Don't worry, the West will get plenty of face time in this one. I apologize for the negligence.
As Round One of the NHL playoffs ended with a pair of Game 7s last night, the second round pairings look like this:
1. Detroit vs. Colorado: Well, the Avs took the high-flying Wild by surprise in the first round. The biggest factor in that series win, in my opinion, was goaltender Jose Theodore (4-2, 12 GA, 1.88, .940), who has been fantastic for Colorado. However, Detroit is not going to be easy as the #1 seed- and they have the chance to show that the President's Trophy is not a curse. I pick the Wings in 6.
2. Dallas vs. San Jose: Okay, so I haven't been watching must Western Conference hockey, I must admit. But goalie Evgeni Nabokov, while not top-notch against the Flames in the first round, will probably look to back up his recent Vezina nomination, against Mike Ribeiro and Brenden Morrow, as well as Mike Richards and the rest of the Stars. There's a reason why Anaheim got knocked out in five games, and the Stars are looking to show the same grit against the Sharks (who, I think, have the ability to make it to the Finals). It's a toss-up.
1. Montreal vs. Philadelphia: The Flyers did a superb job of shutting down Alexander Ovechkin in the first couple of games, but they also seemed to lose a lot of steam, and suffered because of it- even in Game 7, when- who else?- Ovechkin scored the tying goal and eventually helped his team get to overtime. Against a fast-skating, talented team such as the Habs, I'm not sure if Philly will be able to hold up. I pick Habs in 6.
2. Pittsburgh vs. New York Rangers: The Rangers have the goaltender to beat in Henrik Lundqvist, but the Penguins have the speedy, dynamic offense in Evgeni Malkin and Sidney Crosby among others, and against a green New York defense, the Pens certainly have the ability to stun the Rangers. Look for a mega-pest showdown between Jarkko Ruutu and Sean Avery- personally, I'm hoping they bother each other to death. I'm also hoping for the Pens to take it in 6.
Note on the Caps-Flyers Game 7 last night: Officiating sure does know how to kill a game, doesn't it? No worries for these Caps- they've achieved more than their fans and I ever thought possible this season, coming from the bottom of the Southeast to the top, and scratching and clawing their way to a Game 7 against a tough opponent. A tip of my hat to Washington for a great series, and best of luck next year- you can only get better from this point on.
Welcome to the NYIslesScene!
A blog by a long time New York Islanders fan who stays true to the fellas wearing orange, white and blue…but thinks the Islanders organization has some shaping up to do.
Wednesday, April 23, 2008
Don't worry, the West will get plenty of face time in this one. I apologize for the negligence.
Sunday, April 20, 2008
Playoffs? We don't need no stinking playoffs!
Well, maybe we do. I just wanted to say that.
Either way, the first round of playoffs has gone something like this, and we'll talk about the Eastern Conference first.
-Rangers vs. Devils, Rangers win series 4-1.
Yes, I have to talk about this one first, simply because it caused the most controversy thanks to that rat in Ranger blue, Sean Avery. His stick-guarding antics irritated Martin Brodeur, his goals gave the Devils fits, and ultimately, his team got the series win. The distraction he caused helped, as did the high-octane offense and work of youngsters Ryan Callahan, Nigel Dawes, and Brandon Dubinsky. Plus, it doesn't hurt having Mr. Clutch- Chris Drury- on your roster.
In the end, the Devils were on the losing side thanks to their porous defense, low-scoring offense, and sudden sense of cluelessness on the ice. Plus, future Hall-of-Famer Brodeur may have played too many regular season games once again, as he never seemed to hit any kind of rhythm in the series (1-4, 16 GA, .891 sv%). He ignored Avery in the postseries handshake (for good reason, in my opnion, but I digress), creating another stir, but I'm sure he's losing little sleep over it. Devils still need to find that winning formula against the Rangers, and will try it again next year.
-Penguins vs. Senators, Pens sweep series, 4-0
The Senators were far from the powerhouse they'd been last season, partly because of their injuries (the biggest one to their captain, Daniel Alfredsson). Add that to the fact that the Pens are largely healthy, with goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury and Sidney Crosby in the lineup along with a hot Evgeni Malkin, and for the Sens, this was a recipe for disaster.
