Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Islanders' cure: Play the Senators

"You can't beat us!"

The chant cascading down from Section 317 Saturday night at the Coliseum was ironic but true. The Islanders were on their way to their third straight victory over the Ottawa Senators this season, a win that snapped a two-game losing streak that had knocked the Isles off their five-wins-in-six roll.

Yes, the Senators, a team that has positively owned the Islanders in recent years, have now become the Islanders' whipping boys.

The Sens are having a bad season, just a point ahead of the awful Thrashers for least in the NHL as of Tuesday night. The Islanders aren't that far ahead point-wise, but considering the talent differential between the clubs, the Senators' standing is surprising.

I was at the game, sitting in Section 218 thanks to my friends Tom and Mike, who invited me to enjoy a game from a vantage point even better than the one I enjoy in the Blog Box (thanks, guys). Midway through the Islanders' awful second period, I commented that the Isles have a bunch of good, complementary players -- just with no one to complement.

The Senators, meanwhile, have a top line of Spezza, Heatley and Alfredsson, and they worked their magic a couple of times in a losing effort.

That's not to say that Josh Bailey -- thankfully here for the rest of the season -- and Kyle Okposo won't become top-line players and NHL stars someday. They just aren't there yet. And nothing against Bill Guerin and Doug Weight, but their best days are behind them.

There are plenty of likable players on this team, and players who give it 100 percent every night. But the skill level on offense is a couple of notches below most other clubs. Let's put it this way: the Isles' second PP line Saturday was Jon Sim, Richard Park and Andy Hilbert. Solid players, but they probably don't strike fear in too many goalies.

And yet, the Isles have won five of their last eight games, and with Bailey up for the season and Mike Sillinger back in the fold with Okposo hopefully getting back in the next few weeks, there is reason to believe that the Isles can compete on a nightly basis. Joey MacDonald is another reason to believe, and he was just named the league's third star for the month of November. Nice work, Joey.

While we wait for Thursday's game against the Capitals, why not delve into the Blog Box? Also, feel free to vote for your favorite Islanders blog at Yes!Islanders.

And check out Dee Karl's interview with Gary Bettman. Some gals have all the luck.


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