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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.

Islanders 2014-15 Season Mantra

Try not. Do...or do not.


Friday, April 30, 2010

Round Two, Welcome.

So I went 1-7 in the first round. Honestly, I think 0-8 would have looked a bit better- at least miss the mark completely, ya know? But thank God for the Chicago Blackhawks, that's all I have to say. Anyway, the matchups for Round Two look like this:

Eastern Conference

(4) Pittsburgh vs. (8) Montreal

After a crazy Game 7 upset of No.1 seeded Washington, the Habs take on yet another offensive powerhouse in the Penguins. Unlike the Caps, this Pittsburgh team is unafraid to score by any means necessary- though they will have to contend with monster shot-blockers and a stone wall in net by the name of Jaroslav Halak, which is what they were able to avoid in the first round against Ottawa. They start off tonight at 7.

(6) Boston vs. (7) Philadelphia

Now this is going to be good. After knocking off the number 3 and 2 seeds, respectively, these two teams match up in what will surely be a rough-and-tumble kind of series. Should be interesting. Though the Bruins have gotten some rest, the Flyers have been kicking back for about a week or two now since handily disposing of the NJ Devils in five. Also an interesting goalie duel- Tuukka Rask vs. Brian Boucher.

Western Conference

(1) San Jose vs. (5) Detroit- SJ leads, 1-0

So, these two teams have already started business, with San Jose just getting by with a 4-3 win last night thanks to two goals by Joe Pavelski (including the game-winner). The Red Wings have gone straight into this series after winning Game 7 against the Coyotes 6-1. Look for fatigue to be a factor.

(2) Chicago vs. (3) Vancouver

There's already some bad blood between these two teams, stemming back (I believe) from last year's playoffs in which the Hawks dispatched the Canucks in the second round, 4 games to 2. With an incredibly strong team this season, Vancouver will look to exact revenge- though much of that rests on the pads of one Roberto Luongo. He'll have to be dynamite against the hot offense that Chicago has.

Kick back, relax and enjoy the semi-finals- one step closer to finding out which team will hoist the Stanley Cup. (And as long as it's not Pittsburgh or Detroit, we'll be juuuust fine. :D)

Sunday, April 25, 2010

And Two More Picks Bite the Dust.

I'd like to pay my respects to another two of my playoff picks, the Colorado Avalanche and Ottawa Senators. Though they fought bravely and surprised everyone who ever doubted them, Craig Anderson, Matt Duchene and the rest of the Avs were defeated last night by the San Jose Sharks, 5-2, and lost the series four games to two. Also, the Pittsburgh Penguins beat the Ottawa Senators, 4-3 in OT on Pascal Dupuis' goal, taking the series four games to two as well. I am now 0-3 on the first round. Ugh.

Well... I have some serious hopes hinging on the Phoenix Coyotes now, as they take on the Red Wings in Game 6 at 2 p.m. and are on the brink of elimination themselves. I had a dream last night that Ilya Bryzgalov allowed a soft goal in OT, giving the Wings the series win... I'm praying to the hockey gods that that stays only in my subconscious. PLEASE, I'M BEGGING YOU. I have to win at least one of these rounds.

Anyway... the Kings and Canucks also play tonight, and with the Kings losing big in their last two matches, they need a wake-up call if they want to stay in it. Stay tuned.

Friday, April 23, 2010

One Series Down, Seven to Go...

So... one series has ended, and I'm already on a losing streak.

The Flyers closed out their series with the Devils, 4 games to 1, with their 3-0 shutout last night. Man, that sucks. But honestly, it was well-deserved... they played all out, while the Devs were all over the place and played with no distinguishable urgency whatsoever. Plus, Philly owes four steak dinners to goalie Brian Boucher for pretty much proving everyone (or at least me) wrong with his clutch play during this series. He's got the guys in front of him believing in him and playing some great D as well. I don't know if they'll fare as well against the Capitals (should Washington win this series, I believe that's the team the Flyers will face), but who knows?

Anyway... the Caps have the chance to win their series against the Habs as well, and they'll take it tonight at 7 p.m. Also on the docket: Coyotes-Red Wings, Kings-Canucks, Bruins-Sabres. Versus has made me very happy with its lineup for tonight, so I'll be enjoying the Caps and Coyotes games while keeping an eye on all of the other scores.

P.S. Triple OT last night in Pittsburgh? Yikes! I know some Pens fans weren't happy about the result. (4-3 win) Looks like they'll have to close out the series on road ice... that is, if all goes as planned.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Hockey and the Female Fan, Revisited.

I have a favorite Tweep of mine to thank for this link- Angela MacIsaac, or @that_angela. She's a former sportswriter and journalist and a Flames fan who knows her stuff. Today she sent me this link to an article by Cassie McClellan of fromtherink.com about hockey and the female fan. In it, a roundtable of female bloggers and fans talk about how they first fell in love with the sport, how male fans have received them, and some of their negative encounters. I found it interesting and quite relatable.

I don't know if I ever made it clear to anyone how I first got into the sport, so I'll do so now. The movie "Miracle," about (what else) the 1980 U.S. Men's Olympic hockey team and their coach, Herb Brooks, was released in 2004. I saw it on cable one day during the eighth grade and fell in love with the story, and with the sport in general. Throughout that summer (which was ironically in the middle of the lockout year, 2004-05), I watched the movie, read a book (The Boys of Winter by Wayne Coffey) based on it, and watched classic games on MSG. By the time the 2005 preseason started, I was head over heels for hockey. How I became an Islanders fan is a different story.

