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.

Islanders 2014-15 Season Mantra

Try not. Do...or do not.


Friday, October 31, 2008


At first Maddy decided to go as Michael Phelps for Halloween but after some thought she opted to go as her favorite Islander Brendan Witt.

Resemblance? You be the judge.

(no animals were harmed during picture taking however many treats were given as compensation for the cats pointing and laughing)

New Third Jersey

Before the Isles v. Rangers game I was invited to join my friend Dom for the Islanders Business Club's revealing of the third jersey. A guy I met at the event stated the Isles changed the color to navy blue to make it more marketable. However as my next door neighbor at the games, Tom pointed out that the navy blue looks like black on the ice, which makes the players look more like Flyers than Islanders. I would think Tom's point trumps marketability.

Too bad this guy doesn't have a pulse, we could use him on D.

Bobby Nystrom and Clark Gillies. Bobby Nystrom was (and still is) my favorite Islander. As a young kid I couldn't tell who was who on the ice but Nystrom was easy to follow because his blonde hair stuck out of his helmet. I wore #23 for almost all of my athletic days...playing R/L wing to boot.

Strides Made, But One Point's All They Get

Islanders 2 : Flyers 3 (OT)

The desperation level was high going into last night's game at the Wachovia Center, and the Isles responded uneasily at first, and then well as time went by. Losers for four straight prior to this game, they worked hard and played well, pressuring on the forecheck and killing every penalty they took.

Until the very last.

Jeff Carter snakebit the Isles for two goals, including the game-winner in overtime, as the Flyers got past the Isles 3-2 in front of a huge crowd still giddy over the previous night's World Series win for the Phillies. The Islanders, at the bottom of the NHL standings with only 5 points, are steadily finding their way to the net and ways to at least prolong a game and make it possible for them to win, but somehow that is not happening.

It started perhaps right off the opening faceoff, as the Flyers attempted to stuff the puck past Joey MacDonald straightaway. Then a series of lost draws by the Isles led to the first goal, a pretty passing play finished by Mike Knuble at 7:45. After that, the Isles had the chance to regroup and play hard, evening the score on the power play on a rocket of a shot by Bill Guerin after Scottie Upshall went into the box for hooking.

From then on, the Isles and Flyers played pretty much on a par with one another, which is a little surprising once you consider the situations of both teams- the Isles losing games, the Flyers on a winning streak. The defense and penalty killing was solid, especially on plays by Nate Thompson and Sutton (who made his presence felt in his season debut, much to the relief of Isles fans). On offense, chances were again generated, especially by the Weight line on the forecheck and also by Kyle Okposo and Trent Hunter. Richard Park also showed off his speed and smart play in some instances. Shortly after the Guerin goal, however, the Isles found themselves once again chasing for a tie after Carter's first goal, on a well-done redirection.

The second period yielded no scoring, but the Isles were definitely more comfortable and found more ways to get to the net, although Martin Biron (34 saves) was very solid. MacDonald, who made 25 saves of his own and who had gotten tweaked in the side after Sutton pushed Scott Hartnell into the crease, also escaped a much more severe injury in the second, thanks to his throat guard- a stray skate blade nearly slashed him across the neck. Thankfully, he was all right, and played extremely well, also getting help from the posts.

In the third, the Isles really started to move, keeping the Flyers in their own zone and constantly winning back the puck. Then, finally, Andy Hilbert scored late, as the puck bounced off of Ossi Vaananen, to tie it up (2nd goal of the season), and the underdogs- and seemingly, upstarts- pushed the game into OT. There, they got a pristine chance on a penalty by Kimmo Timonen to put the game away, but couldn't, on a couple of flubs by Guerin and the rest of the forward line. Then, Frans Nielsen inexplicably reached out and grabbed a Flyer, putting him in the box and putting the Isles on the PK once more. There, although they won a key faceoff and killed much of the time, with less than a minute to go before a shootout Thompson attempted a soft backhand clear that landed on a Philly stick, and gave them a chance to regroup, where Carter scored his second of the game, eighth on the season, and the game winner, making the Isles losers of five straight but snapping their four-game pointless streak.

Now, it's all about coming back home to face the high-flying Montreal Canadiens (7-1-1), who have proved hard to beat in the past no matter their record, against the Isles. They played well in this game despite the outcome; they need to find a way to carry that play over to home ice, minus the penalties and missed chances. Skate, shoot, and score- that's the name of the game.


Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Effort, Check. Entertaining, Check. Win?...Win?...

Rangers 4 : Islanders 2

The worst part of a loss like this is that, despite the huge effort by the Isles over two and a half periods, and despite the penalty-riddled but respectable game they played, their fans still didn't find it in them to stay the course, as the score climbed late in a game between two very different-looking teams. The Rangers, now 9-2-1, skated off the ice to the sounds of the cheers of their own fans, still in the enemy's building. The Islanders, at 2-6-0, skated away to the opposing crowd's jeering.

The Rangers extended the Isles' losing streak to 4, scoring two third-period goals to make the final score 4-2. In the first minute, Chris Drury was credited with a fluky goal from behind the net in which Bill Guerin accidentally flicked the puck toward Joey MacDonald (in net again for the injured-again- Rick DiPietro) and MacDonald kicked it in. However, he rebounded nicely, stopping every shot afterward, and Kyle Okposo's hard work was finally rewarded in the last minute of the first period, as he scored his first goal of the season to tie things up at 1.

