Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Game recap: Penguins 4, Islanders 2

"The power play was awful."

That's Sean Bergenheim's assessment of the Islanders' brutal 1-for-9 performance with the man advantage Tuesday night against the Penguins, and Sean, thousands of Islanders fans agree with you. Awful, awful, awful.

This was a huge opportunity to take down the Penguins, who played shorthanded for half the game and are still without Sidney Crosby. Instead, they failed to capitalize on the power play, and while Ty Conklin made 50 saves, this was a case of quantity having nothing to do with quality.

Conklin himself said, "Sometimes shot clocks aren't indicative of the game necessarily." You got it, pal.

The Isles outshot the Pens 23-6 in the first period and were down 2-0. Frans Nielsen cut the gap to one in the second period, but the Pens scored the next two in the third to put it away.

Just a horrible, horrible loss at home with plenty to gain. The Isles visit the Hossa-less Thrashers Thursday before hosting the Flyers Saturday afternoon in a crucial conference battle.

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Trade deadline day madness

So at 4:07 p.m., more than an hour past the NHL trade deadline, the burning question for me was -- WHAT THE DEVIL IS GOING ON IN ROOM SIX?

You see, unlike five of my Blog Box brethren, I had to follow the deadline day doings from work while they got to spend the day at the Coliseum, rubbing elbows with the likes of Newsday's Jim Baumbach as they monitored the day's events. So like a good little Blog Boxer I kept tabs on all their blogs, as well as,,

So on Baumbach's blog and on The Tiger Track, right around 3:30 they say that everyone was called into Room 6. Was it to talk to Ted Nolan or Garth Snow about the trades involving Marc-Andre Bergeron, Chris Simon and Rob Davison? Was there bigger news coming?

I had no clue and it was KILLING ME ... until Baumbach posted an update at 4:15 that they talked with Snow about the deals, and how he said there was one big deal he tried to do that fell through that involved a player that ended up not getting traded anywhere. Bryan McCabe? The return of Olli Jokinen? Perhaps we will never know.

So, as to the trades that DID happen -- no surprises. A couple of small deals, all solid. Bergeron has been expendable almost from day one this season and has been a defensive liability. The fans' reaction to Chris Simon sealed his fate but he also had no role on this team any more. Getting a third-round and sixth-round pick for the two of them in a deep draft is good business. Dealing a seventh-round pick for Davison to add needed blue line depth was also a no-brainer.

The biggest news was the signing of Mike Comrie to a one-year deal, which took him off the table. Comrie brings plenty to the club, is the team's leading scorer and is a Nolan favorite. He's been essential in the team's recent resurgence and I'm glad he's staying.

Fedotenko, Vasicek and Satan were all rumored to be available but they're not going anywhere now, so this is your team heading into the final stretch. It's a team that will be without Sillinger for the rest of the way, and that hurts, but I've always liked this group of players and we'll see how they respond now that the deadline is passed.

The biggest deal of the day came at the deadline, with Marian Hossa going to the Pens, who are tonight's opponent. So the trade deadline could help the Isles in the very short term, as the Pens will be shorthanded without the three guys they dealt, no Hossa (unless he's on a flight RIGHT NOW) and Sid the Kid still hurt.

It would be great to see the Isles come out blazing at home tonight and grab two points against Pittsburgh for their seventh win in eight games. Faceoff in 2 hours and 30 minutes and counting...

And to the Blog Boxers who toiled all day -- great job, and thanks for helping me keep tabs on all the action. You lucky stiffs.

Monday, February 25, 2008

Who will stay and who will go?

You didn't think we'd go 6-0 against the Devils, did you?

After winning six in a row overall and five straight against the Devils, the Islanders were more or less doomed by the law of averages Saturday. Two quick goals by the Devils in the third period snapped a 2-2 tie and the Isles fell quietly, outshot by a large margin as the team was way off what they had been lately.

