Friday, November 30, 2007

Quick Link: Isles' Mandarin Broadcasts Begin

Tomorrow's edition of The New York Times will have an article by Dave Caldwell on the Islanders' latest groundbreaking move: broadcasting a hockey game in Mandarin. The article is available online here now. The Mandarin broadcast of Saturday's game against the Thrashers will be accessible through the S.A.P. button on your television or remote control. Caldwell reveals that the Islanders hope to have a game televised in China this season. Without a Yao Ming or Yi Jianlian, it may be difficult for the NHL to replicate the success that the NBA has had in China. However, the Islanders have already broken barriers through Charles Wang's Project Hope. Following up that program with exposure to the game at its highest level seems like the next logical step.

Note: The online version of the article suggests that it will appear in the printed paper on Saturday, but it's entirely possible that this a Web-only feature.

Thursday, November 29, 2007

11/29/07: Rangers 4, Islanders 2

First blogger to make a "post-Senators hangover" joke wins. Oh. Well, there you go. I didn't say it had to be a good joke.

With Boston leading Florida 3-1 in the third, it looks like the Isles will be dropping to 7th place. The Panthers were only two points back themselves, so that game was going to make things more uncomfortable regardless of the outcome. And if you look at the games played column, those valuable games in hand have just about run out for now.

Sean Bergenheim lost his spot in the lineup tonight. I'm fine with that decision. Bergenheim certainly isn't beyond getting the "sit down and then come back and show me something" treatment from Ted Nolan that other players have dealt with. To date, the young Finn's contributions to the team simply have not been enough. It was his turn.

That being said, something has to give with this defensive corps soon. The seven d-man lineup is not going to be a long-term solution, so the sooner a consistent roster hits the ice, the better. Teams can succeed with d-men rotating in and out of the starting lineup, especially if they're well coached and well informed about the way things are going to be. If that's the way Nolan wants to approach it, I wouldn't mind seeing it for a while. Aside from Witt and Martinek, I think you can make a case for every Islanders defensemen to take his turn in the press box from time to time. Maybe be careful with matchups where resting Sutton is concerned.

Anyway, all of this talk about defensemen is probably misplaced frustration with the forwards. You have to feel for DiPietro knowing that he can't give up more than two goals, and even that only gets him to overtime. The failure of the power play in the first period once again set the tone for a drab performance by the offense. At the end of the game, it was suggested on TV that the Islanders may be tired. The schedule has been a little rough lately, but unless your nickname is DP, fatigue before December is not acceptable.

The guys over at Hockey Night on Long Island have invited me to appear on their show this Saturday. However, a family celebration is my priority for that day, so I will not be able to make the appearance. I hope they will be able to accommodate me at a later date. I would look forward to following in the illustrious footsteps of my pioneering blogger colleagues Michael Schuerlein and Tom Liodice, who have already made successful debuts on the show. Thanks to Alex and Steve for their interest in bringing Islanders Outsider aboard!

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

11/28/07: Islanders 3, Senators 2, SO

Have you ever cared less about the Islanders giving up a late goal and allowing a conference rival to take a point at the Coliseum? I don't think that I have. I had a social obligation tonight (postponed from the night of the first Islanders-Rangers game this season--thanks again to understanding friends) so I saw only the first 15 minutes or so of the first period. Coming home to read of a victory over the might Sens was a wonderful surprise.

Three cheers to Josef Vasicek, Rick DiPietro, Bill Guerin, and Mike Sillinger for coming through against the toughest of opponents and showing the rest of the NHL that the Islanders can compete with the best that the league has to offer. I'd like to think that were some defensive stars in this one as well, but that will require further investigation. I do see that Islanders won 60 percent of the faceoffs and the PK finished 6-for-7 against a lethal group of forwards. Meanwhile the PP went scoreless in four chances, so perhaps including Berard in any kind of d-man rotation will be a brief experiment.

Now, let's go back to Monday for a moment. Following the game, Miro Satan served up a quote that had firestorm sprayed all over it. That is, of course, if anything that an Islander did outside of illegal stickwork or testing positive for a banned substance could cause a firestorm in the local media. However, I did see the quote repeated on a number of blogs and forums. When I first read it in Greg Logan's recap of the game, the quote immediately set off alarms. "Fans are going to pounce all over this one," I said to myself.

For those who missed it or don't remember, Satan said, "
Our record is fine, and there's enough experience and grit on this team to go through that." The first few comments attached to the Logan article were critical of Satan. But the conversation soon moved on to other topics. Satan has more or less escaped unscathed.

