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.
Tuesday, December 30, 2008
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.
Sunday, December 28, 2008
"We had some pretty good energy," Gordon said. "We spent almost the entire game in their zone. Maybe they had one forecheck at the beginning of the first period. Our guys, from my standpoint, played with a lot of effort. There was a missed coverage on three goals where we had people in place but didn't pick up the man. That was a breakdown, and we didn't get the save. But from a defensive standpoint in our zone, we didn't give up anything and we spent little time there, so we must have been doing something very well in the offensive zone on the forecheck."
That was Scott Gordon's assessment of his team's 5-1 loss at home to the Atlanta Thrashers on December 6th. At the time, I noted that Gordon seemed to go a little too far to paint the loss as a good loss when the circumstances didn't call for it. You certainly couldn't blame Gordon if he wanted to accentuate the positive after last night's 4-3 shootout loss at Buffalo.
For the first time in a long time, there were plenty of positives in the play of the Islanders as they downed the Maple Leafs 4-1 Friday to end a ten-game losing streak, and extended the Sabres to a skills competition Saturday. Only those who wish to see the Isles lose at all costs could have come away from this weekend disappointed (granted, this team desperately needs John Tavares). Here are some of the good news highlights...
- Kyle Okposo hit the scoresheet with a goal and an assist for his first
careermulti-point game this season. [Corrected because Okposo had a goal and an assist in his second NHL game, a 3-1 win at New Jersey on March 21, 2008.] Okposo kicked off the scoring just 3:47 into the first period to get the Islanders going. The play was started by a clean breakout pass from Rick DiPietro, who recorded the only assist on the play and in the process set a team record for career points by a goalie (14, all assists).
- After playing only 2+ games this season, DiPietro made a surprise return to the lineup and recorded his first win of the season. He stopped 28 of 29 shots in a solid, controlled performance that seemed to give his teammates a shot in the arm.
- Bill Guerin lit the lamp twice to notch his 399th and 400th career goals. Guerin is the 8th American player to hit the 400 mark.
- In addition to Okposo's efforts, the youth brigade was all over the box score. Blake Comeau picked up two assists while Chris Campoli, Jeff Tambellini, and Josh Bailey registered one helper each.
- Tambellini finally broke through for his first goal of the season (I—okay, Garth—told you he'd score) by converting a return pass from behind the net by Mark Streit. Tambellini started the exchange by finding a cutting Streit with a sharp pass across the front of the goal. Streit took the puck behind the net and found Tambellini open on the other side. Half the net may have been open, but it looked like a goal scorer's goal.
- Joey MacDonald stepped back into the starter's role just one day after the return of DiPietro and played solidly, stopping 34 of 37 shots. Odds are that the Isles will need to count on MacDonald more this season and it's important that he remains sharp and confident.
- Comeau, Okposo, and Bailey all got in on the scoring for the second consecutive game with an assist each. This was in addition to goals by Tambellini and Campoli.
- The Isles used a late power play and an extra attacker to score twice in the final 1:34, stunning the Sabres and sending the game into overtime. It was nice to see them force an opponent into a third-period collapse, especially after the Sabres extended their one-goal lead to two with only 5:23 remaining.
- Mike Comrie's goal, which brought the Isles to within one at 18:26 of the third, was the kind of prototypical two-man advantage goal that this team has not scored often enough in the last few years. With MacDonald pulled and the Isles skating 6-on-4, Guerin took a pass down low from Comeau and fed the puck across the crease to Comrie who was waiting on the doorstep with an open net to hit.
- On the game-tying goal, Okposo refused to be knocked off the puck. His toughness and determination enabled him to feed Campoli, whose perfectly placed shot from the slot tied the game with two seconds remaining in regulation.
- It looks like Brendan Witt is starting to round back into shape.
The Bad News?
- Andy Hilbert is out with a hairline fracture in his foot. Blocking so many shots has its consequences. As annoying as it is to lose another player, and as well as Hilbert has played this season, the Isles can survive without him.
- DiPietro did not travel to Buffalo and Howie Rose reported that the goalie has a strained groin. Monday should be very interesting. At this point, I feel like it's 50/50 whether DiPietro starts against the Rangers or we hear something about 7-10 days.
- Unnecessary penalties continue to plague this team. Four consecutive minors in the second period Saturday night and a momentum killer by Sean Bergenheim in overtime were too much to overcome.
- A 4-point weekend would have been really sweet. The shootout in Buffalo was no contest. MacDonald got toasted by Kotalik and Stafford while Park and Okposo did not fool Ryan Miller in the least.
All in all, a very enjoyable weekend of hockey.