In five full years of being a fan, I've been pretty lucky so far. Though I have gotten surprised looks from fellow fans, not to mention some less-than-acceptable name suggestions in my eyes when looking for the perfect podcast name ("Hockey Score Broads"? Uh, no), overall the majority of male fans I've encountered has accepted me as an equal, and we've had some great discussions and debates. Unfortunately, though, that's not the same everywhere- and even the NHL's marketing team, not to mention individual team marketing squads, tugs at the wrong strings. Pink and shiny isn't the way to go, guys, and I've said it before. Neither are those detestable "Marry me, Miller!" shirts a friend of mine found in a team store- at HSBC Arena. Yes, those are real, the hockey gods help us.

So yes, women can be actual fans who spew stats and celebrate goals and can name more than one player on the team. Of course, women can be women as well, and every now and then they will notice a player who's easy on the eyes, but more often (at least, I hope) they will bleed their team's colors, cheer on and cry for their favorites every season, right along with the guys. I know I do.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Vote for Rob Schremp in TSN's Play of the Year Showdown: Pool B

So, Rob Schremp's baseball-style goal against the Colorado Avalanche dazzled many hockey fans for sure. Now, Bob the Builder's up against Miikka Kiprusoff, Jonathan Toews and others for one of the best plays of the season on TSN.ca.

Right now, Robbie's trailing behind Kipper, 40.2% to 35.6%. Kiprusoff's incredible toe save against the San Jose Sharks is impressive, no doubt, but some believe it's based more on luck than anything else. Of course, Isles fans *should* be voting for Robbie because not only was that an incredible goal, but he wears the orange and blue as well. :) But you are, of course, the judge.

P.S. Doug Weight talks about the Canucks-Kings series here on Fanhouse TV. He gives some great insight on both teams, as well as specific players.

P.P.S. Coyotes, Senators, Blackhawks, Avalanche all lost. I really know how to pick my teams, eh? :( Hoping for a Capitals win tonight.

Monday, April 19, 2010

Playoff Addiction Step One: Admit You Have a Problem...

I have to admit, I wasn't quite as involved in watching the playoffs last night as I had been for the past week. Oh, don't get me wrong, I watched, but damn if I forgot there were two OTHER games to watch out for- Phoenix-Detroit and New Jersey-Philly. Oopsie.

Enough of that, though. You know what the best thing about this has been? No team has gone 2-0 in the series. For the FIRST TIME in league history! That's when you know every team is playing its hardest- even the lower seeds have come to play and are making it hard on those whom are favored to win. Take Phoenix, for example. Plenty of people I know wrote off the Coyotes despite them being the higher seed because, after all, it's Detroit they're playing, and the Red Wings have all this history, 19 years straight in the playoffs, blah blah blah. All the respect in the world, but Phoenix has a ton of momentum, not to mention a newly nominated Vezina candidate (Ilya Bryzgalov) in net. I've said all of this before, but I'll say it again- you can't count them out, especially since they won Game 3 convincingly yesterday afternoon, 4-2.

Also, unfortunately taking a 2-1 series lead in this round was the Flyers. After getting to overtime, an unlikely fellow by the name of Daniel Carcillo scored the game-winner. Ugh. Spare me. The Devils should be in full desperation mode- or at least trying hard to get the ball, or puck as it were, back into their hands regarding this series.

In other games, the Penguins scored a big win over the Senators last night 4-2 on the road, with Sidney Crosby a present factor (1 G, 1 A, +1) and Marc-Andre Fleury (20 saves) getting things done in net. The Senators had the crowd with them for most of the game, but Brian Elliott has definitely been sharper, and their defense needs to be more focused as well. Also, after a 0-0 stalemate for three periods, a fluke goal off of the stick of San Jose's Dan Boyle cost the Sharks the game in overtime, giving the Colorado Avalanche a 2-1 series edge. Talk about tough times for the No. 1 seed.

Tonight, the Capitals and Canadiens face off in front of a raucous Bell Centre crowd, no doubt, at 7:00 p.m., and Semyon Varlamov will start in place of Jose Theodore for Washington, so we'll see how that goes. The Bruins and Sabres also play tonight, with another Vezina candidate (Ryan Miller) in net, and the Sabres looking to avenge a 5-3 drubbing in Game Two. The late game is the Kings against the Canucks, in L.A. tonight. I'll likely only be watching one of these games (Caps-Habs)... I'm in terrible danger of suffering from premature playoff burnout, resulting in an unhappy Angie, and we don't want that, now do we? :P


Sunday, April 18, 2010

Bruins, Caps, Kings All Deliver

The drama just keeps on coming. Gotta love it!

First... if you haven't already, please watch the first half-minute of this video in which Andy Sutton gets into it with a reporter about his hit on Jordan Leopold. It's spawned a trending topic on Twitter (#areyouanexpert) and its own Facebook fan page, and though perhaps it shouldn't, it's given me a whole new reason to love the big guy. :)

Now, on to the games, and though I missed about the whole first period of Bruins-Sabres, I got to see at least all of Habs-Caps, and what a game that was. But first things first.

Bruins beat Sabres 5-3; series tied at 1.

So no huge hits or strange feats here, but Thomas Vanek lovers will definitely have a hard time dealing with this; the forward left the game in the first period with the dreaded "lower-body" injury. Should he end up missing the rest of this series, that will definitely change things- for the better for Boston, and for the worse for the Sabres.

