Thursday, December 17, 2009

Two-Minute Minors for 12/17/09

Jeff Klein, writing in the Times off last night's 2-1 Islanders win at Madison Square Garden:

"Wednesday’s game was not the first time Tavares had set foot in the Garden. That happened on Nov. 28, when he and his Islanders teammate Matt Moulson watched Moulson’s brother play for Cornell against Boston University. No one recognized him at that game, he said."

I had wondered if Tavares would go to that game with Moulson, and figured he would seeing as how it was through Chris Moulson that Tavares and Matt Moulson became acquainted. At the time, I didn't ask Moulson if Tavares was going with him because a) I already felt like asking him whether he was going bordered on too personal, and b) I swore to myself I would make it through my first conversation with Moulson without mentioning Tavares.

But it's nice to know now that they did make it to the game, even if they didn't actually get to see Chris play (he wasn't in the lineup).


In Ottawa, Chris Campoli has now gone from power play point man to healthy scratch to...fourth-line winger? (Ottawa Sun via Rotoworld)


Let's give the Islander credit for this. It's the middle of December and they're still gripping onto this season with all five fingers on both gloves. Despite a thin defense and inconsistent scoring, there are still multiple reasons to watch them day in and day out. You couldn't say that about some Islander teams in the last 15 years, nor could you say it about a lot of NHL teams with this kind of roster.

As this week has shown us, expect more highs and lows. And if the season is going to gradually turn one way or the other from a winning/losing standpoint, I'd still be surprised to see them start winning more consistently than losing more consistently.

But I can also see this team taking that perception as a challenge and pushing themselves to remain prominent in the Eastern Conference's messy lower half. If they can do that at least through the Olympic break, I don't think it's lowering expectations too much to consider it an accomplishment. Not for a fan, anyway. The goal in the locker room should always be to solidify eighth, then climb into seventh, and so on.


Kudos to Blake Comeau for being in the thick of things once again. It should be easier for him playing with Tavares and Moulson. But, like Moulson has done, you still have to produce.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Learning's More Fun When You Win; DiPietro Aches—No Fun at All

Blake Comeau has been universally praised, and rightfully so, for his performance in Saturday night's 3-2 overtime win over the Boston Bruins. He capped of a solid game by delivering a near-exquisite backhand pass to Frans Nielsen that resulted in a breakaway game-winning goal for the Dean of Danes.

Yet, my lasting memory of that game, apart from Rob Schremp attempting to pole dance on Mark Streit, is a replay that shows there's always room for improvement—even when your play impressed people all game long and you created the OT winner.

From the view behind the play, what you saw on Nielsen's goal was that Comeau didn't follow up his pass by going strong to the net. Instead, he glided in and watched to see what would become of Nielsen's attempt. In doing so, Comeau allowed two Bruins to get between him and the play.

By going hard to the net, Comeau would have been in position to pounce on a rebound if Nielsen didn't convert. He also could have given Tim Thomas something else to think about, either as a second option for Nielsen or as a distraction.

As it turned out, the additional options weren't necessary because Nielsen took care of business. And I'll also grant that the speed with which Nielsen attacked the goal may have precluded Comeau from being a realistic second option. But he still could have put himself in position to compete for a rebound.

Anyway, my point here isn't to kill Comeau. It's that this Islanders team has already taken a step forward in its development this season, and learning from plays like this one is what will help them take the next step forward. Being relentless and taking nothing for granted goes a long way toward winning more games. I have confidence that this is the type of play Scott Gordon doesn't leave on the cutting room floor after he reviews game tape.

By the way, John Tavares demonstrated what I'm talking about on the Islanders' second goal. After making his no-look backhand pass out front to Matt Moulson, Tavares continued skating around the back of the net and came out on the other side. If Moulson hadn't been able to get a shot off right away, Tavares was wide open at the far post for an easy tap-in.


All tightness aside, were the Islanders seriously going to let Rick DiPietro back into the goalie rotation after only three rehab appearances? I realize they have to operate within the framework of conditioning assignment restrictions, but for the amount of time he's been away, how could three appearances have been considered sufficient for him to return to game action at the NHL level? I would think five games, minimum, would be more on the mark. He hasn't even played five periods yet.

I may have said this before, but I'm at the point where I feel nothing but bad for DiPietro. For someone with so much talent and drive to be unable to use these attributes because of physical problems—well, I can just imagine the emotional ache that goes with it. Some will say, "What does he care? He's raking in $4.5 per year into the 2020s regardless." I assure you, that's not enough for DiPietro.

We're past the point of worrying too much about the impact of his injuries on the Islanders. As shown by Dwayne Roloson this season, there is life after DiPietro. Or between DiPietro injuries. Even the long ones. It would just be a shame to see him never quite make it back. We're probably a long way from that happening, but the return has been anything but smooth. It's only natural to think about it.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Moulson 12, Moulson 13, Moulson 14

Just a quick hit to say congratulations to Matt Moulson on his first career hat trick. And in a big road win to boot.

It wasn't quite Mario's five goals five ways, but there was something special about this hat trick. Moulson scored on a booming slap shot from above the circles, a deke on the goalie, and a deflection. This is no one-trick pony scorer.

It's so easy to root for this guy to do well, and I continue to be thrilled as he continues to make his mark on the NHL. With all the talk on tonight's Point Blank chat about locking him up, I couldn't help but think that Moulson is one guy I can't wait to see get paid.

And, yes, he still reminds of me Ryan Smyth out there.