Thursday, October 23, 2008

LIVEBLOG: Stars v. Islanders

First time in the Blog Box in person this season, hoping to see Sean Avery smeared along the boards a few times as the Isles take on the Stars, and I have two words to describe my evening thus far:

Dis. Aster.

The dedication of a Blog Boxer knows no bounds. I work about 40 miles east of the Coliseum, but when I left at 5:35, with only a drive-thru stop at Mickey D's on the agenda, I should have had plenty of time to get to the game. I hit major traffic immediately (some kind of accident), took a detour and hit McDonald's early to get it out of the way. By 6 p.m. I was on Route 347, and cruised from there to the county line.

Except that those electronic traffic signs had bad news. Major delays in Nassau. Toggled from 880 to 1010 and back for the traffic reports, and as usual, nothing to indicate a problem on the Northern State. So when the traffic sign told me it would take 28 minutes to go the 7 miles to the Meadowbrook, and with Mother Nature calling like a telemarketer with a grudge, I got off at 106/107 for a pit stop and a new route via Hempstead Turnpike.

By the way, as I'm writing this, it's 3-0 Stars with two minutes left in the first. So this little story of mine is far more entertaining than this game, which was 13 minutes old by the time I got here. Back to the tale.

I pull into a Burger King; it's empty -- good sign. But there's a 7-year-old kid waiting at the locked men's room door. Five minutes later an employee comes out, having cleaned it. Did I want to ask the boy's mom if she could take him into the ladies room so my bladder wouldn't burst? Yes. Did I? No. So a two-minute break lasted 15, and there's no hope of making the opening faceoff.

I pull into the Coliseum lot at 10 after seven. Go to where I usually park, near the media entrance. Sections of the lot are closed, I can't find a spot, have to park near the back. I finally get through security at almost 20 after. An hour and 45 minutes for what should be a 45-minute trip. Awesome.

As far as this game goes, the Isles had two great chances down 2-0, one on a pass from Comrie to Guerin in front stopped by Turco, and then seconds later Okposo in the slot fires high top right. A few minutes later, Eriksson scores to make it 3-0 Stars. Boos rain down from the crowd at the horn. For this I braved Long Island traffic? The nachos tonight had better be good.

And Avery? Maybe the boos were strong when he first stepped onto the ice (again, I wouldn't know) but the rest of the period the reaction was less than expected. By the way, a few rows down there are two guys in Rangers Avery sweaters. I'd like to go down there and tell them to get the f&ck out of my building. Maybe I'll get thrown out. That would be the perfect capper to this night.

Unless the Islanders come back. Stop laughing.

You know what's far more entertaining than this game (so far)? This. And this. I'm not a huge fan of Jimmy Kimmel, but this stuff kills me. Back to the game in a few moments...

One big positive for the Isles is tonight's return of Chris Campoli. But in the spirit of this evening's awfulness, we've just been told that Brendan Witt may not return. Another injury to the defense. Good lord.

The Stars just had a chance on the doorstep, which begs the question, will Gordon leave DiPietro in the game if it gets to 7-0, since he believes in leaving the goalies in the game? Chew on that for a bit.

Meanwhile, Bergenheim and Avery get into it on the boards, injecting some life into the crowd. Isles end up with a 5-on-3, and seconds in, Guerin hits the post, then Weight with an open net hits the right post and it skids across the goalmouth to Hunter, who slides it across the mouth again -- ALONG THE GOAL LINE -- before the net comes off. Snakebit.

Moments later, another penalty on the Stars. Turco makes a couple of stops, Stars clear, then clear again. 5-on-4, Tambellini has a shot at the left post, can't bang it in. More boos, and the power play ends with the Isles whistled for having too many men on the ice. Talk about it not being your night. If you left now to beat the traffic -- and there's 14:53 left in the second -- no one would blame you.

One at a time, baby. ISLES SCORE - Bergenheim takes a pass from Streit, and at the top of the circles flicks a backhand pass to Guerin, who snaps a low shot past Turco to make it 3-1 midway through the second. Suddenly, there's hope -- if the D can shut the Stars down the rest of the way.