By the second, the pace was established, and the game took on a spirit of its own. Not much physical play ensued, although Aaron Voros and Nate Thompson did get into a lively scrum midway through, and both goaltenders- MacDonald (39 saves) and Henrik Lundqvist (30 saves)-and teams overall played very well, heightening the entertainment level as the game progressed. The Isles generated good chances, not only by Okposo, who had what was easily his best game to date last night, but by Frans Nielsen and recently returned defenseman Chris Campoli, who had nice defensive plays and offensive presence. But nothing came out of it, and soon enough, Ryan Callahan was able to capitalize by getting in between two Isles in front and slipping the puck through to make it 2-1.

The third period saw the Isles lose a step, then two, then tire out completely, as the Rangers rallied and put them away for good, first on a Gomez goal (his third) at 6:52, then Drury's second of the year and the game at 12:34. Mark Streit would cut their lead to 2 with the Isles' third shorthanded goal of the season (although otherwise, penalties were again a big part of the problem), but the Isles had nothing left. Thus, the Rangers are riding high, while the Isles look to start over on Thursday at Philadelphia.

Notes: Okposo had 7 shots on goal... DiPietro is listed as day-to-day with an undisclosed lower body injury, unrelated to previous injuries, while D Brendan Witt will miss 3-4 weeks with a lower body injury as well... Andy Sutton is set to make his season debut on Thursday at Philadelphia, while Jack Hillen will be sent to Bridgeport... D Freddy Meyer also sustained an abdominal injury and is listed as day-to-day... Brett Skinner was called up from Bridgeport.

To Disclose or Not to Disclose Injuries

Much to do is going on about the Isles resistance to disclose player injuries. If the intention is strategy I’m all for it. If your opponent knows you hurt your shoulder where do you think he is going to purposefully make contact with your body? Doubt it would be your hip. From what I’ve read and heard there seems to be the attitude, by some, that they have a right to know. No you don’t. Anything revealed that would create player vulnerability doesn’t belong out in the public. Goalie hurt his left knee? Shoot em’ down low. It would be just plain silly to give an opponent this kind of advantage, an advantage they would be silly not to capitalize on.

Monday, October 27, 2008

The Difference Between Losing and Failing

Islanders 3 : Carolina 4

What a game. Much improved effort by the Isles that resulted in a cushioned loss. Although teams would prefer to have a W in their game outcome column, losing games is going happen, and at times is necessary for the greater good of the team – the larger picture of learning and building momentum which is the main outcome I’d like to see for the Isles this season. Tonight their consistent effort proved that there is a difference between losing and failing. The loss was cushioned by 60 shots taken on goal, the most shots taken in Isles history. But there was a downside to this number – 60 shots only yielded 3 goals, gave Hurricane’s Cam Ward a chance to claim 57 saves, and had to stand against Carolina taking fewer shots on goal, 28, yet still winning the game. And so tonight the Isles also proved that quantity does not always equal quality.

I showed up to the game at the beginning of the 2nd period, Carolina was up 2-0 and chatter was going about DP’s giveaway. Turned out it was Chad LaRose scoring for Carolina (3:43) after he caught DP’s attempt at clearing the puck and Rob Brind’Amour also scored for Carolina (8:49) in the 1st period from what I was told, off a rebound.

So began the 2nd period with DP not in net. I realize a back up goalie has to be prepared for anything but wonder if Joey MacDonald ever thought he would be getting this much ice time. From the sound of the crowd and comments being made around me, MacDonald sure has the support from Isles fans, and in net he seems to be holding his own overall. Freddy Meyer put the Isles on the scoreboard with his first goal of the season (3:56) after Andy Hilbert sent the puck in from behind the net. A few minutes later Nate Thompson and Nate Gleason went at it and then went to the sin bin, five minutes for fighting. Along came Freddy Meyer’s pass being picked up by Carolina’s Eric Staal that led to a breakaway goal (10:51), a wrist shot that by all means looked like it was going in before it went in. And here’s where it got a little kooky – Carolina racked up three penalties – Niclas Wallin (interference) at 12:09, Sergei Samsonov serving a slashing penalty for Cam Ward at 14:33, and Josef Melichar serving two minutes for holding at 18:08. Shots on goal during the second period were Isles 21, Carolina 7. This data would seem to build a case for the Isles scoring at least one goal on the power play but to their credit, Cam Ward did his job well and his teammates kept rebound opportunities to a minimum. Bill Guerin went into the bin for roughing as the 2nd period was about to end.

Even though the Isles were down 3-1 at the start of the 3rd period, the effort they were making made a comeback win seem possible - there was no doubt that cheering fans believed this to be true. Although nothing came of the power play when Dennis Seidenberg was in the bin for holding, a sign of hope did come when Sean Bergenheim scored a shorthanded goal (backhand, 5:45), while Mark Streit was serving two minutes for stick holding. But about two minutes later Carolina’s Chad Larose scored his second goal of the game with a wrist shot (7:11). Another power play opportunity came and went when Josef Melichar sat for tripping but all was not lost – while Ryan Bayda was in the bin for roughing, Streit scored on the power play (10:34), with a beautiful slap shot that like Staal’s goal, looked like it was going in before it went in. So there we were, Carolina 4, Isles 3 with the last minute of the game upon the Isles. And then it happened…fans who were already walking up the stairs to leave stopped to look behind them to see why the crowd was in an uproar and fans who were getting up to leave sat back down in their seats. That’s what happened when Carolina’s Tim Gleason covered the puck in the crease which led to the Isles being granted a penalty shot with seconds remaining on the clock. Quite possibly due to his having played for Carolina, Doug Weight was chosen to take the shot. I guess one could say that an advantage would be his familiarity with Ward’s style but wouldn’t then the opposite be true? – Ward’s familiarity with Weight’s? I thought the psychological aspect of the choice didn’t put the Weight at an advantage. My pick would have been Sean Bergenheim. So far this season Bergenheim seems really present on ice so that is why I would have picked him…plus he already scored on Ward why not make it two. I’m not sure what kind of shot Weight was going for but from my view it seemed like he didn’t get enough lift on the puck – it didn’t seem like the shot had enough ummph to get beyond a goalie who was coming off 3 periods of stopping shot after shot. Slice it dice it, the puck didn’t go in.