Still, picking up 12 points in six games with a playoff spot on the line was pretty impressive, and now we turn our attention to Tuesday's trade deadline. As of Monday morning, all has been quiet on the trading front in the NHL, although there are plenty of rumors.

One has Bryan McCabe returning to the Island, and you'd figure that if the Isles were to do that and make another trade it would involve dealing a defenseman - figure Bergeron to a team that could use a boost on the power play. We shall see.

Saturday, February 23, 2008

Going nowhere? Hah!

Break up the Islanders?

That's how it looks after a six -- SIX! -- game winning streak that has the club a point behind the eighth-place Rangers and a point ahead of the slumping Flyers.

Hard to believe, but when this streak began, against those Flyers, one of the big debates in the Blog Box was what the team should do at the trade deadline - buy or sell? One of the bloggers -- you can guess who if you're an avid Blog Box reader -- said that night that "this team is going nowhere" and that Garth Snow should essentially hold a fire sale and deal anyone with value, including players like Brendan Witt (who got hurt that same game), Mike Sillinger, etc. Who knew they'd rattle off six straight while the injured kept piling up?

One player who won't be dealt anytime soon is Trent Hunter, who inked a new five-year deal. Snow called him part of the Islanders' core, and I like Hunter as a player -- he plays hard all the time. I just wish he'd produce more than the 8 goals and 24 points he currently has.

One of those assists came on the game-tying goal against the Capitals, Josef Vasicek's backhanded flip off the hip of Olaf Kolzig. Hey, it counts. Mike Comrie -- another player mentioned as possible trade material who has been playing extremely well -- scored the winner on the final shot of the shootout.

Thursday's night's 1-0 win over the Lightning not only marked Chris Simon's return from suspension but Rick DiPietro's third shutout of the season. Both teams looked tired having played the night before so fans were treated to a cautious, defensive game, but an entertaining one nonetheless. DiPietro made 32 saves, 14 in the third period alone, and Radek Martinek had another huge game after helping shut down Alex Ovetchkin.

Some fans booed Simon, and while I wouldn't have been among them, I can't blame them. Simon seems like a good guy who has made some terrible decisions, and getting suspended doesn't help the club. But Nolan has his back, and I expect him to be on this team through the end of the season. Jeff Tambellini was sent down to make room.

Sunday afternoon's game at New Jersey is the last before the deadline, but don't expect anything earth-shattering. Then again, we didn't see Ryan Smyth coming last year, either.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Game recap: Islanders 3, Sharks 2

Did we say something about things getting better all the time?

Oh, the record is getting better, that's for sure. Monday afternoon's stirring, 3-2 comeback victory over the Sharks was the Isles' fourth straight win and set the team just a point away from the eighth and final playoff spot in the East. But it came with a cost as Andy Sutton tore a hamstring near game's end and will be out for the season.

If you're scoring at home (or as Keith Olbermann used to say, or even if you're by yourself), that's two defensemen lost for the year in Sutton and Campoli, and two more on the shelf in Witt and Gervais. Drew Fata was recalled from the Tigers. Gervais is day-to-day while Witt will be out another week or more. And Mike Sillinger is also gone. Yeesh.

Not sure why the hockey gods are so mad at us. Was the Fisherman logo THAT bad? (Yes. Yes, it was.)

Sutton's hammy aside, Monday's win was terrific and saw more outstanding play from Freddy Meyer (game winner) and Mike Comrie, whose game-tying goal made a fool of San Jose's Kyle McLaren. Kudos also to Rick DiPietro, who came up huge in the waning moments as the Sharks circled, looking for the equalizer.

Meanwhile, the trading deadline is a week away and the GMS are meeting in Florida. I think there would be more deals if they met in a colder climate. Too much sun and warmth is too distracting for these guys, who must have spring fever.

I can see it now: "Up next on SportsCenter, a record 132 trades at the NHL's GM meeting in Yellowknife."

Monday, February 18, 2008

It's getting better all the time...

