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.


Sunday, March 29, 2009

What's Witt That? Defenseman in Shootout As Isles Fall to Flyers

Flyers 4: Islanders 3

Saturday night was definitely all right for fighting by both the Islanders' and Flyers' standards, and perhaps it cost the Isles one point in the long-term.

With New York out to a two-goal lead in the second period, four consecutive fights led to 34 minutes in penalties. Nate Thompson, Daniel Carcillo, Joel Rechlicz, Riley Cote, Tim Jackman, Arron Asham, Doug Weight and Simon Gagne all mixed it up with each other over a span of 9:57, in an obvious attempt by the Flyers to push the Isles off their focus. Doug Weight led the way with 19 total PIM, having taken 17 in the first for instigating with Darroll Powe, sticking up for Jackman after what he considered a bad hit. And all of this with an Islanders LEAD.

I think they dislike the Flyers as much as Christine does.

Anyway, let's backtrack to the hockey. The Islanders' lead was created by Radek Martinek, who banked a shot off of a Flyer's stick and past Martin Biron for the 1-0 lead. Then in the second, Jeff Tambellini had a highlight-reel goal- spinning around, he batted a centering pass from Kyle Okposo that bounced past Biron and doubled the lead. At this point, any doubt of the Isles' ability to carry over the emotion from the previous night's win over Detroit was vanquished, as New York was playing Philly hard and rolling to a great start.

Then came the fights. And in the third period, it all (almost) fell apart.

Joffrey Lupul scored the Flyers' first and third goals. His first was a soft bank off of Yann Danis from the right side that admittedly should have been a save, but nonetheless got the busloads of incredibly annoying Flyers fans in the Coliseum going. Then Scott Hartnell scored on a rebound as Jeff Carter made a smart play, shooting from practically the same spot just so the puck could come to Hartnell. Finally, the Flyers inexplicably took the lead less than two minutes later, with Lupul making a wonderful play from the right side (where else?) and going top shelf on Danis. It looked grim for the Isles until Mark Streit collected his own rebound after redirecting a shot from Okposo and put it home. Game tied, 3-3, and once again Streit helps the Isles out after they shoot themselves in the foot.

Overtime started with a bang: just before, Blake Comeau completely laid out a Flyer with one of his four hits of the night, further proving he's becoming quite a good forechecker. Kyle Okposo also got some time with Mark Streit in the 4-on-4 play, which showed Scott Gordon's growing faith in the young winger. OT passed without a goal scored, and then came the shootout, which had many a fan scratching their heads. At least, I was saying, "What the...?!"

Now, I love Brendan Witt, but even I have to admit this guy isn't what we'd call an "offensive machine." Tell him to check and he does it; expect him to score in a shootout, and it's kinda like asking a dog to meow. But as the first shooter in the shootout, he did try his best, and got off a decent shot (top shelf) that Biron grabbed. Frans Nielsen scored the Islanders' lone goal, and Mark Streit also got a shot that he failed to convert on. Meanwhile, both Daniel Briere and Mike Richards scored for the Flyers, putting away the game and sending the obnoxious Flyers fans home happy... while making me wonder, what was Gordon thinking?? Having fun and trying out new things is one thing... not taking things seriously, even when you have no chance of winning anything important, is quite another. Which side this falls on is clear- at least, I hope. As for Witt... nice try, man, hope next time it's a goal!

Saturday, March 28, 2009

Joey Mac Earns Win of the Year vs. Former Team

Islanders 2: Red Wings 0

It doesn't take Albert Einstein or even Gary Bettman to realize the Islanders are pretty much done for the year. But with that in mind, they still manage to pull off some pretty amazing upset wins- one in a shootout against Vancouver, another two wins- one a shutout, one a blowout- against the Devils, and a couple of wins against Montreal.

Add this shutout by Joey MacDonald against a President's Trophy candidate to the top of the list.

MacDonald, a former Detroit Red Wing, made 42 saves, a few of them downright amazing, as the Islanders rolled to a 2-0 blanking of the Wings at Joe Louis Arena. With Doug Weight back in the lineup, the Isles had a crucial part of their forecheck back, and executed it well, although they came out to a slow start in the first period. They started out with a couple of penalties but kept the Wings off the board with aggressive penalty killing. Mark Streit even made a couple of great rushes for some shorthanded opportunities. Meanwhile, although Detroit got some shots to the net, many of them went wide or above the net, or were blocked by both the defense and some very brave offensive penalty killers. The play kept getting interrupted by whistles, whether for penalties or offsides, but that gave the Isles a chance to breathe and relax after coming into the first looking just the slightest bit jumpy against these guys, perhaps due to the amount of reverence younger players gave them. One thing we must remember, guys: yes, Detroit is a model franchise, having won 11 Stanley Cups in their lifetime as a team and countless division and conference championships, as well as a few President's Trophies. But, as the boys quickly learned, they play the same game any other team does, with a couple of better players and a few play variations. If you take the correct approach, you can beat them.

And so the Islanders did, as they came into the second period highly confident and also focused on the game. The Wings got some good chances in front that either their own players pushed wide or the Isles' D- particularly Bruno Gervais, who was excellent on both sides of the puck- knocked away. Meanwhile, MacDonald also held his own, and made perhaps his best save of the season- a glove save on Mikael Samuelsson on a basically open net. Jiri Hudler passed from the blue line to Samuelsson on the right while Mac was caught on the left, and Joey lunged over to snatch the puck and keep the game scoreless, to everyone's amazement.

Shortly afterward, Doug Weight took a hooking penalty at 7:54, and the Islanders ended up scoring first shorthanded. It started with Brendan Witt in the defensive zone who chipped the puck to Kyle Okposo. KO carried the puck into the zone and drew three Red Wings to him, leaving Frans Nielsen open on the right. Okposo passed to Nielsen, who closed in on Chris Osgood and deked to his backhand for a beautiful goal. It was the Isles' 12th shortie of the year, and incredible considering the Wings are a normally strong team on the PP, yet got nothing going on six man-up opportunities.