Saying "Our record is fine" reminded me of Tom Glavine's reaction to giving up seven runs in less than an inning of the Mets' final game this year, virtually guaranteeing that the team would not advance to the playoffs. When asked if he was devastated by the performance, Glavine replied that no, he was not devastated. For a pitcher who has lasted as long as Glavine has, and has accomplished as much as Glavine has, the fact that he was not devastated by one bad game neither surprised me nor enraged me. However, by declaring so in such a matter of fact tone, Glavine raised the ire of many a Met fan. That fan base was devastated by the loss and the season. Glavine miscalculated how his honesty would be perceived. Or he didn't care. For many Mets fans, Glavine's future standing as a Met was sealed by his lack of hurt regardless of whether he returned to the team. He was branded as complacent.

Was Miro guilty of the same transgression? After a tough loss, is it okay for a player to rationalize the result by saying it's okay, we're doing fine? Does that show a lack of fire? The vastly different circumstances make it much easier to excuse Satan and eviscerate Glavine. I decided to give Satan the benefit of the doubt, and judging by the diminutive outcry, it seems that most Islander fans did the same. And the more I thought about it, the more I agreed with Satan. At this point of the season, 12-8-1 was fine. And 13-8-1
looks a whole lot better.

Saturday, November 24, 2007

College Hockey Special

Tonight, if you'll indulge me, I bring you coverage of a special event. Yes, I cheated on the Islanders. Instead of being in the Blog Box to watch the Isles and Bruins conclude their home-and-home, I was at MSG for another New York-Boston matchup: Cornell vs. Boston University. Billed as "Red Hot Hockey," the game rekindled an old rivalry that had been reduced to a few glowing embers since BU defected to Hockey East from the ECAC for the 1984-85 season. Since then, the teams had met only 8 times, the last coming in 2002-03. Cornell entered tonight's contest with a three-game winning streak against BU and a 23-16-1 advantage in the series overall.

Cornell and BU first battled in 1925. Back then, the Big Red played its home games on Beebe Lake on the school's Ithaca, NY campus, which it continued to do until 1948 when warmer weather put the outdoor sheet out of commission. The Cornell hockey program stayed dormant until the fabled Lynah Rink opened in 1957. That storied arena remains an extremely difficult venue for opponents to succeed in to this day.

The rivalry between the two schools ignited in the 1960s thanks to the leadership of legendary coaches Ned Harkness (Cornell) and Jack Kelley (BU). For a comprehensive look at the games that carried the rivalry through the 1970s and into the 1980s, please visit Milestone Games of the BU-Cornell Series. You will see that the series features a pantheon of hockey greats, including names like Dryden, Hughes, Eruzione, Silk, and O'Callahan, as well as some Islander-centric names like Stirling and Bates. If you go back through the historical rosters of both schools, you will find many more familiar names.

I am proud to report that Red Hot Hockey was a smashing success. 18,200 students and alumni of both universities filled the Garden. And, no, this wasn't your usual MSG sellout where 18,200 tickets may be sold, but several thousand of them remain in the desk drawers of Manhattan executives. There were no empty seats. The scalpers along Seventh Avenue were doing a brisk business and, in some cases, even arguing with each other over rights to customers.

The arena was divided in half with one end designated for Cornell fans and the other for BU. It looked like the Cornell end was solid Big Red supporters, whereas the BU side was sprinkled with pockets of Cornellians. Let's call it 60-40 Cornell on the attendance sheet. Everywhere you looked it was red and white, as both schools claim those colors as their own (although Cornell's is really "Carnellian" and white).

If you ever have the opportunity to attend a Cornell hockey game, do not pass it up. The intricate and relentless participation of the Lynah Faithful, underscored by the Big Red Pep Band, is unlike anything you will ever experience at an NHL game. At an NHL-sized arena, with a vociferous and proud contingent of opposition fans, the effect is somewhat diluted. So your true goal should be to attend a Cornell game at Lynah. For an introduction and insight into what it's all about, visit ELynah, particularly the Other Pages section. And, to be fair, to explore all things Terrier, try The Terrier Hockey Fan Blog.

Much in the way that the Islanders hit all the right notes in honoring Al Arbour, the organizers of Red Hot Hockey were right on the ball. The two coaching legends, Harkness and Kelley, emerged from the penalty box area to participate in the ceremonial opening faceoff. During the first intermission, Cornell and NHL star Joe Nieuwendyk joined Harkness to welcome members of the 1967 and 1970 Big Red National Championship teams. This was followed by a video tribute to the great players and coaches of Cornell.

For the second intermission, the crowd was treated to an on-ice appearance by former BU players, and U.S. Olympic Hockey legends, Mike Eruzione, Dave Silk, and Jack O'Callahan. Fans from both teams stood and cheered that group, and rightfully so. The BU video tribute feted current Terrier coaching great Jack Parker.