Team records? Goals by the bushel? Free chili?

Quite a difference from just a week ago but the Islanders' fortunes are looking brighter with three straight wins coming into Monday's matinee against the Sharks. It's funny but when the Islanders lost to the Penguins and the Wild, the postgame commentary was all about how the effort was there and they were playing well, and while they did look better the results still weren't there and you got the feeling that it was just so much talk.

Well, three wins and 13 goals later, the Isles are three points out of a playoff spot. A big win against Philly followed by a terrific win on the road against Toronto, scoring four power play goals and killing four of five on the PK. Then Saturday's effort against the Thrashers in front of a sellout, limiting Atlanta to just 10 shots on goal, a team record. Wow. Throw in 49 shots for and you have as dominating a win as you'll see.

Imagine what the defense can do once Witt and Gervais get back. And it's great to see how well Freddy Meyer has been playing, and how guys like Fedotenko and Satan, Bergenheim and Comrie have picked up their games. Auditioning for the trade deadline? Perhaps, but the bottom line is the team is in the mix again and looks to be turning it on at the right time.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Liveblog: Islanders v. Flyers

A small, intimate gathering here at the Coliseum tonight as the Islanders take on the Flyers and try to snap not only a seven-game winless streak but a seven-game HOME losing streak. I made the drive from Stony Brook to be here, so I expect a win. So does Ted Nolan, I'm sure.

Actually, the roads weren't too bad coming in. Took 90 minutes to get here, double the usual time, but by the time I hit the Northern State it was pretty much a train ride -- a line of cars content to go 20 miles an hour and not get too crazy, unlike some of the drivers who had traversed the same road earlier in the day and took it a little too fast, whose cars dotted the shoulders every couple of miles.

In case you haven't seen it, read the profile of Stefan Persson on the Islanders site. Persson was extremely underrated and could have starred on just about any team in the NHL, so we were very glad to have him here.

Bruno Gervais won't be playing tonight - just add him to the list of the injured. It doesn't get any easier for this team, which would make a win tonight against the Flyers even bigger.

By the way, there are more people in the Blog Box tonight than there are in Section 226. Seriously. Everyone wants to see the Isles break the slide and beat Philly. YEAH!

Berard and Bergeron playing together tonight -- that will be a combo to watch tonight. Scoring chances created versus allowed. Isles come out strong by the way with three shots in the first three minutes. So let's see some goals.

Martinek called for closing his hand on the puck - are you kidding me? It may have been closed for a thousandth of a second on the hand pass. Please. Can we just let them play? Weak. Isles kill it off.

It's Hockey and Heels night tonight, and the Isles are giving away makeovers. Eddie Shore is turning over in his grave.

When it rains it pours. Witt and Hartnell smash knees at center ice - didn't look intentional either way, but Witt gets the penalty. Can we catch one break? And then a puck comes firing into the stands. Even the fans are outta luck tonight. Isles kill it again.

Lots of talk in the Blog Box tonight about whether the Isles are buyers or sellers. Frank Trovato says blow up the team and bring up Okposo. Tom Liodice says keep Okposo down. I see three or four players dealt at most. Speaking of drafts, I was perusing through The Hockey News 1991-92 Yearbook at the 1991 draft results. The Isles took Scott Lachance with the fourth pick, which I thought was a good pick since he went to BU. A few picks later, Peter Forsberg went to the Flyers. Ouch.

By the way, there is a three-month-old sitting two rows in front of me in his Islanders blue. Now THAT'S dedication.

Scramble in front - and Hunter pokes it past Nittymaki with just 2:18 left. Isles convert on one of their 14 shots of the period. Isles up 1-0 after one, shots 17-11 in favor.

Not only flying pucks to be wary of, but we were almost nailed by two T-shirts. They keep you on your toes here.

Keeping you informed: Larry the Cable Guy will be at the Coliseum on May 2. I may have to be here. That isn't a paid endorsement - I just think the guy is hilarious.

