As we headed to our cars after last night's 8-3 loss to Carolina, Ken Dick of Okposo Net noted that I had blogged recently about my elevated level of comfort with Rick DiPietro in net. It was a humorous moment in a mostly humorless night. My feelings about DiPietro haven't changed. He had a very bad night. He was not the only one. Rick left some bad rebounds that no one was able to clean up. On several occasions, the defense left loose pucks for loose Carolina forwards to bang in unimpeded. It was one of those nights when there really was nothing for the Islanders to hang their hats on.
In the first period, this looked like the type of game that the Islanders were going to let slip away because the mistakes they were making were leading directly to goals. Ruslan Fedotenko took an unnecessary hooking penalty just 59 seconds into the game. The Canes capitalized in the closing seconds of the man advantage. DiPietro mishandled the puck behind the net, a gaffe that resulted in the second Carolina goal. Chris Campoli took a delay of game penalty for shooting the puck into the crowd at the 12:07 mark of the 1st. Carolina went up 3-0 off a rebound just seconds after the penalty expired with Campoli not quite back into the play.
As it turned out, the Islanders would not look back at a couple of mistakes that were converted into goals as the root cause of this loss. There were many mistakes, too many to count. The defense appearing to stand around while pucks sat in front of DiPietro (some on bad rebounds) was merely one symptom of a team being mostly out of sync for an entire game. Carolina has a lot of talent making up its top 6 forwards and despite playing their fourth game in six days, these guys were ready to pounce. After the Canes went up 4-0 early in the 2nd period, it was apparent that DiPietro wasn't going to make it through sixty minutes. I thought it would take only one more goal, but partially due to Fedotenko putting the Isles on the board, DiPietro was not replaced until the score hit 6-1.
Despite the 6-2 deficit, the crowd really seemed to come alive after Marc-Andre Bergeron's power play goal at 10:27 of the 2nd period. A very good shift by the 4th line in and around the 13th minute of the period helped spark a good seven-minute run to the 2nd intermission when the team looked like it was playing hard and in sync for the first (and only) stretch of the night. By this time, Ted Nolan had begun to switch up the lines a little with Bill Guerin rejoining Fedotenko and Comrie, and Mike Sillinger centering Trent Hunter and Chris Simon.
The evening was well summarized on a power play in the 3rd period when an Islander dump-in took a funny bounce right in front of the Carolina goal and no one was there to bury it. When Sillinger deposited his first goal of the season with 5.1 seconds left in the game, the blaring horn that celebrated the tally seemed quite unnecessary. In the locker room following the game, Sillinger himself practically discounted his effort by referring to the final score as 8-2. All in all, it's a little early in the season to have already given up eight goals twice.
Post-game, the obvious question on everyone's mind was how much the week without a game affected the team's play. I think that's impossible to quantify, but let's just say that such a layoff is not a normal part of an NHL player's routine and I don't doubt that it had an impact. Still, when the puck drops, there are two teams out there and one puck. The team that takes care of it usually wins.
To their credit, the players said the right things about not making excuses. In the post-game press gaggle, DiPietro, Sillinger, and Guerin all fielded questions from beat reporters and bloggers alike. You can view their comments and reactions on Islanders TV here. Ted Nolan was notably calm and controlled in addressing the media. If he was seriously bothered by the effort of his team, he wasn't showing it. I don't think that an 8-3 drubbing at this juncture called for any histrionics. He did make it clear that he was not happy about the performance.
With another four days off before playing again, I was curious about how the coach planned to approach the coming days. Would he try to dig down deep into what went wrong against the Canes and focus on that? Or, would he focus on what went right (Bergeron scoring on the power play?) and try to turn the page? Of course, trying to be concise, the question came out as, "How do you approach the next four days now?" In reply, Nolan said, "I think the toughest thing is the way we were not in action. It's kind of like we're just sitting here waiting for a week and now we're sitting for another four days. We're not really in the action part of the schedule here. It's tough, it's tough, so we have to compensate somehow and we have to create our own energy some way." Nolan scheduled a practice for Sunday to start creating that energy. To view the rest of the coach's comments, go here.
- It was Law Enforcement Appreciation Night at the Coliseum. The team donated $20,000 in ticket-sale proceeds to local law enforcement charities. Before the game, members of the Bureau of Special Operations S.W.A.T. unit rappelled down to the ice from the rafters, and NCPD officer Brian Enoch offered a stirring rendition of the national anthem.
- Nice jersey sightings: Early 90s vintage Hogue and Ferraro jerseys
- Random jersey sightings: Mole and Holland
- There was a large contingent of Canes fans, all decked out in new RBK Edge jerseys, sitting in section 228 (possibly the fathers of the Canes players accompanying them on the trip?)
- The Blog Box banner has been replaced by a semi-permament wallpaper-like version that gives the impression that is painted on the wall behind section 201. The usher in our section said, "Congratulations...you guys must be doing a good job!"