Two notes…

In the 3rd period Doug Weight checked Brandon Sutter as Sutter was reaching for the puck while committing the ice hockey no-no of having his head down. This caused Sutter to fall down and go boom – unconscious it appeared although he left the ice on his own two skates, questionable though is if he knew what year it was. Yeah I get it, this is a contact sport and fighting is a part of the game but what is being called a ‘clean hit’ doesn’t seem clean at all. Maybe I’m a wuss when it comes to these kinds of things or totally lack the hockey acumen to understand the place this kind of ‘clean hit’ has in the game. The way I see it is that these guys have fathers, mothers, siblings, wives, children and so on – people who depend on them outside of hockey. Potentially ending someone’s career or even worse causing permanent physical harm doesn’t have a place in the game. Now it’s put to anticipating if there will be any retaliation actually not if but what kind of retaliation towards Weight there will be the next time these two teams meet. And with too many Isles out as it is, can the Isles afford another player on the injured list?

Captain Bill 'Papa Bear' Guerin has finally won me over, yeah I know he’d been losing sleep over this. Last season his on ice demeanor perplexed me but this season he is defining his role with clear boundaries. A captain is someone I want to be able to look to for a reaction when something goes down with his team – my eyes automatically seeking him out – now they do. This is not to say he hasn’t served his teammates in the past but something seems different in the leadership vibe he is emitting.

Next up is the Rangers. Like their fans, the team is as significant as you make them out to be.


Friday, October 24, 2008

Sin Bin Extravaganza

Islanders 3 : Dallas 5

What I realized at this game? Even though I love watching hockey ‘live’, witnessing tonight the Ice Girls twirling around, the Ice Breakers attempting to do whatever they were hired to do, Isles fans booing their own team as if they have already given up on them, the loud mouth guy who sits in front of me providing loud mouth commentary the ENTIRE game, a fight breaking out in the 3rd period that left 2 young kids clinging to their dad as he tried to climb the stairs away from the fight…watching the games on TV has its advantages. Add to that me sitting in the middle of Dom and Anthony who amuse themselves by torturing me with their ‘in your face’ cheers for the Ice Girls and Ice Breakers. Lucky for them they are funny.

Speaking of giving up on, did the Isles fans who booed the team not get the memo stating there is a new coach? Do they not realize that this means the team will go through a transition period adjusting to a new system? Or that this was only the 6th game of the season? Although, booing your own team is a sucky thing to do no matter what game it is.

Speaking of sucky – in the first period Brendan Witt was injured and then left the game with what has been reported as a ‘lower body injury’. By the look on Witt’s face as he rocked back and forth on the bench, it was indeed a painful experience.

Speaking of painful – the game outcome. With Dallas getting hammered by the Devils on Wednesday night 5-0, one would think the Isles had a decent chance at winning this one. With the total shots on goal for tonight’s game being Isles 27, Dallas 29 one might think a winning outcome would have also been possible. Nope and nope.

Shortly into the 1st period Thomas Pock and Sean Avery had an ‘exchange of ideas’ in front of the net with Kyle Okposo joining in that led to his taking a seat in the penalty box for roughing. While sitting in the bin reflecting upon his transgression, Loui Eriksson scored for Dallas (3:30). It was at 6:01 in the period that the Isles seemed to come alive but it wasn’t enough to prevent Dallas from heading to the locker room with a 3 goal lead. Brendan Morrow scored on a tip in (14:13), Sean Bergenheim served two minutes for roughing and Loui Eriksson scored again with a backhand (18:22). Both goals at full strength.

The second period started off with noticing Witt was not on the bench. Yikes. Soon after came a sin bin extravaganza. I was jotting notes when it all started but it involved Trent Hunter and then both teams, resulting in Stephane Robidas (kneeing), Sean Avery (roughing), Sean Bergenheim (roughing), and James Neal serving for Avery (roughing) heading for a time out. About a minute later Philippe Boucher joined his hockey brethren, two minutes for cross checking. Below is my Treo’s attempt at capturing the sight of 4 Dallas players standing in the bin.

Add this all together and what do you get? The Isles getting a two minute 5 on 3 advantage with the puck making friends with the goal posts instead of the net. And as if that wasn’t enough penalty to and fro, a few minutes went by before Mike Comrie served two minutes for too many men on the ice. After that it seemed as though things were settling down until Rick DiPietro caused a few of us to hold our breath when he skated away from the net as a Dallas player skated his way. It was much to do about nothing thank goodness. Bill Guerin broke up some ice hockey ping pong by scoring his second goal of the season, a solid wrist shot assisted by Bergenheim (10:16). The rest of the period made way for Dallas scoring two goals, Krystofer Barch (13:05) and Mike Ribeiro (18:27), with Ribeiro scoring a shorthanded goal as Bergenheim sat in the penalty box for the 3rd time (roughing).