Friday, December 26, 2008
I'm a little surprised at the way the Islanders are handling the return of Rick DiPietro. You'd figure they would give fans ample notice and use the occasion to draw a big crowd. Instead, we learn of his readiness 90 minutes before a rare Friday night home game during a school vacation/holiday weekend. Perhaps the organization felt that DiPietro's status has received too much focus and it was best to run him out there as soon as he was declared fit. Nothing to see here, just hockey. I don't necessarily disagree with this approach—I'm just surprised. And, yes, I know I said we wouldn't see him again until '09. Close, damn close. But, more importantly, it will be good to see a healthy DiPietro back between the pipes.
Wednesday, December 24, 2008
Not a creature was smiling, not even hostess Dina
The banners were hung from the rafters with care
In honor of the Cups that used to be there
The players were all wrapped in bandages and ice
While they took turns on IR, maybe once, maybe twice
And Scott in his suit, and Joey in his pads
Talked about rebounds and why they're so bad
When out on the ice there arose such a clatter
They sprang from the room to see what was the matter
Away to the glass they flew, Joe and Scott Flash
Threw open the gate and searched for the crash
The spotlight on the crease of the freshly cut ice
Shone like a Lighthouse (that would be nice)
When, what to their wondering eyes should appear,
But a rehabbing goalie and all of his peers!
With a lightning-quick glove and a dexterous stick
They knew it must be the goalie named Rick
More rapid his passes and clears they came
And he whistled and shouted and called teammates by name!
To Kyle and Brendan and Richard and Andy
To Billy and Mark and Trent and IV Freddy.
And here's an outlet for Sean or Campoli
Remember me?—I'm Rick D. the goalie!
Off the top of the glass and up the middle pucks flew
Would they get through the forecheck? Really, who knew?
The skaters practiced receiving the passes
They tried to skate hard but tripped over crevasses
"Skate! Skate! Skate!" Gordon did shout
"Weight! Weight! Weight!" but Doug was not about
The players cried out, "We need to transition, we're done with the kill!"
Maybe Doug was packing for Columbus or Nashville?
So the players all gathered and tried not to get hurt
For fear they'd end up in a no-contact shirt
Like Nielsen and Silly, and Nate and Gervais
And Radek and Sutton unable to play
And then, who should appear from above the last row?
The owner, the GM, Charles Wang and Garth Snow!
"Gentlemen, look around you, almost to a man...
Get used to these faces, this is the plan!"
"Your goalie's almost back, Tambellini will score
With Bailey and Comeau you couldn't want more!
Even Comrie is healthy (granted we might trade him—
And Silly and Guerin and especially Sim)"
Then they sprang to their sleigh and to the team gave a whistle
And away they both flew like the down of a thistle
But I heard them exclaim, 'ere they drove out of sight
Pray for Tavares and thank heavens for Streit!
Monday, December 22, 2008
For the past several days I've been thinking about how little I envy the position in which Scott Gordon currently finds himself. He is now in the midst of a nine-game losing streak, during which his team has only managed to accumulate one thanks-for-playing point. His roster keeps getting turned over like the contents of a cement mixer. Categorize the players any way you wish, and they've been hurt—goalie, defensemen, centers, young players, vets.
And oh, yes, the nine-game losing streak that has no one feeling particularly good. More importantly, it creates a feeling of unrest—some of which is exaggerated by disenchanted fans, but some of which seeps through quotes from the players. We heard all we needed to from Brendan Witt to know he is troubled by the club's style of play. To Witt's credit, he did what so few players do these days—instead of asking to be moved to a rosier situation, he professed his desire to improve the current one.
Still, here's Gordon with young players who have yet to make a serious impact and old players who probably don't love the idea of investing in a future that doesn't include them.
So what does Gordon do? Does he tell his team, "Look, I don't care if we lose every game the rest of the season—this is the way we're playing?"
Or does he give a little? Does he adjust the system to the situation in the hopes of picking up a few more wins here and there? That might at least make things more interesting and less miserable for the guys who have no choice but to win now because there is no later.
Fortunately for Gordon, he doesn't have to make that choice now. Or, at least, he can make the tougher choice—the one that likely leads to a lot more losing right now—without fearing for his job. Such is the value of an unwavering show of support from his General Manager, as delivered by Chris Botta in his interview last night with Garth Snow. Snow does not appear to be panicking as the losses mount.
At this point in time, you have to applaud the clarity of his message. If the players are feeling comfortable enough to voice their concerns about the direction of the team to the media, then further dissent is likely to follow. If you're going to lose a lot, lose together. Don't let the ship go down in a blaze of contentious disaster. Gordon is now free to demand whatever he wants of his team.
There will come a time to pass final judgment on the Snow/Gordon regime. We'll be able to determine whether Josh Bailey, Kyle Okposo, Frans Nielsen, and others were the correct pieces upon which to build. We'll be able to ask whether the Islanders would have been better served by a coach who adapted to the roster he was given, or if the GM failed to produce the roster he vowed would work.
