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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.

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Sunday, October 12, 2008

Kids All Right and Then Some in Home Opener

Islanders 5 : Blues 2

Who would have thought we'd be cheering for a goalie other than Rick DiPietro at this point?

Indeed, Joey MacDonald was the story, in net for the second game in a row in place of the still-preparing Rick DiPietro, who along with Scott Gordon denied reports by TSN (cited by this site) that he was suffering from swelling and fluid around his surgically repaired knee. In net, the calm and collected MacDonald made 26 saves and had the sellout crowd cheering "Joey, Joey" all night long.

Just how good was he? Well, for reference, you could cite the robbery of Andy MacDonald (no relation) not even a quarter of the way through the first period. Or the breakaway pad stop on a streaking Keith Tkachuk. Or the unbelievable glove tip to defend a practically empty net. Take your pick- each highlights the level or determination, not to mention of confidence, that MacDonald reached while on the ice. Those saves earned him the first star of the game, a 5-2 home-opening romp that earned new coach Gordon his first win of the game in front of a raucous crowd.

As for the scoring, it was in full swing last night. First came Mike Comrie on a quick rebound of a Richard Park shot through the legs of backup Blues goaltender Chris Mason. Then there was Trent Hunter firing a shot that trickled past Mason's pads on the power play. Afterward, just 1:39 later, Sean Bergenheim aimed right over Mason's left shoulder and sent the horns blasting once more. (OT, he had quite a game tonight!) Then Andy Hilbert, who took 20 games to score his first goal last year, took only a game and period to pocket his first goal of this season, shorthanded, no less. To cap it off in the third after a goal by Brad Boyes and another by Keith Tkachuk (his third in two games), captain Bill Guerin got the easiest first goal of his life, shooting into the empty net.

Defense, on the other hand, was somewhat solid, save for a couple of breakdowns that led to the two Blues goals. Freddy Meyer continued his solid defensive play, and Brendan Witt had some nice blocked shots. However, the defensive corps may have suffered another loss as Radek Martinek went down in the first with what looked to be a shoulder injury, after being hit by David Backes. He did not return to the game.

Jon Sim, though not scoring any goals, also deserve credit for his presence on the ice, especially in front of the net. For two nights in a row, he displayed great forechecking and netcrashing ability, as well as drawing penalties and just making life in general difficult for the Blues. And again, Jeff Tambellini and Kyle Okposo had some good offensive chances (though Tamby might want to work on puck placement a little bit before Monday).

A sloppy third period by the Isles would get the Blues within two, but the Isles would regroup and Joey Mac would see to it that the door closed and stayed that way, with a flurry of saves late in the third period. Scott Gordon (and his very, very nice Isles-colored tie) was thus able to get his first NHL win.

Some digressions...

  • Blake Comeau was, oddly, a scratch for last night's game, and a source explained to us that it was because of "attitude problems"- apparently, the youngster's achieved somewhat of a swollen head. If so, then I applaud very sincerely the coach's decision to not dress him for the game- send the message early on that this is your team, and that you will not tolerate any behavior like that. That's the right way to squash potential problems for your squad.
  • There were two MacDonalds on the farm-er,ice- last night, named Andy (for the Blues) and Joey (for the Isles). Also, Christine thinks that Joey Mac and Rick DiPietro seem to be a little friendlier than now-KHL goalie Wade Dubielewicz and Ricky were. Check on this as the season progresses.
  • Notice a familiar face behind the Blues' bench? Yep, that was one-time Isles head coach Brad Shaw, now an assistant to Andy Murray in St. Louis.
  • To the linesman/ref who blatantly ignored Barret Jackman's instigator against Jon Sim and only gave him two minutes- shame on you, sir.
  • This was the Isles' sixth straight home-opener win, and it snapped a three-game win streak for St. Louis in Nassau Coliseum.

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