And, yes, there was hockey played. When the event was first announced earlier this year, the matchup may have given Cornell reason for concern. In the early part of this decade, the Big Red returned to elite status in the NCAA behind the leadership of coach Mike Schafer and the stellar, and record-breaking, goaltending of David LeNevue and David McKee. However, despite achieving a #1 ranking for the first time, several berths in the NCAA tournament, and a trip to the Frozen Four, Cornell was unable to return to the top of the heap. In the last couple of years, Cornell has taken a few steps back toward mediocrity. Meanwhile, despite not having won an NCAA championship since 1995, BU is still more readily recognized as a modern hockey power.

As the beginning of the season unfolded, the matchup became more favorable for the Big Red. Cornell started off 4-3-0 (4-2-0 ECAC), while BU came out of the shoot 3-6-2 (3-3-1 Hockey East). Both teams have young rosters. Only four seniors dress for Cornell. On this night, it was apparent that the Red could use a little seasoning.

At times, watching Cornell tonight was a little like watching the Islanders go through their recent struggles, particularly on the power play, only without Rick DiPietro to back them up. Cornell finished the night 2-for-7 with the man advantage, but the second marker came too late to make a difference. BU erupted for 3 goals in just over three minutes in the middle of the first period. The power plays awarded to Cornell that could have produced an early lead or turned the momentum after the BU outburst were marred by point shots that sailed wide of the net or never made it through the wall of Terrier defenders protecting goalie Brett Bennett.

On the other side of the ice, the Terriers were peppering Cornell goalie Ben Scrivens with 42 shots, despite being shorthanded 7 times, including one brief and one lengthy 5-on-3. BU finished the night 1-for-3 on the power play. Even at equal strength, Cornell simply gave the BU skaters too much space and left Scrivens wide open to be beaten. The sophomore goalie also seemed to be fighting the puck a little, as there were too many rebounds to be had. Scrivens entered the game with a 1.85 GAA and a .933 save percentage. Cornell struggled to find open lanes to the net all night. Final score: BU 6, Cornell 3.

Thank you, Islanders fans, for permitting me this little departure. And how fitting that it should come on a night when DiPietro, former BU goalie, backstopped the Isles to a 2-1 victory over the Bruins. Score one for New York. (And Andy Hilbert!)

Tradition dictates that the Lynah Faithful announce their presence with authority.

Friday, November 23, 2007

The Boston Nooner

Rick DiPietro is in net for the Isles today as they take on the Bruins at TD Banknorth Garden. Last week, Ted Nolan was asked whether DiPietro would be getting a day off soon, especially with three games in four days on the schedule including the home-and-home with Boston. At the time, Nolan indicated that he would be giving serious thought to getting Wade Dubielewicz some action during this stretch.

After Wednesday night's game against Montreal, DiPietro was asked if he anticipated sitting out one of these two games. If you only read his answer, you missed out on part of the story. DiPietro absolutely bristled at the notion of not playing, not only in this two-game set but going forward. Check out the video on Islanders TV if you're curious (around the 5:30 mark). It will be interesting to see how Nolan manages the goaltending duties. Obviously, the team's best chance to win is always with DiPietro in goal. He's young and in superb condition, so playing the lion's share of the games is not a problem. The only question is what constitutes the lion's share: 70 games? 75 games? 78?

In this case of a home-and-home, DiPietro gets a little extra rest with the noon start today and a 7:00 PM faceoff tomorrow night at the Coliseum.

Today's game has been somewhat of an odd one so far. In the first period, it didn't seem to be the case that the players didn't have their legs due to the early start. In fact, both teams seemed to be skating well, but to no benefit. The Bruins put together some nice passing, but didn't generate many quality scoring chances as a result. The Islanders simply were not able to mount any sort of sustained attack. Bryan Berard did lay out Milan Lucic with a solid step-up hit. Overall, I'd have to classify the play as tentative and a little sloppy.

This continued until about halfway into the second period when things got a little chippy. Tim Jackman and Jeremy Reich squared off in an uneventful fight following a scrum around the net. Radek Martinek leveled Mark Savard with a questionable hit around the shoulder blade near the boards. Martinek probably got away with one there. These incidents seemed to add energy to the game, and a number of quality scoring chances followed. The Islanders had a stationary two-on-one in front of the Boston goal with Miro Satan finally ripping one off the post. The Bruins were awarded the game's first three power play opportunities and Glen Murray capitalized on the last one to give the home team a 1-0 lead.