At 15:09, Josh Bailey padded the lead, after some great defensive hockey on the other end by the Islanders. Tim Jackman won a one-on-one battle with Henrik Zetterberg (yeah, you read right) and put the puck right through the goal mouth, where it landed on Bailey's stick. With Osgood still to the left, he batted the puck in and scored his sixth of the year.

After that, it was all up to the Wings to try to find a way to get back in it, and up to the Isles to deny them any opportunity. In the end, the Wings hit four posts in all, and Joey took care of the rest along with the D. Radek Martinek, Brendan Witt, Tim Jackman, Andy Hilbert, Doug Weight, Gervais- all of these guys, and a few others, recorded at least one blocked shot, and MacDonald amazed even Howie Rose with his saves before the final horn blew. Isles 2, Wings 0. The underdogs triumph once more against the big, bad model franchise.

Not to say anything terrible about Detroit, to be completely clear. I think it's wonderful that they have stayed so successful and given all other organizations something to aspire to. But still, every now and then it's nice to be able to say your team shut out the best in hockey. Now it's on to the Philadelphia Flyers tonight at the Coliseum, another strong team who proves to be a challenge. After a huge emotional win last night, here's to hoping the boys can do it again on their own ice.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Isles Go Wild With Fists, Minnesota Wild... With Goals

Wild 6: Islanders 2
The good thing about this game? It was entertaining until the Wild started scoring.

The bad thing? The Wild started scoring. And once they did, there really was no chance for Yann Danis or the Isles to rebound.

In the end, Marian Gaborik scored twice and had two assists for a great night, and Andy Hilbert and Bruno Gervais had the only two goals for the Islanders, who started out strong and feisty in the first but fell flat in the final forty minutes, conceding the two points to a Minnesota team who could really use them. Stuck in eleventh place in the West, they're fighting tooth and nail to stay somewhere within the playoff picture in the final ten games.

The biggest problem for the Islanders was that they focused way too much on being physical and goading the Wild, and for their rambunctiousness they took too many penalties. Minnesota scored three power play goals in this game- Antti Miettinen, Owen Nolan, and Gaborik respectively. You can also see what most of the minutes were for if you check out the game recap on the website. Here's just a taste...

1st period: Belanger, MN, holding.
Rechlicz, NYI, fighting.
Scott, MN, fighting.
Hillen, NYI, holding.
Rechlicz, NYI, holding.
Fritsche, MN, holding.
Miettinen, MN, roughing.
Comeau, NYI, roughing.

2nd period: Witt, NYI, fighting.
Sheppard, MN, fighting.
Witt, NYI, roughing.
Sheppard NYI, roughing.And so on and so forth. Not a very gentlemanly game, and the ill will spread everywhere- even to Kyle Okposo, who was livid after Miettinen pushed Blake Comeau into a door on the ice as it was being opened at the end of the first. He pulled Miettinen to the ice until the refs broke it up, and then continued yapping at Wild players. In the second, Witt and James Sheppard proceeded to mix it up for Witt's first fight in quite a while. So you can see the pattern... and unfortunately it didn't spark any offensive moxie in the Isles. As for the defense and Danis, there wasn't much positive either, leaving the overall effort lacking something to be desired. Hopefully they will be able to pick it up against Detroit tomorrow night at Joe Louis Arena. I'm not expecting a win, but it would be nice to see at least a strong effort against the President's Trophy candidates.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Goal Celebration? Cool It

Alexander Ovechkin is one of the most dominant players in the league currently. He is a monster on the ice, and he knows just how good he is- he's recently taken to leaping up against the glass whenever he scores a goal. That's all well and good, but the line has recently been drawn in my eyes after his 50th goal of the year against Tampa Bay- he set his stick down on the ice and waved his hands up and down above it, as if to say, "It's too hot to handle."

Overboard? You betcha.

Ovie's the kind of guy who's got a dynamic personality to go along with his talent. He's passionate, outgoing, and very much a rock star. But when does it go too far? When celebrations like this become part of his repertoire. Honestly, if I wanted to see this, I'd go check out an NFL game, or the NBA. Chad Johnson and Randy Moss would love this kid's ideas. In all seriousness, though, I didn't become a hockey fan for this. I became one, in fact, partly because I felt the guys who played the game were amazing, yet somewhat still humble in spite of their talents when they scored. They were happy, but never rubbed it in.

Not only that, but Ovechkin hasn't even scored 60 or 70 yet this year. It was 50, a milestone he's reached twice before, and against a team who's pretty much out of it in the Lightning. Bolts head coach Rick Tocchet had a right to be annoyed by Ovie's antics, and I'm surprised no one tried to take him out after that. You're talented, we all know it. Leave the childish antics at home and just play hockey. When you score the game-winner in the playoffs, it'll be a different story, perhaps, but for now jumping the glass is enough.

Here's the celebration:


And reactions by two writers:

Save it for home, Alex

Memo to Alex Ovechkin. Your little skit in Tampa Bay on Thursday after
your 50th goal was a laugh riot -- feigning that your stick was too hot to
handle as it lay on the ice -- but you should have saved that for the home folk
in Washington. It's like parking a new Porsche in front of the neighbour's
house, next to his Chevy Cavalier. It's called rubbing it in. Little different
when Teemu Selanne broke Mike Bossy's rookie goal record in '93, and threw his
glove in the air and made like he was pumping a shotgun at it. Ovechkin has had
50 before. Good thing Rick Tocchet, who had 2,972 career penalty minutes, was
behind the Lightning bench, and not on the ice. Tocchet always played the game
in ill-humour.
"He came down a notch in my book," said Tocchet, who may also
have wondered why none of his players were as mad as he was.


Hot dog needs to cool it

OK, I wasn't wild about Alexander Ovechkin's celebration last week in Tampa
after he wristed in his 50th goal of the season. AO promptly dropped his stick
flat on the ice and held both hands over it, as if it were just too hot to
touch. What, did he steal that from Marcel Marceau's days in the Quebec League?
Regular readers of this space know that I'm all for Ovechkin's enthusiasm,
energy, and usually his celebrations. But, come on, Alex, leave a little room
here for what might happen if, say, the Capitals actually win a Stanley Cup. I'm
beginning to worry that you might try some Harry Houdini trick, strip down to
your shorts in the neutral zone and have yourself frozen in the ice. Like


Off the Isles Scene Once More: A Belated Congrats!

