Sunday, December 30, 2007

Measuring Expectations

Let's take a look at where we we've been over the last several days. I had very low expectations going into the Ottawa game on Thursday night. Take a middle-of-the-pack team on a three-game winning streak and send it on the road to play the second night of a back-to-back against one of the elite teams in the league. Sprinkle in a rusty backup goalie and all of the ingredients for a loss were precisely measured. To be honest, I was fine with that. Yes, the Isles played the Sens tough enough last time to pull out a shootout win. But I wasn't looking at this as a critical game. It was an opportunity to see how they currently stacked up against the best team in the conference. The game played out much as I thought it would. The Isles kept things tight as long as they could, but eventually the discrepancy in talent was too much to bear. I guess you could say that my acceptance of this indicated that I was pleased with the direction in which the team was headed. Three hard-fought wins in a row will allow for that.

That brings us to Saturday, where my perception of the game's importance was radically different. A home game against the division-leading local rival following a loss elevated my expectations. The Islanders' 3-0 record against the Devils this season made me want another victory even more. The Isles did their fans proud. The outstanding performances in this game were such that I don't feel it's necessary to repeat what has already been reported in so many other venues. But I will highlight my favorite moments and aspects of this game:

  • The Isles delivering the victory in front of a raucous crowd and refusing to be deflated after giving up a 2-0 lead.
  • The Isles finally being on the plus end of a shorthanded goal, and Richard Park's vision resulting in the opportunity.
  • Park picking up two more assists, giving him six helpers in the last three games, seven points in the last four, and a point-per-game pace over the last nine.
  • Trent Hunter's exceptional patience and strength with the puck while waiting for the rest of his mates to join him in the offensive zone leading up to Andy Sutton's game winner.
  • Mike Comrie mixing it up and putting home a rare empty-net goal for the Isles.
  • Sean Bergenheim being rewarded for his energy with a loose puck in the slot and a gap in the net.
  • Wade Dubielewicz standing tall in the net and inspiring his teammates to play their hardest in front of him. If this was Dubie's last game filling in for Rick DiPietro on a full-time basis, I have to consider the stint a big success.
So that's where we've been. To figure out where we are, I thought I'd take a page from Matt Cerrone at MetsBlog and do a little confidence poll. The difference is that we will focus specifically on the playoffs rather than on the overall state of the team. If you would, please take a moment to register a vote in the poll over there in the sidebar. How confident are you right now that the Islanders are a playoff team? If you are absolutely sure that they will finish in the top 8, vote 10. If you are convinced beyond a doubt that they are destined to miss out on the post season, vote 0. And, of course, you may vote anywhere in between. At this moment, the Islanders occupy the eighth spot in the conference and stand only 5 points behind fourth-place Montreal and second-place New Jersey.

Update: It looks Dubie will be backstopping the defensive effort for one more game. A late article on the Islanders' Web site reports that DiPietro did not make the trip to Carolina and will take the opportunity to get additional rest for his knee before returning on Thursday. The more surprising news is that Mike Sillinger is also staying behind to recuperate from various minor (presumably) injuries. Ben Walter was recalled from Bridgeport, and the Sillinger news explains why this HF Boards poster spotted Walter at Iceworks earlier today participating in practice. Walter centered Blake Comeau and Tim Jackman, so look for Andy Hilbert to move up to the second line in Sillinger's place between Ruslan Fedotenko and Trent Hunter.

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