It's simply not that time yet.
Faceoffs (W-L): Weight 1-2, Comrie 8-11, Park 7-6, Hilbert 0-3, Walter 6-8, Bailey 4-7
Thursday, December 18, 2008
A few days ago, Mike Comrie had the following observation for Arthur Staple of Newsday:
"In this system, you've just got to throw pucks at the net and be in the right spot. It's scrambles, not a whole lot of pretty plays."I would argue that if the Islanders had enough players capable of pretty plays, they would be more than welcome in the system.
Just over two months into the season, we have system fatigue. It's not that the players are tired of playing it. They, and the coach, have started to tire of talking about it. I don't blame them. I think a lot of fans are just about done talking about the system, too.
That begs the question, why were we talking about it so much in the first place? My memory may be a little fuzzy here, but I don't recall a lot of people talking about the way the Devils played in the 90s until they started winning. And there's your answer.
Entering this Islanders season, we knew that they didn't have the horses to run with the big stables. But we wanted something to pin our hopes on, and it wasn't a donkey. There was, however, a system. So instead of looking at a successful team and wondering what makes them successful, we were left to embrace a system, and hope it would breed success. To take the equine theme just a little too far, that was putting the cart before the horse.
In the midst of an 0-6-1 streak, one cannot root for a system. In the midst of a 6-0-1 streak, one could certainly marvel at the efficacy of a forecheck, or the daring of a pinch.
Until Comrie, Kyle Okposo, Jeff Tambellini, Josh Bailey, and Frans Nielsen are back and playing with the kind of flair that produces pretty plays, there is nothing to do but throw pucks at the net. And if those guys aren't the ones to do more than throw pucks at the net, others will have to be found.
Click here to read about the Islanders annual holiday hospital visits. This kind of stuff can't be publicized enough, even though that's not the point. I love the way the whole team gets involved with this and blankets Long Island as best as it can.
Catching up on some old business...
Tuesday, December 16, 2008
Tonight numerous Islanders bloggers will come together for a live blog-chat during the Isles-Caps game. Please join us as it should be a fun way to watch the game. And please excuse us when we go off on tangents—we'll do our best to stick to the game at hand. But you know how these multiblogger live blogs can get! And thanks to Doug Davidson of Isles Official's Outlook for setting up tonight's CoveritLive event.
Labels: live blog
Sunday, December 14, 2008
How tough are times for the Islanders right now? At about 6:00 Sunday evening I paid a visit to the team's official site. It struck me that of the five news stories highlighted on the home page, not a single one had anything to do with recent play or the state of the current Islanders hockey team.
At first I was willing to pass it off as a slow news day, considering there is no game today. But then I decided to check around to see how other teams approach the same section of their sites. Of the other 29 NHL teams, only one site had a similar lack of current hockey related content. And that one belonged to the Stanley Cup Champion Detroit Red Wings. Even the other bottom rung teams who were coming off losses were still highlighting game content.
So with things going so well that there is nothing for the Islanders to promote but promotions, let's see where the roster now stands from a fantasy perspective. When last we spoke of such things, the following rankings had been achieved:
Players: Mark Streit, Doug Weight, Trent Hunter, Bill Guerin. Rick DiPietro had fallen off the list.
Prospects: Kyle Okposo, Josh Bailey, and Joey MacDonald. Mike Comrie and Jeff Tambellini deep-sixed.
Here are the latest results:
Mark Streit—The Islanders' best overall defenseman continues to be everything the team hoped he would be and more. Streit has 7 goals and 14 assists for 21 points in 30 games. He has accumulated 6 of those goals and 9 assists on the power play, plus a goal and an assist shorthanded for good measure. The 15 power play points are tops for a defenseman in the NHL. The 6 PPG rank 2nd in the league. Streit's 58 shots on goal put him just outside of the top 20 for defensmen. He's also going to the penalty box at the rate of one minute per game, and posts a decent amount of hits and blocked shots, with 46 and 45, respectively.
Doug Weight—The man who was brought on board to revive Bill Guerin has, in the last couple of games, been removed from the center spot alongside his best bud. We'll have to see how that situation develops and what effect it has if it sticks. In the meantime, Weight remains a strong fantasy asset with 6 goals and 21 assists for 27 points in 30 games. The Islanders' top scorer also boats a team-leading 17 power play points on 4 goals and 13 assists. Those 17 power play points have Weight tied with Malkin and Ovechkin one behind league leaders Crosby and Selanne. That's some pretty good company.
Trent Hunter—The one spectacular number you'll get from Hunter is in hits, where he rates 13th in the NHL with 80. But Hunter is proving to be an asset across the board this season. You can also count on him for a good shot total—he's currently 2nd on the team with 85. But more importantly for Hunter, his offense is really on track this year with 11 goals and 11 assists. Add in 3-4-7 on the power play and 29 PIMs, and you've got yourself a well rounded fantasy player.