Martin Brodeur recently became the winningest goaltender in NHL history, surpassing Patrick Roy in wins with 552 on St. Patrick's Day. I had meant earlier to post a blog mentioning this, but haven't gotten the chance to until now.

In all honesty, I am not the biggest fan of Brodeur. In past interviews and post-games against us, he has been somewhat condescending when speaking of the Islanders, and that I don't appreciate. However, there is no denying that this man is the best goaltender ever to lace up the pads in the NHL, or perhaps even the world. Look at his stats- there is no one currently playing that can even hope to come close to him anytime soon, not even Roberto Luongo, who could be debated as the second-best, and not even Henrik Lundqvist, who has thrice been nominated for the Vezina and twice lost to Brodeur. And if stats don't mean much to you, just look at his play- his calm presence in net, the dominance with which he owns his crease, his sheer athleticism, everything. And not to mention this is no spring chicken who has broken Roy's record- he's going on 37 years old. If that isn't an in-your-face to those who say youth=success in this new league, then perhaps nothing is.

So here's a belated congratulations to the Devils' goaltender, who has spent his entire career with this organization and will most likely remain in New Jersey until his very last game. He definitely deserves the accolades.

Islanders Come Up Empty in Back-to-Back Road Games

Islanders 4: Hurricanes 5

You would think that a five-game layoff would help some teams out, especially one on a season-high six-game road trip, but I suppose that wasn't the case on Friday night for the Islanders. Instead, Peter Mannino tried his best but got rocked for five goals against the Hurricanes, two each by Chad LaRose and Matt Cullen, and Carolina ultimately came back to win an important game.

It started with a bad fumble of the puck- Mannino came out of the crease and mishandled it, allowing Cullen to pick it up and score an easy goal at :44. The Isles attempted to answer back, with the Jeff Tambellini-Frans Nielsen-Kyle Okposo line putting some good pressure on in particular, but the next goal was also a Carolina one, as LaRose got the puck at the side of the crease and curled around to knock it past Mannino, who did not stay as calm as he should have on that play. That made one goal in the first minute and one goal in the last two as well, with the Islanders playing decent hockey in the 18 minutes in between but with nothing to show for it.

The second period opened with a scary moment; Eric Staal sped to net and crashed into Mannino, then the post, hitting his head on the side of it. He stayed down behind the goal and almost got pegged again by an errant shot by teammate Erik Cole, and had to be checked out by trainers, but ultimately skated off on his own. After that, the Islanders took over and scored four goals. Frans Nielsen capitalized off of some nice low-high passing started off by Brendan Witt and put home his 6th of the year. Then Richard Park got the puck from Tim Jackman for a beautiful breakaway goal, and his second goal in two games. Bruno Gervais also scored a goal, and Kyle Okposo deflected a Mark Streit shot for his team-leading 17th of the year on the PP. That goal would be answered with a somewhat head-scratching play- Tuomo Ruutu put the puck past Mannino shortly after Cole had run into him, and there was reason for the refs to perhaps call goaltender interference and negate the goal. After video review, however, the goal was called to stand, which might not have been the right call, and you'll see why I say this later on.

The Isles led 4-3 heading into the third period, and played well in the beginning, with Mannino making some nifty saves and everyone pitching in with good hustle and backchecking. However, they couldn't keep off the speedy Canes forever- Matt Cullen scored again on a redirection of a Rod Brind'Amour shot on the PP. Over two minutes later, LaRose scored the game-winner to the Isles' chagrin- receiving a cross-ice pass from Ray Whitney, he beat a sprawling Mannino at 15:39, leaving the Islanders scrambling for the tying goal. Their best chance was perhaps taken and lost by Dean McAmmond, who was left after the final horn livid at the refs due to a non-call- an evident hook by a Carolina player on what would have been a good scoring chance. Instead, McAmmond got called for unsportsmanlike conduct and Carolina got away with the penalty and the come-from-behind victory. It was not the Isles' best game, but they fought hard and unfortunately let themselves get too far behind. Also, the refs could be partly held accountable simply because nothing had been called for so long until the middle of the second period, and when that happened, there were some consistency issues, and not just on behalf of the Hurricanes but the Isles as well.

Islanders 2: Senators 5

I became a fan of this team in 2005. My "rookie season," if you will, was the same as those of Bruno Gervais and Chris Campoli, among other players on the Isles, and for obvious reasons I gravitated toward those guys. Up until this season, Campoli had been one of my favorite players, and one I'd figured would stay in the picture when it came to the youth movement, so it was a shock seeing the alert that said "Comrie, Campoli traded to Ottawa for McAmmond and first round pick."

Last night wasn't incredibly emotional for me upon seeing my former favorite in a Senators jersey, but it still felt a little strange. However, I put it in the back of my mind upon seeing the current Isles, sluggish and tired after traveling all night from the southern U.S. to Northern Canada to play Ottawa. Consequently, they were not the sharper team on the ice.

The first period set the Isles back on their heels a bit, but they defended Yann Danis well, not letting him get tested too well although Ottawa had the upper hand in shots. In the second period, however, Ottawa broke the scoring wide open with Chris Neil's five-hole shot, and then Filip Kuba's third of the season from Daniel Alfredsson, the Sens' captain. The Isles had power-play time that was practically put to no use whatsoever thanks to the Senators' aggressive PK and their own inability to break out of their own zone. Then, before you could say "Adenoid Hinkle" (haha, sorry, Charlie Chaplin reference), the Senators had made their lead 4-0 on the goals of Mike Fisher (delayed penalty) and Dany Heatley. That made 4 goals on 9 shots for the Senators in this period. The frustration on the Isles' part and a wish to change momentum culminated in a hit by Joel Rechlicz on Neil, which led to fight between him and Fisher, who stepped up to defend his teammate.

