Friday, October 31, 2008

60 Is Enough?

I'll say this for Scott Gordon: The organizational stubbornness to say anything revealing applies only to injuries.

Gordon gives good quotes.

After last night's 3-2 overtime loss to the Flyers, the coach of the Islanders opened my eyes wide with his assessment of the result. I wondered if the reporters surrounding him were licking their chops upon hearing this juicy, cowboy cut quote:

'Whether you lose in a shootout or lose in overtime, it's a tie in my mind. The body of work is done in the 60 minutes. That's what's important."
Indeed, Greg Logan led off his Newsday game article with that quote and Chris Botta also highlighted it in his recap.

My initial reaction to the coach's statement was to question the wisdom of being dismissive of a key portion of the game—in this case the portion that determined its outcome—as well as the result. I also assumed he would get roasted for it.

Is it wise for a coach to tell his team it's fine that they just left a point on the table? Is that a good message to send to a team that sits last in the league?

After some ruminating, I still think the answer to that question is no. I don't want the team to be satisfied with 60 minutes and treat the next five as gravy. That approach suggests to the fans that at this early stage of the season, the coach is already looking only beyond this season.

But I get Gordon's point, and it underscores the fact that he understands and embraces the nature of his job. It is a long-term assignment. It is worth pointing out when progress is being made.

It's perfectly acceptable for Gordon to accentuate the positive. And by remaining supportive of Frans Nielsen, who is struggling to get going offensively and took the penalty that preceded Jeff Carter's OT game-winner, Gordon further demonstrated a commitment to stick with the program and not get caught up in a must-win-now frame of mind.

This team is not operating under the best of circumstances. As long as that's the case, progress remains the best chance for fans to have something to be excited about. But the team shouldn't forget that it's a lot easier to cheer for wins than for progress and overtime losses.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Game 8 Fantasy Report: Rangers 4, Islanders 2

Fantasy Stars of the Game
1st Star: Richard Park (2 A, 1 SHA, +2, 1 BkS, 2 PIMs, 2 hits)
2nd Star: Mark Streit (1 G, 1 SHG, 2 SOG, 3 BkS, 6 hits)
3rd Star: Kyle Okposo (1 G, +1, 7 SOG)
4th Star: Mike Comrie (1 A, +1, 3 SOG, 1 BkS)
5th Star: Doug Weight (1 A, 1 SHA, 1 SOG, 2 PIMs, 1 hit)

1st PP Unit: Weight-Streit Guerin-Nielsen-Hunter
2nd PP Unit: Campoli-Hillen Tambellini-Comrie-Okposo

It will be interesting to see what Scott Gordon does at the point now that Hillen has been sent down. His spot could realistically be taken by Thomas Pock, Bruno Gervais, or even the returning Andy Sutton. Also watch to see if Nielsen retains that spot on the top unit.

Mitch Fritz has been recalled from Bridgeport and could make his debut tomorrow in Philadelphia. If you are in need of a quick PIMs fix, Fritz is someone you could look it. Sutton can also be a good source of PIMs but his contributions there might be compromised initially having just come off a hand injury. If Fritz does enter the lineup, a forward will have to sit. Thompson, Tambellini, and Bergenheim are your boys on the bubble. Bergenheim likely wouldn't sit out for more than a game, but if Fritz makes an impact, the others might need to pick it up quickly.

Chris Botta reported the following lines at practice today:

Okposo's stock will probably start to rise soon. He broke through for his first goal Monday night, and of the young players called out to step up in my previous post, his play has been the most consistent and encouraging all along. It's too early to say if he will become a fantasy regular this year, but keep an eye on him.

Finally, with 3 goals and 4 assists in eight games, Streit is showing that he is perfectly capable of generating offense without being surrounded by a gifted cast. Don't hesitate to use him.

Monday, October 27, 2008

Islanders Unveil New Third Jersey—Now THAT's a Uniform!

They got this one right...

Photos courtesy of

Pre-Game Reality Check

Today's Daily News preview of tonight's tilt with the Rangers says all you need to hear about how it feels to be an Islanders fan right now. To begin, the headline of Michael Obernauer's article reads, "Rangers head to Nassau Coliseum to face lowly Islanders." There you have it. Seven games into the season and they're already the lowly Islanders again. Hapless and the rest of the Dwarfs shouldn't be far behind.

Then you get right to the first paragraph and read how Nikolai Zherdev scored the tying goal for the Rangers Saturday night with 8.1 seconds left in the third period. No problems with bad ice for Mr. Zherdev. No shooting the puck right into the goalie's chest with the game on his stick. Tie game. Rangers win in overtime to boost their point total to a league leading 17. Meanwhile, with four fewer games played, the Islanders sit at the bottom of the league table with four points.

And just to put some salt into the wounds, Brandon Dubinsky is looking forward to tonight's matchup because "It's like a second home game."

How do you get up for this game?

The starting franchise goaltender is out for the sixth time in eight games. Four of the top six defensemen are also out with injuries. We still have little grasp on what's ailing Rick DiPietro, Freddy Meyer, and Brendan Witt or how long they will be unavailable.

The promise of this season came in two packages—the quality of the roster was not one of them. One could reasonably hope that the implementation of Scott Gordon hockey would result in an exciting brand of competitive play every night. The jury is still out on that one. Some nights the players click and we see the promise. Other nights it's difficult to imagine this team competing very often. And the hockey isn't very entertaining on those nights.