Bill Guerin—The captain is now 4th on the team in scoring with 11 goals and 9 assists. His shot total of 108 just squeezes him into the NHL's top ten. Guerin contributes significantly on the power play with 4 goals and 7 assists so far. His 40 PIMs are also notable for a guy who is doing some scoring. Again, watch to see what happens with Weight and Guerin at even strength, but if even if they do remain separated for a while, they will continue to play on the first power play unit.
So nothing has changed in the Player category from a month ago. No one new has emerged, no incumbent has fallen.
Andy Hilbert—Some may consider this a stretch, but that's what it's come to—stretching. Hilbert is now fifth on the Islanders in scoring with 7 goals and 9 assists. In addition to his penalty killing duties, he is now seeing time on the second power play unit, where he has chipped in a goal and 2 assists. 66 shots on goal aren't going to instill fear in any opponents, but it's a total that won't kill you either. Where Hilbert may be able to make some hay is in blocked shots. He is second on the entire team with 46, a total that leads all NHL forwards by ten.
Rick DiPietro—With a return to the ice now expected around Christmas, it's time to start thinking about DiPietro again. As we've already discussed, the #1 job will be his as soon as he's ready to go. Whether he can thrive in front of the team that is currently making Joey MacDonald's life miserable is another question. In conclusion, know that DiPietro will be ready to go soon, but don't expect him to save your season. If you're desperate for a goalie, he's capable of helping you in the second half—but its definitely requires a wait-and-see approach.
What happend to...
Kyle Okposo—No concrete updates on his return right now, and he wasn't doing enough yet to consider serious consideration for a roster spot before he got hurt.
Josh Bailey—"Islander for the year" Bailey is still averaging almost an assist every other game, despite a recent five-game pointless streak. Other than that, he doesn't done much of anything to warrant attention in fantasyland. Better days lie ahead.
Joey MacDonald—The recent stretch of dismal performances by the Islanders has doomed MacDonald as a fantasy commodity. Even if they weren't winning consistently, his other numbers made MacDonald worthy of consideration for an empty G slot. That's no longer the case, and with DiPietro's return on the horizon, you can pretty much forget about MacDonald for fantasy purposes.
PIMs—Sean Bergenheim and Tim Jackman lead the way with 43 PIMs each, although Jackman has earned his in only 17 games versus 27 for Bergenheim. Nate Thompson checks in with 40 in 21 games, Bill Guerin has 40 in 30, and Andy Sutton 38 in 21.
(+/-)—Forget about it. Sutton is +2. Everyone else is currently in the red.
Shots on goal—It's league elite Guerin with 108, Hunter with 85, Bergenheim with 69, and Hilbert with 66. From the blue line you have Streit at 58 and no one else anywhere close.
Hits—Hunter is a star with 80. Freddy Meyer is hitting at a good rate with his total slowed only by an early injury. Brendan Witt is also in the mix.
Blocked shots—The Islanders are still piling up the blocked shots, so there's lots to choose from. All of the defensmen are in on the act. Sutton leads the way with 57 blocks in 21 games. If you need a forward who likes to get in the lanes, you can't do better than Hilbert.
Faceoffs—In his first five games of the season, Mike Sillinger proved he's still quick on the draw by winning an impressive 60.7 percent of his faceoffs. Sillinger is now nursing a groin injury, but he's your man when he gets back on the ice. Of other players regularly taking draws, Richard Park is the only one above 50 percent at 52.5. Weight (201) and Park (178) have the most faceoff wins if you're going by that number.
Time on Ice—Streit's 25:07 puts him in the top 15 in the league. The other d-men don't register an impact at 20:00+ minutes. Weight leads the forwards with 19:37, but that only ranks 44th among all NHL forwards.
Thursday, December 11, 2008
On more than one occasion over the last several weeks, I sat down in front of my computer to tune into Don LaGreca and Chris Botta's NY Hockey This Week radio show on 1050 ESPN Radio. After looking quizzically back and forth between my monitor and speakers on several of those occasions, I finally accepted that the show, which is broadcast over the AM radio waves, is not transmitted through the streaming audio player on the station's Web site.
What's all the more confusing is that during the hour in which NY Hockey This Week is on the air, the audio player displays the name of the show while streaming different content.
Not that it's so unusual for a station to stream alternative content. It happens all the time when the station has a game broadcast and streaming it is contractually prohibited. It also happens when a radio station changes format but wants to keep fans of the old format in the fold. But how much more college football coverage do we need?
I suppose the thinking might be that local hockey fans can simply tune to AM for the show, while out-of-market sports fans have the option of more nationally oriented content. But how many out-of-market sports fans are turning to New York's 1050 ESPN Radio online to get their sports fix?
