Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Isles Get Wind Knocked Out of Them at MSG

Regardless of whether the Islanders were affected emotionally by seeing one of their warrior-leaders unable to gasp for breath after being checked through a loose door and into a rink support, they certainly played as though they all had the wind knocked out of them by the incident.

It certainly didn't look like Trent Hunter was going to stand up and skate off under his own power following the crushing collision with part of the MSG rink infrastructure that shouldn't have been exposed. Eleven seconds of play later, the flat-footed Islanders surrendered an early-third-period 2-1 lead. They found themselves trailing by one soon thereafter, on their way to a 5-4 loss.

Getting the wind knocked out of you was a theme for the night. It appeared to happen to Kyle Okposo earlier in the game thanks to an aggressive check from Nigel Dawes. That play resulted in a fight between Dawes and Mike Comrie, which highlighted an issue that the NHL really needs to address.

Comrie fought with no helmet on. Dawes engaged while wearing not just a helmet, but a visor as well. How can the league permit this? Better yet, how can Dawes be taken seriously if he's willing to fight a guy with no protection while his entire head and half his face are protected by hard plastic with sharp edges?

Comrie took care of himself just fine, but his only option was to throw uppercuts. Even those carried the risk of slamming into the bottom of Dawes's visor.

You want to drop the gloves? Drop the helmet, too. Otherwise, the whole concept of fighting as part of the game becomes tarnished.

Anyway, as the Islanders have demonstrated too many times this season, you won't gain many points by giving up four goals in the third period. At least they kept coming and got their wind back soon after coughing up the lead. And pinning your scoring hopes on the Comeau-Comrie-Okposo line is a lot more palatable than hoping third and fourth liners can grind out a few. All three of those guys tallied for the Isles last night. And on the first goal of the night, Hunter and Sillinger made the Rangers pay for a defensive-zone turnover.

Sure, there was plenty not to like—without even addressing the latest chapter in the goaltending melodrama. (Do headline writers in Denver make 'Melo Drama puns?) For example, with the Islanders already down a forward due to Fritz being in the lineup, losing Hunter in the third made it much tougher to compete with the speedy, hard-charging Rangers.

But, as we head toward the new year, I'm trying to focus more on the positive. So let's hope for good news about Hunter and worry about penalties, defensive lapses, and poor passing another day.

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