In the East, the Penguins look to be one of the toughest teams to play against, and I am firmly of the opinion that a matchup with the Rangers would be one to watch. Look at Pitt to make a strong case for the Finals.
-Canadiens vs. Bruins, series tied 3-3
The Canadiens looked to have firm control over this series, 3-1, a week ago... but somehow, someway, the Bruins have this tied into a knot, winning yesterday, 5-4, to force a seventh game. And it's going to be a tough one- in Montreal.
Judging solely from the scores, it's safe to say Montreal has some offense behind them, and they have a very fast and talented team. But the way Boston has battled back from a 3-1 deficit in the series suggests that they're not just going to lie down and let the Habs steamroll them. It's going to be a very interesting Game 7. MY PICK: Canadiens
-Capitals vs. Flyers, Flyers lead series 3-2
This is the series I have watched the most, and I have been intrigued from Game 1 on. The storybook way the Capitals got into the playoffs means nothing now, as the Flyers have largely dominated them despite the Caps' Game 1 win. The offense- particularly Mike Richards, Scottie Upshall, and Daniel Briere- have been relentless, and the tough defense has shut down Alex Ovechkin and his linemates. What struck me is how the players who pass to Ovechkin were taken care of first, so as to make Ovechkin practically helpless unless he works for the puck himself.
However, the Capitals have hung tough, and battled back to win Game 5, 3-2, on the brink of elimination. They should be in desperation mode at this point. The key is to get leads and stick with them- crash the net and the wall named Martin Biron, and once you get a lead, play smart and poised, and don't give the power play (particularly Briere) any chances. By the way, the goaltending in this game has been awesome- Biron vs. Huet. You can't get any better than that.
MY PICK: Capitals come back and win it!
Next post will focus on the Western Conference playoff scene, and my picks.
Posted by Angelica Rodriguez at 10:24 AM
Saturday, April 19, 2008
Here's something for us ladies to love: The Islanders have turned their focus onto women's hockey by creating the LIL Islanders (Long Island Lady Islanders). It includes Tier 1 and 2 teams for each age group, and an Introduction to Girls Hockey program for novice players.
For more info, check out this link: http://islanders.nhl.com/team/app/?service=page&page=NewsPage&articleid=360926
What I love about this is that women's hockey is being given a great platform. Girls and women can use this as an opportunity to show that they can play the game, too, and more girls can be introduced to this awesome sport. If I had been just a little bit younger when I had first noticed hockey, I would definitely have joined a team or taken lessons at the least, because I would have loved to be involved with the sport firsthand, and not just watched the boys play it from afar.
Thanks to the Isles for finally giving female hockey players an opportunity to stand out!! Long Island loves you!
Posted by Angelica Rodriguez at 4:05 PM
Friday, April 11, 2008
The next part of this posting binge looks at some more critical areas of the Isles' past year, starting with the captaincy.
Last year the Isles had done the unthinkable and bought out lackluster captain Alexei Yashin for the remaining four years of his contract. Some time later, they brought forth Bill Guerin and gave him a two-year contract, along with the captaincy.
When I first heard of this deal, I hadn't thought highly of it. I thought the Isles would have done better to just bring him to training camp and see how the players respond. As I'm sure I've said before, Brendan Witt or Mike Sillinger would have been a better fit for this team's captain. Months later, my opinion hasn't changed much.
I do agree that Guerin is a step up from Yashin- a big step, as far as leadership goes. He scored 23 goals, including some key ones that provided big wins. However, he also missed a bunch of nets, took a bunch of penalties, and was too invisible on the ice late in the season to really make me say, "Wow, this is a good captain."
Perhaps I'm looking at this from the wrong perspective, but I am of quite a few who believe that this player doesn't have much longer on the ice. He's slower, and his shot, while still effective, misses the mark quite often. Of course, that comes with the territory- he's 38 this year, no longer a spring chicken. He seems to like being on Long Island, and he seems to enjoy being captain for the first time- and of course, there's that revelation, that in his fifteen years in the NHL, he has not been captain once, until now. For a first-timer, it's a big adjustment.