I won't bore you with the reasons why listening on the computer would be decidedly more convenient for me (although a couple of times I was already at the Coliseum for a game and wanted to listen on my laptop). Let's just say that not having the show online is most unfortunate for out-of-market New York/New Jersey hockey fans and disappointing for those of us who would like to take advantage of the alternative access point.
- WKRB 90.3 FM Brooklyn (All games)
- WLNG 92.1 FM Long Island (Night games)
- WSTC 1400 AM Connecticut (Saturday night games)
- WNLK 1350 AM Connecticut (Saturday night games)
The new stations join WMJC 94.3 FM and WHLI 1100 AM, both on Long Island. If this is going to be the future of Islanders radio, stringing together a network of small stations throughout the region, then good for the organization for coming through on its pledge to add more affiliates. Now keep going! I still can't hear you.
Monday, December 8, 2008
I was as surprised as many others at the praise and optimism in the Islanders' locker room following Saturday night's loss to the Thrashers. Under certain circumstances, you may accept that a loss was a good loss. This was not one of those times.
It is true that the Islanders controlled the flow of play for the most part. But the attack was fruitless, and the puck ended up behind Joey MacDonald five times. If Weight, Hunter, Streit, and Guerin aren't scoring, no one is. Frans Nielsen and Kyle Okposo can't come back fast enough. Opposing defenses simply don't have enough to worry about right now. Josh Bailey is pointless in his last five games and is getting killed on faceoffs.
But Scott Gordon was willing to focus on "some pretty good energy" and declared that the power play was also "pretty good." MacDonald thought "the team played pretty well." Andy Sutton opened with, "Sometimes you play really well and lose."
But he, and the others, also backed off the positivity the more they spoke. And when Gordon said, "We had missed coverage on 3 of the 4 goals" and "We were doing something very wrong in the offensive zone and the forecheck," it's hard to take too much good away from the pretty good.
Gordon seemed more exasperated than usual in trying to answer questions. But I'm somewhat convinced that he was at least as exasperated with the having to answer questions as he was with his team's play, perhaps way more so.
In the end, I really have no problem if the Islanders are in a let's-keep-the-energy-positive mode. I don't think the alternative would serve them very well. But pointing to the energy, the plus margin in scoring chances and puck possession, and the negative differential in bounces and breaks just rang a little hollow on this night.
What if Streit or Comeau had connected with the back of the net instead of the post with just over nine minutes remaining? Well, it would have been a 4-2 game with just over nine minutes remaining. Nothing about the game convinces me that the end result would have been any different.
Finally, I don't know if running MacDonald out there every single game is a wise move. I can see decent arguments for both sides of that issue. What I can say is that in the locker room after a 5-1 loss on Saturday night, MacDonald did not look at all burdened by fatigue.
Game 26: Thrashers 5, Islanders 1
Fantasy Stars of the Game
1st Star: Chris Campoli (1 SOG, 2 BkS, 15 PIMs, 1 hit)
2nd Star: Tim Jackman (2 SOG, 15 PIMs, 2 hits)
3rd Star: Bill Guerin (1 G, 1 PPG, 2 SOG, 4 hits)
4th Star: Brendan Witt (5 BkS, 8 hits)
5th Star: Trent Hunter (3 SOG, 4 PIMs, 3 hits)
Faceoffs (W-L): Sillinger 6-5, Weight 7-7, Park 8-2, Thompson 6-2, Bailey 4-10
In case you missed it, A.J. Perez has a Q&A with Doug Weight in USA Today.
New York Islander Fan Central points to a story in Sports Business Journal that suggests the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center as a possible home for the Islanders if the USTA puts a roof on Arthur Ashe Stadium. While a move to Queens would be a boon to my game attendance, the upper level of Ashe is ridiculously far away from the playing surface. Fans will put up with watching specks on skates for the Winter Classic, but would they do so game in and game out of an NHL season?
Saturday, December 6, 2008
2:03 Sutton and Thorburn almost go at it, but think better of it. Sutton takes a cross-checking penalty with 1:35 left, and that's going to do it from here.
2:57 Islanders hit with a bench minor for unsportsmanlike conduct. The remaining crowd could fit in a high school gymnasium.
4:10 Sillinger back on for another quickie. They're getting one time down the ice at this point.
5:45 Short shift by Sillinger. It's hard to assess someone's performance and impact on a game at this point. There's a lot of drifting at this point. The Islanders really need to figure out how to generate some offense five-on-five.
6:30 The best scoring chance of that power play was by the Thrashers' Slater.
8:31 Power play starts with Guerin taking the draw.
8:56 Sillinger gets on the ice for the first time in a while. Isles draw a holding penalty, which Enstrom seems none too thrilled about.