Second period begins - and of course the Isles get called for a penalty, this time Sutton for holding, a mere 15 seconds in. Geez. And the Flyers score - D.P. makes a great stop in a goalmouth scramble with a wave of his glove off Knuble, but the puck goes right to Briere, tie game.

What's this? An Islanders power play? We'll take the make-up call if it was one.

Comrie a terrible cross-ice pass to Berard picked off by Richards - D.P. stays with him on the breakaway and Richards dekes himself, no shot. Then Meyer with a pass from the point to the post to Satan, he deflects the puck just wide. That was a fun sequence.

And a nice shot by Tambellini from the left circle and it's 2-1 Islanders! Beats Nittymaki inside the far post. That's how you answer.

Another reason the Isles need to win tonight - tomorrow's my birthday. Thanks!

Tambellini with a golden opportunity in front with Nittymaki down and he can't convert - shot hits a Flyer in front. Could have been 3-1 right there. Nice work tonight from that line of kids.

GREAT GOAL - Hunter steals the puck at the Isles blue line and feeds Bergenheim on a breakaway down the middle. He draws the penalty as he's hooked from behind, but still gets off the shot and beats fellow Finn Nittymaki -- again, stick side -- with just over 6 minutes left in the second. Isles up, 3-1.

Isles shorthanded AGAIN - this time it's Comeau in the box. Get the feeling someone would like to see a certain outcome tonight? Hmmmmmmm. No matter - another kill for the Islanders.

Moments later, the equalizer. Umberger down low crosses a pass to the slot for Hartnell, who beats the defenseman to the spot, Flyers cut it to 3-2. Bad goal with two minutes left - you can't give one back that easy. End of two, Isles up by one.

Flyers jump on it in the first minute of the third, D.P. makes a nice pad stop at the left post. Comrie answers with a sharp wrister snared by Nittymaki.

ANOTHER Isles penalty, this time on Bergenheim, two minutes for interference. Not making it easy. And another kill. Great job by the PK tonight.

With 8:26 left, I think the Isles really need a goal here to go up two, because Philly will probably score with around 4 minutes left, if recent history counts for anything.

Kimmo Timonen rings one off the post -- here we go...

Fedotenko! With 5:58 left. His shot was saved, Hunter takes a shot low that's stopped, but the Tenk roofs one, third time is a charm and the Isles are up 4-2. There's the insurance goal they needed. HUGE.

Isles almost make it five goals when Vasicek puts a move on Nittymaki but it's stopped - Vasicek had the arms raised. Seconds later, Isles on another PP. Now it's a 2-man advantage when Comrie drags the toe and holds the puck on a 2-on-1 to draw the foul.

Easy come, easy go. The 2-man advantage disappears, then Fedotenko is called for roughing as the Flyers swarm the net. It's 4-on-4 with 1:06 to go. Game ain't over yet.

Philly pulls the goalie, and right off the faceoff Lupul scores to make it 4-3. Philly on the PP for the last 53 seconds. Nice clear by Park with :18 left.

That's it -- Isles win and the streaks are broken. Off to the postgame!

Progress but still no wins; what now?

Two road games, no wins, two blown leads with less than four minutes left in the third period and one point don't add up to much other than the continuation of what is now a seven-game winless streak.

Yes, there have been signs of progress. But forgive me for not getting excited about scoring three goals for two straight games. With 26 games left in the season, tonight's home game against the Flyers needs to be the start of the turnaround if the Islanders are going to make the playoffs. They are six points behind the eighth-place Bruins so it's well within reach.

My man Crazy Joe Davola commented recently that the Isles are likely to be sellers at the deadline, and after further review I agree with him. Newsday is also speculating about who will stay and who will go. With so many free-agents-to-be, and with a deep draft expected, signs seem to be pointing to 'seller.'

Figure Satan, Comrie and Bergeron are the prime suspects to leave. Vasicek should stay, and while I like Hunter, I don't see him in the future. I like Fedotenko's style of play and wouldn't mind him sticking around.