Still, in order to really prove himself, he will need to step it up a bit next year and truly lead by example. Otherwise, I'm sure many on the Island will think it's just another misstep by the organization concerning the "C".
And now we turn our attention to the coaching by Ted Nolan and his assistants, John Chabot and Gerard Gallant. I give Nolan a lot of credit for getting as much from this team as he had this season- even after the injury bug ravaged the roster, the younger kids getting ice time made the most of it and were working hard. However, some things he could have handled much better, among them the situation of young player Jeff Tambellini. Tambs went from Bridgeport to the Island and back, at least twice last season, and that could have thrown him off his game enough that he wasn't able to show coach Nolan what he could really do. Other young players also were benched in favor of veterans who were falling short of the mark they needed to reach, and that contributed to a couple of losses.
However, overall I believe Nolan did the best he could over the year, as he got the Isles started off in the right direction. Also, Al Arbour Night was a first-class move to honor one of the greatest coaches ever, and it was Nolan's idea. There's no doubt this coach wants to be here, and he wants to win- and next year, with a full and healthy roster, here's to hoping they have a winning season.
Over the summer, the Isles will be working on a new formula for a winning season, in which they will hopefully reach the playoffs once again. Fans have been debating about the primary concern- offense, or defense? Should the Isles pick up a smart, speedy goalscorer or a strong, solid defenseman to help the rebuilding?
In my opinion, it's all about the "O"- offense, that is. While DiPietro and the defense were doing all they could to make the few goals they scored stand up tall, the offense was sputtering along, missing nets and coming up empty on power plays. The season opener against Buffalo was definitely a huge illusion- over the year, the Isles won scores of one-goal games, and had long streaks in which they failed to score more than three goals a game. In the first half of the season, DiPietro was luckily up to being the savior of the team... however, after he hurt his hip, he no longer could overcome the lack of offensive talent on the Isles bench.
What this team needs is a scoring forward- not so much a playmaker, as they have plenty of those on the roster, but someone who can finish up chances as they are made. Too often this season I'd seen plenty of chances tipped wide or over the net, or whiffed on completely and left for the opposing defense to pick up and move to the other side of the ice. The plays mean nothing without goals to show for them. Defense is a question mark as well- how durable are these guys, really? - but our first concern should be the offense. After all, the best defense IS a good offense. (Yes, I saw X-Men: The Last Stand.) Without goals, there's no game. Besides, even if defense wins you games, offense does add excitement- how else do you think the Washington Capitals got so many people in the seats near the end of the season? (Hint: Begins with "O" and ends with "vechkin.")
So whatever the Isles do with their fifth overall pick in the draft, let's hope it goes to a good player who has lots to bring to the table come October of 2008.
Posted by Angelica Rodriguez at 3:15 PM
Wednesday, April 9, 2008
This post will cover just a couple of categories that I can think of, that fit the Isles' grade this season. Here goes...
Points Leader: Mike Comrie, believe it or not, with just 49 points. What does that say about the Isles' offense? Uh, yeah, it needs to improve, big time. Bill Guerin led goalscoring with only 23, and Miro Satan had less than a career year as we had been hoping of him. More on offensive woes later, but for right now, I'd say it's an issue the Isles should like to address come draft time.
MVP: Well, it comes down to two names, for two halves of the season.
First Half: Rick DiPietro. When the Isles were the lowest-scoring team in the league, tied with Phoenix for least goals, the defense and Ricky were hard-pressed to find a way to win games- and lo and behold, the goalie pulled it out and bailed the Isles out many a time before he sustained his hip injury during the All-Star Game. Had he stayed healthy, the Isles may have had a chance to make it to the playoffs after all.
Second Half: Richard Park. Not the highest point-scorer on the team, but the work ethic displayed by the penalty-killing machine left Billy Jaffe swooning- and rightfully so. When others seemed to falter, he kept going, shift after shift, killing penalties and getting the puck to the net- and very late in the season, into the net. If only he'd been so bold earlier on!