With Dallas up 5-1 at the start of the third period, little hope of a comeback was in the air. While Mark Fistric was serving time for tripping, Mark Streit’s snap shot sailed passed Marty Turco, his first goal of the season (3:28). Following penalties on Doug Weight (elbowing) and Philippe Boucher (interference), Jon Sim ended the game with a snap shot goal (19:57), his first of the season.

The highlight of this game? My niece Kelsey texting me during the second period to see if I was at the game. In 2007 I took Kelsey to her first NHL game, Isles vs. Flyers in Philly. Her interest in ice hockey, as an Islander fan of course, has set in and in November I will be taking Kelsey to her first Islander home game. It’s good to be the Aunt.


Sunday, October 19, 2008

DiPietro Back in Net, But Isles Fall Flat

Islanders 0 : Panthers 2

Prior to this game, Tomas Vokoun had been rocked in the crease by the Minnesota Wild, allowing four goals against in 39 minutes of play. One would have hoped that, based on that performance, the opposing offense would have taken advantage yet again and thrown 4 or past him.

Instead, however, the Islanders gave Vokoun a huge break.

Without a pure goalscorer, the Isles (2-3-0) need all hands on deck each night on offense to ensure a win, but that didn't happen last night, as they were blanked 2-0 at Bankatlantic Center, stretching the Panthers' winning streak to five games over this season to date and last year. On the Panthers, Nick Boynton scored on a crossbar shot from Keith Ballard only 24 seconds in, as the Isles were caught completely unawares on defense, and then at 8:48 of the second, Nathan Horton, attracting four Isles to him, passed to a wide-open Cory Stillman on the PP to make it 2-0. That would be all they needed, as even Bill Guerin's six shots, Kyle Okposo's four, and a scattered amount of chances by Jeff Tambellini were unable to sneak past Vokoun.

The quality of shots taken by the Isles and Panthers were decidedly different from each other, in that Florida found ways to get past DiPietro (34 saves in a solid effort after the 24-second hiccup), and the Isles elected to make it easy for Vokoun, no thanks to the aggressive Panthers D either. Also, while the Panthers put the body on early and often, the Isles were hesitant and almost content to let the other team push them around and get to the puck. This is a team that always, always finds a way to win against us no matter what their record may be, and that means we need to shut them down at all costs, particularly their hot buttons on offense- Horton and David Booth, who are consistent "Islander-killers." Instead, the Isles seemed to pass up good opportunities to do so.

Now, with a four-day break in between last night and Thursday's home game against Dallas, the Isles have to regroup and come out strong against Marty Turco, Sean Avery and Mike Modano. The penalties also were of no help to them in this game, and it's almost, as Howie Rose mentioned, a trick of relearning what you can and cannot do in this no-longer "new" NHL. No matter what it may be, the Isles have to learn fast if they want to succeed. Scott Gordon's "shooters-first" mentality is proving to be a good idea, but if they pass up on the best plays, it might all be for naught.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Hunter, Hilbert Finding A Way in Scott Gordon's New System

Perhaps it's a little early to suggest that both Trent Hunter and Andy Hilbert will really provide for this Islanders team over the course of the season. However, in the first four games of this year, I and Christine have both noticed a slight difference in each player.

With Hunter as the top goalscorer on the team as of late (4 goals, 4 GP), he is starting to show the type of play many had hoped to see from him last season. Last year, he seemed to be all but invisible, doing little things to help his teammates out but not putting the puck in the net. But with a new contract perhaps comes a new incentive to play harder, as Hunter has been doing lately, and it's paying off for the Isles as of late. As they say, though, time will tell if he will continue this pattern.

As for Hilbert, he took no time at all to score his first goal of the season, and seemingly has been looking for more, as he's stepping out and slowly starting to find his role in Scott Gordon's new system. His play has become more confident, as he's finding his way to the net, shooting more, and is even being used more, I think, in the offense. Where he looked insecure and lost in Ted Nolan's system, he's playing with surety now- and even Howie Rose has noticed. Sure, he may never be a true skill player or a huge goalscorer, but as long as he does what he can to put the puck on and in net and make good plays, all the better for him and the team. It also helps that he has some background with Scott Gordon, having played in Providence for him a few years back- no doubt Gordon knows more of him and his game than Nolan did and is willing to give him more of a chance. As the season goes along, it'll be interesting to see if he keeps it up, and I am hoping that he will- it'll make a great story in the months to come.

Therefore, tonight, although the future is uncertain, just keep an eye on these two guys and make the call for yourself.

Friday, October 17, 2008

Bolts Hunt-ed In Overtime

Islanders 4 : Lightning 3 (OT)

If there was one thing missing from Trent Hunter's game last year, it was productivity. Only 12 goals (49 points overall) came from the physical forward all season, and he often seemed a step behind in the play. However, as of late, he seems to be in precisely the right place at the right time. Having scored four goals combined in four games as of today, he scored two of those four, including the overtime winner, last night in a game that perhaps should not have taken 60 minutes and 51 seconds to complete.