The third period saw two Islanders goals, both by Josh Bailey who is starting to come into his own quite a bit, developing a great shot as well as good playmaking skills in his first career multi-goal game Okposo got an assist on Bailey's second goal of the night, which extended his points streak to eight games. Other than those two bright spots, the Islanders didn't have much to be happy about, as they allowed one more Senators goal by Nick Foligno and fell to 2-3-1 on this road trip. They travel back home to face off against Minnesota on Wednesday, the 25.

Notes: Bruno Gervais is helping a very noble cause. 12-year-old Alex Mele is in Stony Brook Hospital after being diagnosed with Acute Myelogenous Leukemia (AML) in November 2008. Having met the young man there, Gervais hopes to bring attention to the story and is saluting him by writing Live Strong and Alex's name on each of his sticks. Alex is currently in need of a bone marrow transplant, and his parents are putting together a blood drive in hopes of finding potential donors. The drive will be on April 7 from 3:30-9 pm at the Knights of Columbus in Glen Cove. If you are in the area, please participate!

Sunday, March 15, 2009

A Great Rebound As Isles Soar Over Blackhawks

Islanders 4: Blackhawks 2

The Islanders wasted no time getting over the 2-1 loss to Boston, apparently. Although starting off somewhat slow in the first period, and just holding on as the Hawks threw everything and then some at rookie goaltender Peter Mannino, they were able to overcome the devastating shot total and score more goals than their opponents.

I caught this game a few minutes into the second period, and I was frankly astonished at what I saw from Mannino. With his parents and girlfriend cheering in the seats, he made 40 saves throughout the entire game, some of them completely incredible on some of the Hawks' best players. Meanwhile, the offense for the Isles did all they could to help him out. Mark Streit scored two goals, one of them on the power play, over two periods and also had an assist on Frans Nielsen's PP goal. Richard Park scored as well in his second game after missing 16 with broken ribs, on a beautiful play by Blake Comeau. Kris Versteeg and Patrick Kane scored in the second and late in the third, respectively, but although much stronger and bigger physically, not to mention having put tremendous pressure on the Isles' defense throughout the game, the deciding factor in this game for either team was goaltending, and the young goalie came through beautifully, doing what he had to in order to keep his team in the game. With Joey MacDonald still out of the lineup due to a knee injury, hopefully this game states that the Isles still have two very capable netminders for the rest of the season.

Notes: Mannino is the first Isles goalie to win his first start since Rick DiPietro (12/19/02 vs Minnesota, also by a score of 4-2)... Kyle Okposo continued his now six-game points streak with an assist on Streit's second goal... the Isles had a 6-on-3 PK with Nikolai Khabibulin on the bench with four minutes to go, and although they were able to hold off the Blackhawks for the first minute, Kane scored his goal shortly after Bruno Gervais left the penalty box.

Bruins Stop Isles Cold

Islanders 1: Bruins 2

I wish I could say I knew just what happened to the Islanders yesterday- after all, I saw all three goals before I left the house to visit some family. But sometimes, all it takes is a bad start, and save for a few moments of pressure on Tim Thomas in the first period, that's exactly what happened to the boys.

The Bruins scored two goals in 1:05, and that's all they needed, as they were able to hold off the Isles 2-1 at TD Banknorth Garden. Phil Kessel had a goal and an assist on Marc Savard's eventual game-winner, as Yann Danis got off to a rocky start but rebounded well. Unfortunately, his offense could not generate enough, as the Bruins played great defense, utilizing a neutral-zone trap to keep them from getting a forecheck really established. The only goal scored was on an end-to-end rush by Mark Streit, who continues to shine as the Isles' leading points scorer. He faked out Zdeno Chara, who attempted to poke check the puck away, leaving a lane wide open for him to shoot a sizzler past Tim Thomas. That was the only bright spot in a game that has been, to date, the only stumble on the 6-game roadtrip thus far, and one that the Isles must look past quickly, as they faced off against Chicago today. The Isles are now 3-1-1 in their last five games.

Friday, March 13, 2009

KO Throws Final Punch at Canadiens

Islanders 3: Canadiens 2 (OT)

If you've set your heart on the number one draft pick, you might be starting to freak out just a bit after this win. Why? Well, because a point here, two points there, is starting to add up, and if they become too good- well, they may just overtake Atlanta and Tampa Bay in the standings. Scary thought? For sure, if you were getting too comfortable with the notion of Tavares or Hedman.

However, these past four games have proven that, although the Isles are most likely, if not definitely out of any real contention for the playoffs, they are ready to play their hearts out and keep the score close- even trip up some playoff-bound teams if they can. Last night, it was Les Habitantes at the Bell Centre, and while not high-scoring, it was certainly an entertaining one to say the least.

The Canadiens thought they had scored in the first period, but a brief video review showed that the puck had been knocked into the goal and past Yann Danis with a high stick, negating the goal and keeping the game scoreless. It barely mattered, however; the next time, Montreal made it legal, with Tomas Plekanec shooting from 40 feet out. The puck deflected off of the stick of Radek Martinek (once again) and went in. At this point, the Islanders were almost entirely chasing the play in their own zone, and Montreal had no problem keeping the puck there for the first ten minutes of the period. In the second half of the period, however, the Isles took over, and Mike Iggulden scored a milestone thanks to his own leading the play as well as Blake Comeau's hard work and forechecking. He made a great pass over to Iggulden in the slot, and in turn Mike shot a wrister that found the back of the net. It was a great moment for a guy who has had points in every game that he has played with the Islanders.

The second period was all Islanders. They outshot the Habs 12-7 (at one point, 11-1 was the shot total), and thanks to some senseless penalties by a couple of players, had some good PP time also, which produced a few good chances only stopped by the athleticism of Price. One of two fights happened in this period also, between Joel Rechlicz and Tom Kostopoulos after Kostopoulos (geez, I don't like typing this name) jumped Joel behind Danis' goal. Overall, though entertaining, not much of note happened, and the period ended as it had started- in a deadlock.