9:26 Streit rifles one off the post, followed by a Comeau rocket off the post 20 seconds later. Thrashers come back the other way and Thorburn makes it 5-1.
9:37 Looks like a shortened bench here in the third.
12:41 Delayed penalty called on Sutton and the Thrashers score to make it 4-1. Hunter's first penalty had just expired so it's now 5-on-4. Perrin with the goal from Williams and Kovalchuk.
13:45 Campoli does a nice job blocking a cross-crease pass.
14:43 Hunter takes a double-minor for high-sticking and tripping. Didn't see that coming.
15:58 Sillinger's second shift is abbreviated as Gordon puts out the top line after an Atlanta icing. Bergenheim is back with Guerin and Weight.
18:23 Sillinger uses a veteran move to pin Reasoner down on the ice in the corner without getting a penalty.
2nd Intermission: A poor period by the Islanders in a game in which there's no excuse for not giving a complete effort and taking two points. Scott Gordon seemed to be sending a few messages to express his displeasure. I'll confirm this shortly but Sillinger seemed to get much less ice time in that period and Bergenheim lost his spot on the top line.
Sillinger took only four shifts in the 2nd for 3:48. He added 27 seconds on the PP but didn't receive any further PK time. Sillinger is now 4-4 on faceoffs.
0:04 Offensive zone draw after another icing by the Thrashers. Weight unable to win it and the period ends.
2:43 Comeau now playing with Weight and Guerin on the top line.
3:30 Comeau with a big center-ice hit.
4:16 Sillinger loses the defensive zone draw.
4:37 Thrashers goal. Sloppy and lazy play by the Isles in the defensive leaves a loose puck and a half-open crease for the Thrashers to easily increase their lead to 3-1. Boulton with the goal from Crabb and Slater.
6:40 Jackman and Park trade great shorthanded scoring opportunities but Hedberg denies Jackman and Park pushes it just wide.
7:34 Bergenheim takes a seat for slashing.
9:56 Apologies for the gap. Things in processorland had become unbearably slow and a restart was necessary. We're back just in time to see Marty Reasoner find a wide open Ilya Kovalchuk on the right wing. Kovalchuk cut in on MacDonald unimpeded and flipped the puck by him easily. Thrashers lead 2-1. While we were gone, Sillinger did get off a nice one-timer from the slot, but Hedberg deflected it wide.
16:30 Hilbert, Park, and Sim got the call for the second unit on that power play. Sillinger hit the ice for the last ten seconds. He took a feed at the top of the right circle but didn't look good handling the puck and was unable to get a shot off.
18:15 MacDonald stops Colby Armstrong on an attempted stuff. Jason Williams takes a slashing penalty for the Thrashers following the play.
First Intermission: Four seconds will remain on Hilbert's penalty to start the second period. Really would have liked to see the Islanders take control of this game in the first. The opportunity was there in power plays and an Atlanta team that didn't pose much of a threat. Coming out of it tied 1-1 must surely spell disappointment in the Islanders' locker room.
By my count, Sillinger took six shifts in the first in all man-power situations. Indeed, the stat sheet confirms six shifts and 5:10 of ice time. 1:15 on the PP and 0:37 on the PK. He was -1 with 1 shot, 1 giveaway, and a 2-1 record on faceoffs. He had one good scoring chance in front off a nifty feed from the side of the net, but couldn't put it by Hedberg. Sillinger fell at the end of the play but got up none the worse for the wear.
1:56 Hilbert takes a roughing penalty standing up for Bailey who took a tough hit in the offensive zone.
2:16 Thrashers goal. Sillinger on the ice at the end of a shift as Bryan Little was left alone to slide one past MacDonald. Tied 1-1.
3:18 Sillinger back on with Park and Comeau. Park stopped on the doorstep by Hedberg.
4:54 Thompson takes the draw as he and Sim have replaced Sillinger and Park. Comeau still on. Sillinger got shortchanged on that shift.
5:13 This Sillinger shift will come with a TV timeout after just 15 seconds thanks to a Thrasher playing the puck with a high stick. Faceoff coming just outside the Islanders zone.
7:28 Jackman with a TKO of Thorburn. 5 each for fighting.
7:45 End of shift, another over 1:00.
8:45 Sillinger playing high on the forecheck. His acceleration getting back on defense looks pretty good.
9:00 Hilbert, Sim, and Park pick up the back end of this power play. Sillinger comes on with Comeau and Park for the final 12 seconds.
11:45 Sillinger gets a PP shift with Park ahd Hilbert. It's a long shift with plenty of action around the net. Ends with Joey Crabb taking a high-sticking penalty and another Islanders power play.
12:41 Boulton and Valabik take roughing penalties. Sutton takes a roughing penalty for the Isles, who go to their second power play of the game.