Washington beats Montreal 6-5 (OT); series tied at 1.

W.O.W. This game was the most entertaining of the night. Jose Theodore certainly didn't think so- he allowed 2 goals on the first two shots he faced and ended up giving way to Semyon Varlamov, who did allow three, but no matter- Nicklas Backstrom saved the night with his hat trick, including the game-winner in overtime, as the Caps battled back from 4-1, then tied the game at 5 just after Tomas Plekanec scored late in the third period. Best part? The reaction on the bench from all of the coaches, who got into a legitimate group hug as the team celebrated. They knew they needed this one before heading into the snake pit that is the Bell Centre.

L.A. beats Vancouver, 3-2 (OT); series tied at 1.

I saw Vancouver build up their 2-0 lead just before falling asleep, but I missed all the good stuff, unfortunately. And the best thing? Jonathan Quick, who made some incredible saves in the second and third period to keep the Canucks from adding to their lead, thus allowing the Kings to come back and win it. Give kudos to some great defensive work by the guys in front of him to stymie Vancouver's offense.

So tonight, here goes nothing- Game 3 of Pens-Sens, followed by Game 2 of Hawks-Preds, followed by Game 3 of Sharks-Avs. All one right after another on Versus. Addiction, I has it. Enjoy, y'all.

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Playoffs, Night Three: Not a Good Track Record.

Well, at least the Devils won.

That's the consolation I have to give myself, after watching four straight hockey games and getting updates on another one. And go figure- the one I don't watch is the one in which the team I'm rooting for wins. Up until 2:00 a.m. for all of that?! But hey, at least there were some great games on. And I will say this much- for all my complaints about Versus showing NHL games, I was in hockey heaven last night with their continuous coverage of the playoffs. Four games, all shown one right after the next. Don't say you can't appreciate that!

New Jersey beats Philadelphia, 5-3; series tied at 1.

Thank the hockey gods. I couldn't take much more of the Flyers winning. The Parise-Zubrus-Elias line was definitely cooking last night, combining for 2 goals and 6 points, and Ilya Kovalchuk had three points himself, plus Martin Brodeur made 26 saves to seal the deal. This was the only game I couldn't watch (I need Center Ice badly), but I got enough of the gist of it to know that this, as every game is now, was a big one for NJ.

Pittsburgh beats Ottawa, 2-1; series tied at 1.

A much low-scoring event than was Game 1 (though don't worry, the other three games more than made up for it). Brian Elliot did his best, but in the end it was Sidney Crosby making an excellent move on Jason Spezza and three other Ottawa Senators to assist on the winning goal by Kris Letang. One of the highlights of this game? Former Islander Andy Sutton's vicious hit on Jordan Leopold. Leopold, focused on the puck and the D already on him (Nick Foligno), barely even caught sight of the freight train that was Sutton until he'd already been hit. They call it a clean hit, and I saw no signs of an elbow, but it won't ingratiate him one bit with Pens fans.

Nashville beats Chicago, 4-1, take 1-0 series lead.

Antti Niemi? He was good, but he didn't compare to Pekka Rinne, who made some fantastic saves in order to keep the high-scoring Hawks offense off the board. Also, he didn't let in the two headscratchers Niemi did- one an unlucky bounce, the next an unfortunate rebound, both going to the stick of J.P. Dumont. Dumont got the first star of the game for his efforts, and two empty-netters sealed the deal for Music City.

Detroit beats Phoenix, 7-4; series tied at 1.

What a game this was. Five goals in four minutes in the third period- all trading off, Detroit, Phoenix, then the Wings, then the Coyotes again, until finally Justin Abdelkader got the deciding goal. Then Henrik Zetterberg capped off a hat trick, Valtteri Filppula got his second, and the Wings skated off with the victory (to my chagrin). You wanna talk drama? This and the next game had plenty of it. Not a lot of defense, but plenty of action!

San Jose beats Colorado, 6-5 (OT); series tied at 1.

The Sharks needed this one as well... and they got it, in dramatic fashion. Much like the Coyotes-Wings game, the Avs and Sharks exchanged goals, and Colorado went late into the third period with a 5-4 lead- until Joe Pavelski got to the front of the net and knotted it up at 5 with 30 seconds to go. Then Devin Setoguchi put it away for San Jose at 5:22 of OT, on the power play. After watching the end of the Hawks game, then the end of the 'Yotes game, by this point all I could do was turn off the TV, turn over on the sofa and sleep... and yes, I did sleep on the sofa. My little cousin took my bed over. But it was worth it!

So today's games are as follows: Buffalo-Boston, currently in progress (the Sabres lead 2-0), Montreal-Washington at 7:00 p.m. and the L.A. Kings in Vancouver at 10:00. Drunk on hockey? Nawww. This is just a pleasant buzz to start off. :)

Friday, April 16, 2010

Lee Named Rookie of the Year; JT, KO, JH to Play in Worlds; Koskinen, Petrov on the Move

Lots of stuff has gone on this week for the Isles- both players and prospects.

-First, Scott Gordon has been named head coach of the 2010 U.S. team for the World Championships. Defenseman Jack Hillen and forward Kyle Okposo (who turns 22 today- happy birthday!) have also been named to the squad. Also, John Tavares will play for Team Canada in the Worlds. Great job, guys!