And you know something? Just because they may be 'selling' veterans doesn't mean they won't be 'buying' players in return. If they can stock up on young talent, fine. And even if they deal those veterans, I'd rather see them throw in all the youngsters -- Tambellini, Okposo, Comeau, Johnson, Nielsen -- and let them have at it and battle for that last playoff spot.

Meanwhile, we'll see if the snow tonight holds down the crowd. This team can use all the help it can get.

The Islanders' Web site mentioned a new women's track world record in the indoor 60-meter hurdles set by Susanna Kallur, daughter of Anders Kallur, one of the "Core of the Four." Read more about her here. She also has a twin sister, Jenna, who is also a top hurdler for Sweden.

Wednesday, February 6, 2008

Game recap: Ducks 3, Islanders 0

And the hits just keep on comin.'

On the day the Islanders learned Mike Sillinger will be out three weeks with a hip injury, they dropped their fifth straight game, falling to the defending-champion Ducks, 3-0.

Anaheim came into the game on a six-game losing binge but were riding a surge provided by the return of Teemu Selanne, who made his 2007-08 debut by assisting on the Ducks' first goal. Selanne sat out the first 56 games of the season before coming back to help the Ducks in their quest for another title.

That was bad news for the Isles, who are getting used to it by now. The Islanders have won only once in their last eight games, and Tuesday night they didn't help themselves by giving the Ducks six power play chances. Scott Niedermayer scored on the PP to give the Ducks a 1-0 lead. The Isles had only one chance with the man advantage.

If you thought the scoring drought earlier in the season was bad, this stretch is far worse. At least then they were able to tread water. Now they're sinking. The Isles have been outscored 19-5 in the last five games, so they can't stop goals, let alone score. All-Star Rick DiPietro is now sub-.500.

Maybe the Isles can find inspiration in the Giants. The NFC was wide-open and the Giants capitalized by coming together at the right time and used that momentum to win the Super Bowl. The fight for the final playoff spots in the East is also a free-for-all, and there's still time for the Isles to get on the stick. The pressure is on Garth Snow as well, to determine if he can help the team not only in the short run but in the long term as well.

By the way, terrific article by Gordon Sinclair in the Winnipeg Free Press about Chris Simon.

Monday, February 4, 2008

Tough times on the Isle

I've said all season that this Islanders team was a playoff team and I still believe that -- but they sure aren't playing like one and it's safe to say those postseason hopes are in jeopardy.

The losing streak increased to four with Saturday's 4-1 loss at Montreal, and while Rick DiPietro looked fantastic over All-Star weekend, nothing else has gone right for the Isles. Consider that in the last four games the Islanders have been outscored, 13-5, with the offense managing just one meager goal on three occasions. The Isles have also been less than dominant at home, going 13-11-3 so far.

In the first game back from the break, the Isles fell at home to Ottawa, 5-2, after spotting the Sens a 3-0 lead. They battled back to 3-2 but that was as close as it got.

OK, but Ottawa is a tough assignment. Surely they'd break out of it against the last-place Kings, right? Nope - another home loss, this time 3-1. Dubie played well in relief of an ill D.P., but there was precious little to feel good about. Ted Nolan hit the nail on the head when he called the effort 'unacceptable.' The Isles have a thin margin of error, and when the effort -- which has been strong most of the season -- isn't there, they have big problems.

Another bad stretch doomed the Isles against Montreal. The Habs scored three goals in the second period to put the hammer down and drop the Islanders into last place in the division and 10th place in the conference.

Sure, there's plenty of season left, but the Isles are in in the middle of an eight-team battle for the final two playoff spots so things need to turn around in a hurry. And with the Feb. 26 trading deadline fast approaching, does Garth Snow deal some of his promising young players for an impact player on offense? Does Kyle Okposo come up and make his mark?

The turnaround could start Tuesday night at home against the Ducks.