The Islanders received their first power play chance with 13 seconds remaining in the second period. Their fortunes were boosted when Aaron Ward took a hooking penalty just 7 seconds into the third. However, the Isles executed poorly on the 5-on-3, low-lighted by Berard missing the net on a slapper, which rounded the boards out of the zone, and then getting blocked on a subsequent shot from the point.

With that opportunity to draw even squandered, we have now also witnessed Andy Hilbert clanging one off the post while the open space between the post and Tim Thomas dared him to hit it.

A Glen Metropolit gliding slapper from the left boards has beaten DiPietro to the short side, giving the Bruins a 2-0 lead. This was an atypical goal for DiPietro to give up, and the puck may have grazed Bruno Gervais on the way in. You can count the number of the times that the Isles have looked dangerous during this game on one hand. A 2-goal deficit with six minutes remaining looks insurmountable.

Wow, I just reverse-jinxed myself. Gervais, skating along the right boards in the offensive zone threw the puck toward the crease. Mike Sillinger, skating hard in that direction, deflected the mid-air puck past Thomas to halve the deficit with 5:39 remaining.

Brendan Witt took a high stick to the face with about 4:00 left, but no call was made. The Islanders get that power play chance back with 2:05 left when Berard is tripped by Zdeno Chara on a hard rush to the net. A conversion gets them a point and a chance at another. Failure, and they go home with another 2 points gone by the wayside.

Final score: Bruins 2, Islanders 1. Howie Rose sums it up nicely by saying that coming in, the Islanders' struggles on the power play have been noteworthy, but today they might have been the difference. There's little doubt about that. The team didn't do much to generate its own chances, but it was given enough opportunities to steal at least a point in this one.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Turkey Stock

How does it feel to be a fan of the New York Islanders on November 20, 2007? If you're anything like me, you're almost afraid to answer that question. You know, sensitive hockey gods and all. Considering, however, that this team does not seem in any way fragile, I will allow myself to bask in the glow of some numbers:

6-0 combined start against the Rangers and Devils.
10-1 against teams that appeared in last season's playoffs.
7-3 in the division, with four games in hand on the division leader.
6th in the conference, still with the fewest games played in the league.

Rather than leaving myself open to blame (from myself) should things start to go sour, let's allow some other people to chime in on the state of the Islanders...

They dig in and play hard, and when they get an edge, they do not let up.
Lynn Zinser, in The New York Times

...this is hands-down the best group of players I've been associated with in my ten years on the PR side.
Chris Botta, at NYI Point Blank

We just have a team that loves playing for each other, and that shows with guys blocking pucks and sticking up for each other.
Rick DiPietro, in Newsday

We kind of got on our own individual pages. And when that happens, five guys on the same page are going to make you look stupid.
Brendan Shanahan, in The Daily News

I think that last one is my favorite.

The blog entry by Chris Botta mentions that Garth Snow has recently done interviews with the Canadian Press and USA Today. That the Islanders are fielding those types of interview requests is news in itself, because the only current news related to the Islanders is their play on the ice. And considering how Chris likes to stick it to the media, it's a wonder anyone comes calling. (Just kidding, Chris. I'm actually impressed with the way you use NYI Point Blank to defend the organization against criticism from the very people whose ink you need.)

Congratulations to Rick DiPietro on his 100th career victory. He may not be the youngest to get there, but it's a nice accomplishment for a 26-year-old whose talent has been under constant scrutiny.

Finally, Islanders Outsider wishes a happy and healthy Thanksgiving to all who may stop by this page over the next several days, and especially to my great colleagues in the Blog Box. I will not be able to attend Wednesday night's game against Montreal, but I hope that all who do are treated to a great game and double chili cranberry sauce.

Friday, November 16, 2007

Who Is That Unmasked Man?

Magnum, D.P. Bests the Greatest Canadian Hero Again

Now that's the way to turn around a road trip. Losing two 1-goal games against division rivals on the road is acceptable, especially after you start the season 9-4. Three in a row would have caused the questions to begin. Were we kidding ourselves thinking this was a .692 team? Is it really more of a .500 team that got off to a hot start? Maybe somewhere in between? What do we really have here? With tonight's 1-0 shutout of the Devils, we can set those thoughts aside for another day.

Of course, no team is going to play .692 hockey without an Alfredsson-Heatley-Spezza level of talent (Zetterberg-Datsyuk-Holmstrom-Lidstrom-Rafalski-Hasek-Osgood seemed like overkill). But with just six points separating 6th place from 14th in the Eastern Conference, staying in the thick of things early in the season seems key now more than ever. The Islanders already survived the test of an unusually light schedule. Now they must come through during an uncharacteristically busy stretch. A 2-2 road trip would be a good place to start.