For the fourth straight game, Joey MacDonald started in net in place of Rick DiPietro, who might hopefully see the ice on Saturday against Florida, as mentioned by Scott Gordon. MacDonald himself did what he had to do, making 33 saves but not getting tested hard until the third period. The Islanders, as a whole, started off strong and with good effort, building a 2-0 lead over two periods on goals by Mike Comrie and Doug Weight (PP, his second this season). The defense was tough and on target, especially Freddy Meyer, who has continued to impress with his play over the last few games. Although Tampa Bay got a decent amount of shots on goal, the D kept the Bolts from getting quality chances on goal, and throughout the game they took an indecent amount of penalties that gave the Isles tons of chances on offense that they could not capitalize on, despite many shots on the PP (which still needs a little bit of work, although it's largely flowing smoothly as of late).

In the third, though, the Lightning would finally get some offense together, as Vincent Lecavalier opened up and slipped one past MacDonald's pads to make it 2-1, and then Vaclav Prospal turned a huge carom into a goal at 12:02 to tie it up. The Isles took only 1:49 to respond, on Hunter's first goal of the night, but then Ryan Malone, the former Penguins forward with a shiny new contract, tied it up once more with 5:03 to go. The goal exchange was fast, furious, and frustrating to a viewer unsure if the Isles would come away with two points after all.

Fortunately, veteran goalie Olaf Kolzig would get caught wandering early into OT, having come behind net to play the puck and giving it away to Frans Nielsen. Nielsen held onto the puck for a moment, patiently waiting for Hunter to join the play, and then skipped him the pass, which Hunter calmly backhanded for the gamewinner.

The effort was there for the Isles, a nice change from the listless play of Monday afternoon which resulted in a 7-1 Sabres win; however, some key breakdowns led to Lightning opportunities, and Barry Melrose's squad was only too happy to jump on the chances that the D eventually began to provide them. On top of that, the Islanders were unable to put more chances past Kolzig despite all of the chances on the man-advantage, a fact that might be because of the caliber of shots they had, or maybe because of the PP, which scored once but not more than that over the whole game. The good thing about this team, though, is their resilience; they bent, but didn't break, and were able to come back and get two points instead of just one.

Next up is Florida, against a Panthers team that seems to be a tough one for the Isles to crack; but all the Isles need to do is keep the intensity level high and the shots coming, as well as the play clean and disciplined. Also, the D has to make sure they play as well as they did in the beginning of the Tampa Bay game- tough, physical, and with each player covering his man. No giving the Panthers any easy goals.


Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Radek Martinek to Miss 4-6 Weeks; Blake Comeau Sent to Bridgeport

Radek Martinek will miss 4-6 weeks with an "upper-body injury" (OY!), likely a shoulder injury suffered against St. Louis in the first period, after a hit by David Backes.

Also, young forward Blake Comeau has been sent down to Bridgeport after reportedly arriving to camp out of shape and with a bit of an attitude problem, although Scott Gordon only commented on his conditioning. After sitting out the first 3 games of the season, apparently Gordon has decided the best choice would be to have him play a few more AHL games before coming back up to try out the NHL.


Monday, October 13, 2008

Isles Speared By Sabres on Kids' Day Matinee

Islanders 1 : Sabres 7

The Dow Jones is slowly rebounding after a week of tumbling in value, gaining over 900 points in one day before the closing bell. Unfortunately, the Isles could not do the same in three periods of play, and so they collapsed in every sense of the word, falling 7-1 on a Columbus Day matinee game, also Kids' Day at Nassau Coliseum.

Down only 1-0 by the end of the first, Joey MacDonald and the Islanders still had a chance to establish their own game and get back into it. However, the Sabres were only getting started- and as the D got lost and confused, and MacDonald was caught vulnerable and less confident as time wore on, Thomas Vanek, Jochen Hecht, and the rest of the Sabres exposed every mistake for their benefit. Hecht slipped the puck through the smallest of holes behind MacDonald to start off, and over three periods the lead only grew, as Vanek (2 goals), Adam Mair, Jason Pominville, Ales Kotalik, and Craig MacArthur all poured on the offense for the Sabres.

It got to the point where, with a 5-0 lead, they provoked the Isles to start a fight that resulted in three ejections. First Nate Thompson and Mair tossed the gloves, but an unnecessary move by new captain Craig Rivet in pulling down Thompson made Sean Bergenheim (not a fighter by any means) tussle with Rivet, and then Brendan Witt got into it with Patrick Kaleta and cracked his head on the ice during a fall. He, Rivet, and Bergenheim all got tossed, with Rivet earning two game misconducts for being the third man in on the Thompson-Mair fight. All of this wouldn't help the Isles, who only got a Trent Hunter toe-drag goal in a match that did not show their disciplined side, with Buffalo scoring on 3 of 12 power play chances.

After the game, Gordon would talk about why he chose not to pull Joey MacDonald after the game became 4-0: "You can't pin it all on the goaltender. I want them to find a way to battle... I know how it feels to play for a coach with a quick hook." This is a good philosophy for the team, particularly the goalies, whose confidence can be shaken easily and who might wonder at times when they'll be pulled to make way for the backup, either for a change of momentum or simply for a break. Keeping confidence in a goaltender and encouraging him to battle through the struggle is key to keeping him in the game mentally. Plus, of course, it is a team sport- a defensive breakdown as a whole leads to disaster, not just the goaltender failing to make the save.

He also mentioned his opinion on the types of penalties the Isles were taking- "If it's not going to save a goal, don't do it... keep your stick on the ice, and keep your feet moving"- and the lack of offense- "I think the only line that generated any type of offense was the Doug Weight line [Jon Sim, Weight and Guerin]." Indeed, to start the second, the Weight line provided a very effective forecheck until the Sabres demoralized the Isles completely. Weight, along with Guerin, provided hard work and continued resilience that the younger players can definiely learn from.