- Trevor Gillies has been signed to a one-year contract with the Islanders. In 14 games this season, the tough guy tallied 75 penalty minutes.

- Last year's sixth-rounder in the draft, Anders Lee, has been named the USHL's Rookie of the Year. He played 59 of 60 games for the Green Bay Gamblers and tallied 66 points (35 G, 31 A). Congratulations to him!

- And according to Chris Botta, Isles prospect Kirill Petrov will be at prospect camp this summer, apparently with the blessing of the Russian KHL and his current team, Ak Bars. The skilled winger has been touted as one of the team's best future players.
Not only that, but another top prospect, goalie Mikko Koskinen, has been called up to Bridgeport. The big, solid netminder reportedly underwent hip surgery, but had a solid end of the season in the ECHL for the Utah Grizzlies. Expect him to be a mainstay in BPT next season.

Playoffs, Night Two Revisited

So last night, there were only three games to pay attention to, and only two of them were at the same time, but I still had a hard time! Get this: I LIVE in Buffalo, and it took me ten minutes just to find the channel that was showing the Sabres- Bruins game. Ugh. All that aside, I did have a very enjoyable time watching the games, though one of them was a shocker.

Sabres beat Bruins 2-1, take 1-0 lead.

Low-scoring, as I suspected. A little bit boring in the third, yeah. But it's great to see the Sabres get off to an early start, just for the benefit of seeing all those devoted fans celebrating not only in HSBC Arena, but in the tent outside. When they say "standing room only" in Buffalo, they MEAN it. Ryan Miller was his usual sharp self, as was Tuukka Rask despite allowing more goals. And while it got scrappy... why wouldn't it? It's the playoffs!

Canadiens beat Capitals 3-2 (OT), take 1-0 lead.

WOW. I mean it. WOW. Ovechkin was very much a non-factor in this one, and the Habs did what they had to do to keep the game close and eventually beat the #1 seed in OT. Yes, it is just the first game of the series, but if possible the Habs have made a statement: we're here to play, just like Washington is. The Caps are gonna have to buckle down to prove that they're not going to turn out to be the San Jose Sharks of the East. P.S. How about the trash talk going down between both teams?

Canucks beat Kings 3-2 (OT), take 1-0 lead.

This was to be expected, even if the Kings got to a 1-0 lead in the first period. Vancouver's a tough team to play, and they outshot and outplayed the Kings for much of the game. However, Jonathan Quick held up there for a while and the fact that they're such a young team and kept it from being a blowout helps things.

Tonight, it goes like this...

(7) Nashville at (2) Chicago, 8:30 p.m.

The final Game One of this round. I have no idea why they started it so late, but oh well. It should be good. The Blackhawks won this series 4-2 but haven't played the Predators in months, though they're division rivals. The Hawks haven't lost in regulation in seven, but the Preds shouldn't be overlooked- they have strong goaltending with Pekka Rinne, though they'll need to deal with a dangerous Chicago offense. As for Antti Niemi, well... he'll need to keep from allowing soft goals so often.

Ottawa at Pittsburgh (Ottawa leads 1-0), 7:00 p.m. - the last game was high-scoring... look for more of the same.

Philadelphia at New Jersey (Philly leads, 1-0), 7:30 p.m.- maybe a goalie change? Martin Brodeur was not at his sharpest, and perhaps Jacques Lemaire will go for a lineup shakeup.

Detroit at Phoenix (Phoenix leads 1-0), 10:00 p.m. - Detroit will need stronger special teams, particularly the penalty kill, against the Coyotes, while Phoenix will need to keep winning faceoffs and peppering Jimmy Howard.

Colorado at San Jose (Colorado leads 1-0), 10:30 p.m.- The outcome of Game One should be a wake-up call for the Sharks, who have tons of pressure on now while Colorado should be looking to just keep this momentum going on the road.

FIVE GAMES! Wow. I'm going to be paying the most attention to Chicago-Nashville, Philly-New Jersey and Detroit-Phoenix, though all of these series are great to watch. Something tells me I'm going to be crawling out of bed to do tomorrow's blog post. Well, that's the playoffs for ya.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Playoffs Start With a Bang; Night 2 Preview

So it seems as though all eight teams playing last night liked the idea of a one-goal game, because that was all we saw on the scoreboard...

1. Philly beats NJ 2-1, takes 1-0 lead.

Eesh. I thought Boucher was the shaky goalie?! He actually made some great saves to keep the Devils off the scoreboard. Save for Travis Zajac's shot through a screen that cut the lead to 2-1, New Jersey couldn't get anything past him, while Martin Brodeur has been better. It's a shame, because I really would love for the Flyers to stop in, er, mid-flight. Hopefully the Devs will snap out of it and tie it up on Friday.

2. Ottawa beats Pittsburgh 5-4, takes 1-0 lead.

This was the highest-scoring game of the night- and what a shootout it was. Brian Elliott was sharp, as he needed to be, while Marc-Andre Fleury was the victim of a bad bounce, as well as his own fluster. Evgeni Malkin scored two goals and Sidney Crosby had three points but wasn't as much of a factor as he had been, likely because of the great coverage Ottawa executed.

3. Phoenix beats Detroit, 2-1, takes 1-0 lead.

So, everyone's calling Phoenix winning against Detroit an upset, and I say to that: Whatever. Phoenix was higher-seeded for a reason, and while they of course don't have the experience that the Red Wings have, they're not just going to lie down and let them skate to easy victory. Detroit had 1-0 and 2-1 leads, but they were eliminated quickly by Keith Yandle and Wojtek Wolski, and then Derek Morris score early in the third period to cement the come-from-behind win. P.S. Awesome job by PHX fans with the "White-Out." Same for Pittsburgh.