I'm still looking for Marty's view on who actually won the game tonight. So far, I've only found something unconvincing about creating your own luck and not crying about bad bounces.

I know I keep saying it, but it's a joy to watch this team close out games with a lead.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Selective Selections

Murph's post on Islanders Army today reminded me that I meant to comment last week when it was announced that Rick DiPietro and Bill Guerin are on this year's All-Star ballot. I'm glad that I didn't have time then because now that the voting has begun, and I've looked more closely at the ballot, there's even more about this process to rail against.

My first thought last week was that at least they managed to get DiPietro on the ballot this year. If I remember correctly, last year he was excluded when there was no sensible reason not to put him on. Was there any doubt who was going to be the Islanders' starting goalie last year? Do you actually have to merit inclusion beyond simply being a legitimate goaltender to get on the All-Star ballot? Apparently you do, and that requirement has carried over to this year. How else can you explain that the 15-team Eastern Conference
has only ten goalies on the ballot? Toronto, Boston, Pittsburgh, Atlanta, and Tampa Bay fans simply cannot vote for their team's goalie to start in the All-Star game. Why the limit? Yes, a lot of those teams entered the season with murky ideas about who would spend the majority of the time between the pipes. But making an educated guess for the sake of a complete ballot wouldn't have hurt anyone. These things can never be projected perfectly anyway. Dan Boyle and his troubled tendons are on there.

Ah, but the NHL had a solution. As Murph pointed out, instead of allowing fans to write in a vote for a player not on the ballot, you could select one from a list. This, we assume, to prevent the Rory Fitzpatricks and Radek Martineks of the world from spoiling the starting lineup. The initial list was laughable. It included no additional Islanders even though a number of them deserve to be there based on their performances this season. Well, go back now. It seems the lists have been updated. You can now select Sean Bergenheim, Marc-Andre Bergeron, Chris Campoli, Mike Comrie, Ruslan Fedotenko, Bruno Gervais, Andy Hilbert, Trent Hunter, Radek Martinek, Richard Park, Miroslav Satan, Mike Sillinger, Andy Sutton, Josef Vasicek, and Brendan Witt. What, no Dubie?

Okay, then what's the point of having a ballot with 30 forwards, 12 defensemen, and 10 goalies listed for each conference when you can also select nearly any other player? The voting home page makes no mention of paper ballots being distributed at games, but under that scenario I could understand limiting the number of players. Maybe they just didn't want to have to link to videos of more than 104 players. In the end, this looks like one more thing that the NHL has thrown together before getting all of its ducks in a row. At least they fixed the omissions before too many of us had the chance to complain.

Oh, yeah, and about those All-Star jerseys? If you want to buy one, look in RBK's product catalog under "We just finished designing 60 other new NHL jerseys so this is the best we could do."

Finally, I don't know which is worse: Carton complaining about having to talk hockey, or Boomer saying, "You gotta love Sean Avery, though." No, I don't.

Sunday, November 11, 2007

11/10/07: Islanders 2, Devils 1

DiPietro, Isles Shut Down the New-Look Devils on Military Appreciation Night

This simply is not the same Devils team you're used to seeing. Martin Brodeur can still stifle an offense single-handedly on occasion. Other than that, the Devils defense does not suffocate opponents the way it has for over a decade, and the offense fails to mount a consistent attack.

It used to be that the Islanders had to play a near-perfect game if they had any hope of defeating New Jersey. Any less than that, and a 4-1 victory for the Devils was almost pre-ordained. Right now, there just isn't anything threatening about the Devils. Maybe the return of veterans Jamie Langenbrunner and Colin White will provide the red and black with greater stability. Even if they do, Brent Sutter has his work cut out for him. The team has not responded to the transition to a more attack-oriented style. The result has been a tentative effort that leaves the Devils ripe for picking off. The free-agent losses may be too much to overcome this time.

Entering the game, I wondered how well the Islanders would take advantage of a team off to a tepid start. Save for a pinball-action own-goal, they never really had much to worry about. Playing strong, disciplined hockey, the Islanders dominated play as much as a team that needs a third-period goal to win 2-1 can. For the game, the home team received 4 power plays, including a gift 2-minute 5-on-3 thanks to excessive griping from the opposing bench, and took no penalties of their own. Through two periods, the Isles had won 17 out of 23 faceoffs (74%). A busy third closed the gap slightly, but for the game, the Islanders totaled 30 wins out of 48 faceoffs (63%).

