Can the Isles win five in a row?
I read the other day that the Islanders have not had a five-game winning streak since 1994. If not for the seven-year drought, I would have a hard time comprehending that. Even taking the dark days into consideration, it's a remarkable note. (Correction: I looked into this further. According to the Islanders 2007-2008 Media Guide, they actually won six games in a row in December 2003.) It would be nice to see this team, at this point of the season, put up a five-spot on the schedule. Nonetheless, I'm not going to pin down such a streak as a must-have. The Isles can still afford to lose a game here and there. They don't have to nearly run the table. What they can't afford is any more losing streaks, even of the two- and three-game variety. If you haven't checked out James Mirtle's playoff push, the latest version shows that the Islanders need to finish up the season 14-7-1 in order to earn the estimated number of points that will be required to qualify for the playoffs. Right now he's putting that number at 92 in the Eastern Conference. I'm not currently buying the premise put forth in the Yahoo! Power Rankings that the Isles have too many teams to climb over. At this point, they can still just take care of their own business and keep climbing.
How far can the defensive corps bend before it breaks?
The loss of Andy Sutton hurts because replacing a 6'6" defenseman with a 6'1" defenseman simply isn't an even exchange. Hopefully Drew Fata can bring to the table comparable toughness and shutdown defense, if not comparable size. When I heard that Sutton would be out 4-6 weeks, my first thought was that Garth Snow's trade-deadline mission was now clear: acquire a big, stay-at-home defenseman above all else. Then I realized that Bruno Gervais is still considered day-to-day and Brendan Witt is considered anywhere from one to three weeks away. On top of that, Islander Frontier presents a pretty convincing argument for standing pat with the defense. The only scary part is the lack of available depth should the Gervais or Witt injuries linger or if someone else (bite my tongue) gets hurt. But, as we all know, this team's success hinges on top-to-bottom effort and playing the system. As long as the team as a whole is giving maximum effort and playing the system, I'm willing to believe that a young, inexperienced defenseman can step in during the stretch run and play up to speed if necessary. By the way, another Mirtle metric, his Rod Langway Award, exposes exactly what the Islanders are missing in Witt. Going by this measurement, at the time of his injury, Witt was the tenth-best defensive defenseman in the league.
Forgetting Someone, Versus?
Versus is currently running a commercial for its NHL coverage that centers around Alexander Ovechkin's quest for 60 goals. To build up the prestige of the accomplishment, the ad displays the names of great NHL goal scorers who previously reached the standard for which Ovechkin is now shooting. I'm doing this from memory, so forgive me if my recollection is faulty. The names we see in the commercial include Gretzky, Lemieux, Brett Hull, Esposito, and Lafleur. Can you think of anybody else whose inclusion would have been appropriate in a list of great goal scorers who put sixty pucks in the net? And it's not as though Mike Bossy occupies some lower quadrant of this list. See for yourself:
|Player||60-Goal Seasons||Milestone Breakdown|
|Gretzky||5||60(1x), 70(2x), 80(1x), 90(1x)|
|Lemieux||4||60(2x), 70(1x), 80(1x)|
|Br. Hull||3||70(2x), 80(1x)|
That's right, Bossy is at the top of the list with Gretzky in this department. Granted, Bossy never hit any of those other sexy numbers. But his exclusion from this campaign is a shame.
Update: OK, so either I was imaging things or there's an edited version of the commercial. I just saw it again and the only names shown were Gretzky, Lemieux, and Hull. That would give the list a more contemporary slant, which certainly would be understandable in trying to relate Ovechkin to the recent greats who have accomplished the feat. If anyone has seen this ad with Espo and Lafleur included, please let us know. Otherwise, I have no idea why thoughts of those guys are in my head presently.
Update II: Ha, I'm not crazy! I guess Versus is showing this thing just about every commercial break now. Indeed, there is a version that includes the Esposito and Lafleur names! And a gaping hole where #22 should be.