4. Colorado beats San Jose, 2-1, takes 1-0 lead.

Well, San Jose's gonna have to do some damage control fast. Though they'd tied it at 1 on Ryan Clowe's goal, a lucky bounce and a goal by Chris Stewart kept the game from going to OT, and Sharks fans were certainly not happy. They're going to have to work hard to keep from falling into a 2-0 hole, because this energetic Avs team shows no signs of backing down. Lots of pressure, but hey... that's what happens when you're the No. 1 seed.

So Night 2 commences tonight, with the other half of the playoff spectrum competing for an early lead, and it goes as follows:

(8) Montreal at (1) Washington, 7:00 p.m.

Montreal has their work cut out for them in this series- the high-octane offense Washington boasts will be going full-throttle while Montreal stumbled into the playoffs, winning only three of their last 11 games. They'll have to look to Jaro Halak to be extra-sharp tonight, though here's a fun fact: Carey Price started all four games against the Caps. Interesting.

(6) Boston at (3) Buffalo, 7:00 p.m.

Yay! A series I can watch locally! And while Boston took the season series 4-2-0 against the Sabres, neither of these teams is very high-scoring; therefore, look for tight games all the way. In net, look for Tuukka Rask against Ryan Miller, and I hope Miller's not too tired after playing most of the season plus the Olympics.

(6) Los Angeles at (3) Vancouver, 10:00 p.m.

The Canucks won the season series 3-1, but the Kings won big in their final meeting, 8-3. That being said, the Kings aren't much of a hot team right now. They won only two of their final 12 in regulation, and Jonathan Quick is a bit shaky (1-3-4 in last eight, pulled for the only win the Kings had in that span). Add an Art Ross Trophy winner (Henrik Sedin), his equally talented twin (Daniel), and perhaps the best Vancouver team in a while, and it'll be an uphill battle for L.A.

Can't wait for tonight's action! P.S. Yeah, Chicago doesn't play Nashville until Friday night. Lame. *grumble* Enjoy!

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Draft Lottery Has Isles Choosing 5th, Plus Playoff Preview

The 2010 NHL Draft Lottery was held live on Versus at 8 p.m. last night, and much as was predicted, Edmonton won first dibs on the plethora of talent to be made available in late June. The Islanders are to pick fifth, with Boston (from Toronto), Florida and Columbus holding picks 2-4.

As everyone knows, there has been much speculation as to whether or not the first player drafted will be Taylor Hall of the Windsor Spitfires or Tyler Seguin of the Plymouth Whalers of the OHL, who are virtually neck-and-neck in terms of scouting prestige and talent. In truth, whomever is taken first will be a great asset to Edmonton. As for the Islanders, well... I'm hoping they can grab Erik Gudbrandson, a defenseman playing for the Kingston Frontenacs. He's 6'3", 195, so he can definitely fill out, and he adds some good size to the blueline (which we are in need of). Though The Scouting Report online says that he has credible offensive talent, I really think that, especially if/when he puts on some weight, he can certainly be physical and add some toughness to our D as well. The final rankings had him listed as No. 4, but perhaps we can get lucky and Columbus will pass him by- or we can trade up a spot.

Now, on to the main event. There is still plenty of hockey left to be played, and it begins tonight as the Stanley Cup Playoffs get underway. The games tonight are as follows: Eastern Conference:

(5) Ottawa at (4) Pittsburgh, 7 p.m.

The defending Cup champs take on the resurgent Senators, and this should be pretty interesting. In the regular season, the teams split the season series with each team winning once at home, once on the road, and it's a much-the-same Pens team against a new-look Sens team who hopes their goaltending will be on point. Brian Elliott, who's starting in the playoffs for the first time, was a big part of the reason the team got into the playoffs. We'll see if he can keep that going. Of course, expect the usual suspects- Sid Crosby, Geno Malkin and Co.- to step up and try to get things done for the Penguins. It can go either way as far as individual game scores- both teams have beaten each other by wide margins- so who knows.

(7) Philadelphia at (2) New Jersey, 7:30 p.m.

Now this will be fun. Tough customers with talent, the Flyers won the season series easily over their Atlantic Division rivals, 5-1-0. To some surprise, Claude Giroux and Chris Pronger each have scored 7 points against the Devils for the team lead. Though the Devs may have the edge in goaltending- Brian Boucher is okay but sometimes shaky for Philly, while Martin Brodeur can make any team look good- they're going to have to capitalize on that, and get guys like Patrik Elias, Zach Parise and of course Ilya Kovalchuk going early on. They'll also have to get their power play scoring and draw plenty of penalties from this not-so-disciplined Flyers team. Expect Dan Carcillo to be a bit of an impact as well- I'm perfectly sure he'll happily fill the "pain in the butt" role in Sean Avery's absence.

Western Conference:

(5) Detroit at (4) Phoenix, 10:00 p.m.