I asked Ted Nolan about his team's success in the faceoff circle and its effect on their ability to control the game. "Well, any time you have a guy like Mike Sillinger who's out know, Mike, he takes a lot of faceoffs," Nolan said. "Mike Comrie was good on faceoffs tonight. Joe Vasicek's getting better because he gets to see a guy like Sillinger. When you win the draw, you have a good chance at having the puck a little bit more than the other team. Right now, it's good for us." As though we needed any more confirmation that the character guys on this team are turning everyone into character guys.

I also asked Rick "The Edge" DiPietro about the approach of the Devils, given that the Sutter-led version appears less like those led by Jacques Lemaire, Larry Robinson, Pat Burns, et al. DiPietro wasn't quite ready to turn the page on that era yet, saying, "Early on, yeah, they were a little different. Today, tonight, I thought they played a lot similar to the Jersey teams we played in the past, limited mistakes, and looked to capitalize on our mistakes. I thought we played a smart game."

I'll have more notes to add later on tonight. For now, I just want to say that the Islanders did a marvelous job honoring members of the military past and present. Special moments included messages on the scoreboard from soldiers stationed in Afghanistan, as well as an interview with Rick DiPietro's father, who was a helicopter pilot in Vietnam.

And we're back with some additional notes:

  • Michael Schuerlein of has a great photo of the 106th Rescue Wing of the New York Air National Guard descending from the Coliseum rafters to deliver the puck for the opening faceoff in his post on last night's game. He also got a great shot of Satan banging home the winning goal.
  • Leading up to the winning goal, the crowd grew impatient with the power play and cries of "Shoooot!" began raining down. I've seen teams respond to such encouragement by taking unnecessary, low-percentage shots, so it was nice to see the power play unit maintain its composure and be rewarded moments later.
  • The second line was consistently dangerous and the fourth line, before it was broken up due to Bill Guerin's eye injury, continued to effectively keep the pressure on the opponent during its limited minutes.
  • Brodeur deservedly has a reputation as a good puck handler, but given an opportunity to clear a puck while shorthanded, he seemed hesitant and was unable to get the puck past the blue line. When it comes to these plays, there's Rick DiPietro, and then there's everyone else.
  • About 13 minutes into the third period, the Islanders seemed content to ice the puck repeatedly in order to relieve pressure. Normally, this tactic is asking for trouble. However, on this occasion I just had a feeling that they would be okay. This is a team that continues to attack when it has a lead, and shows poise in closing out games.
  • What is with athletes discrediting the achievements of their New York opponents this week? First, David Wright's Gold Glove rendered Chipper Jones "speechless" and "confused." Then Brodeur fails to give the Isles credit for beating him. I understand the complaints, but verbalizing them was bad form.
  • Finally, it was a lonely night in the Blog Box. When this all started, I wondered if we would feel like we were in a fishbowl because the Box is highly visible. That hadn't been my experience until last night, when I occupied the Blog Box all by myself for most of the game. I got plenty of "Where are all your buddies?" and "What happened--all alone tonight?" from ushers and nearby fans alike. It was all in good fun. Still, it was nice to be joined by Michael Schuerlein and Tom Liodice of The Tiger Track, who were in attendance in different seats, for the final few minutes in the Blog Box and for the post-game locker room activities. If you have some time, check out Tom's great appearance on Hockey Night on Long Island.

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

Islanders 3, Rangers 2, and Notable Notes

Notable notes are like quotable quotes. Just in case you were wondering.

I am not in the Blog Box tonight. It's Versus time. While I am blogging during the game, I'm going to shy away from the traditional notion of live blogging. If you happen to be in search of such coverage, I think you will find the coverage of some of our usual contributors to your liking.

Earlier this evening I wandered my way over to ESPN's NHL home page. I was so stunned to see three separate Islanders items featured that I screencapped it for prosperity. In case things change before you read this, there's the proof to your left. (Okay, it's sort of above and to the left.)

Speaking of Versus, the audio quality started out poor for this broadcast, which, at this point, is inexcusable for this network. Then, during the first period, the picture disappeared and was replaced by a message saying something about poor signal quality. I'm not going to complain too much about this for fear that these problems will at some point be attributed to poor infrastructure at the Coliseum.

Speaking of, their fantasy hockey coverage includes a feature called the Boxscore Blog. In the main content section of the Fantasy Hockey home page, this is abbreviated to Box Blog. As a member of the Blog Box, seeing a link to the Box Blog on always throws me for a second.

Drury just scored a PPG on a slapper from the point. 1-0 Rangers. It was disappointing to see the Islanders close the 1st period with a sloppy power play. On the other hand it was nice to hear Keith Jones and Eddie Olczyk giving props to the Isles for playing physically and containing Jagr in the first twenty minutes. Of course, now I'm listening to them praise Lundqvist in the middle of the 2nd because technical difficulties have interrupted the broadcast of actual hockey activities. Billy Jaffe is on the broadcast as the roving reporter. At least, he was when there was a broadcast. Ah, okay, we're back now.

