Friday, February 22, 2008

You Say Ovechkin, I Say...Well, I Say Ovechkin Too

OK, so bad example.

Thanks to Islanders Army and Japers' Rink for picking up the previous post on the advertising travesty that is the Versus "60" commercial. I realize that "travesty" may be a little strong, especially if you're not an Islanders fan who views the commercial as a tremendous slight to Mike Bossy. And that is what this post is about: diverse perspectives.

Prior to Wednesday night's game against the Caps, I was looking forward to paying a visit to Japers' Rink to see what the opposition was saying about the upcoming game. Reading the Gamenight preview and its accompanying comments was an eye-opener.

Let me say right from the outset that the purpose of this post is not to stir anything up with Caps fans. The Caps have an outstanding blogging community and I have enjoyed reading Japers' Rink since the operators first contacted Isles bloggers for quotes before the first meeting of the season between these two teams. It's a very sharp bunch over there, as well demonstrated by this comment from Sean, who said after viewing the Versus commercial:

"Hull's name shown inside the crease...someone at Versus a Sabres fan?"
Now that was an inspired observation. The purpose here is to show how our opinions as hockey fans are colored by different perspectives and the biases formed by having an allegiance to a particular team. It is also an opportunity to get a glimpse of how the Islanders are perceived around the league.

In the Gamenight post for Wednesday, JP wrote:

"I've said it before and I'll say it again - if you're gonna make the playoffs, you've gotta beat the teams you've gotta beat. This certainly is one of those teams, and one with whom the Caps shouldn't have a whole hell of a lot of trouble."

Replace "Caps" with "Isles" and I was thinking the exact same thing. Granted, the Isles give away a lot in offensive talent to the Caps. The teams obviously have very different strengths at this point. The Isles have tightened up their defense and goaltending, and produced some timely scoring, to turn a seven-game losing streak around into what is now a six-game winning streak. The Caps have played much better under Bruce Boudreau and are in contention to win the Southeast. However, the teams entered the game with nearly identical records. In reality, neither of us had any real reason to dismiss the other team.

The first comment in response to the Gamenight post began with this:

"When a club sucks -- and the Isles do..."

This is where I ask, "Really?" And then I wonder, "Is this what the rest of the NHL's fans think? And, if so, is it merely a function of the recent losing streak that saw the Isles plummet out of the playoff picture?" I understand that no one looks over the roster and trembles with fear. But when a team has won four in a row and is a point ahead of you in the standings, where does the motivation come from to say that they suck? What followed, of course, was a reasonable assessment of how the Isles would probably win playing the style that best suits their circumstances. And it must be frustrating to anticipate losing to a team with marginal talent. But the talent level is far from the complete story with this Islanders team. Yet, the team still seems to be paying for the sins of the '90s and the accompanying joke-franchise label. The perception is that it's still one of the easiest teams to put down, and that it's deserving of those put-downs. The results achieved over the last six seasons, while not stellar or brag-worthy, should suggest otherwise.

After the game, there was more of the same in the Thursday Open Thread. One comment began:

"What an opportunity, a crappy team limps its way into town..."

And further down the line:

"This one really pissed me off. The FRIGGIN ISLANDERS for crap's sake!"

Maybe this is more about the current state of affairs--no superstars and injuries lowering the bar even further. I was simply taken aback by the lack of consideration given to the Isles by a few fans and wanted to muse about what's behind it. Is it the past? The present? A combination of both, and add in a hint of unconventional ownership philosophies? Perhaps some fans of other NHL franchises will let us know what still drives their perception of the Islanders. The team has no current claim to the upper echelon. I think it does have a claim against being summarily dismissed. But maybe I'm just biased. Or easily swayed by six-game winning streaks.

Let me reiterate that the point here wasn't to call anyone out. I'm fully aware that there are probably Islanders fans taking similar shots at the Capitals on some comment thread or message board. In a way, seeing our teams from the perspective of rival fans keeps us honest. At the very least, it provides us with an opportunity to do a critical examination of our own teams with less influence from our natural biases.


JP said...

Good stuff.

I think that given the injuries the Isles had/have on the blueline, Sillinger being out, the Isles' overall offensive numbers on the season, the Caps' record since the coaching change and the importance of the home game to the Caps, it's definitely one the Caps "should" have won. And for 20 minutes, the Caps played their game and led 2-0.

Unfortunately, they let the Isles dictate the next 40 minutes of play and lost in the shootout.

But there's so much parity in the NHL these days, that I certainly recognize that this was a "should win" for the Isles too.

"You've gotta beat the teams you've gotta beat" - and the teams that do, make the playoffs. Wednesday's was one of those games for both teams, and the Isles got the job done. Good on them. Bad on the Caps.

Moby said...

Definitely. The negative remarks displayed in the post and subsequent comments mostly refer to the state of the Islanders' numerous injuries, and not so much their overall talent, combined with the Caps' recent display against challenging and powerful opponents.

This game was the Caps' to lose, and that's exactly what happened.

Islanders Outsider said...

Thanks for weighing in, guys. I guess in the end, the best thing is that both teams are poised for some excitement over the final twenty games. I do have to say that I'm a little envious that you get to watch a player like Ovechkin night in and night out. What a treat he is, and the injury to Crosby seems to have directed some extra, and much deserved, attention his way.