We also had the promise of the future—young players developing into NHL players before our eyes. So far we have seen diminished returns there as well. Okposo, Tambellini, and Nielsen show occasional flashes of what they can do, but can't seem to take that first step toward being impact players. I'm not looking to them to lead the team, but no goals and 5 assists combined through seven games is disappointing. Josh Bailey remains in injury limbo (at least he doesn't have a limbo injury).

I find some Rangers fans to be insufferable when their team is good and, especially, when they really like their team. A big part of that is envy. Even with the Blueshirts having suffered through more lean years recently than the Islanders, it seems like their highs are higher, and their lows not as low.

No matter what you said in July, once the season starts there is always a hunger for winning. But for this team, there will be no dramatic upsurge. It seems unlikely that anyone will step up and find that career year that pulls everyone else along. There is no getting by on talent, only constant effort and precision.

All we have is the patience we promised ourselves we would have. Whether that means waiting another month for everyone to adapt, two months for everyone to get healthy, or two years for young players to lead the charge, I don't know.

Sometimes it's easy to forget what we signed up for.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Fantasy Report—Games 6 and 7

Game 6: Fantasy Report—Stars 5, Islanders 3

Fantasy Stars of the Game

1st Star: Mark Streit (1 G, 1 PPG, 2 A, 2 SOG, 1 blocked shot, 1 hit)
2nd Star: Sean Bergenheim (1 A, 4 SOG, 1 blocked shot, 6 PIMs, 4 hits)
3rd Star: Doug Weight (1 A, 1 PPA, +1, 2 SOG, 2 PIMs)
4th Star:
Trent Hunter (1 A, 1 PPA, 3 SOG, 3 hits)
5th Star: Bill Guerin (1 G, +1, 5 SOG, 1 hit)

Game 7: Fantasy Report—Hurricanes 4, Islanders 3

Fantasy Stars of the Game
1st Star:
Mark Streit (1 G, 1 PPG, 6 SOG, 3 blocked shots, 2 PIMs, 2 hits)
2nd Star: Freddy Meyer (1 G, 1 A, 1 SHA, +1, 2 SOG, 3 blocked shots, 1 hit)
3rd Star: Bill Guerin (1 A, 1 PPA, 10 SOG, 2 PIMs, 1 hit)
4th Star: Sean Bergenheim (1 G, 7 SOG, 1 blocked shot, 2 PIMs)
5th Star: Doug Weight (1 A, 1 PPA, 3 SOG, 1 hit)

Notes: If you're counting on Rick DiPietro for depth at goalie, he cannot be recommended at this time. DiPietro left Saturday's game after one period with an undisclosed injury. In the limited time he has seen since recovering from offseason hip and knee surgeries, he has not looked at all settled....Chris Campoli made his season debut against the Stars on Thursday. Scott Gordon still seems inclined to use a forward at the point alongside Streit on the first power play unit, so Campoli has seen some time on the second unit. If Campoli rounds into form, perhaps he will move up to the first unit and benefit from the offensive prowess Streit has demonstrated.

Here are the Islanders Fantasy Star Points
rankings through 7 games:

Player.............Fantasy Star Points

Players receive 5 points for being named 1st Star, 4 points for 2nd Star, 3 points for 3rd Star, 2 points for 4th Star, and 1 point for 5th Star.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Stars vs. Islanders: Feeling Bloggy

As we transition from Islanders Illustrated to Islanders Pre-Game Lite on MSG+, there is a lot to look forward to: Chris Campoli's return to the lineup, Sean Bergenheim's promotion to the first line, and Rick DiPietro's home debut for 2008-09. I will leave the running commentary to the live blogs. So far tonight it looks like we have multitasking Tom of The Tiger Track doing the honors. The View From Section 317 will also be chipping in with some live commentary in periods 1 and 3. B.D. Gallof is now live too. As is Gaspo at Still Drivin'. So many choices!

Meanwhile, as you are about to see, I'm feeling a little bit bloggy...

...The first thing I saw when I left for work this morning was a young kid on his way to school wearing an Islanders sweatshirt—a rare sight around here. Go team! Of course, just behind him was another kid, possibly even his brother, wearing a Rangers varsity style jacket. To be expected! And then this evening I saw a young woman outside of a Barnes & Noble wearing an Oilers shirt. Uh, go hockey! Go strangely, but go hockey!

...SB Nation is gobbling up hockey bloggers. First it was James Mirtle, who left his independent site to become manager of NHL blogs for SB Nation and continue his blogging at From The Rink. Then our old friend Dominik from Islander Frontier joined the Nation and relaunched his blog as Lighthouse Hockey. Good luck to both in their new home.

...A couple of weeks ago I found a relatively new article on the Blog Box by David Meerman Scott at Web Ink Now. The link seems to be down at this very moment (timing!). (Now back up.)

...Speaking of relatively new and the Blog Box, you may have noticed that the Blog Box roster over in the sidebar has doubled in size. Congratulations to all the new bloggers who have been added for Season 2!

...No, I didn't think that Greg Wyshynski was taking a cheap shot at the Blog Box when he referred to it as a gimmick on Puck Daddy. And here's his explanation, as told to Anthony Rieber of Newsday.

...Brendan Morrow has just given the Stars a 2-0 lead over the Isles, and my fantasy team a much needed goal. His teammate, Marty Turco, has been killing both of us as our #2 goalie (and the Stars as their #1). It would figure if tonight were the night they finally got it together. At least I could get some benefit out of it. I hate that. Mostly.

...And if you missed it, Brendan Witt left with a knee injury. One defenseman in, one defenseman out. It just never ends.

