantrum in front of the bench in the 1st period caught my eye on the tv monitor. A few minutes later I met a very nice security guard (Rangers fan) who upon hearing my tale of woe proceeded to go beyond the call of rivalry and spent the 1st and 2nd periods trying to find me a ticket. I continued to watch the game on the monitor while thinking of a ‘I’m with the band’ way of getting in, expressing my frustration to Angie via cell phone, and praying to the hockey gods. About 5 minutes before the start of the 3rd period the security guard asked a Rangers fan who was leaving the game for his ticket stub. BRILLIANT! He then escorted me through the gate and off to section 218 I went. Last season I arrived late at MSG and when a security guard overheard my ticket request he reached into his jacket and handed me one - center ice, level 300. Over the years many have commented on my talent for being late however what they all don’t realize is that membership in the tardiness club has its privileges. And although both times standing on Ranger’s turf wearing orange and blue, I also possessed a quality that probably factored into the favorable outcome – being female, which seemed to win out over team allegiance. I wound up sitting next to an Isles fan (Meredith) which was yet another hockey god blessing considering the ‘gigiddy gigiddy’ warm welcome from Ranger fans. Meredith, now living in NYC, originally hailed from Stony Brook and attended GW in DC where she experienced 3 hockey seasons and the lock out. Of her four years in college she witnessed only 1 Isles win over the Capitals. The winning game ticket stub is pinned to her wall at work. Meredith’s post-game summary was as follows: The Isles came out strong but faded fast. They could not convert on a single power play in the 1st period and along with being tired, coming in at 3-0 was huge to overcome. Sitting next to an Isles fan at MSG? – free, sitting next to a woman who can talk hockey? – priceless.

Beyond the Isles playing 3 games in 4 nights, beating Ottawa in a shoot out had to be uber draining both physically and mentally. To then play the Rangers, who were coming off a 3 day rest, well I think it’s fair to say it was going to be an uphill climb for the Isles to win. In a situation like this the effectiveness of how a player chooses to expend whatever energy he has left is crucial. Core energy is used when playing the game. Breakaways, power plays, penalty killing, and fighting require a surge of energy. At mid to full strength energy wise these surges do not greatly impede a well conditioned and mentally prepared player’s performance however the Isles weren’t near full strength. And so like a deck of cards, with each card representing a unit of energy, a player has to decide how and when to dole them out. This can be accomplished by creating a preparatory set, where the player decides in advance, what actions he will and will not take (1).

Surges of energy were expended in the 1st period on 5 power plays, and in the 2nd period to kill penalties thus having to cover the same area (ice) with fewer players for way too many minutes. Add to that some fighting and anything else I may have missed while being on the outside trying to get in. Although the Isles scored their 2 goals in the 2nd period, the revolving door of Isles penalties seemed to be when the game was lost, with the Rangers scoring 2 PPGs. Players not in the sin bin were left to push their tired bodies even harder, with DP taking the brunt of the penalties by having to defend more shots on goal (16 in the second period as compared to 8 in the 1st and 7 in the 3rd). The energy sucking reactive style of play in the 2nd period left little hope for a comeback in the 3rd period, BUT I never give up hope. And so the 3rd period came and went with the Isles holding their own and the Rangers adding one more goal to their lead.

The best response to an antagonistic opponent who knows you’re at a disadvantage strength wise is to employ Wu Wei, a concept I first learned about in the book “The Tao of Bow Wow” by Deborah Wood. Simply stated Wu Wei means ‘action of inaction’. In time the rock, through erosion, yields to the stream.

Under heaven nothing is more soft and
yielding than water.
Yet for attacking the solid and strong,
nothing is better;
It has no equal.
The weak can overcome the strong;
The supple can overcome the stiff. (2)

The Rangers were hungry for a win and got the job done but I don’t think this was a win they earned by outplaying their opponent. Hollweg must not believe in Karma. With a work ethic like he demonstrated towards Martinek I have a feeling that sooner or later someone will make him a believer. To Rangers fans (especially the two obnoxious guys who sat behind me) I offer an end of the blog entry salute - enjoy your 1 win vs. our 3…see you on March 4th.

Although this trip to MSG did not bring about a win for the Isles, they did emit a vibe that collectively, something is just right about the raw material of this team, like everyone who is supposed to be here, is here. We’ve got warriors. And not only do we have warriors but we’ve also got chief warrior Witt, who like the great Clark Gilles, has a strong paternal instinct that translates onto the ice and is something his teammates can count on and learn from. Yup, we’ve got warriors.

Flow like water fellas.

1. www.nature.com/neuro/journal/v5/n12/full/nn969.html

2. Gia-Fu Fend and Jane English, Lao Tsu: Tao Te Ching (New York: Vintage Books, 1972), ch. 1.