Right off the faceoff at the start of the third, Tim Jackman decided to go at it with Gregory Stewart, and it resulted in a clear victory for the hardworking forward. Stewart also took a penalty for unsportsmanlike conduct, which gave the Isles a PP and Frans Nielsen his first goal in quite a while, at :51. Comeau got another assist here, as he fed Mark Streit at the point. Streit then shot through traffic, and Nielsen was able to get the blade of his stick on the puck for a nice redirection. The Islanders put themselves into severe jeopardy, however, as both Rechlicz and Witt went off to the penalty box to give Montreal a huge opportunity- a 5-on-3 that Danis and the defense came up huge on. 36 seconds afterward, however, a bad change gave Kostopoulos the opportunity that his team needed desperately. Mathieu Schneider passed to Andrei Markov, who fed a cross-ice pass to Kostopoulos for the goal. After that, it was all a race to get the puck first and try not to let this one get to OT. Jeff Tambellini perhaps had the best chance of the night, and Price completely denied him with a quick glove hand that Tamby could only shake his head at. The reactions on the bench were even better- even Scott Gordon reacted with awe at the incredible stop.

Overtime came, and 26 seconds was all it took for it to end. Bruno Gervais made a great second effort to keep the puck in the offensive zone and flipped a shot to net, and Kyle Okposo, who now has four goals in four games, did the rest, fumbling the puck at his feet, regaining control, and putting it through Price's pads over the line. Afterward, his teammates completely mobbed him, and all you could see on his and everyone's faces were the smiles of sheer joy at getting the two points. It's all starting to come together for the young Islanders, who are finally getting the system and putting it to work. They're skating strong and faster than before, and it's allowing them to remain competitive and hungry at a point where nothing really matters anymore. Great stuff, and overall, with three out of a possible four points so far gained on this road trip, the team's getting off to a great start.


Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Good Times End in Overtime

Islanders 2: Maple Leafs 3 (OT)

The Maple Leafs really like overtime, it seems.

Having gone seven straight games with the opportunity to get one point or more, it was business as usual last night, as Mikhail Grabovski netted the game-winner in what was a somewhat strange game at the Air Canada Centre.

It started off with Joey MacDonald in net, Martin Gerber starting in place of an injured Vesa Toskala (who is out for the season along with Mike Van Ryn), and the Leafs making Joey the victim first, with Lee Stempniak finding a way to get the puck between his pads. The Islanders responded 15 seconds later, with Kyle Okposo making the second effort and putting the puck past Gerber for his (now team-leading) 15th goal of the season. Then Josh Bailey made a great play keeping the puck in the Toronto zone when it looked as though it were heading out, headmanning a play to Blake Comeau that got in thanks to the screen by Mike Iggulden. This was all in the span of one minute, by the way- and I mean all three goals scored. Talk about a great end to the first period.

That said, you would have thought that the second period would bring more scoring. Although much more spirited than the first, it also brought quite a few penalties, including two 5-on-3 opportunities that gave the Isles some more opportunities that they couldn't capitalize on. Andy Hilbert and Mark Streit together had two of the best chances on one opportunity that hit each side of the net. One thing I was very surprised and somewhat worried to see was Streit making a couple of very un-Streitlike mistakes. He missed the net quite a bit in this game, but took plenty of shots, and also gave the puck away at the point at least three times. Of course, we all have an off game once in a while, but just the fact that he has been so strong all season makes these goofups a bit disconcerting. The Leafs, meanwhile, protected their goaltender very well, and Gerber made some good saves when he needed to. One thing the Isles didn't do was test him too much up high, which could have been to their benefit had they done so.

What might have been the Isles' best PP cycle was in the third period. First, they did a great job holding the puck as long as they did on the delayed penalty situation, to ensure that they would get almost the entire length of time on the man-advantage in the third. Then, they had some great movement that provided some quality shots at Gerber, and spent practically the whole time in Toronto's zone to start. Then, once Toronto got back into the Isles' zone with the puck, Bruno Gervais ended up boarding Stempniak, and Stempniak took offense. What resulted was one of two fights (Tim Jackman and Phil Oreskovic duked it out in the first), and in this one Bruno surprisingly held his own. On the resulting penalty, Dean McAmmond raced out past a Toronto player on a shorthanded breakaway chance, but hit the side of the net. On the other end, MacDonald made some great saves to keep the Isles up a goal, but soon after, Alexei Ponikarovsky found the puck on a giveaway by Radek Martinek, skated in and scored.

For the rest of the third period, the Isles tried their best to get back the lead, but did so without one of their best forwards for the time being. Sean Bergenheim skated off the ice with what looked to be an apparent groin injury. No telling what his condition is or whether he will be out of the lineup at the moment. Toronto got plenty of pressure on MacDonald and the defense late in the period, but thankfully couldn't finish, and the game went to OT.

As it turns out, the Leafs only needed 50 seconds, and Grabovski ended up with the game-winner, after Anton Stralman's initial shot was blocked and kicked to the left. Ponikarovsky found it and passed to Grabovski, who scored with MacDonald at the top of his crease, out of position. The Leafs got the extra point, and the Isles skated off with tomorrow night's matchup against Montreal to look forward to.

Now, I know what some of you may be waiting for, and I'll tell you this much: even though Brendan Witt was back in the lineup against the team he committed his elbowing penalty against, there really wasn't much they did regarding him. He had a pretty strong game, though, and it's good to see him back on the blueline. However, even with his newfound presence, the Isles couldn't get the two points in the first of what is a six-game road trip.

Notes: Josh Bailey has points in three straight games now... the Leafs are now 8-13 in OT... the Isles outshot the Leafs 30-28 and went 0-for-5 on the PP, only committing two penalties themselves (nice job, boys)... Joel Rechlicz is back in the lineup and logged 7:07 TOI... the Isles are now (I believe) 1-19-2 in 22 road games.

Sunday, March 8, 2009

Isles Sweep Back-to-Back Matinee Games

Coyotes 2: Islanders 3

The kids are quite all right on the Island.

Jeff Tambellini scored his third goal in four games, and Kyle Okposo and Josh Bailey also scored as the Isles hung on over the Coyotes, 3-2. Yann Danis tied his career-high save total with 40, and Mark Streit also had a great game.