...What was that about three days off and rarin' to go vs. three games in four days?

Monday, October 20, 2008

Fantasy Report—Sunshine Style

Here is your fantasy report for the two-game trip through the Sunshine State...

Game 4: Islanders 4, Lightning 3, OT
Fantasy Stars
1st Star: Mike Comrie (1 G, 1 A, +2, 3 shots, 2 PIMs, 1 hit)
2nd Star: Trent Hunter (2 G, +1, 4 shots, 1 hit)
3rd Star: Freddy Meyer (+2, 2 shots, 1 blocked shot, 4 PIMs, 6 hits)
4th Star: Doug Weight (1 G, 1 PPG, 4 shots, 2 PIMs)
5th Star: Frans Nielsen (2 A, 1 PPA, 1 shot, 2 hits)

Game 5: Panthers 2, Islanders 0
Fantasy Stars
1st Star: Rick DiPietro (2.05 GAA, .944 SV%)
2nd Star: Bill Guerin (6 shots, 2 PIMs)
3rd Star: Kyle Okposo (4 shots, 2 hits)
4th Star: Richard Park (1 shot, 2 blocked shots, 2 PIMs, 1 hit)
5th Star: Trent Hunter (1 shot, 2 PIMs, 4 hits)


  • Scott Gordon has started to spread the power play time around a little more to see if he can find some productive combinations. By the end of the weekend the first unit consisted of Mark Streit and Weight on the points with Nielsen centering Guerin and Hunter up front. Thomas Pock and Jack Hillen still put in time, as did Comrie, Jeff Tambellini, Jon Sim, and Okposo. With Gordon still tinkering, keep an eye on the boxscores to see if anyone steps forward.
  • DiPietro made his season debut on Saturday night against the Panthers and played well stopping 34 of 36 shots. A sharp DiPietro could be an asset to your team in GAA and SV%. If he stays healthy, he could backstop enough victories to not hurt you in wins, but he'd also likely drag you down in a category like goalie winning percentage
  • Sim's tenure on the first line and first power unit is in danger as he was replaced in both places during Saturday's loss. Sean Bergenheim got a look with Guerin and Weight in practice on Monday, but isn't guaranteed to stay there.
  • It wasn't a good weekend on the draw, but Weight did go 17-13 on faceoffs over both games.
  • Chris Campoli skated a full practice today, but no word yet on how close he may be to returning.

Here are your team statistical leaders through 5 games:

Goals: Hunter 4, Weight 2, Comrie 2, Guerin 1, Hilbert 1, Bergenheim 1
Assists: Gervais 3, Weight 2, Guerin 2, Okposo 2, Nielsen 2, Streit 2, Five players with 1
Points: Hunter 4, Weight 4, Comrie 3, Guerin 3, Gervais 3, Hilbert 2, Okposo 2, Streit 2, Nielsen 2
+/-: Pock 2, Guerin 1, Martinek 1, Weight 1
PIMs: Thompson 17, Witt 17, Bergenheim 15, Meyer 10, Comrie 8
PPG: Weight 2, Hunter 1
SHG: Hilbert 1
Shots: Guerin 16, Okposo 14, Comrie 14, Hunter 12, Tambellini 11, Weight 10, Streit 10
TOI/G: Streit 25:16, Gervais 21:48, Meyer 20:56, Pock 18:59, Weight 18:37, Witt 17:21
FO%: Weight 52.6, Thompson 50.8, Comrie 48.1, Nielsen 46.7
Hits: Meyer 18, Hunter 17, Witt 10, Guerin 7, Streit 6, Gervais 5, Weight 5
BkS: Pock 10, Meyer 9, Witt 8, Gervais 7, Hilbert 6, Park 6, Streit 6

Friday, October 17, 2008

The NHL Injury Policy: Why Can't the League Trust the Players to Be Honorable?

The most commonly cited justification for the NHL's secretive injury disclosure policy is that it protects the players. Teams do not want the weaknesses of players who are playing hurt or have just returned from an injury to be exploited.

For example, Islanders defenseman Andy Sutton is thought to have a hand injury. The reason we don't know that for certain is that the Islanders don't want Sutton to be the recipient of extra whacks to the hand upon his return.

But don't NHL players compete within the framework of a code of honor? Don't they follow guidelines for what is right and wrong on the ice?

Just this past Monday, Bill Guerin described a multiplayer brawl between his teammates and members of the Buffalo Sabres, and the consequences of that brawl, as honest, presumably within the confines of the code.

The Sabres were taking it to the Isles, and Nate Thompson initiated with Adam Mair in an attempt to shake things up. As a result of the ensuing melee, Sean Bergenheim and Brendan Witt were tossed from the game, leaving the Isles short a forward and a defenseman. Guerin had no problem with his teammates' actions because they were committed in the name of standing up for each other.

Opponents of the third-man-in rule long for the days when players were permitted to fully police themselves on the ice. Dishonorable actions were noted and punishments were dispensed before officials had cause to intervene.

Last year Sean Avery was roundly criticized for his stick-waving antics in front of Martin Brodeur in the playoffs. His tactics were viewed by many as disrespectful. It would not surprise me if Avery's trip outside the bounds of normal sportsmanship played a large role, at least on par with his contract expectations, in the Rangers' decision not to bring him back—even if other players publicly denied being embarrassed.

With so much emphasis on principled behavior, wouldn't it be reasonable to expect a level of restraint among players in the presence of opponents with known injuries?

