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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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Thursday, January 7, 2010

What. A. Game.

Islanders 3: Avalanche 2

That's all I have to say.

I don't think you could ask for a better matchup- two speedy teams with dynamic rookies. John Tavares in one corner, Matt Duchene in another. That was a storyline in itself: the tale of two youngsters in a heated race for the Calder Trophy, facing off against each other for the first time. I think it would've been a good one, had Dwayne Roloson and Rob Schremp not completely stolen the show.

The Avalanche struck first after Andy Sutton went to the penalty box for an interference call. Chris Stewart put a one-timer past Roloson at 2:48 of the first period. Toward the end of the period, Jon Sim got in front of Craig Anderson and whacked away at the puck, finally putting it past the Avs goalie for the tie at 18:10. It was a great, hard-working play, and closed out a solid period in which the Isles had to find their legs in the first few minutes, but were able to adjust and get their fair share of chances.

After that, things got interesting. Roli the Goalie came up big, stacking the pads on Duchene on one opportunity, and the offense started getting some good chances. After John-Michael Liles went to the box for holding the stick, Schremp showed his skills and collected a rebound from Frans Nielsen, batting it in- out of midair. The goal went under review, but slo-mo replay showed that Robbie had gotten his stick right under the crossbar, deeming it a good goal. Tell me this kid doesn't have amazing hand-eye coordination. Highlight-reel makers around the league must have been drooling.

After that, Jack Hillen took a silly penalty for tripping at 18:11 which killed the momentum a bit, but the penalty kill stood up tall and not only killed that one, but the subsequent one on Kyle Okposo at 1:34 of the third period. Roloson was nothing short of brilliant in this closing frame, making several key stops including a complete highway robbery of Duchene (again). After coughing up the puck along the boards (Bruno Gervais came in too close and couldn't get to it), Duchene got the pass in front of the back post, and Roli lunged over and grabbed the shot. Even though Matt Hendricks did get the tying goal midway through the period, Roloson was able to keep it just a tie, and then Kyle Okposo won it for the Isles with his seventh of the year late in the third, flying along the right side and firing it past Anderson's left shoulder.

This, of course, is the best I can do to explain the awesome game I saw on MSG Plus last night. You definitely had to be there or see it on TV to appreciate the way the Islanders played. It took them a while, but they were able to stay with the Avs and work hard for the win. And of course, it doesn't hurt having a brick wall like Roloson in net. He saved 30 shots in all, dazzling everyone. No doubt Rick DiPietro (!!!!!), who dressed as backup to Roli last night (and who's reported to be starting one of the two remaining games of this road trip- either Dallas or Phoenix), was watching closely. And now that he's back in the mix for the Islanders, expect a trade coming up soon... and unfortunately (though not unexpectedly) for Martin Biron, he may well be the odd goalie out.

We shall see how this turns out. For now, however, we gear up for any one of the three to be in net against Dallas on Friday.


Notes: Mark Streit had two assists... Jon Sim has scored goals in three straight games, and in four of his last five... Kyle Okposo has tied Matt Moulson and John Tavares in the team lead for points with 28, on 7 goals and 21 assists... call Billy Jaffe "Superman." The guy went from the Versus broadcast of Blackhawks vs. Wild in Chicago Tuesday night, straight to the airport in time to meet the team bus in Colorado for yesterday's pregame skate. Talk about tired!

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