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A blog by a long time New York Islanders fan who stays true to the fellas wearing orange, white and blue…but thinks the Islanders organization has some shaping up to do.

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Tuesday, November 3, 2009

One Win Becomes Four As Things Look Up

What is THIS?

The Islanders have turned one win into four- three of them in regulation. It started with a matchup against those old foes, the New York Rangers... then gathered speed as the Isles foiled the Capitals in a 4-3 overtime thriller... then hit full throttle as they stumbled a bit out of the gate, but ultimately trounced Buffalo 5-0 for Martin Biron's 200th career win... and finally stuck with them last night, as they got two goals from, of all people, Brendan Witt, to beat the Edmonton Oilers 3-1.

This is nothing like the easily fatigued, demoralized Islanders we saw losing game after game in overtime, in shootouts, and then in regulation. This team has woken up and gained confidence, blowing the myth of the "Ranger hangover" to bits in the process, and climbing above .500 for the first time this season if you discount the OT losses (5-4-5, 15 pts). Though they still show flashes of uncertainty in moving the puck and in defensive strategy, these Isles are playing hard, and certain players are definitely waking up and getting it now.

First off, Jeff Tambellini has been nothing short of incredible lately. Though he didn't score in last night's game against the Oilers, he went from being practically invisible to scoring almost every night. First it was one goal a game, then two, and finally against the Sabres, he scored his first career hat trick- with his father, Oilers GM Steve Tambellini, in the audience. The goals were all scored differently, but all showed his burgeoning confidence- he's not afraid to get to the front of the net and score a dirty goal, and it's been paying off for him. He's also taking more shots (he led the Isles in the Sabres game with five shots), and though he didn't score last night, I don't think we've heard the last of him. He now leads the Isles in goals with six, along with Matt Moulson.

Andy Sutton has also stepped up wonderfully on what can be considered a sub-par defense. He's been blocking shots and throwing his body around a lot more than I can remember in his past seasons with the Isles, and he's even contributed on offense a bit. It's just what we need from the 6'6 defenseman, and on top of that, he hasn't been injured! (Knock on wood.)

Josh Bailey is still getting there, but he's made some strides. I think having former linemate Kyle Okposo moved onto a line with John Tavares, though it's done wonders for the JT line, has hurt Bailey a bit; he hasn't exactly found his niche alongside Tambellini and Doug Weight (a natural center who's been moved to the right wing to make room for Tavares). Still, he's taking more shots now and doing the best he can. He scored a goal in the Sabres game; maybe it'll jumpstart him a bit.

Richard Park has also woken up, not so much goalscoring-wise as in the faceoff circle. The guy is approaching 70 percent on faceoffs, and his work ethic can only be admired. He's not so much a natural goalscorer, but when he does score, it's on tremendous individual effort. He's also somewhat of a streaky scorer, so maybe we'll see another goal or so out of him after Saturday night's game.

Lastly, in goal, Dwayne Roloson has finally done what so many expected of him as a goaltender: he stole us a game. The Capitals always play hard, and their dangerous offense is enough to make any goalie and defense cringe. But Rollie stood his ground in a shooting gallery, after the score kept yo-yoing back and forth, first in New York's favor, then in Washington's. The way Roloson kept his cool and pushed the game to overtime is exactly what you expect of a true #1 goaltender. Though Biron has also been very good, and both of these guys have been coping with numerous defensive breakdowns and doing the best they can, Rollie has proven himself very well, and did so again last night, making 22 saves. However, Brendan Witt stole his thunder with his two goals, and though he says he could care less, was definitely trying to get a hat trick with an open net gaping at the other end of the ice in the last two minutes. It's all right, Witter- love seeing some goals out of you, though!

Next post, seeing as I'm missing the next two games once again (damn you, Wednesday night class and MSG Plus 2), I'll focus on some people I'd like to see a little bit more out of.


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