Masterton Trophy: Yeah, I know it's probably copyrighted, but for the Isles, it's gotta be the Wittster, Brendan Witt, for coming back from no doubt a rough MCL sprain to try and get the team to the playoffs. The defense, and the team as a whole, have a different look with him out of the lineup, and they lost a ton of toughness, effective penalty killing and shot blocking, and rugged veteran leadership when he finally went down for the count with a few games left to play. His will to come back and try to fight through it shows a lot of strength and determination, and is the reason why he's one of my favorite players.
Young Stars: Blake Comeau, Jeremy Colliton, Frans Nielsen, and Kyle Okposo were all eager to show what they had, and show they did- especially Comeau and Okposo, who was impressive with his play (2 G, 3 A in eight games) in driving to the net, skating hard and setting up great plays, even earning a couple of shootout chances, one of which he made good on in the last game of the season.
However, Sean Bergenheim, who at 24 is still a young gun, has really matured in his second full year as an Islander. After leaving to play in Europe in 06-07, he came back and perhaps didn't have a statistically outstanding year (10 G, 12 A, 78 GP), and it took him a while to really show Ted Nolan that he deserved ice time. However, once he started getting onto the ice more, he took it by storm- his aggressive, speedy and physical play brought a spark to his line and gave him good opportunity to score. He still missed a few nets here and there, and sometimes his hands need to catch up with the rest of his body- but overall, he has really become a good player, and should be a key part of the Isles' campaign next year.
Goaltending: Well, we've already spoken of DiPietro (63 GP, 26-28-7, 2.82 GAA, .902 sv%), so let's talk about Wade Dubielewicz, once again in relief for the rest of the season. He played well despite a few hiccups and some D breakdowns (20, 9-9-1, 2.70, .919), and should, in my opinion, get a new deal with the Isles for next season, as he has proven to be a solid backup. If not- meaning if the Isles go with Joey MacDonald (who had two good starts in net this year and could have had a win if not for wicked Zach Parise)- then Dubielewicz should do well in looking for another team to join.
Next post will look at the captaincy, coaching, and what the Isles will or should look to improve on for next season. We'll also talk about some early signings made already by the Isles.
Posted by Angelica Rodriguez at 5:38 PM
Saturday, April 5, 2008
Do not go gentle into that good night,
Old age should burn and rave at close of day;
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.
Though wise men at their end know dark is right,
Because their words had forked no lightning they
Do not go gentle into that good night.
Good men, the last wave by, crying how bright
Their frail deeds might have danced in a green bay,
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.
Wild men who caught and sang the sun in flight,
And learn, too late, they grieved it on its way,
Do not go gentle into that good night.
Grave men, near death, who see with blinding sight
Blind eyes could blaze like meteors and be gay,
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.
And you, my father, there on that sad height,
Curse, bless, me now with your fierce tears, I pray.
Do not go gentle into that good night.
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.
- "Do Not Go Gentle Into That Good Night" by Dylan Thomas
Islanders 4: Rangers 3 (SO)
They made it hard.
The Rangers were raring, flying, yearning to sweep the home-and-home. They fired shot after shot at Wade Dubielewicz, throwing bodies left and right, getting chance after chance but never managing to put into the net the one goal that would bury those pesky also-ran Isles once and for all. They brought their A game; they just hadn't wanted Dubielewicz to bring his.
Or Richard Park to bring his, for that matter.
But they did. And because of that, the Islanders didn't go quietly.
For the second time in two years, it took a shootout to end the Islanders' regular season, and they did so with style, winning the shootout 3-2 and the game, 4-3, in a thriller that left Isles fans (hopefully) with a smile on their face despite the fact that this team would not suit up again for the playoffs this season. Dubielewicz made 51 saves in regulation and overtime, and stopped Brendan Shanahan and Petr Prucha in the shootout, while Kyle Okposo, Blake Comeau, and Isles' MVP Richard Park scored to give the Islanders the two points.