I'm not advocating for going easy on a guy in the heat of competition. I am suggesting that players can engage without taking cheap shots at a player with the intent to re-injure him.

When Radek Martinek returns from his shoulder injury, he is fair game for being separated from the puck by a hit that impacts that shoulder. If the injury cannot withstand the vigors of regular gameplay, then either he is not really ready or he simply must cope with his fragility. But a hit that intends only to separate his shoulder is dishonorable.

Perhaps I am incorrect and players feel that exploiting such a weakness is indeed a fair part of a very physical game and the injury policy does provide a layer of protection. But even if there is merit to the argument, and it is not too much to expect players to take the high road, the issue has some thorns. Owners, with so many millions of dollars at stake, are likely to cling to the policy rather than risk exposing expensive assets. And there will always be a handful of players who, regardless of peer pressure and basic decency, choose not to follow a code.

Are there any other reasons why the on-ice code of honor can't extend to injuries and make the policy of secrecy unnecessary?

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Closing Thoughts on Columbus Day

Condolences to the family and friends of Alexei Cherepanov. I remember watching team after team pass on him during the 2007 draft. When the Rangers finally selected him, it occurred to me that he would eventually take the torch from Jaromir Jagr and become the next great source of Ranger torment for the Islanders and their fans. But I hesitate to talk about this in terms of hockey any further as the loss to his loved ones goes so far beyond that.

Locker Room Report
Despite the horrific performance by the Isles yesterday, the locker room did provide some good quotes, most of which you have probably read elsewhere by now. I will paraphrase a few of the things that were said, either because I didn't see them elsewhere or because they are worth repeating.

Scott Gordon

  • Wanted Joey MacDonald to battle and figure things out
  • Feels that pulling the goalie lets the team off the hook
  • Was most disappointed in the failure to work as a unit of five, finish hits, and get above the puck
  • Said the team wasn't even close to following the system, and didn't even change lines effectively
  • Avoided answering questions about Rick DiPietro's readiness

Joey MacDonald
  • Was glad that Gordon had the confidence in him to battle through the team's poor play
  • Deflected attention away from the idea that DiPietro wasn't ready to start or relieve
  • Noted that support between goalies goes both ways between starter and backup and he has that support

Bill Guerin
  • Losing two guys in the fight shouldn't have been a problem, and the whole thing was honest
  • The team used its sticks instead of its legs
  • Didn't bite on the idea that DiPietro can't currently play

Nate Thompson
  • Wanted to go with Mair all game to change the momentum
  • Stands behind MacDonald 100% and is sure he'll shake it off come back playing unbelievably

I did get the chance to ask Thompson if, based on his familiarity with Gordon, the coach would respond to the performance by really tearing into the video and notes, or prefer to focus on a clean slate and the basics of the system. Thompson thought it would be a combination of both. He said they would come back tomorrow ready to work.

Fantasy Report—Game 3
I'm putting some thought into a new system for tracking the Islanders' fantasy leaders that would score the entire roster every game instead of just awarding five stars somewhat subjectively. If it looks worthwhile, I roll it out and include all the games that have been played retroactively. But, for now, here are your five Fantasy Stars of the Game:

1st Star: Nate Thompson (2 blocked shots, 15 PIMs, 2 hits)
2nd Star: Brendan Witt (1 shot, 17 PIMs, 1 hit)
3rd Star: Sean Bergenheim (1 shot, 15 PIMs)
4th Star: Trent Hunter (1 G, 1 shot, 1 blocked shot, 2 PIMs, 7 hits)
5th Star: Thomas Pock (1 A, +1, 1 shot, 5 blocked shots, 2 PIMs)

Other notables: Faceoffs—Weight (8-5), Comrie (10-3), Park (3-1), Thompson (6-5), Nielsen (11-4)

Overall the Islanders went 40-20 on faceoffs in this game. Getting the puck surely isn't two-thirds of the battle.

Monday, October 13, 2008

Live Blog: Sabres 7, Islanders 1, Final

With 6:40 now left in the third period and this game long since decided, I'm going to shut down in preparation for heading to the locker room. Talk in the Blog Box has touched several times on why DiPietro is still serving as a backup when it's obvious no one wants him playing. This game was just begging for a goalie change at some point, but you just knew it wasn't going to happen. We'll see if that's a touchy subject in the post-game.

12:20: We're now waiting to see if Tambellini can finish with two minors instead of two goals.

10:18: Penalty to Sekera for handling the puck. Power play, Islanders.

9:12: Beautiful give-and-go by the Sabres. You really just have to applaud that play. BUF leads 7-1 and the crowd is thinning out quickly.

8:30: Isles unable to take advantage of the power play.

5:21: Trent Hunter converts for the Isles on a shorthanded (Ed., that was actually 4-on-4 even strength) rush to make it 6-1. Assist to Pock. Kotalik took a hooking penalty on the play, which was followed shortly by a goalie interference penalty to Vanek.

1:18: Tambellini takes a tripping penalty. There's just no good news here on any front. It's kind of hard to feel too bad about anything plaguing the Isles right now though.

1:01: Buffalo converts and it's 6-0. Kotalik from Spacek and Roy.


B.D. Gallof has just clued us in to a report on TSN that Rangers prospect Alexei Cherepanov has died as a result of an on-ice accident while playing in the KHL. TSN now reporting that Cherepanov collapsed on the bench and the ambulance covering the game had already left. Cherepanov, drafted by the Rangers in the first round of the 2007 Draft, was 19.