I was watching NHL Network as I always do when I wake up in the morning, and if you watch often you know they always repeat NHL on the Fly until noon. Well, they had their Western Conference playoff preview last night, and I was surprised at how everyone on the show was so quick to write off this Coyotes team. Yes, Detroit is a great hockey club and they're finally healthy, and just in time. Yes, they've got plenty of experience and will use it well against a Cinderella team like the 'Yotes. But Phoenix has an edge in goaltending- Ilya Bryzgalov is a rock in net, and Jimmy Howard, while an impressive rookie, is perhaps the one player who isn't very experienced on the Red Wings. While Phoenix may be in the playoffs for the first time in eight years, they are masters in one-goal games and I think that they can, if not win this series, at least keep it quite close till the very end. They'll have to deal with Henrik Zetterberg and pavel Datsyuk, two of the best in the league, not to mention Nick Lidstrom, but they'll persevere.

(8) Colorado at (1) San Jose, 10:30 p.m.

San Jose, as you well know, is not the most reliable team in the playoffs, though they're the No. 1 seed almost every year. This year is the year in which they need to really prove that they can win when it counts. It may be hard- Colorado is a young but talented club that has a great goalie in Craig Anderson, a dynamic rookie in Matt Duchene and some vets to keep the balance. They also don't have much pressure on them; they've already surprised the heck out of so many who believed they would be in the WC cellar this season as well. The two teams split the four-game season series, so anything's possible here. However, injuries may be a problem- Duchene and Peter Mueller are questionable, and David Jones will not play, while SJ is healthy.

So, those are the games on the program for tonight, and I will do my very best to keep tabs on all of them. It's the best time of the year- the weather's warmer and the hockey's more intense, and every shift counts. Gotta love it! Playoffs, baby!

(Credit goes to nhl.com for playoffs info.)

Monday, April 12, 2010

Assessing the Season: 2009-10

So, the curtain has fallen on another Islanders season. Last night ended with a 6-5 overtime loss to the Pittsburgh Penguins. Naturally, by this point I would be weeping into my jersey about how unfocused, disorganized and bad they were, but I'm abandoning all of that in favor of hope for the coming year, as I've said before. Hey, they did lose a few games and badly, but any growing team is like that. Besides, the way some of our young players are developing I'd be willing to bet on some serious improvement next season.

With that said, let's get into some grading for the year. I've never really done this before, and something tells me that if I were an actual teacher I would be incredibly fair. But you be the judge. We'll start with the forwards.

Josh Bailey: He started off the season a little slow, but as it wore on, he started getting more confident and finished the year with 16 goals and 35 points. Not bad. His defensive play is also very good, and I think if he continues on this path he could score 20 a year. Unfortunately, he'll miss the AHL playoffs with a facial laceration; best wishes for a quick recovery. Grade: A-.

Sean Bergenheim: I've been rooting for this guy since he came back to us from playing in Finland, but he just hasn't improved much. He's got tons of heart, but his feet move faster than his hands and he holds onto the puck too long- not to mention the penalties he manages to commit. Overall, 10 goals and 13 assists on the year isn't too bad for a fourth-liner, but I was hoping for more from him. Grade: C.

Blake Comeau: This year, I believe, has been his best to date. Last year he scored 7 goals; this year, he's scored 10 more and the same number of assists (18) to finish alongside Bails with 35 points. He's developing into a great two-way forward and very good on the PK. Overall, great strides made by #57. Grade: A-.

Trent Hunter: Two years ago, he received a five-year contract extension worth $10 million. Since then he has scored a combined 59 points. This season, only 28 (11 goals, 17 assists). I don't know about the Isles' front office, but I certainly don't think that kind of production is worth $2M a year. Not only that, but I don't think the leadership they expected of him has been present. He worked well with Frans Nielsen early on, but on his own, not a great impact. Consider that Brendan Witt exhibited a similar kind of presence on the ice (with better leadership) and was waived, and you'll see what I mean. Grade: C.

Tim Jackman: He was injured for much of the year, came back and got injured again in a fight, and ended up wearing a face mask for the rest of the season which inhibited his game a lot (seeing that he's more of a fighter than a goalscorer). That said, he does his job when healthy and is completely unafraid to do so- oh yeah, and he can score a couple of goals every now and then. Grade: B-.

Matt Moulson: What a surprise this guy has been for the Islanders. Drafted by the Penguins, ends up with the Kings and then signs with us- and scores 30 goals by season's end. He finished with 48 points total and having played all 82 games as well, which is a plus! (Durability, in case you've forgotten, has been an issue with the Isles in past years.) He's a hard worker, gets to the front of the net, and has great chemistry with John Tavares as well as Nielsen and Hunter. Awesome find by Garth Snow and Co., and I hope we lock him up long-term because he is a great asset to our offense! Grade: A+.

Frans Nielsen: Definitely could score more in regulation (12 goals, 38 points), but he's a great playmaker and seems to score goals at great times. Plus, his shootout prowess is greatly appreciated, as he's gotten the second point for his team quite a few times. Gotta love the backhand deke! Grade: B.

Kyle Okposo: He was snakebitten early in the season and that scoring drought may have cost him a spot on the U.S. Olympic Roster, but he came ever so close to 20 goals anyway (19) and tallied 52 points total, a great improvement over last year's 39 points. He finished with a -22, which is not impressive, but even so he works his tail off every night, is good on both ends of the ice, and above all, his great attitude and maturity while just a few days shy of age 22 definitely make him a viable candidate for captain in another year. (P.S. He also played 80 games this year, another improvement.) Grade: A.