It started with the youngsters. Okposo scored his second of the year, firing a shot off of Fedor Tyutin past Henrik Lundqvist at 10:10 of the first period. The Rangers would come back to tie it early in the second, on Dan Girardi's tenth, but then Miro Satan took advantage of a Lundqvist misplay of the puck as it sat between his legs, to put the Isles up 2-1.
Penalties could have been the downfall of the Islanders last night, as they took quite a few to put the Rangers in multiple scoring situations; however, all the success the Rangers PP had the night before against the Isles disappeared as Park flew up the ice on a 3-on-5 penalty kill and flipped the puck past Lundqvist, who couldn't believe it; the score was then 3-2 Islanders (Nigel Dawes had tied it up a few minutes before).
Of course, the Rangers, headed to the playoffs for the third straight year, weren't about to let the upstarts in blue and orange steal the show. Jaromir Jagr let loose and scored his 24th of the year to tie it again, 4:20 into the third, and there it would stay mainly because of Dubielewicz, who made key saves and kept the Isles into it when they missed plenty of chances on Lundqvist. Overtime commenced, where the Isles had a key PP opportunity wasted (again, too much passing, boys- next year please shoot the puck), and then the shootout, where youth was served, as well as work ethic.
Thus, the Isles clean out their locker rooms for the year, and Sean Bergenheim (who would probably have like to win it in the shootout, but no matter- he still has a spot on the team next year as far as I'm concerned) goes off to play for Finland in the world championships, and the rest of the Bridgeport boys go to the playoffs in the AHL, and the vets take their extended vacations despite the looming prospect of UFA status and contract negotiation, all the while with the draft lottery to come on Monday night. The Isles fall into the bottom five of the league, and have a shot at the top draft pick, which would be very welcome. However, whatever the case, we still have free agency and other picks to use, and we should use them to the fullest to ensure that the Isles start off right on the road to recovery and getting back to the playoffs. More posts will come expanding on this, and also reflecting on the season and the players who have stood out on the Isles.
With that said, I will say, for the last time this regular season...
LET'S GO ISLANDERS!!!
Posted by Angelica Rodriguez at 3:30 PM
Friday, April 4, 2008
Rangers 3: Islanders 0
The Islanders' young, depleted squad skated off of the Coliseum ice for the last time this season, as the fans dispersed and the scoreboard flashed Islanders 0, Rangers 3. The Rangers had done what they came to do- they'd beat the Isles, collected two points, and gotten into the playoffs, on a shutout to boot.
Had the Islanders had players like Brendan Witt, Andy Sutton and Mike Comrie in the lineup, perhaps their bitter cross-town rivals might have had to wait another day to celebrate a playoff berth. But the youngest faces in the lineup last night were viewing this rivalry with new, albeit reverent, eyes- too far detached from the hostility to really play a part into it. Thus, the intensity that was so heavily featured in these matches was absent until the very end of the game, when mega-pest Sean Avery jumped Rob Davison and was consequently ejected with about five seconds left. And as the Isles missed nets and committed penalties, Jaromir Jagr and the Rangers didn't miss a beat- and made them pay.
It started with the power-play goal 13:57 into the first, converted by Jaromir Jagr on an effective rotation by Martin Straka and Christian Backman. Then, another Isles penalty turned into another goal- this time eight seconds after the guilty party (on this occasion, Freddy Meyer) went into the penalty box. Wade Dubielewicz, doing his best with 33 saves, couldn't overcome a defense that left Jagr open continuously and made more than one mistake with the puck.
I'm sure last night Sean Bergenheim lost a little sleep over the two point-blank chances he missed- beating Lundqvist and faced with an open net, he got just a little too much on the puck, sending it just wide. An otherwise effective, high-octane player, Bergie simply needs to give just a little on the puck to get it into the net. If not, the Isles would have at the very least gotten on the board.
Sean Avery didn't have a goal, but he had his usual spunk- and got under the skin of a couple of Isles. In that spat near the end of the game, he'd been simply asking for something to happen, as he'd taunted players like Davison and Drew Fata all night, smiling his oafish smile and letting the Isles get hot and bothered. It's simple logic for the Isles, just as it is with Jarkko Ruutu- these guys love attention. Deny it to them. They're like little kids who want their mommies and daddies to look at what they can do. Ignorance is a powerful thing, kiddies. And Avery doesn't bode well with it, believe me.