: Complete breakdown for the Isles in the second. The first period was uninspiring but the second was a disaster. If I didn't have an idea of what kind of system the Islanders were trying to employ, I wouldn't be a able to tell you what they were trying to do out there. It was just a sloppy period and everyone looked a couple of steps slow. To be successful, this team can't let up on the intensity or paying attention to detail. They failed at both in that period. Let's see if they can take better care of the puck and their defensive assignments in the third.

19:08: Simultaneous minors for Bergenheim (tripping) and Comrie (slashing). 5-on-3 for Buffalo.

17:30: Buffalo nearly converts a shorthanded 2-on-1.

16:46: Update on the penalties from earlier. It appears that Kaleta did not get a game misconduct. You might want to check the box score as the announcements may have been a little off. Spacek goes for a delay of game. Power Play for the Isles.

15:18: As tends to happen in blowouts, the blow-by-blow of a live blog gets less interesting. Shots are now 26-15 in favor of Buffalo.

11:14: The love affair with Joey MacDonald appears to be over for now, but the crowds cries for Rick DiPietro will likely go unanswered.

10:32: We have a review as the puck appeared to bounce over the goal line. Looked in from here. 5-goal lead could be forthcoming. Indeed, Sabres lead 5-0.

9:32: Meyer goes off for cross-checking.

Bergenheim, Witt, Rivet, and Kaleta get game misconducts along with fighting majors. Rivet gets an extra game misconduct being the third man in. Thompson and Mair get fighting majors and ten minute misconducts.

Waiting for the penalties to be announced, but the teams are at equal strength.

8:43: The action is fast and furious now. Following that fourth Buffalo goal, fights broke out at center ice. Doug predicts a third man in for Rivet. Thompson got into his first fisticuffs as an Islander, dancing with Mair. Hard to see all the action with everyone standing. Just prior to the fight, chants of "DP" were ringing in the Coliseum.

8:39: Buffalo leads 4-0.

7:00:Another rebound costs MacDonald as he directs a save to his right only to have the puck dished back to the slot for a shorthanded goal by Buffalo. BUF leads 3-0. Vanek from Paille and Rivet.

6:04: Isles get their first power play of the day as Kotalik goes off for interference.

Much to my chagrin, I've been referencing Ryan Miller throughout this blog, when in fact it is Patrick Lalime in goal for the Sabres. Apologies for the misinformation, but the uni number is much more difficult to make out at the other end of the ice. Now that he's right in front of me, the #40 is quite clear.

: MacDonald leaves a not great rebound that slides out past an Islander and a Sabre before another Sabre swoops in to bury it for a 2-0 Buffalo lead. Mair from Afinogenov.

1:50: First instance of real sustained pressure by the Isles as they keep the puck in the zone for over a minute, forcing Miller to make a few saves and sliding a couple of shots just wide.

I didn't mention this at the beginning of the first period, but the Tambellini-Nielsen-Hunter line is also intact. Same group starts the second as the first. Isles now skating left to right from our vantage point.


: The Isles were never able to mount any sort of sustained attack or momentum in that period, partially due to being shorthanded four times. They were outshot 13-7 and a couple of those were easy wristers from distance. Tambellini stole the puck along the boards in the offensive zone with about 10 seconds to play and got off a shot from the bottom of the circle to Miller's left, but couldn't put it by the Buffalo goalie.

17:41: Comrie out of the box, successful kill for the Isles.

Our resident ref disagrees with the no-call on the Park play and says Comrie should have received only one minor. Not the first time he's disagreed with the on-ice officials today.

13:30: Park pushed hard into the corner boards from behind in the offensive zone. No call. Pushing and shoving breaks out. Comrie gets the only penalty. Isles shorthanded for the third time in the opening period. That's a double minor for Comrie: roughing and cross-checking.

: Pad save by Mac, but Buffalo gets control and slides the puck past him from in front. PP goal for the Sabres. BUF leads 1-0. Hecht from Kotalik and Afinogenov.

8:22: Witt goes off for hooking. Hunter and Neilsen out first on the kill with Pock and Streit. First scoring chance goes to the Isles. Miller turns it aside.

6:49: MacDonald fields a long harmless shot unsuccessfully but it bounces off his glove wide of the net. Anxious moment as he couldn't find it, but he eventually freezes it.

5:42: Streit got crossed up with Sim at the blueline, creating an offsides.

5:00: Streit with a slapper from the left point. Miller turns it aside with the left pad.

Park out of the box. Nothing too dangerous from the Sabres on the power play.

2:36: Park takes a tripping minor. Hilbert does a good job of denying the blue line.

Comrie centering Park and Okposo.

Pock paired with Streit.

Weight centering Guerin and Sim.

2nd defensive pairing: Meyer-Gervais


Starters for the Isles:

CJ Baran, lead singer of Push Play, performed the National Anthem.

We have our first sideline story of the day: Doug is predicting two goals for Tambellini today.

Speaking of the concourse, there are a number of new food options at the Coliseum this year. I have yet to investigate them properly, but I can tell you that the Nathan's stand now has a fried chicken cutlet sandwich and a fried clams w/ french fries combo. Can you tell I'm ready for the game to start?

The Parade of Mascots has begun. There are more than a dozen of them here for Kids Day. Included are the Geico Gekko and Mr. Met. Earlier I saw the bunch of them creating mayhem with the kids out in the concourse.

In the Blog Box today we have B.D. Gallof, Doug Davidson, Dee Karl, and Mike Schuerlein. Mike Carey has stopped by to say hello as well. Ken Dick has now joined the bunch. Please check them out during the game or later on tonight. And welcome to Doug who is a new member of the Blog Box this year.