The game opened with a goal by Scottie Upshall in the first period, and the Coyotes, who came out with a strong forecheck and some good saves by rookie goalie Josh Tordjman, were able to hang onto this lead until the second period. The Isles, who were lacking the intensity they had in the previous game against the Devils, needed to create their own energy now, and create they did in the second, as Tambellini deflected a rebound by Andy Hilbert in front at 2:44. He's been getting better and better as time goes on, and at the moment, he is oozing confidence and doing everything right.

Josh Bailey also has been doing very well. He'd only been tallying assists up to this point, but on a 2-on-1, Mike Iggulden fired a shot that rebounded off of Tordjman's right pad that went right to Bailey, who put it home very easily. It was a great goal, and also gave Iggulden three points in two games (all helpers). The way these youngsters just getting called up from Bridgeport have been performing is amazing- as though they really want to stay here. Iggulden, Jesse Joensuu- no matter who it is, they just have been working hard every shift and making it clear they want to stay here. Kyle Okposo, meanwhile, had tempered off a bit in the last few, but carried over his goalscoring touch from yesterday by putting home yet another (his 14th) off a great centering pass by Dean McAmmond. 3-1 Isles, and the crowd was now into it, as well as the players.

In the third, though, Phoenix came out ready to strike, and were given the opportunity to with a 5-on-3 power play chance (one of two today). Danis came up big, making several key stops including a wonderful pad save on Shane Doan. Although the Coyotes thought they'd scored on a goal that went in as the net came off its moorings, the play was overturned on video review. Doan did eventually get his 24th of the year late in the third, but it didn't matter much afterward: Frans Nielsen won a key draw from the best faceoff center on the Coyotes, Matthew Lombardi, and the game ended with the Isles on top once more.

Notes: Every Islander had at least one hit in this game, and the Isles outhit Phoenix 36-30... This was the last game of Brendan Witt's 5-game suspension! He returns March 10 at Toronto...Martinek, Streit, and McAmmond were once again your As, with Trent Hunter out for the rest of the season (ankle)...Sean Bergenheim yesterday was the youngest Isle to score a hat trick since Dave Scatchard! Nice job, Bergie.

Saturday, March 7, 2009

Bergie Makes Every Second Count- Scores Hat Trick Vs. Devils

Devils 3: Islanders 7

Sean Bergenheim, until the very last second, worked his tail off.

Nudging the puck past Brian Rolston to himself, he streaked down the ice and, with seven-tenths of a second left, shot a laser from practically no angle that hit the top of the net and gave him his first career hat trick, ratcheting the score up to 7-3.

7-3! Can you believe that?

Neither can I, but it was largely thanks to the young players- Bergenheim, Josh Bailey, Kyle Okposo and Jeff Tambellini, as well as Blake Comeau, Jesse Joensuu and newly recalled Mike Iggulden, who got two assists today (his first two points as an Islander in his second pro game). Although a veteran did start off the scoring (Radek Martinek), the kids took over. Kyle Okposo scored his first goal in quite a while on the PP at 10:59 off a nice feed from Josh Bailey. Then Jeff Tambellini made the score 3-0 (and that's his second in three games!). They did it all with speed, strength, and incredible back pressure when the Devils attempted to break out of their zone.

Although Brian Gionta dampened the crowd's enthusiasm a bit when he scored at the :29 mark of the second on a redirection, Bergenheim got them right back into it with his first goal at 1:40, flipping the puck in on a rebound by Iggulden. Jamie Langenbrunner made the score 4-2 as Joey MacDonald allowed a rebound right in front that he was able to put away. Langenbrunner, however, would also be the culprit who took the penalty that Blake Comeau scored on (and Bailey had the incredible assist on once more). They were doing everything right, and making one of the elite in the NHL, Martin Brodeur, look like mincemeat.

The third period found Kevin Weekes in net, and the Devils attempted to come back. Patrik Elias scored another PP goal, the Devils' last, and the Isles took a few more penalties in this period (including two consecutive delay of game penalties, aka the most pointless penalty in the world). Weekes, who allowed no goals, was pulled with three and a half minutes left, on the first power play, but nothing worked for the Devs. Then, Bergie powered forward and stole the show, making me jump up and down in the living room and my dog, Moby, believe I was playing with him. Hey, look at that- Bergie even makes dogs cheer for him!

The Isles scored their highest number of goals since two years ago (7-4 win over the New York Rangers on November 3, 2006) and had perhaps their best and strongest game this season, which somewhat dulls the bad news that Trent Hunter is now out for the season with an ankle injury. Another player down means the roster only gets younger, and for now, at least, that's great news.


Notes: Jesse Joensuu was the second Islander in five years to score a goal in his debut... The Devils outshot the Isles 38-28...Iggulden got the third star of the game with 12:27 TOI and his two assists.

Friday, March 6, 2009

Isles Work Hard, But Thwarted By Rangers... And Avery "Lite"?

Rangers 4: Islanders 2

In my eyes, blogging right after a game is begging for trouble; thus, though I was tempted to stay up and pound the keyboard, I stepped away and refused to let my pent-up anger and frustration dominate.

That said, for me losing to the Rangers is like finding out your favorite love song was written about a sandwich, to quote the movie "27 Dresses." Against these guys, the Islanders always seem to either overdo or underdo the aggression- coming out either way too overzealous or completely flat. Last night, after a three-day layoff, the Isles came out strong, and played the Rangers, if not even, almost for the first two periods. But the Rangers got on the board first because of a giveaway by Tim Jackman in the defensive zone that Nikolai Zherdev capitalized on. The second period saw goals traded by both teams, Blake Comeau in front for Chris Drury (PP) after Trent Hunter went to the penalty box for tripping. As if that weren't bad enough, :49 into the third period, Dean McAmmond and Andy Hilbert collided in the offensive zone, giving Zherdev the puck. Zherdev then fed a wide-open Scott Gomez for the goal. What could go wrong had at this point for the Isles, and although Jack Hillen scored a pretty goal (the first of his career), a Markus Naslund goal sealed the deal and snapped the Islanders' win streak at home, giving the Rangers a much-needed win that lifted them higher up in the standings.