Maybe not. Stars make it 4-1 with 6:53 left in the middle period, a wrister from above the left circle by Morrow deflected by Barch. So much for the momentum.

Now it's 5-1 Stars, and the only cheers for DiPietro are of the sarcastic variety. And the D.P. Pull Watch is officially on.

Intermission cuisine -- a pulled pork sandwich from the BBQ Pit. I am taking a major gastrointestinal risk here, but so far, not bad. Spicy!

Watching the second period highlights, such as they were, on the jumbotron, I wondered -- Howie Rose had to endure the drama and the pain of the Mets' failure to make the playoffs, and now he's calling Islanders games, including this mess. I'm sure the paychecks soften the blow, but you gotta feel for the guy.

Isles on the power play and some sweet tic-tac-toe passing, Weight to Hunter in the corner across to a charging Streit at the right post for the back door goal, and it's 5-2.

Particularly disturbing tonight has been the Isles' defensive play in their own zone, playing 5-on-5 but often looking like they're a man down, allowing the Stars to work the puck around and for some reason refusing to take the body. Have the Stars not showered in a week? Just awful.

Sim scores with 2.1 seconds left, the final is 5-3. On to the postgame, which should be a blast.


- Witt has a "lower body" injury. Where on the lower body is anyone's guess. Vegas should have odds on NHL players' injured body parts. My guess is the odds for the knee is 3-1, the quad 6-1, ankle 8-1, groin 2-1.

- The media's waiting a while in the press room. Bloggers wonder if Gordon is reading them the riot act or telling them everything's gonna be all right.

- Saw photos of the new locker room at Citi Field for the Mets. It is easily 10 times the size of the Islanders locker room at the Coliseum, which is not much bigger than the typical locker room at The Rinx. Seriously.

GORDON: Says the team's penalty killing was inefficient. "We had chances to score some power play goals, but we did everything but put them in the net."

He thought they did a better job on the forecheck. "We sustained pressure, forced some turnovers. To me that's an excellent sign."

On losing Witt: "We've had to go through this every single game. We're putting out guys with minutes they shouldn't be getting. Chris Campoli is in his first game back and we're asking him to play first-line defense minutes. It's not a great situation."

Gordon noted that the loss of Witt comes after losing Martinek and without Sutton, that's a lot of lost experience from the D line. He adds he hasn't spoken to the trainer yet so there is no timetable for Witt's return.

FREDDY MEYER: "It's always a tough thing when a D-man goes down. Everyone has to step up and do what they can. Knock on wood (he knocks on the locker), hopefully that doesn't happen again."

"We have to do better killing penalties and staying out of the box and not giving them chances."

Asked if there is a lack of toughness: "We're team tough. There's not a heavyweight, but everyone has everyone's back and that's the way we've got to play."

BILL GUERIN: "Again, we're in the penalty box too much. I think that's the biggest thing. Our penalty kill wasn't as sharp as it needs to be."

"It could have been different if we score on our 5-on-3, we had 2 pucks on the line."

"We ask a lot of our penalty killers every night, it's very taxing. That's a problem we have to address."

On Witt: "Injuries are a part of hockey, we can't use them as a crutch. We'd like to be healthier. But when things like that happen, it's an opportunity. The seventh defenseman has an opportunity to win a job."

On Dallas: "Modano, he looked 37 out there. They had a good game on the power play and that was the difference."

On D.P., who heard some boos and mock cheers: "No one puts more pressure on himself to help the team than Ricky. When a game goes south, [fans] look at the goalie. Saturday, though [against Carolina], they'll love him again."

On Gordon saying there were positive signs: "We definitely did, we got some turnovers tonight."

RICK DiPIETRO: "They played well. They capitalized on the power play, the Ribiero line was especially good. It's just not what we wanted."

On the fans: "The fans are passionate about this team and don't want to see us lose. So you understand that."

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