The Isles finished off their home season battered and with another indignation- having the Rangers beat them on their own ice to clinch a playoff spot. At the very least, it's not the top of the Atlantic, and they can be consoled with the fact that it was easier for the Rangers this time around. But as they face-off against them tonight at Madison Square Garden, for the last match of their season, they'll need to find a way to make it harder- and at least end their plight on a high note.
Posted by Angelica Rodriguez at 2:59 PM
Thursday, April 3, 2008
So comes the last two games of the season, which really feel like one big game, seeing as we're having yet another back-to-back home and home against the Rangers. Tonight marks the last home game of the season, and tomorrow night the Isles will end the season the way they began it... on the road.
The last home-and-home. The last stand.
The Islanders find themselves a long way removed from how they began this season, having lost 70 percent of their roster and relying mostly on younger players to bring their game. It looked promising from the start... and as Billy Jaffe had stated last game, had the Isles been able to stay healthy, they would have likely managed to scratch and claw their way to the playoffs based on grit and hard work, and not necessarily talent, as they had last year. But what's done is done, and as the Isles close out the season tomorrow they will find themselves without a playoff berth for the second time in three years.
It's not necessarily a bad thing.
It's been an experience for the young guys, such as Okposo, Comeau, Bergenheim, and Colliton, who have gotten the chance to prove their mettle at the NHL level. It will give the injured players- DiPietro, Witt, Fedotenko, Comrie, etc.- a chance to really heal. And it will give the Isles' front office a chance to focus on starting the rebuilding process for a team that took steps last year and this year before losing so many players, but still needs to go back to the drawing board.
For some, this upcoming draft may be the panacea they long for at least in theory, especially if we are able to get a good pick (and thus, perhaps a shot at Steve Stamkos, the name on everyone's lips as far as I can tell when it comes to prospects), but I would also like to see some focus on what is in the NHL already. We have good homegrown talent, and we must focus on resigning and letting go of players who the organization feels have not given their all to the team. Perhaps the best thing out of all of this is seeing who we can bring up to the big leagues next year out of the youngsters- perhaps Tambellini long-term? Also, will Okposo find himself a spot on the roster come training camp?
Seeing as this is all months away from becoming the present, who can say for sure, right? However, it's a comfort to know that we can bring at least some positives out of the end of this season- and, being a hockey fan no matter what, I personally am very excited for these Stanley Cup playoffs!
So, not for the last time this season, but what will be one of them, I shall say...
LET'S GO ISLANDERS!!
Posted by Angelica Rodriguez at 9:24 AM
Wednesday, April 2, 2008
Our good friend Dom has graciously taken over the controls in relief to provide his insight on last night's overtime loss against the Devils. A big THANK YOU to him for his help, and a job well done.
Devils 2: Islanders 1 (OT)
Hello fellow Isles fans! My name is Domenick, and I'm filling in today for Angie and Christine. With all of the regulars out of the lineup for this Isles team, I guess it should be of no surprise that it's trickled down to the bloggers as well! :)
I'll do my best to live up the standard set by Christine and Angie, but I'll warn you...If I was any good, I'd already be established in the NHL blogging scene! lol
I'm not much of a "stat", or even a "systems" guy. Much like Ted Nolan, I go by "feel". With that said, I'll humbly share with you my thoughts on last night's game...
So we've come down to the last meeting between the Isles and the Devils. The Isles had taken the season series between these two teams long before tonight's game. With a Devils win, they clinch a playoff berth. With an Isles win, they'll have proven that Ted Nolan teams don't like "tanking" for lottery picks.
The Devils already know not to take the Isles lightly. This scrappy, "untalented", and now undermanned team has given the Devils fits all year.
If the Devils had forgotten, the Isles quickly reminded them when, on the first shift of the game, JoVa tipped a centering pass from the Captain in on Marty. Marty made the save, but it was a harbinger of things to come between the two foes.