Overall, however, the Isles definitely need to rebound from this, for lack of a better word, embarrassing loss, in which they were simply dominated in every way and, when they couldn't find a way to put the puck in the net, decided to resort to fighting, which didn't improve anything- in fact, it resulted in a top defender for the Isles getting tossed, along with a young forward who provided jump for the offense. On Thursday, in Tampa Bay, the Islanders would do well to keep their sticks on the ice, keep skating, and not lose their cool.

On a sadder note, New York Rangers first-round draft pick Alexei Cherepanov died of a heart attack on the bench during a KHL game earlier today. Reports say it may have been commotio cordis, a sudden disturbance of heart rhythm usually caused by blunt-force impact by a projectile to the chest. This is a terrible tragedy, and we extend our condolences to Cherepanov's family, hockey club, and the Rangers organization.


The DiPietro Factor

(written before Isles v. Sabres)

As the first two games of the season are entered into the books, the question arises of what the deal really is with franchise goaltender Rick DiPietro.

TSN reported the "real" reason why DP hasn't played the first two games is because of swelling and fluid around his surgically repaired knee, a story that many seemed to take as fact. Both DiPietro and Scott Gordon have shot down this story as untrue, and Gordon says his reason for benching the goalie is to ensure that he is completely ready to take the ice, as far as both health and preparation go. After all, he reasons, if Rick were less than one hundred percent, why would he take the risk and dress him?

Point? Yes. Proof? No. Of course, it's a great move to be cautious and not rush DiPietro onto the ice once more, simply because you want him to be completely healthy and give his teammates a chance to win every night. Plus, it isn't exactly like Joey MacDonald hasn't been doing that for the Isles lately (2 GP, 4 GA, .927 sv pct., 51 svs). However, the question is, or will be, how long will it take before Rick is completely ready? Gordon said there was "no set time frame" for getting him back into the net, but the longer it takes, the better that TSN report looks, and the less confidence fans will have in DiPietro playing all 15 years of his contract, let alone playing more than 63 games a season. Should DP be back between the pipes sometime this week, all eyes will be on how healthy he appears and how prepared he really is. For now, needless to say, we will be fine with Joey starting. Sooner or later, though, he will need a rest, and we will be wondering about someone who is not only our starter, but the face of this franchise, and one with a lot on his shoulders.

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.

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Off the Bat, Need for Comfort "Outside Comfort Zone"

Islanders 1: Devils 2

The key to start a season off on the right foot, for a team, is to be comfortable on the ice no matter what, to have fun and play your hardest, and also to make sure you know what you need to accomplish. The key to start a season right for a fan is to make sure you come into the game without any ridiculous expectations- in other words, know your team.

There's not much that we do know regarding the Islanders as of yet, other than that they are very young and that there will be a ways to go before anything is truly accomplished. Very little will be established regarding this team in Game 1 of the season, especially when your own coach is green and only getting used to the NHL stage himself.

The game began with a twist of suspense, as Scott Gordon decided to go with Joey MacDonald in net instead of Rick DiPietro (who, it is now reported, is suffering from swelling around his surgically repaired knee http://www.tsn.ca/nhl/story/?id=252313&lid=sublink01&lpos=headlines_main), a move that he later said was to ensure "that Ricky comes back game-ready." That gave MacDonald the chance to show what he is capable of, and show he did, as he stopped all but two shots in the entire game (27 saves).

The Isles started the scoring off on the power play, with Doug Weight banking a shot off of the skate of Paul Martin and past Brodeur for a 1-0 lead. But Zach Parise came back and scored on the Devs' own power play 3:01 later. Then in the second, the Devils took the lead :49 in, on a terrific crease-crashing play by Patrik Elias off a feed by Brian Gionta and Brian Rolston. After that, the Isles would get PP chances that were lost by a static, unimaginative system and equally throttled by a characteristically strong Devils defensive corps. Defensively, they committed some mistakes that led to chances for New Jersey but were foiled by MacDonald. On the other end of the ice, Martin Brodeur shrugged off the one he allowed, and made 26 saves, including an amazing arm save in the last minute, to notch his 539th career win (12 shy of Patrick Roy's record).

Other than MacDonald, other bright spots were the young players Jeff Tambellini (who showed some good positioning and offensive prowess) and Kyle Okposo (who will hopefully become as dynamic as the club is expecting him to be). Also, Jon Sim showed that he can definitely provide a presence early on, with his reckless, go-get-'em playing style and net-crashing. On D, barring an unlucky turnover which resulted in a goal, Brendan Witt provided his usual shot-blocking that was sorely missed in the last few games of the season, and Freddy Meyer made some solid plays. And lastly, new coach Scott Gordon acquitted himself well over three periods of play, being very involved with his players and talkative behind the bench.

Overall, surely he knows things should and will improve from this point on, starting tonight against another young team in the St. Louis Blues, Doug Weight's old club where he played with old friend Bill Guerin once. The home opener starts at 7 p.m. tonight, and will now most likely not include DiPietro, who will be monitored and evaluated as day-to-day with his knee swelling. Tonight perhaps will feature some more offense and a more fluid PP out of the Isles, and some more solid goaltending from MacDonald. Scott Gordon says he hopes to push his players out of their comfort zone as far as speed and work ethic go... and for the next 81 games, I'd pay close attention to just how far this young team will push themselves.