Richard Park: I love this guy's work ethic and determination and he is a great penalty killer as well, but in other areas (particularly offense, where we can use everyone's help) he is lacking. He's scored some beautiful goals in the past; however, he doesn't do it often enough to be a real kind of impact player. In fact, he dropped off from last year (from 14 goals to 9). A good faceoff man, but has to pick his spots better while shooting. Grade: C+.

Rob Schremp: They call him Bob the Builder, and for good reason- he's got plenty of tools in his shootout arsenal. Okay, so you've heard that one before, but I couldn't resist. In regulation 7 goals, 25 points total may not sound very impressive in 44 games, but on the ice he does have plenty of confidence and, when in the lineup for a prolonged period of time, he can grow to be a great offensive threat. He also gave Isles fans one of the most exciting goals of the year against the Avalanche, let's not forget. :) Grade: B.

Jon Sim: It's a thankless role he plays, that of the agitator, but aside from a few penalties he takes himself, not to mention the beating he undergoes on a nightly basis, he gets the job done most of the time. He's also scored 13 goals this season to boot. Grade: B-.

Jeff Tambellini: This guy is definitely one of the two enigmas on the team (the other is on the blueline). On the one hand, perhaps he hasn't really been given a fair shake this season- inconsistent playing time, preference over call-ups, etc.- but on the other, he really has to make the most of what opportunities he has been given. He's had a hat trick game this year, but he has 14 points in 36 games this season. With plenty of players developing at a faster pace, he needs to prove he can be consistent. Grade: C.

John Tavares: The #1 draft pick for 2009 went through a hell of a dry spell mid-season, but he made up for it at the end and tallied 24 goals and 54 points for the year. He's shooting more from all areas now and I think he will only get better, as all players do. An excellent start overall to his playing career, and let's hope the sophomore slump doesn't hit him too badly! Grade: A.

Doug Weight: Captain? Yes. Injured for a ton of games? Yes. Though he adds life to the power play, however, you really can't get past the fact that he scored only one goal this year- yes, one. 17 points total. It's hardly his fault, but it's just a shame how the season's gone for him after having a bit of a "renaissance year" on the Island last year. I don't expect him to play in 2010-11. Grade: C-.

Now on to the defensemen! Alphabetically:

Bruno Gervais: If you guessed that this guy's the other enigma for the Isles, you're correct. He tied last year's goal total, and he's had a couple of games in which he's solid, but so many more games stand out in my mind where he just looks lost- screening and crowding his own goalie, having the puck deflect off of him, point-blank losing the puck to an opposing player, etc. He needs a ton of work in order to stay in this lineup, especially with the development of other players and if we draft a defenseman who could be NHL-ready. Grade: D.

Jack Hillen: This D has developed very quickly into a reliable offensive defenseman, though he could score a few more goals to become legit. Still, he's done very well and will be a great piece of the blueline corps soon enough. His size is a bit of a downside as well, but he's got a good hip check and can use his speed to a good advantage. Grade: B+.

Andrew MacDonald: What's impressive about Andy Mac is that he managed this season to make a call-up in an emergency turn into a prolonged stay in the NHL. Gotta love that. He's a bit more of a quiet D, but he'll develop into a solid blueliner soon enough. I wish the Isles' website had his stats up, but I'll be content with saying that he's a good young D. Grade: B.

Radek Martinek: Too few games played to judge fairly. INC.

Freddy Meyer: Andy Sutton Jr. Only 5'10", but he's built like a barrel and sends much bigger guys flying with his hits. He also chips in on O every so often, which helps, and he's a smart player who doesn't take an awful lot of penalties either. Good work by him. Grade: A-.

Mark Streit: Last year, Streiter made the All-Star game and led the team with 56 points. This year he started off a bit slow, but finished off impressively, if with five fewer goals. Still, 49 points isn't too shabby, and his huge shot still contributes to the PP. I would hope he takes a well-deserved rest this offseason, though- from last NHL season to the IIHF Championships, to training camp and this season, to the Olympics and back to the NHL to play almost 30 minutes a night can take a toll on even the best players. P.S. His hits have improved too, and if I'm not mistaken he's one of two guys who've played all 82 games this year. Grade: B+.

Last but not least, the goalies:

Martin Biron: He started off shaky, got more stable after Rick DiPietro ended up bowing out, and unfortunately had a couple of flat games to end the year. But I think he's won enough starts to potentially cement another year in an Isles uni- that is, unless someone else on the FA market proves to be more promising. Also, gotta love his positive attitude throughout the year, knowing it was entirely possible he wouldn't last beyond the trade deadline on the Island. Grade: B.

Rick DiPietro: Too few games to judge fairly. INC.

Dwayne Roloson: When Ricky was brought into the mix, he did stumble a bit, and there's no real saying if he ever recovered from that; however, up until the Olympic break he did keep the Isles in a great place for a while. He's an athletic goalie, and I think he can do the same thing for us next year barring a three-goalie situation. Grade: A-.

Coaching: Well, it's touch and go, of course. Scott Gordon and Co. are still getting into the NHL groove, and they have a young team on their hands. But despite some errors, especially regarding special teams (needs a TON of work there), the Isles finished this year 18 points and four places higher than last year, and that has to be commended. Regarding certain individual players, perhaps more could have been done (ie. Gervais, Tamby), but overall it's coming along. Grade: B-.

Friday, April 9, 2010

Isles Stumble on Special Night for Pens

Islanders 3: Penguins 7

Mellon Arena saw its last home game in the regular season played last night, and while Penguins greats were honored, the current team took care of business on the ice.

