Saturday, February 28, 2009

Streit Appreciation Day

Many of us sounded the call once before this year leading up to the All-Star break. But, in these dog days of February, with little to be measured by game results and visions of ping pong balls dancing in our heads, let us pay tribute to the revelation that is Mark Streit.

I will point to two moments from last night's game, one a shift in thinking and one a display of skill. You can add your appreciation as you wish.

With a little over ten minutes remaining and the Islanders trailing 4-2, it was apparent that Streit had eleveated his game to another level. You could practically see the thought process play out before your eyes...

I'm the leading scorer on this team...I'm going to take over and get this done...Hop on board, boys, here comes your offense.

Streit is aggressive from the backline both by nature and by role. But down by two goals with half a period left to play, that was not enough. He needed to force the play more, pinch more, rush more, and risk more. Not only was he willing to do it, he was capable. There was your adjustment in thinking.

With a little over eight and a half minutes remaining, Bruno Gervais sent a pass across to Streit at the left point. Streit had some space in front of him, so he drifted in toward the top of the left circle while preparing to take a slap shot. He had a decent look, with Josh Bailey and Pavel Kubina providing a screen halfway between the puck and Vesa Toskala in the Toronto net. Streit has the shot to score from there.

He didn't shoot. He faked. He drifted a little more. He got a clearer path for his shot. He got Toskala to move. Then he put the puck right through Toskala and into the back of the net.

It was an exquisite goal. In a moment of insanity, I found myself thinking, Maybe this guy should be a forward. But I quickly corrected myself. Streit's defense is just fine, thank you, and he's probably more dangerous attacking from the top of the offensive zone where all of his options are open. He can boom the slap shot by your goaltender or carve up your forwards and your defensemen on the way to the net. And he can finish.

You can break that goal down to the elements that add up to what a special player Streit is. He had the vision to see it. The patience to try it. And the skill to execute it.

With just over three minutes remaining, Jon Sim tied the game on an assist from Streit. The Islanders would go on to lose in a shootout. Streit looked a little gassed at the end of regulation on his way to playing 31:31 and with the Isles down two defensemen. It's not the totally happy recap, but it is an opportunity to express appreciation for a player that you get to watch for four more years.

Guerin Opens the Door
Streit's presence may become even more substantial next week as the Islanders shed themslves of other veterans at the trade deadline. Chris Botta reported last night on Islanders Point Blank that the Isles have cleared a path to trade captain Bill Guerin, who has a no movement clause. As expected, it is a narrow path, as Guerin still controls where he can go and it's up to Garth Snow to make it work with the few teams to which Guerin would be willing to go (previously speculated here as Boston, NYR, New Jersey, and Philly—Mr. Botta expands this to other eastern teams, including Montreal, Buffalo, Washington, and the very intriguing Pittsburgh). But it seems more and more like this is going to be a very young team for the final five weeks of the season.

The Shootout
If you had Nielsen with the deke to the backhand, Tambellini with the mid-range wrister over the glove, and Okposo with the in-tight drag to the backhand, well, you would have split the jackpot with thousands of other people. It's not that anyone can score in the shootout every time. And it's not as if these guys have been around long enough that it's like the goalie is sitting on their fastball. And if ever there was a time to work on things in a game situation, it's now. But at some point soon, these guys will need to work in some different moves.

(This post was originally published at on February 27, 2009)


Tom Liodice said...

I think I wrote the same thing in my blog yesterday about the shootout.

We called every one of those moves upstairs. It's nice to see they're getting the opportunity but they need to jazz it up a bit!

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