13:20 Penalty over. Good to see Comeau parked in front of the net, even though he fired a one-timer wide.
14:36 Sillinger takes a shift on the PK. Goes off after 30 seconds and a successful clear.
16:04 Streit goes off for hooking. MacDonald makes a nice slide across the crease to stop a slapper from the far boards.
16:27 Jackman came off the bench and sprinted to the forecheck.
19:09 Sillinger on for his first shift, centering Comeau and Park. He seems to be getting up and down the lanes just fine. Goes off with 18:14 remaining.
19:09 Islanders goal. Guerin one-times a pass from Streit. Isles lead 1-0.
19:41 Power play Isles. Boulton with the Interference penalty.
20:00 The Isles will open with Jackman-Park-Thompson-Campoli-Streit. Sillinger is expected to line up between Jackman and Thompson once the lines get rolling.
Welcome back for another Saturday night of live NHL action. Tonight the 8-14-3 Atlanta Thrashers visit Nassau Coliseum to take on the Islanders.
I'm going to do things a little differently tonight and focus on Mike Sillinger as he plays in his second game since returning from microfracture hip surgery. I was going to do this earlier in the season with Jeff Tambellini, but then decided that the spotlight on his struggles was intense enough without a blog dedicated to his every move on the ice. Last night and this morning I was going back and forth between Sillinger and Tambellini, but today's roster move settled that question.
Speaking of roster moves, #57 Blake Comeau has it the ice for warmups. After his callup was announced, I considered doing the iso blog on him instead of Sillinger. But let's give him a game to see how he fits into Scott Gordon's plans.
So tonight we will put the isolation cam on the 37-year-old center from Regina. As always, the newest entry will appear at the top of the blog, and timestamps will refer to time remaining in the period.
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
TAMBELLINI TO BRIDGEPORT ON CONDITIONING ASSIGNMENT, COMEAU RECALLED
Uniondale, NY, December 6, 2008 – The New York Islanders have announced that left wing Jeff Tambellini has agreed to a conditioning assignment with the Bridgeport Sound Tigers of the American Hockey League and right wing Blake Comeau has been recalled from Bridgeport. Comeau will be in the Islanders’ lineup tonight when they host the Atlanta Thrashers at the Nassau Coliseum.
Quick thoughts: Comeau deserves this promotion based on his production at Bridegport. Tambellini deserves to be given every opportunity to succeed with this organization. Sometimes it does take a couple of years, and then it's all worth it. But something had to change for the time being without giving up on Tambellini. This is the right move at the right time. There are too many players having good seasons in Bridgeport to not give someone else a try and see if Tambellini can get back on track.
Fantasy Stars of the Game
1st Star: Mark Streit (1 G, 1 PPG, 5 SOG, 2 BkS, 2 hits)
2nd Star: Andy Sutton (1 A, +1, 1 SOG, 1 BkS, 4 PIMs, 2 hits)
3rd Star: Trent Hunter (1 G, 3 SOG, 1 hit)
4th Star: Doug Weight (1 A, 1 PPA, 1 SOG, 2 BkS, 1 hit)
5th Star: Bill Guerin (1 A, 1 PPA, 1 SOG, 1 BkS)
Fantasy notes: Hunter gets the edge over Weight and Guerin thanks to an even rating. The best buds were each -2...Yes, it does seem like Streit, Hunter, Weight, and Guerin are in there every night. That's both good and bad...Andy Sutton is on a tear right now, storming up the Fantasy Star Point rankings...The line of Sim-Hilbert-Park is still seeing significant time on the second power play unit, but without much result...Freddy Meyer is picking up the spare PP minutes alongside Campoli when Streit and Weight aren't manning the points...Faceoffs (W-L): Sillinger 11-8, Weight 10-5, Park 8-12, Bailey 4-7.
Other notes: icethetics recently ranked the Islanders third jersey 3rd overall of the 18 third jerseys currently in use. By the way, icethetics has moved from blogspot to a new home at www.icethetics.info. Always a fun site to check out. Meanwhile, Sports Illustrated ranked the royal blues 15th. That's a travesty. The Flyers do look great in orange though.
Coming tonight: Live blog from the Coliseum. I think I'm going to take a different approach tonight. We'll see how it goes.
Wednesday, December 3, 2008
The news that Rick DiPietro has begun skating will likely lead to the intensifying of murmurs among fans and media members that a goaltending controversy will shortly confront the Islanders. The original prognostication of a four-to-six week absence for the All-Star goalie still seems overly optimistic, and I will stick to my initial read of the situation, which said that we are unlikely to see DiPietro return before the new year. But know that any such goaltending controversy upon his return will be purely discussion for the sake of discussion.