The Isles came out strong to start the game, and much of the first period was spent in the Devils' zone. The Isles even got the first power play of the game, just 26 seconds into the first, when John Madden was called for hooking Bergie on a break-in to the net from the boards. The Isles kiddies started the PP (Comeau-Park-Okposo), but after allowing a shorthanded chance, they switched up for the line which had earned the penalty call in the first place (Bergie-JoVa-Guerin). Bergie managed to set up a couple of nice chances on the PP with his speed, but they failed to score. This has been a real problem for the Isles, and one which has had a profound impact on the standings for this Isles team. Had they managed even an average PP this year, perhaps we'd be looking forward to the playoffs, rather than a lottery pick.
It felt like it took the Devils over 10 minutes of play before they managed to get a cycle going in the Isles zone. When they did so, the Isles young defense usually just made the safe play, and chipped the puck off the boards/glass and out of the zone. Meyer and Martinek are the notable exceptions here. Whenever they were tasked with starting the breakout, they usually chose to carry it out, or look for the open man in the neutral zone.
The first test for the Isles came when Davison took a tripping penalty on Michael Rupp. I was surprised to see Jeremy Colliton out to start the PK along with JoVa up front. Colliton even managed a nice short handed rush up the RW boards, before he was knocked off balance while trying to protect the puck with his back to the defender. He was in deep, so no real harm came of it, but I think it underscored a trend I saw exhibited by our kids throughout the game. More on that later...
The Devils never really managed to test the Isles' PK on that first man advantage. Then Comeau was called for a questionable tripping penalty with just over 6 minutes left in the first. Comeau was the first man in on the forecheck after a nice defensive play, and subsequent break out, started by Richard Park. Comeau was caught a bit flatfooted along the LW boards, and reached out to poke-check the Devils defender (Martin), but got a piece of Martin's skate instead, which took him down to the ice. Comeau then took the puck to the net, and would've had a nice scoring chance, but alas, the whistle blew (much to his and Nolan's consternation). It wasn't a truly "bad call" by the ref, but I would say the Devils defender embellished it just a bit.
On this PP, the Devils would finally create a number of quality chances. Once again, Colliton was out there to start the PK, this time paired with callup dejour, Matt Keith. Their inexperience showed, as the Devils managed to keep the puck in the zone for virtually the entire PP, but Joey Macdonald was sharp, and thwarted the Devils with a great shoulder save on Elias from a RW shot below the circle.
Following that PP, the Devils got the Isles scrambling in their zone, UNTIL...The Captain made a diving play just inside the Devils blue line to tip the puck up to JoVa, who took it to the net all alone before going backhand low on Marty, and depositing his 16th goal of the year. He scored with just 52 seconds left in the 1st period. JoVa has been a force in these games vs. the Devils, with 5 goals in 8 games.
The period ended with Joey Mac making 12 saves. From there, Joey Mac was really the story of the game. He's a big goalie, and he plays a style which is pleasing to watch (at least tonight). He appears to play his angles well, and he doesn't flop around at all. He's not afraid to come well out of his crease to challenge shooters. He even managed to use the poke check effectively on occasion, to prevent cross-crease passes in close.
About 4 minutes into the 2nd, KO took a penalty, and this time, the Devils would not be denied. Once again Colliton was out there to start the PK, this time along with PK stalwart Richard Park. This PK, much like the 2 in the first period, featured our fowards cheating low. They rarely pressured the Devils point men, possibly in an effort the assist our inexperienced young defenders down low. Not to sound like an armchair quarterback, but I've never been a fan of this style of PK. I'm sure Nolan and the Coaching staff know what they're doing, but as a fan, I've always admired PK's which don't afford the PP ANY time to set up plays.
In any event, Elias converted on a laser beam shot over Joey Mac, and the Devils tied it at 1 on the PP.
Much of the rest of the period was played between the bluelines. Lots of shots from the Isles found only opposing shin pads, but no question about it... the Devils had the edge in play. They put 20 shots on goal in that 2nd period, but Joey Mac was on his game.