The floating stage used by Seven Mary Three at the home opener is being lowered from the ceiling. Local band Push Play is taking the stage to the screams of the kids in the crowd.

The Isles are wearing their white jerseys at home today.

In case there was any doubt, your goaltending matchup today will be Ryan Miller vs. Joey MacDonald.

Good afternoon, Islanders fans. We're coming to you live from Nassau Coliseum. It is 12:50 PM and the Zamboni is out preparing the ice for today's Columbus Day matinee between the Sabres (1-0-0) and the Islanders (1-1-0).

With the weekday afternoon game potentially thinning out the numbers in the Blog Box, I thought I'd fill in the live-blog gap for those of you who are stuck at work and unable to get any other play-by-play. For those of you who do have access to other media, today's game will be shown on MSG+ and, since it is a day game, should be broadcast over the radio waves on WHLI 1100 AM.

The puck is scheduled to be dropped at 2:16 PM, so stay tuned!

Saturday, October 11, 2008

10/11/08: Islanders 5, Blues 2

It was a successful home debut for Scott Gordon as the Islanders handled the St. Louis Blues with a 5-2 margin of victory tonight at Nassau Coliseum. Five different Islanders lit the lamp.

Just as they did last night, the Islanders got off to a fast start as Mike Comrie fired home a rebound at 2:18 of the first period for a 1-0 lead. Richard Park and Kyle Okposo earned assists on the play. Unlike last night, the Isles kept the pressure on and never really looked back.

Trent Hunter scored on the power play from Doug Weight at 13:47 to make it 2-0, and Sean Bergenheim followed that up at 15:20 with helpers going to Andy Hilbert and Bruno Gervais.

Brad Boyes brought the Blues to within two at 17:23 of the first, and with the Blues going to the power play shortly thereafter, it looked like the Islanders might lose their edge. But Andy Hilbert converted a Mark Streit feed from in close for a shorthanded goal and the Isles had their three-goal lead back. Gervais notched his second assist of the game on the play.

The second period was scoreless but was notable for the beginning of a malaise that endured into the third period. During this stretch, the Islanders were less crisp and intense. A team better than the Blues might have made them pay for the lapse.

Perhaps the loss of Radek Martinek to injury near the end of the first period was somewhat responsible. It is early in the season for a team still learning its system and with a few new defensemen to adjust well to playing down a blueliner—especially one as important as Martinek.

In the third, the Blues pulled to within two once again when Keith Tkachuk scored on the power play at the 7:47 mark. This is where you can give the Islanders a lot of credit. They refocused, tightened up, and kept the Blues at bay without falling back into a defensive shell. Bill Guerin put the game away with an empty-net goal with just under a minute remaining.

Meanwhile, Joey MacDonald was strong in goal once again. Filling in for a recovering Rick DiPietro for a second consecutive night, MacDonald stopped 24 of 26 shots to earn his first victory as an Islander.


  • Is everybody feeling a little better about MacDonald being a capable backup for DiPietro? Of course, MacDonald hasn't actually served as the backup yet. We'll have to see how he does after sitting for 10 or 15 straight games. But his play thus far is enough to make everyone stop worrying about Wade Dubielewicz being in Russia.
  • Gervais appeared to be on the outside looking in as the season started. But he has now started the first two games and is making something of the opportunity. If Martinek is out for any length of time, Gervais could be called upon for some important assignments. Tryouts to play alongside Streit on the power play also continue.
  • Bergenheim's play suggests that his development is continuing right on schedule and he has every intention of being an impact player.
  • Ten different Islanders hit the scoresheet tonight.
  • Jack Hillen, Josh Bailey, and Blake Comeau were scratched.

Fantasy Report—Game 2
1st Star: Bill Guerin (1 G, +1, 2 shots, 2 blocked shots, 4 PIMs, 2 hits)
2nd Star:
Doug Weight (2 A, 1 PPA, +1, 1 shot, 2 blocked shots, 2 hits)
3rd Star: Mark Streit (1 A, 1 SHA, +2, 2 blocked shots, 3 hits)
4th Star: Trent Hunter (1 G, 1 PPG, 3 shots, 1 blocked shot, 3 hits)
5th Star (tie): Bruno Gervais (2 A, 1 SHA, +1, 2 blocked shots, 1 hit), Joey MacDonald (W, 24 saves on 26 shots)

The forwards on the first power play unit continue to be Guerin, Weight, and Jon Sim. The second trio is Mike Comrie, Frans Nielsen, and Hunter. Streit is the powerhorse on the point with Gervais getting the most time with him tonight. Freddy Meyer and Thomas Pock also saw signficant time at the point with the man advantage.

Game 1 Fantasy Report: Devils 2, Islanders 1

Okay, here's how this is going to work (unless I find a need to revise it later): For each game, I will award fantasy stars of the game to five players. The 1st Star will receive five points, the 2nd Star will receive four points, the 3rd Star three points, and so on, for the purpose of tracking fantasy value over the course of the season.

Tonight's Fantasy Stars of the Game:

1st Star:
Mark Streit (1 A, 1 PPA, 3 shots, 1 blocked shot, 2 PIMs, 1 hit)
2nd Star:
Joey MacDonald (27 saves on 29 shots)
3rd Star: Bill Guerin (1 A, 1 PPA, 4 shots, 1 hit)
4th Star: Doug Weight (1 G, 1 PPG, 2 shots)
5th Star: Trent Hunter (3 shots, 2 hits)

Other notables: Richard Park was 10-3 on faceoffs and Nate Thompson went 6-1.