Yann Danis couldn't be blamed for this one, not that much. He did what he could, and the mistakes the Islanders made last night were not his fault. On the other end, Henrik Lundqvist in goal was as good as he needed to be, and the defense was incredibly aggressive. One thing I resent about this team: how the players who seemingly can't put up points anywhere else find ways to score on the Islanders. Chris Drury has nine points (including four goals) against us this season. He has 43 points total, a significant drop from previous years in his career. Scott Gomez scored only his 14th of the season last night as well. Lucky? Maybe, considering the errors the Isles committed. But there has to be some unexplained reason for it.

Another irksome aspect of the Rangers is their fans, and the way they permeate the Coliseum whenever their team plays. The majority of voices I heard booming around the arena last night seemed to belong to the Blueshirts' faithful, which never ceases to amaze me. That, my friends, is dedication. And granted, the economy's bad, the weather sucks lately, and the Islanders are losing big time, but have we ever been able to fill up MSG with that many opposing fans and cheer as loudly as they do? My guess is no. The jeers, singing their own goal song on a Rangers goal, hearing that annoyingly outdated "Potvin Sucks!"- in your own building? Hmm.

But it wasn't even that. The most amazing thing about this game was how the Islanders paid so much attention to a player who really was of little consequence in Avery. They hit him and hit him, and took penalties for little reason other than to say they "put down Sean Avery," it seemed. Why so much focus was on him, it's easy to say at first- of course, we all want to see whether or not he will revert back to form, and indeed we saw some of it surface as he yapped at Blake Comeau after being laid out by him. But if the Isles had focused more on scoring goals, and finishing chances, and playing their own game instead of the Rangers, they would have gotten the two points, as far as I'm concerned. It's easy to smack him around, but it's just another way of letting him get under their skin.

And because of that, the Isles skated off having outplayed the Rangers for much of the game, but with nothing to show for their efforts. And this being the last game between these two teams for the rest of the season, there really is no way to say "Better luck next time."

Oh Caption My Trade Deadline Caption

(if you can't read the bubble text, try clicking on picture to enlarge)

Thursday, March 5, 2009

New York Rangers at New York Islanders, 7 p.m. 3/5/09

Well... he's baaaaack.

Sean Avery dusts off the old #16 on his Rangers red, white and blue, as the Blueshirts invade the Coliseum and clash with the Isles for the last time this season- and now, I kind of wish that we had the eight-game divisional schedule back. The Rangers also are playing Nik Antropov and Derek Morris tonight, giving the team a brand-new look after yesterday's trade deadline. The two players were acquired for a second-round and conditional pick, as well as Petr Prucha, Nigel Dawes and Dmitri Kalinin, respectively.

The Islanders, meanwhile, will debut RW Joel Rechlicz, and show up in the lineup once again without Bill Guerin- this time, for good, as Billy has been traded to Pittsburgh also for a conditional pick. However, the look of the Isles largely remains the same, if a bit younger. Both of these teams have been laid off for a while since their last games, so I don't expect this game to start off with a huge physical edge. However, if Avery is anything like his former self (and right now, it's hard to say), anything can happen. And it usually does, so watch out!


Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Jon Sim On Waivers Once More


Apparently he has cleared waivers and is now headed to Bridgeport. This comes after markedly improved play over the past few games, culminating in a three-assist game Monday night against the Avalanche. However, over the season Sim had been jumping in and out of the lineup, and this move suggests that perhaps GM Garth Snow had tried to shop him but gotten no takers, therefore he resorted to waivers.

It also raises the question of whether or not Sim was one of those frustrated veterans that have been talked about lately:


It's definitely a question worth diving into. I mean, to me it seems a bit odd, only because all three of the players who have been either traded or moved in some way before the deadline are veterans. Speculation has arisen all season as to whether or not some of the coaching staff's moves, such as giving more ice time to the youngsters and holding separate meetings, was a good idea.

There's no doubt in my mind that if you build for the future, you're going to have to give the younger players more time so that they can develop. That's a moot point. But to me it also seems as though the vets are slowly being phased out... and apparently I am not the only one. The youth are the priority, but if you don't utilize the vets in a better manner than simply shunting them off to the side, they're going to feel alienated, and they're going to start feeling some pangs of resentment. Brendan Witt showed it earlier through words; Guerin, through waiving his no-trade clause.

The way I see it, I don't believe that there is any reason for the "youth movement" to happen at all. Or, perhaps it should, but not in such an extreme as to slowly phase out any veteran influence. This was what got me so irritated with the rift between Snow and Ted Nolan- one wants vets, one wants youth, but do they care about talent? Do they care about skill, do they care about a winning formula? The obvious answer is yes, but not when they're so focused on youth vs. experience.

Perhaps Garth Snow should look at what made the Red Wings so successful, both in 2008 and now. I have said this before- and I admit that the Wings are nowhere near my favorite team in the league. But there is no denying that the coaching staff utilized all facets of their team, and came up with a system that every player was comfortable with, which led them to a banner year. If the Isles want to emulate that level of success, they're going to have to focus more on the veterans eventually- because we all know the kids can't rule the school. They need some teachers to help them along.

Guerin Finally Finds A Home

The Islanders have traded Bill Guerin to the Pittsburgh Penguins in exchange for a conditional 2009 fifth-round draft selection.

The conditions of the Guerin/Pittsburgh trade are as follows: If Pittsburgh reaches the playoffs, the draft pick is upgraded to a fourth-round selection. If Pittsburgh advances past the first round and Guerin plays in 50 percent of those first round games, the draft pick gets further upgraded to a third round selection. The fifth-round selection originally belonged to Tampa Bay.

“The entire Islanders organization has the utmost respect for Bill Guerin and we sincerely thank him for his time on Long Island and as the team’s captain,” said Islanders General Manager Garth Snow.

Guerin recorded 16 goals and 20 assists for 36 points in 61 games with the Islanders this season.

Since signing with the team as a free agent on July 5, 2007, he played in 142 games and recorded 39 goals and 41 assists for 80 points. Guerin was the 11th captain in franchise history.


