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Wednesday, March 12, 2008

DiPietro, Isles' Foundation Crumbling As East's Worst Team Dominates

Islanders 4 : Lightning 8

It seemed easy to start.

Prior to last night, the Islanders had beaten Tampa Bay three times. They had outscored the Lightning 8-2. Rick DiPietro, in prime form, had an incredible .065 GAA and a .969 save percentage. Two of the three shutouts he'd had were against the Lightning, which has been the worst team in the East with 60 points before yesterday.

Easy feat to beat them, right?

Well, nothing has come easy for the Islanders in a long time, perhaps since before the All-Star Break, which was coincidentally the evident end of DiPietro's stellar play. He made 36 saves on 44 shots, which was nowhere near the play the Isles need out of him if they want to make the playoffs at all. Not only that, but he seems to be at odds with his coach, Ted Nolan, in regards to leaving the net to play the puck. On at least one occasion, he had allowed a goal last night after coming out to play the puck and getting into trouble. In net, conversely, he was unfocused and extremely shaky.

A 2-0 Tampa lead became a 2-2 tie over the end of the first and beginning of the second period, thanks to a rocket by Bill Guerin and a low-angle shot by Ruslan Fedotenko. But the Lightning, although their playoff hopes are over, still had some fight in them, and were only too happy to thwart the team that had seemingly solved them this year. Support of excitable goalie Kari Ramo by the defense and an aggressive offensive forecheck helped the Lightning keep the Islanders away from the net, and the timid Isles' offense was nowhere near in front of the net for much of the game. Moreover, this team once again spiraled away from their game, committing too many penalties, defensive zone breakdowns, and sloppy play as a whole.

In short, they looked like they didn't want to be on the ice.

The worst sign of this was late in the third. A 5-3 lead for Tampa became an incredible 8-3 lead, in the stunning span of 42 seconds. Vincent Lecavalier completed his hat trick, Michel Ouellet got his second of the game, and Jason Ward scored a goal, as DiPietro remained helpless and done for. The team had seemingly just given up, as Christine said when she heard what had happened. When all was said and done, a Mike Comrie goal had made it 8-4. Game, set, match, Tampa. Game over, Isles... not mathematically, as their playoff eligibility is still possible, but emotionally and psychologically, they're on the golf course already.

Notes: Andy Hilbert did not play (ankle injured during warmups), and Josef Vasicek was scratched with the flu. Ben Walter was called up on an emergency basis, and Blake Comeau played center in Hilbert's place...Ben Walter scored his first NHL goal last night on a deflection of a shot by Comeau... Bruno Gervais may return to the ice against Florida from his thigh contusion/concussion.
Greg Logan- http://www.newsday.com/sports/hockey/islanders/ny-spinotes125610651mar12,0,4746341.story

Another Greg Logan article, detailing the possible friction between DiPietro and Nolan- http://www.newsday.com/sports/hockey/islanders/ny-sbisles125610667mar12,0,1306254.story
Best I can say for you, Ted, is that you have to be harder on your players. You would do well to take a page out of Brent Sutter's book (his Devils aren't in the top two of the Eastern Conference for nothing). As for you, Rick, you would do well to listen to your coach, so that you would have more to say than, "Whatever," to reporters' questions.

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