And just a couple of quick comments on how Scott Gordon used his roster tonight. Ice time was distributed much more evenly than we were used to seeing last year. Only one skater clocked in at under 10:00, and that was Thompson at 9:42. So Gordon was very successful at rolling four lines.

What might distress some was that Kyle Okposo and Jeff Tambellini received virtually no time on the power play (Okposo was out there for nine seconds). It will be interesting to watch how those minutes are doled out over the next couple of games. Tonight Gordon didn't break up his top forward line for the man advantage, which resulted in Guerin, Weight, and Jon Sim getting the lion's share of the power play minutes.

Friday, October 10, 2008

Pre-Game Notes for the Season Opener

Just a couple of nuggets before tonight's game in New Jersey...

  • It appears that Joey MacDonald will be in goal tonight instead of Rick DiPietro. No explanation so far from the Isles, but I'm not really sure that one is needed. It may be as simple as the team wanting to play him in the home opener and not wanting him to go back-to-back yet. Holding DiPietro out tonight certainly paves the way for him to play tomorrow night and Monday.
  • If you're looking for the Howie Rose and Billy Jaffe version of tonight's broadcast on Time Warner Cable in NYC, it can be found on channel 199.
  • Jersey sightings in NYC this evening between 5:30 and 6:00: Two Devils jerseys on the 7 train headed toward Times Square, presumably on their way to the Rock. One Rangers jersey in Times Square Station. One Rangers Jersey heading down Broadway in the direction of MSG. Notably, only one of the four jerseys was actually being worn. The other three were folded up and being carried. I guess that's what happens when it's 75 degrees in October.

Look for more later, particulary the Islanders' fantasy stars of the game.

Monday, October 6, 2008

Islanders Fantasy Report: Season Preview

I realize that many of you may have already drafted, but surely there are many more drafts to go and there's plenty of time to tweak rosters. The structure of these reports will evolve over time, but figure on seeing reports like this one, as well as regular awarding of Islanders fantasy stars of the game, a running leaderboard of fantasy stars, and recaps of line combinations for even strength, power play, and shorthanded situations.

It is impossible to evaluate the fantasy value of players in a way that will satisfy every scoring system available. So, players will be evaluated as follows:

Player: These players provide enough value across the board to be in play in almost any league. Someone in your league will draft them. Will it be you?

: These players have the potential to reward you based on their performance, expectations, and circumstances. They're not no-brainers but could provide decent value given ice time, the right linemates, and/or stepping up their play. Drafting them will come with some risk. Not drafting them could cause you to miss out on a good depth player.

: These are players who offer high value in one or two scoring categories. If your roster can absorb a one- or two-dimensional player, look here to bolster a weakness.

Okay, let's see what the Islanders have to offer...

Rick DiPietro—Unless you are in a particularly shallow league, someone in your league is going to draft DiPietro. If you focused on skaters early and were left with DiPietro as your No. 1 netminder, you're probably going to be in trouble in the goaltending categories. His career .905 save percentage and 2.78 GAA aren't going to win you anything. As a No. 2, he could be adequate if he stays healthy and approaches his career highs—a .919 SV% in 2006-07 and a 2.36 GAA in 2003-04. Those stats are particularly important because you can't expect superior numbers from him in wins or shutouts. I don't think anyone thinks we've seen the best out of DiPietro yet, so he's your classic high risk, high reward pick. You just have to decide—is this the year?

Mark Streit—Don't fall under the spell of last year's numbers and draft Streit as your No. 1 defenseman. But don't forget about him either. Despite the transition from Montreal's high-octane power play to the Islanders' pedal-powered version, Streit has shown signs in training camp that he is capable of being the difference with the man advantage for his new club. No, he won't have the same depth and caliber of playmakers and finishers around him, but don't expect him to completely fall off the charts. Slot him in somewhere in the middle of your defensive corps.

And that's it—for now. I can't put anyone else on the roster in the Players category at this moment. Now, that can change easily if you're in a league with 15+ teams. But based on a 10-12 team league with basic scoring categories, that's as far as I'm willing to go.

Bill Guerin—The captain has the potential to put up 50-60 points, with a bunch on the power play, and in excess of 230 shots on goal. Even in a shallow league, that could merit a late, speculative pick.

Mike Comrie
—Comrie has never fired as many as 200 shots on goal in a season, as Guerin has. He has hit the 60-point mark in a season twice, including at least 30 goals on both of those occasions. To warrant being drafted, you have to assume that he'll at least match his career highs in goals and assists and perform well with the man advantage. Otherwise, Comrie may be useful only as an injury fill-in or as an extra forward during a week when your roster has a light schedule. One plus (if your league goes that way) for Comrie is that he led the Islanders in penalty minutes last year with 87 (which is perfect fodder for opponents of PIMs as a good thing in fantasy). An extra minus? He was tied for 8th worst in the league last season with a -21.

Jeff Tambellini
—In the AHL, Tambellini is a fantasy stud. Last season, he went 38-38-76 with 237 shots on goal in 56 games for the Sound Tigers. Want to take a chance on an Islander with a late-round pick? You might as well go with Tambellini. If he comes out of the gate hot, you'll look like a genius. If he plays like an AHL stud still lost in the big-time, you can move on and replace him with an Antoine Vermette, Chris Clark, Dan Cleary, or, heaven forbid, Nikita Filatov. There's always someone out there in the free agent pool just waiting for a tryout.