Last week, you may have briefly seen a power play scoreboard on this blog that was tracking the differential between the Islanders man-up and man-down situations over the course of the season. That feature will return periodically, but for now the stats are a little skewed by the fact that the Isles have played fewer games than most teams. Coming in to this game, the differential was -4, based on 52 power play opportunities for, and 56 against. However, it is notable (see?) that the team already trails the league leader in power play opportunities by FORTY. The Ducks, who have played five more games than the Isles, have been granted 92 chances with a man-power advantage. The Islanders rank 29th in the league in that category. The 56 times shorthanded places them tied for 27th (meaning that 26 teams have been shorthanded more times than the Isles). For comparison, the Leafs have been shorthanded 87 times in 15 games.

We'll be back after this intermission.

Going into the third, Billy Jaffe is reporting that Assistant Coach Gerard Gallant is happy with the way the game is going so far. Other than the score, I'd have to agree with that assessment. The Islanders have looked dangerous, generating an acceptable number of scoring chances. And just like that, Fedotenko finds Hunter for a wicked wrister to tie the game.

I can't imagine what series of thought processes led to Paul Mara being left wide open in front of the net. Rangers lead 2-1. Just prior to the goal, Gomez was given way too much room skating into the zone, but couldn't connect on a pass to Mara.

After tying it up, the Islanders continued to buzz for a few minutes, with Miro Satan failing to cash in on two good opportunities. The Rangers' goal seems to have changed the momentum, and they are now working on a power play. (Didn't I say I wasn't going to do this?)

Now that's how you execute a power play. Fedotenko from Comrie and Bergeron. 2-2.

I didn't see a good replay of the penalties that led to the 4-on-4, but I have to think that the Islanders were fortunate to come out of the sequence at equal strength. Girardi then took a high-sticking penalty for an undisciplined poke, leading to the Islander power play.

Vasicek has been very strong with the puck this period and his play (along with Park's) was no small part of the Satan goal that put the Isles up 3-2. Good for Miro putting that one home.

The call on Rozsival had to be made after they let Jagr's grabbing go. The call on Hunter was predictable and you couldn't have expected the game to end any other way. Scrambling always leads to the penalty box.

Great 3rd period. Great win. Fun game to watch overall. DiPietro came up big when he needed to.

I'm looking forward to hearing the reports from the locker room after this one.

Sunday, November 4, 2007

Radar's Triumphant Return

Al Arbour Leads Isles to Thrilling 3-2 Victory Over Pens, Earns 740th Win in 1,500th Game

There have been times over the last decade when the collective hockey community rolled its eyes at another Islanders special ceremony. Just a desperate ploy to sell more tickets, they said. This was not one of those nights. This one was note perfect. The NHL spotlight was clearly shining on Uniondale, despite the noted absence of commissioner Gary Bettman, whose presence would have been appropriate on a night when Al Arbour became the first man to coach 1,500 games for one team. The occasion brought out such luminaries as Scotty Bowman, and Islanders legends and favorites Bill Torrey, Mike Bossy, Bryan Trottier, Clark Gillies, Ed Westfall, Butch Goring, Pat LaFontaine, Gerry Hart, Jean Potivn, Steve Webb, Benoit Hogue, Eric Cairns, and more.

If you can imagine an empty arena an hour and a half before face off being abuzz, such was the case at Nassau Coliseum Saturday night. The electronic signage rotated through displaying Al Arbour's name, the number 1500, and words like character and grit. Mini versions of the banner that would be raised later that night in honor of the old coach adorned the facade fronting the upper bowl. The November 3, 2007 version of the Media Notes listed the following for the Isles:

Head Coach Al Arbour
Head Coach Ted Nolan

Tom Liodice of The Tiger Track was lightheartedly credited with the first scoop of the evening when he noticed a chair behind the Islanders' bench,
there perhaps just in case the 75-year-old legend needed to get off his feet for a few minutes. There have been no reports of him ever sitting down. And to remind us all of how far this franchise has come since Radar retired, you only had to watch the pre-game replay on the scoreboard of the ceremony at which the 739 banner was raised to the Coliseum rafters. That night, a still-active Brent Sutter paid homage to his former coach as a member of the Blackhawks, and Al thanked then-pseudo-owner John Spano during his speech.