I love what Joey MacDonald has done for this team. His performance has been unexpectedly impressive. He has turned a position of doubt into one that inspires confidence. I only hope that he can approach the same standard of play as a backup. For that is what he will be.
As good as MacDonald has been, a healthy, conditioned DiPietro is better. If his athleticism has not been compromised by his injuries, he brings another level to the last line of defense.
And for better or worse, the Islanders have too much invested in DiPietro to undermine his stature. He's still at the point in his career where he expects to best help the team by playing every game—not by splitting time or engaging in some healthy competition for the starting gig.
So if you have climbed all the way aboard the MacDonald train and you're looking for him to get a shot at #1 engineer, I think you'll be disappointed. That being said, the Isles would do well not to immediately throw DiPietro into playing too many consecutive games. Make use of a not-yet rusty MacDonald and give DiPietro a chance to get into real game shape.
AOL's NHL FanHouse featured Islanders prospect Rhett Rakhshani in this week's edition of Hi, My Name Is..., which focuses on NHL hopefuls currently playing college hockey.
It's a shame to see former Islanders coach Peter Laviolette lose his job as head coach of the Carolina Hurricanes. The dismissal demonstrates exactly how much capital a coach earns by winning the Stanley Cup (2+ seasons). Of course, we also learn that five seasons from now, Laviolette will have earned the right to return as Carolina's head coach, as the man he replaced is now doing. Maybe Laviolette and Paul Maurice can invest in a house that they flip back and forth every few years.
Anyway, this looks like a clear case of an organization looking to shake things up, and finding that firing the coach is the easiest way. I tend to root a little bit for other teams in the NHL for various reasons. Any team coached by Laviolette will be one of those teams.
Fantasy Stars Update
Game 21: Islanders 4, Canadiens 3, SO (The O'Byrne Own Goal)
1st Star: Bill Guerin (1 G, 1 A, 1 PPA, +1, 4 SOG, 1 BS)
2nd Star: Doug Weight (2 A, 2 PPA, +1, 1 SOG)
3rd Star: Trent Hunter (1 G, 1 PPG, 3 SOG, 1 BkS, 1 hit)
4th Star: Richard Park (1 G, 1 PPG, 3 SOG, 1 BkS)
5th Star: Josh Bailey (1 A, 1 PPA, 2 SOG, 2 BkS)
Faceoffs (W-L): Weight 4-8, Park 7-10, Hilbert 1-3, Colliton 5-1, Bailey 3-12
Game 22: Penguins 5, Islanders 3 (The Five Unanswered Against)
1st Star: Trent Hunter (1 G, 1 A, 1 PPA, +1, 1 SOG, 1 hit)
2nd Star: Doug Weight (1 G, 1 PPG, 3 SOG, 2 BkS, 2 PIMs)
3rd Star: Bill Guerin (1 G, 1 PPG, 5 SOG, 1 BkS, 2 PIMs, 1 hit)
4th Star: Mark Streit (2 A, 2 PPA, 2 SOG)
5th Star: Josh Bailey (2 A, 1 PPA, 1 SOG, 1 BkS)
Faceoffs (W-L): Weight 8-7, Park 11-13, Colliton 13-5, Bailey 7-3
Notes: Guerin demoted for being a -4; Hunter was the Isles' only plus player.
Game 23: Bruins 7, Islanders 2 (No Reminder Necessary—Or Desired)
1st Star: Nate Thompson (1 G, +1, 3 SOG, 1 BkS, 3 hits)
2nd Star: Mark Streit (1 A, 1 PPA, 1 SOG, 1 BkS, 5 hits)
3rd Star: Andy Hilbert (1 A, 1 PPA, 3 SOG, 1 BkS, 1 hit)
4th Star: Richard Park (1 G, 1 PPG, 2 SOG)
5th Star: Brendan Witt (1 A, 5 PIMs, 3 hits)
Faceoffs (W-L): Weight 6-10, Park 9-5, Thompson 1-3, Colliton 7-3, Bailey 6-8
Game 24: Islanders 4, Senators 2 (IV the Win)
1st Star: Andy Sutton (2 A, +2, 3 SOG, 2 BkS, 2 PIMs, 4 hits)
2nd Star: Freddy Meyer (2 G, 1 A, +2, 3 SOG, 2 BkS, 1 hit)
3rd Star: Andy Hilbert (1 G, 1 A, +2, 4 SOG, 1 hit)
4th Star: Trent Hunter (1 G, 1 A, +2, 3 SOG)
5th Star: Jon Sim (1 A, +2, 4 SOG, 10 PIMs, 1 hit)
Faceoffs (W-L): Weight 7-4, Park 6-6, Colliton 4-5, Bailey 4-8
The Fantasy Star Points Top Ten rankings are now posted at the bottom of the sidebar. Trent Hunter has edged in front of Mark Streit for the lead through 24 games.