Good luck to Billy! You were a great captain, and we wish you all the best.

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Jonny and the Kids Give Cause For Celebration

Avalanche 2: Islanders 4

Islanders fans don't forget faces, especially when they're those of former players who have somewhat scorned their team. They relentlessly booed Jason Blake as he scored a shootout goal in the Maple Leafs' win over the Isles Feb. 26, and last night was no different as Ryan Smyth skated onto the Coliseum ice. Though the crowd was paltry due to the snowstorm that hit New York and Long Island, it let him know exactly how they felt.

Captain Canada scored two goals, but it barely mattered as the skidding Avs fell to the Isles 4-2. This was a game full of feel-good moments and firsts of both the season and of certain players' careers. The Isles needed to rely on themselves to get some positive energy going due to the depleted audience, and fired everything and then some at goaltender Andrew Raycroft. Dean McAmmond started off the scoring when he threw a shot through Raycroft's legs that somehow found the back of the net. That lead held until :33 of the second period, thanks to Paul Stasny's incredible pass to Smyth on the PP that converted for the tying goal. The Islanders stayed focused, though, and an NHL rookie got his first memorable moment with the big club.

Jesse Joensuu, the big Finnish forward, was called up the morning of the game to fill in for Bill Guerin (in the process of a trade to...???), and tonight he got some great help from a crease-crashing Jon Sim (who had three assists in his first career three-point game), potting Sim's rebound for his first career goal. As if that weren't enough, Bruno Gervais then came in late on the point to put home his first goal since nearly two years ago (April 2007). The lead went up to 3-1 at the end of the second period, and the Islanders were in clear control.

But one thing they didn't control was keeping the opponent from scoring early, and so Smyth got another goal 1:02 in on the wraparound, as Danis left the inside post open for just a moment as he anticipated a centering feed. The Isles weren't deterred, however, pressuring hard off the ensuing faceoff and keeping a good forecheck throughout. The next (and last) goal would be the backbreaker: Mark Streit rushed down center with the puck, Jeff Tambellini right with him, and chipped it to Tamby. Jeff then wristed a heck of a shot past Raycroft for his first goal in 17 games. The Avalanche tried their best to rebound, but it couldn't happen as Danis came up big late, and the Islanders played some great defensive hockey to win their second in a row on this five-game homestand.

Notes: Gary Bettman took in the game, as it was the only scheduled NHL game before the trade deadline... Streit, McAmmond, and Radek Martinek all had As on their chests as Guerin sat out and Weight, Witt and Park were all scratches as well... Trent Hunter was also a scratch (undisclosed injury), although he participated in warmups.

Sunday, March 1, 2009

Sabres Crumble At Hands of One-Man Wrecking Crew

Sabres 0: Bergenheim 2

Okay, so it's unfair to say that Sean Bergenheim was the only factor in this game- that would be overshadowing the great defensive play of Jack Hillen and the incredible work by the ever-flourishing Yann Danis in net as he received his second shutout of the season. But it is hard to overlook the performance of Bergenheim, especially seeing as about a month ago, you could barely tell that he was out there.

The determined young forward scored both goals for the Islanders, who picked up a win over the Buffalo Sabres last night at the Coliseum that the Sabres actually needed badly. Trapped in a dead heat with the Carolina Hurricanes for the eighth spot in the East, they needed some separation in the standings in order to have hope or securing a position in the playoffs. But instead, they came out relatively uninspired, giving the Isles plenty of opportunities to trip them up.

Bergie's first goal came in the second period, after the first reied heavily on Danis to make some pretty neat saves. Bergie hustled to the front of the net, took a pass from Hillen and spun on Patrick Lalime, putting the puck past his right pad. After that play, tensions ran fairly high as Joe Callahan came to the defense of blueline partner Radek Martinek after Adam Mair took a run at him. However, Callahan took the penalty for roughing, rather than Mair being penalized for a "clean" hit.

Then in the third, as Buffalo started steadily gaining pressure, Bergenheim did more damage. After being foiled on several attempts in front and up the middle, he got retribution, making something out of what seemed like nothing. In the offensive zone, he fell as a Buffalo player went behind with the puck, and turned it over. Then he cut to net as Frans Nielsen picked it up and fed it to him, and slammed home his 11th of the year. 2-0, Bergenheim picking up the first star of the game, as the Isles preserved the lead with great defense in front of the net and a couple of lucky post shots.

Notes: As earlier reported, Bill Guerin is apparently MIA. Word has it that he is in the process of being traded, but where and for what has yet to be announced. It certainly generated some buzz last night, as he was in warmups and then disappeared at the start of the game, sparking all sorts of talk. We shall see what happens.

Where in the World is Bill Guerin?

At last night's Isles game vs. the Sabres Bill Guerin warmed up with the team but was nowhere to be found at the start of the game…and for the rest of the game. Quite possibly after removing the final Islander jersey he will wear, he headed back home to continue packing up moving boxes – where those moving boxes will wind up is anyone’s guess. So far the rumors include him being traded to New Jersey, Washington, Boston, Florida, Montreal, Pittsburgh…overall the main rumor is that Guerin will be heading to a team somewhere on the East Coast. If you have been following the Isles veteran saga then you were not shocked at the news. It was a matter of time before the other skate dropped and I think it’s safe to say the first skate dropped way before last night.

What I find interesting is in reading discussions about who will get traded etc… there seems to be a one sided view that it’s all about the Islanders organization and who they want to get rid of to make way for the youth that is going to set the team free from years of mediocrity. As we saw with Chris Campoli, reality may not agree with perception. My guess is, there are more on the roster who wouldn’t mind being traded…and not just the team elders.

And so to the Islanders organization I offer this quote:

The way a team plays as a whole determines its success. You may have the greatest bunch of individual stars in the world, but if they don't play together, the club won’t be worth a dime.
~Babe ruth

and to Scott Gordon I offer this one:

The country is full of good coaches. What it takes to win is a bunch of interested players.
~Don Coryell, ex-San Diego Chargers Coach

Mark their words fellas. Re-building comes from the ground up or in this case, from the offices to the ice.