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.


Dominik said...

You rain on Comeau's parade, you. ;)

Nice pickup on that. In the post-goal pileup and OT win excitement, I certainly did not notice Comeau glide. I'm pretty sure I noticed nothing other than Frans was still alive after crashing into the boards.

Islanders Outsider said...

Oh, the guilt. Like I didn't have enough on my own!

By the way, "Dean of Danes" was all for you.