With 7:53 to go in the 2nd, the Devils were called for too many men. Madden had a great shorthanded chance against the young Isles PP, once again featuring Comeau-Park-Okposo, and once again Bergie-JoVa-Guerin were sent out to replace them, but not before Joey Mac was called upon to make a nice poke-check/save. Again Bergie managed to create some chances on the PP, but Marty was there to stop him.
The rest of the period featured an Isles team scrambling in their own zone, but also a Devils team which just couldn't seem to take advantage. This Devils team is NOT heading into the playoffs with a scary team. Sure, it seems we say that every year, and yet they're always a threat, but I do think this year is different. Unlike in years past, when the Devils could control the game from the back end with stalwart D men like Stevens and Daneyko, not to mention the two-way terror of Niedermayer, this Devils team is very pedestrian back there. Even the mighty Brodeur can't make up for a very average defense...not when coupled with the Devils' very below average offense. With that said, of COURSE I'd like to see the Devils take out that "other" NY team, should they face each other in the playoffs.
In any event, this is an Isles blog, and I'm an Isles fan, so back on point. :)
The 3rd period saw the Devils continuing to cary the play, interspersed with the occasional cycle by the Comeau-Park-Okposo line. I'll now expand a bit on my earlier comment regarding a trend I saw with our young kids.
I think Comeau, Okposo, Bergie, even Colliton, know how to cycle. I think they know where to go in the O zone, how to set up, and when to take it from the boards, and to the front of the net. Where I think they were exposed is in their lack of "man strength". Colliton's rush on the PK in the first highlighted this. He was using his body effectively to sheild the puck from a Devils defender, but once he turned his back to the defender, he was easily knocked off balance. True, he was somewhat prone, and I'm not saying he's "soft on the puck", but to thrive at the NHL level, all of our kids need to get stronger. A LOT stronger. Especially the crafty Frans Nielsen, but this holds true for Colliton, Comeau, and to a lesser extent even Bergie and Okposo.
Time after time, our kids would start a cycle in the Devils zone, only to be pushed off the puck by the Devils defenders. This is in stark contrast to the Isles' early season M.O.
Hunter, Tank, JoVa...even Guerin and Silly were very good at this aspect of the game. Most of our admittingly anemic offense this year was generated off the cycle. Had this team been blessed with a little more top-end talent, I'd venture to say that we'd have been a tough team to play against in the playoffs. "Ted Nolan type play" (hard working/dirty goals) is also known as "PLAYOFF HOCKEY".
It's too bad we've lacked the talent to get to the big show this year, because although we've been tough to watch for most of this season, this is the first time in years where we've been built for the dirty game of the post season. I guess the term here is "balance", much like that Colliton play I mentioned earlier. Last year, we needed a bit more of what we've had in spades this year (grit, dirty goals, etc). This year, we needed more "raw talent".
Maybe next year, we'll move somewhere closer to that elusive Hockey Shangri-La...a state of hockey which this franchise PIONEERED with the Cup teams. A team which was built to beat you with any style you cared to play. Finesse/Skill/Speed? Got it. Defense/Goaltending? Got it. Physical Play/Grit? Got it. Cagey Veteran/Clutch Play/Intimidation? Got it.
In any event, this entry is getting kind long, so I'll spare you the suspense. lol
A young Devil named Zach Parise, who's father embodied many, if not all of the traits I mentioned above when he played for the Islanders, scored the game winner just 29 seconds in OT to secure a playoff spot for the Devils. He scored off a deflection in front, even though he was physically overmatched by the 6'5" Matt Spiller.
So while the Devils would skate away with the victory, the young Isles acquitted themselves admirably in getting a point. As much as I'd like the chance to take a top prospect in the upcomming draft, I like that our kids haven't given up. Winning breeds winning, and there's no time like the present to instill that in our kids. Besides, they still have to face Brendan Witt in practice, and I don't think he'd be pleased with a half-baked effort, whether he's in the game or not.
Balance...that's what I'm hoping for from my team next year. Youth is alluring, but winning is better. I'm sure we'll get much of the former next year, I just hope more of the latter follows as well.
Thanks for reading. I hope you enjoyed it!
Posted by Angelica Rodriguez at 3:44 PM