Sidney Crosby had four points last night as the Pens rolled over the Islanders, 7-3, to my chagrin. This was the first game I was able to see live in almost two months, and unfortunately it was a doozy. But then again, how was I to know when I innocently tuned into NHL Network...?

23 seconds into the first period, Pittsburgh got its scoring started; Brooks Orpik shot one that got past Martin Biron in a screen. Then Alex Goligoski scored on a power play. Matt Moulson got one back on the Isles' own man-advantage, on a heads-up shot by Mark Streit, and the Isles started to buzz but a bad giveaway and near-breakaway by Evgeni Malkin led to his 26th of the year. (Whoa... wait, Matt Moulson has more goals (28) than Evgeni Malkin?) Kyle Okposo cut the lead to 3-2 with a great shot through a screen for his 18th of the year. Then came a goal by Sidney Crosby- his 49th of the year, which he scored after Pascal Dupuis decided to play football on the ice and shove Jack Hillen out of the way. An interference call which the referee conveniently missed, of course. 4-2 Pens, end of the first.

The second opened with Dwayne Roloson in net, the Isles getting desperate and shooting from everywhere, and Marc-Andre Fleury being equal to the task. Not that some of the shots weren't easy ones to save- to the chest and center of the pads. Oh, and he did make a great save on Frans Nielsen with his glove as Nielsen had a wide open net... but something tells me that Frans could have definitely shot more to the far corner. Josh Bailey would make good with his 16th of the year, however. At 14:34, Crosby took a shot from the point that everyone at first thought was his 50th goal of the year; however, later the goal was given to ex-Isle Bill Guerin, whom the puck was deemed to have deflected off of. Either way, it's 5-3 at this point. (Can you tell by now that this game was high-scoring?) Then two minutes later, Tyler Kennedy gets one past Roli, 6-3. By now, I'm ready to bury my head under my sheets. The offense just couldn't finish anything, while the defense was hanging both goalies- Biron and Roloson- out to dry.

The third period saw only one more goal by Guerin to make it 7-3, but the damage was irreparable. The fans at Mellon Arena were certainly pleased. I couldn't say much of the same, but hey, that's the way it goes. I'll be out of town this weekend so I'll miss the last two games of the season, but stay tuned for my review of the team, player by player. You always hate to see a season end early, but at least we can salvage some kind of hope; after all, we're not at the very bottom of the league anymore.

Notes: Mark Streit had 2 assists... Bridgeport's leading scorer Greg Mauldin (51 pts, 74 games) made his NHL debut tonight. He played on the fourth line between Trevor Gillies and Tim Jackman... non-Isles related news: Raleigh, NC will be the site of the 2011 All-Star Game, so congrats to them!... also, much respect to the Penguins for some great years at Mellon Arena. Best of luck in their new building.

P.S. Last night was possibly the last home game ever for an American hockey star. Mike Modano may be hanging up the skates after 22 years in the NHL. From Minnesota to Dallas, Mo has given fans something to cheer about, and he certainly made a huge name for himself in the league with 557 goals and 1,359 points in his career. Last night was a perfect ending as well- he tied the game with the Anaheim Ducks in the third period and then went on to score the game-winning shootout goal. Best wishes to Modano in whatever he decides to do, and congrats on a wonderful career.

Also, another American-born player- Keith Tkachuk- announced that he is also retiring at the end of this season after 19 years in the league. He has 538 goals and 1,063 points in his career with the Winnipeg Jets, Phoenix Coyotes, Atlanta Thrashers and St. Louis Blues, and he will also be missed. Best wishes to him as well, and kudos for a great career in the league.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Isles Strike Out, But Sailing Forward

With an overtime loss by the Boston Bruins last night, if my friend Matt is not mistaken, the Islanders are officially out of the playoff race. It's been a long season, with plenty of hiccups and triumphs along the way; the best thing about it, however, is the fact that the Isles have plenty to look forward to for next year.

Right now, the Isles are 33-35-10, combining for a total of 76 points with four games (including tonight's) left on the schedule. Last season, the Isles were 26-47-9 for 61 points, clinching the worst record in the league and the top pick in the resulting draft. If they were to win the last four games on their schedule, they would have 84 points, which is a vast improvement. With two games against Pittsburgh, this isn't likely to happen, but who knows. Not only that, but their top draft pick (John Tavares) is both a 20-goal scorer and a points leader for the team in his rookie year, and they have an almost 30-goal scorer (Matt Moulson) and three players also within five goals at the most of 20- Kyle Okposo (17), Blake Comeau (16) and Josh Bailey (15). Yes, their defense still needs work, but Jack Hillen and Andy MacDonald are making great strides. And the two remaining goalies, Martin Biron and Dwayne Roloson, have been doing their best to fill the hole Rick DiPietro has left. If anything, I would say goaltending is the biggest weakness, as Ricky's leadership will be hard to completely replace, but if Biron gets re-signed, who knows what could happen next year? Or perhaps if one of our prospects comes up... anything can happen.

Overall, I think the Isles have improved a lot, and the hockey gods willing, they will continue to improve throughout the summer, right into training camp and the season. Captaincy will be a concern yet again, what with Doug Weight being down once more for the year (shoulder) and likely not coming back to the Isles. I would say not coming back to hockey, period, but I wouldn't want to make that assumption; at the most, we can assume the Isles won't re-sign him in FA. As for everything else, well... there's the draft, and free agency, and beyond. There's nowhere else we can really go but up, is there?