Friday, October 10, 2008

And So It Goes…

On April 11th my Grandmother (Nanny) Mary passed on at the age of 96. It is no coincidence that she became ill and then passed on during the NHL playoffs and the Masters. I love hockey, she loved golf. I’ll never forget sitting at her beside watching the games (and napping while the golf was on…boooooring) and explaining the basics of ice hockey to the nurses. I was very fortunate to spend a lot of time with her growing up and before she passed on however what I have realized in losing the closest person to me, maybe selfishly, it is never enough time. But I take comfort in knowing that she is once again dancing with her husband Arthur, who passed on at the young age of 53. My Nanny was a tremendous influence in my life and so as life goes forward, I will continue to miss her while knowing she is watching over me as a tremendous force from the spirit world. I want to sincerely thank Angie for continuing on with the blog while I took some time off, for her understanding and support, and for finally getting another cell phone so I could hear what the *&% she was saying! Cell phone + rain = communication issues.

And so it goes…and so it went, the season and now the off season – time to catch up

-Dubie has left the building. I hope Russia treats him and his career well. Definitely a presence on the team that will be missed.

-Ted Nolan has left the building. During last season Angie and I debated about Ted being around for the long haul. She said yeh, I said neh. The first tip-off for me was when Ted made the public comment about Andy Hilbert missing an empty net. Beyond it being a wee bit of a shock that he would publicly rag on Hilbert for something that had to totally suck for Hilbert, there was a tone in his voice that seemed reflective of distancing himself as a coach in a way that seemed more than just about Hilbert missing the net. Many blog moons ago I wrote about what appeared to be a deflation in his voice during interviews. Granted this could have been just his general demeanor but overall something didn’t seem ‘right’. While in Philly watching the Isles vs. Flyers (March 9th), it seemed as though (in the second period) that Ted had lost ‘control’ of the team. Freaky deaky thing was that I sat next to a teenager from Washington, DC – we chatted during the game. During the 3rd period he turned to me and said, “It looks like they (Isles) can’t control themselves”. Turns out I met a young hockey Buddha who was picking up on the same vibe. This particular vibe at the game translated into suspecting that he would not be back next season. Whatever the reason(s) for his departure, I would like to thank Ted Nolan for being the main reason why I started going to games again rather than watching them on TV, and for his unknowingly participating in this blog’s snazziest tie contests. Sorry Ted, Butch ‘fly suit and tie’ Goring wiped the floor with everyone else’s ties last season.

-Scott Gordon has entered the building. On August 15th I attended a women’s focus group at the Coliseum, held on the same night of the open house ‘Grillin’ with Gordon’ event. After the focus group was over we all were invited to meet and dine with the new coach. Upon being introduced to Coach Gordon, he sat quite a while and chatted with me, my friend Dom, and Jean, a long time Isles fan and focus group attendee. Among the barrage of questions we asked him (he graciously answered them all), it was his answer to one of Jean’s questions that created a positive first impression with the three of us. Jean expressed her concern about the strength of the Isles defense, asking him something to the effect of how he planned to ensure a strong defense for the upcoming season. At the tail end of his answer he stated, again something to the effect of, ‘if your offense is strong, there’s no need for defense’. His answer was not stated in a way that reflected a lack of focus on a strong defense, it was instead an effective way of getting his point across, evident in the three of us pausing for a few seconds and then, as if we had just been educated in the obvious, nodding our heads in unison, signaling ‘ah, we got that’. As we stood up to leave, I shook Coach Gordon’s hand and said, “Welcome to Long Island, I’m looking forward to seeing what you can extract from the players, I’ll be watching”. Yes I felt like a stalker with that last part but then again, I WILL be watching from section 303 – sitting right smack over center ice.

-The 2008-2009 Islanders will soon enter the building – home opener against St. Louis on Saturday night – after the Isles play their first game against the Devils tonight in NJ. Along with the usual shifts in the Isle’s roster, this season is also starting out during a transition of leadership which means…drum roll please…I have no clue. But I do know what I’d like to blog about after the last game is played – a season known to all as the one that undeniably created the lasting momentum needed to re-build what was once an ice hockey empire.

Everything blue, orange, white or with the Isles logo on it washed…check
Texts to Dom counting down the days until the game sent…check
Stupid traffic on the LIE noted in advance...check


and now for a better late than never review…

The women’s focus group (August 15, 2008) was an excellent initiative taken by the Isles organization. There were about 15 women in attendance, of different ages and history as an Isles fan. Everyone at the table took part in the discussion and the exchange of ideas with the Isles staff went very well. My agenda for the meeting?

-change the ‘hockey and heels’ night promotion name to something more welcoming to female fans of all ages, and nix calling the designated section Ladyville. (I’ll spare you from the full blurb about how the name ‘could’ denote that the females are the ‘heels’ of this event rather than referring to a shoe type…and heck no I did not ‘go there’ with that part at the focus group – I wanted to avoid a staff member calling the local psych hospital to inquire if anyone had gone missing lately.)

-instead of a fashion show during this promotion night, invite girls and womens hockey teams to play in between periods.

-if the ice girls must continue to exist could they at least PLEASE stop doing Ice Capades moves when shoveling ice into a bucket? (fat chance of that happening)

-change the girls youth hockey (Long Island Lady Islanders) logo to one that is consistent with the Islanders and Junior Islanders logos. As one woman who coaches a girls soccer team stated in agreement, “Every season I tell my players they are soccer players first and girls second”. (I mean could the word Lady in the logo be any BIGGER? Hockey first, gender second.)