Doug Weight—Weight is a borderline prospect here. If first-line, first-power-play-unit icetime and clicking with Guerin can get him back to being a 15 goal, 45 assist guy, then you may find a place for him as a depth forward. But the truth is, you probably don't need to use a draft pick to get him.

Trent Hunter
Hunter is a hitting machine. Some people don't buy into the quality of his hits, but in fantasy hockey, it's only the quantity that matters. Last season, Hunter racked up 256 hits, good for 4th best in the NHL. Hunter also delivered 222 shots on goal in 2007-08, and set a career high in assists with 29. If he can regain his scoring touch, Hunter is an excellent candidate to break through as an overall fantasy asset.

What, no Kyle Okposo? Okposo projects as a good all-around player, possibly even in this, his rookie season. Power forwards can be fantasy gold. However, I question whether any of his totals will be high enough for fantasy significance, even if he is solid across the board. It's probable that he'll be drafted more often than Tambellini based on name recognition, potential, and expectations. But his best fantasy contributions probably lie beyond this year.


HitsAside from Hunter, Brendan Witt and Sean Bergenheim will throw their weight around.

Blocked ShotsRadek Martinek and Witt are your big players here. Without an injury, Witt would have cracked the top 20 in the league last year.

PIMs—As stated earlier, Mike Comrie spent more time in the bin than anyone else. Andy Sutton likely would have held that honor if he had stayed healthy. Keep an eye on the roster to see if Mitch Fritz is around often enough to make a difference here.

Time on Ice—Witt and Martinek take the prize here as well. Their totals aren't likely to touch the league leaders, however.

(+/-)—Of returning Islanders who played a decent number of games, Freddy Meyer and Andy Hilbert came out on top at +2. Blake Comeau was next at +1. That should tell you everything you need to know. Unless Scott Gordon sparks an amazing turnaround, look elsewhere for help in +/-.

FaceoffsMike Sillinger is the cream of the crop. In his injury-shortened season, Sillinger tied for 12th best in the league in faceoff winning percentage at 56.3%. He also finished 8th overall by taking 34.6% of his team's faceoffs. Expect similar numbers anytime Sillinger is healthy.

ShotsGuerin, Hunter, and Comrie, as mentioned. Bergenheim managed 155 shots in limited minutes last year. If he can manage to get off the 4th line, he'll be right up there, too. And, of course, don't forget the potential of Tambellini, who fired off 237 shots in his 56 games at Bridgeport. As a point of reference, Alex Ovechkin unleashed 446 shots last year.

Well, we managed to work a lot names in there despite the slim pickings. We'll see if there are any new angles to consider once the roster and lines are set, and how names like Campoli, Sim, Pock, Fritz, and Hillen might enter the picture in one category or more.

And, yes, it was a lot easier to avoid Fantasy Island puns with Allan Roarke out of the picture.

Thursday, October 2, 2008

A New Beat; Will the Islanders Be Prepared?; and Josh Bailey Signs

Starting in the very near future, a new beat will be appearing here on Islanders Outsider. Sprinkled in among the outsider's perspectives, media watches, game reports, and general bloggystuffs will be analysis of the Islanders from a fantasy hockey perspective.

This territory was formerly covered in the Blog Box by Tim Marino, operator of The Fantasy Fancy. Tim has joined Jim McGlynn and Jon Jordan in stepping aside from the Blog Box to pursue other endeavors (Jon continues to provide top-shelf coverage of the Tampa Bay Lightning on HockeyBuzz.) All three of these gentlemen are good people and quality bloggers. Their presence in the Blog Box, actual and digital, will be missed. They are welcome to contribute to these pages anytime, and I hope we have not seen the last of their participation in the Islanders vibrant online community.

With Tim's blessing, I will attempt to answer two main questions for fantasy hockey players: Who on the Islanders' roster can contribute to your fantasy team, and how? I'll look at those questions from the standard 5x5 league angle, as well as try to help out those of you who can benefit from stats like hits, blocked shots, and faceoff win percentage.

The Islanders, of course, are not blessed with a roster full of superstar stat producers, so the pickings may be thin at times. (And thankfully the NHL still keeps track of stats like hits, blocked shots, and faceoff wins so we have a little more to talk about.) But as an enthusiastic participant in fantasy hockey, I feel that it is a fun component of fandom that also provides a worthwhile service to other fantasy players.

Thanks again to Tim for handing off the beat, and stay tuned!

As for last night's exhibition game with the Devils, the result only concerns me as a symptom of a larger problem—that the combination of a shortened training camp, a pile of injuries, and a new system to learn are conspiring to keep the Islanders from hitting their stride in time for the start of the season.

It really seems as though the team will have turn on like a switch in order to hit the ground running next Friday in New Jersey. With only three preseason games remaining, we hardly have a well oiled machine here. Maybe those three games will be sufficient to get enough players reasonably fit and comfortable with each other and the system. But, right now, I feel like they need more time.

One thing that will take getting used to is the new injury policy. The idea that players will just not be around with no indication of what they injured, how severe the injury is, or when they will be back is bizarre. But when Andy Sutton is not in the lineup opening night, we'll just have to accept that he's not available and won't be until we see him in uniform again. It's sort of like the NHL's own Witness Security Program. If you see Mary McCormack moving stealthily through the corridors of Nassau Coliseum, don't be alarmed. She's just doing her job.

At least we know where Josh Bailey is today.