As the game began, with the Isles in their white jerseys to honor the era in which Arbour achieved his greatest coaching success, there was a palpable sense that this appearance was far from ceremonial. Two aspects of this night contributed to it being far more thrilling than anyone might have dared to imagine. Firstly, the genesis of the idea to bring Arbour back came from Ted Nolan. So there was never the least bit of thought that the hall-of-famer's presence was in any way an imposition on the team. Indeed, the team seemed motivated and proud to honor Arbour every step of the way. Secondly, this honor was tied to actual competition. It's one thing to ask your aging legendary franchise figure to come back behind the bench for one game. It's another to have him win. For one night, the Islanders resurrected Fort Neverlose.

Please visit this small gallery of images from the game. When you're done there, do yourself a favor and take a look at the beautiful shots in Tom's gallery, as well as the gorgeous ones that B.D. Gallof got in his blog for HockeyBuzz.

Yes, there is plenty to say about the game itself, as well as the comments of both head coaches and the players they led to victory. Al spoke about how touched he was by the banner raising, which he wasn't expecting, and especially by all the fans who stayed around for the post-game ceremony. He admitted to being very nervous when he first walked out at the beginning of the game. Despite setting an initial condition of "no media," Al appeared willing to answer questions for longer than he ultimately had to. Ted gave Al more credit than he was willing to give himself for giving input on line changes and willing the team to win.

Miro Satan, whose two third-period goals tied and then won the game, had this to say about playing for Al Arbour: "We were trying to win the game, and definitely in the back of our minds, we knew every time we were coming back to the bench we saw a legend standing there. So we knew we had only one chance to win the game for him, so definitely that's even more special for us to win this way...and win the game for him."

The one negative on the night was that Rick DiPietro was not around for the ceremony. A second-period high stick from Sidney Crosby sent DiPietro to the hospital (and Crosby to the box for a double-minor after DiPietro returned from the locker room for a damage assessment by the referee) with an eye injury. At this point, the Islanders are saying he will be fine, but there seems to be some uncertainty about the extent of his injury.

Wade Dubielewicz filled in admirably for DiPietro, holding the Penguins off the scoresheet the rest of the way. Dublielewicz even did his best DiPietro impersonation when he connected on a long breakout pass to keep the power play moving near the end of the second period.

It's worth mentioning that the Islanders of yesterday and today finally seem to be in harmony. I had hoped to ask Ted Nolan about this during the post-game press conference, but as you can imagine, it was somewhat of a zoo, with at least 2-3 times as many photographers and reporters as usual. In fact, one of my favorite scenes of the night was looking back over my shoulder during the press conference and seeing Jean Potvin standing on a chair so he could get a better view of the proceedings. The players no longer seem to bristle at the notion of the franchise's history, and certainly don't seem to resent it. Perhaps the four cups no longer represent a burden to live up to, but a standard to reach for. The presence of the old players does not haunt them they way it did some Islander teams; it enriches the experience of being an Islander.

Last night, they all came together for a celebration. In the end, it had all the pomp and circumstance of a coronation, and the wearer of the crown has never been more deserving.

Friday, November 2, 2007

11/1/07: Islanders 4, Lightning 0

Well, that certainly was a whole lot better. The team that hit the ice last night played with confidence, focus, and determination. The goaltending was extremely sharp, proving that Rick DiPietro was right to take a no-worries attitude after last Saturday's debacle. The scoring was balanced and the offense seized upon some miscues made by the opponent (sound familiar?).

The power play didn't get on the scoresheet, but you can't expect that every night even if you do convert one out of every four opportunities. Sean Bergenheim left with an unspecified injury, but Ted Nolan's quotes did not indicate any particular concern. Let's hope he's back shortly and able to help this team get on a roll in what will be a busy month of November. If Bergenheim needs to sit for a few games, I'm sure Aaron Johnson and Chris Simon would be more than willing to pick up some of his shifts, as they played only 2:37 and 4:54, respectively. Perhaps there will be another Jeff Tambellini sighting on Long Island.

Andy Hilbert has been taking a lot of abuse lately for his inability to convert good scoring chances (or even hit the net). After last night's game, I was expecting to read a lot of jokes about DiPietro trying to "take care" of the Hilbert issue all by himself with that paddle across the face just before Guerin put the Isles up 1-0. It was good to see Hilbert survive that with his face mostly intact. It will be better to see him light the lamp!

Congratulations to Mike Sillinger on his 1,000th game in the NHL. It is amazing to me that a guy could be in the league that long without having played two full seasons for a single team. And it truly is a case of teams wanting the player because he's so useful, rather than wanting to get rid of him because he's just a body.

I'm really looking forward to being at the Coliseum tomorrow for Al Arbour's return to the bench. It should be a special night. If you can't make it out, enjoy the extended pre-game show on FSNY.