Sunday, December 23, 2007

12/22/07: Islanders 3, Capitals 2, OT

For the second consecutive night, the Islanders showcased balanced scoring, tight checking, and solid play from all four lines. The result was a 3-2 overtime victory against the Capitals, in which the Isles survived the emotional swing of scoring a late go-ahead goal only to give up a later tying goal. Richard Park capped of the win by spotting daylight between the pads of Olaf Kolzig and hitting enough of that light to squeeze the puck through for the game winner with 1:17 remaining in OT. Park continues to make the most of his increased offensive responsibilities, but the 18 skaters that Ted Nolan has dressed for the past three games all seem to be settling into their roles, new or old. Seven different Islanders each posted a point on the team's three goals. When asked if he feels that he finally has four lines going that he can count on shift after shift, Nolan said the following:

"Certainly. You have to have certain guys come in, you know, with the Chris Simon situation, somebody's misfortune is somebody's fortune. And Blake Comeau had a chance to come up here and do his thing, and Jackman's been doing it for us, and Andy Hilbert jumped in where Richard Park used to be, so those guys have really fit in. Hopefully, Richard will get the big line going. So, right now, we have four pretty good lines."
By the way, Nolan was behind the bench for this game. A couple of blog reports on Saturday said that he would not be there because he was traveling to watch his son Brandon's NHL debut with the Hurricanes. I'm not sure where this information came from. There were no reports in the mainstream media indicating that Nolan would miss the game. Perhaps an assumption was made based on the reports that Nolan's wife and younger son were headed south to watch the Canes face the Lightning.

This is another example of why we have to be careful with blogs--information gets passed around very quickly regardless of its accuracy. I'm sure Nolan would have loved to watch Brandon's game. But leaving his team before an important game simply did not strike me as something that he would do. Nolan did look the part of the proud father in discussing Brandon's debut after four years in the minors, a debut that included an assist on the first Carolina goal. Congratulations to the Nolan family on a great milestone.

Congratulations also go to Chris Botta, the Isles' VP of Media Relations, who was honored on the prior to the game for his twenty years of service to the organization. Botta, accompanied by his extended family, was honored with a personalized jersey and a Rolex watch.

Miscellaneous notes:
  • The Islanders' first power play featured forward lines of Park, Guerin, and Vasicek followed by Comrie, Sillinger, and Hunter. Satan manned the point with Campoli, who was eventually replaced by Meyer.
  • Miro Satan's goal to open the scoring at 10:03 of the second period was a clinic in effort. Satan gave his all, first to gather in the puck off a breakout feed from Vasicek, then to shield the puck from Caps defender Jeff Schultz, and finally to wait out Kolzig long enough to gain the upper hand. Satan's 666th career point delighted message boards everywhere.
  • With the win obviously contributing, the atmosphere in the locker room after the game was very light and carefree. Several players concluded their interviews by wishing the media happy holidays, and all seemed to be happily looking forward to spending time with family and friends. Winning is a mood.
  • The worst thing you can say about Freddy Meyer's play over the last three games is that he has been competent. Such was my evaluation during the game. A conversation with Mike Schuerlein, whose opinions I value due to his many years playing, convinced me that Meyer is deserving of greater praise for his recent play. It is impressive that someone of Meyer's size is able to assert himself so effectively. When asked about his childhood friend, Rick DiPietro offered this opinion: "You know what to expect from Freddy every night. He plays hard, plays smart in the defensive zone. It's good to see him in the lineup." He is doing what is necessary to keep himself in the lineup.
  • Richard Park makes for a very engaging interview. And Bill Guerin can really make a reporter squirm if he feels like it. Watch Park's insightful answers and Guerin's mock indignation at being asked again about his recent slump on Islanders TV.
  • The only real negative from the night was the continued struggles of Mike Comrie. While he did win the faceoff that led to Guerin's go-ahead goal, his offensive production and decisions with the puck remain below expectations for a #1 center. One gets the sense that dissatisfaction with his play is starting to go from a simmer to a boil among fans. It was hard not to question why Comrie was spending time during pre-game warmups practicing his puck juggling skills. Perhaps this is being overly critical, but if Comrie actually manages to backheel the puck up to his stick blade with his skate like a hacky sack during a game, then I'll be impressed.
  • Garth Snow took a lot of heat over the weekend for his response to Minnesota coach Don Lucia's comment about the Islanders putting Kyle Okposo in a difficult position. While I do think Snow would have been better off taking the high road, the vitriol directed at him and the organization has been way out of proportion and, in some cases, unconvincing:
    "Garth Snow? He's given his #1 goalie a rather stupid 15-year contract, dealt the house for a short-term rental (Ryan Smyth) who fled at the first opportunity, signed Brendan Witt for far too much money, and has pretty much won nothing of note in his career." --AOL FanHouse
    Very few people still think DiPietro's contract is stupid; Nilsson, O'Marra, and the #1 pick can hardly be considered the house; and Witt's value to this team is unquestionable. As for Snow not having won anything of note: it's kind of funny to read that in the context of a college hockey discussion. That 1992-93 NCAA Championship doesn't count? 21-0-1 not good enough? Another writer referred to Snow's failed term as a GM. That's an awfully quick judgment. And Charles Wang's organization does not deserve to be characterized as lacking class.
  • Overall, the Islanders looked more dangerous and focused Saturday night than they have in a while. It's not the kind of dangerous that comes from being gifted, but it is the kind that this team needs to pair with defensive responsibility if it's going to win more often than not.

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