At the end of the meeting it seemed as though everyone was in agreement about this event being a success, so much so that a suggestion was made to hold more women’s focus groups in the future. I am looking forward to seeing what initiatives the organization will take this season in response to the focus group. A chat about the focus group with someone who stopped me in the hallway was posted on the Isle’s website.

“A unique focus group for ladies was also set up at the Coliseum. The group was designed to facilitate conversation between female Islanders fans to help improve their overall Coliseum experience. More than a dozen women took part in the group.

“As soon as I heard about it, I knew I wanted to be there,” said Christine, a die-hard Islanders fan who grew up in Hicksville and currently lives in New York City. “I have been watching the Islanders since I was 5 and have watched the development of this team and there are things I am happy about and things that I am unhappy about.”

One thing Christine was certainly happy about was how the focus group went.

“I think everyone thought it was a great idea,” said Christine, “and I believe it went so well, that we are going to do it again. I think it was a great outcome, I couldn’t have asked for better.”” (1)



(1) ‘Fans Meet and Greet Gordon’. August 20, 2008, www.newyorkislanders.com

Game Day Preview: Isles @ Devils, 7:00 p.m., Prudential Center- SEASON OPENER

The curtain rises on another season of hockey for both the New York Islanders and the New Jersey Devils tonight, as the Isles come across the river to Newark before their own home opener. It will be the first true test for this young squad, under the leadership of new young coach Scott Gordon, and against a team they have had success against in the past, though there's no telling what this team will achieve in the next 82 games.

First off, the youth infusion Garth Snow has implemented has resulted in players such as Blake Comeau, Jeff Tambellini and Kyle Okposo having permanent roster spots, although there are still some veterans such as captain Bill Guerin, defenseman Brendan Witt and newcomer Doug Weight. With the movement, older forwards such as Miro Satan, Ruslan Fedotenko, and Josef Vasicek have gone elsewhere, leaving a need for the kids to step up and provide offense for the Islanders. Okposo has shown some skill especially in this preseason (five points in nine games, much like he had in the last nine games of the season), and time is still needed to figure out what Tambellini's role will be in the Isles' success. Alternate captain Mike Sillinger has been put on injured reserve, so Richard Park and Doug Weight have received the honors- Park at home, and Weight on the road.

On the defensive side of the puck, injuries have already hurt two of the top six defensemen, as Chris Campoli and Andy Sutton have been put on injured reserve, with Thomas Pock and Jack Hillen filling in their spots. A large part of the missed playoff chance last season was because two-thirds of the blueline had gone down by the time spring came around, and now it is all about getting the defense corps healthy and maintaining depth.

Last but in no way least, Rick DiPietro hopes to rebound and shake off the rust clearly on display Wednesday night in the preseason finale against Florida. The biggest concern is if he'll stay healthy, and how many games he will play to remain so. 60 should be the magic number, as he hasn't seemed to reach the 70-game mark just yet, and likely won't. As for staying content on the Island, as some people have been talking about, I think the major issue is him listening to coach Gordon and taking his advice and criticisms. Some people thought that was a problem between him and former coach Ted Nolan, and it may well have been, but whether it will be or not with Gordon is up to him.

With that said, it looks to be a great matchup between the Isles and the Devils, who have Brian Rolston and Bobby Holik back on the team, and will look to settle the score with the Isles early on. I myself am very excited for the start of the season, and I can't wait for that puck to drop!


Wednesday, October 8, 2008

2008-09 Roster Set

The Islanders roster is all set for 2008-09, and except for an exceedingly fresh face in the form of Josh Bailey, the Isles' first round pick, the list looks pretty predictable.


2008-09 New York Islanders Roster

12 C Josh Bailey 6-1 188 L 10/2/1989
20 LW Sean Bergenheim 5-10 205 L 2/8/1984
57 RW Blake Comeau 6-1 207 R 2/18/1986
89 C Mike Comrie 5-10 185 L 9/11/1980
13 RW Bill Guerin 6-2 220 R 11/7/1970
11 LW Andy Hilbert 5-11 194 L 2/6/1981
7 RW Trent Hunter 6-3 210 R 7/5/1980
51 C Frans Nielsen 5-11 172 L 4/24/1984
21 RW Kyle Okposo 6-1 200 R 4/16/1988
10 RW Richard Park 5-11 190 R 5/27/1976
18 C Mike Sillinger 5-11 198 R 6/29/1971 16
LW Jon Sim 5-10 195 L 9/29/1977
15 LW Jeff Tambellini 5-11 186 L 4/13/1984
93 C Doug Weight 5-11 196 L 1/21/1971

14 D Chris Campoli 5-11 190 L 7/9/1984
8 D Bruno Gervais 6-0 188 R 10/3/1984
38 D Jack Hillen 5-11 200 L 1/24/1986
24 D Radek Martinek 6-1 203 R 8/31/1976
44 D Freddy Meyer 5-10 192 L 1/4/1981
17 D Thomas Pock 6-1 210 L 12/2/1981
4 D Brett Skinner 6-1 183 L 6/28/1983
2 D Mark Streit 6-0 197 L 12/11/1977
25 D Andy Sutton 6-6 245 L 3/10/1975
32 D Brendan Witt 6-2 223 L 2/20/1975

39 G Rick DiPietro 6-1 210 R 9/19/1981
35 G Joey MacDonald 6-0 197 L 2/7/1980