Monday, March 31, 2008

Game recap: Flyers 4, Islanders 3 (SO)

There's been some scuttlebutt in the Blog Box about the Islanders possibly adding a different backup goaltender next season, perhaps a veteran former starter who could provide a bit more experience behind a presumably healthy Rick DiPietro.

It's certainly possible, but I'd be just fine seeing Wade Dubielewicz on the bench again.

He's shown to be a capable backup with the ability to come up big, which he did in the shootout loss to the Flyers. Dubie made 51 saves and gave the Isles a real chance to win, and while you hated to see the team blow the 3-2 lead with less than six minutes left, it was a solid effort all around. Great to see the youngsters like Nielsen and Comeau scoring goals, and Comeau's was a beauty. Congrats also to Richard Park for winning the coveted Nystrom award.

Just two home games left: Tuesday against the Devils and Thursday against the Rangers before closing the season out at the Garden. The Isles can still win the Hummer Metro Ice Challenge, standing in first place at 10-3 with 20 points, just a point ahead of the Rangers....

What's that? It doesn't really count for anything? Not even some free chili?


Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Qui-Gon Nolan, Faulkner, Bossy

Because my son is such a huge Star Wars fan and because I loves the Interweb, check out this list of all 30 NHL coaches with the Star Wars character they most closely resemble, courtesy of Puck that Hit, via

Our own Ted Nolan is likened to Qui-Gon Jinn, Jedi Knight and Obi-Wan's mentor. Can't argue with that one. I also loved the characters assigned to Tom Renney, Jacques Martin, Wayne Gretzky, John Tortorella and, of course, Scotty Bowman.

And for the literate, check out William Faulkner's description of his first hockey game, courtesy of the Sports Illustrated Vault, which has made available, for free, every article ever written for the magazine. Now THAT'S what the Internet is all about. That, and YouTube.

IslandersArmy has a link to an story on Chris Pronger and how he idolized Mike Bossy as a youth, while wondering how Pronger turned out the way he did. Good stuff.

It reminded me of my younger brother, Joe, who idolized Bossy as a kid — so much so that if the Islanders won but Bossy didn't score, he was disappointed.

How spoiled we all were.

By the way, what's your earliest sports memory and how young were you? For me, it was the fall of 1975, when I was 6 years old. I clearly recall playing baseball in the street and thinking that the Mets were in third place and that wasn't that bad. Little did I know I'd be in for 8 years of misery (until the Keith Hernandez trade turned things around).

Anyway, let's figure that the average sports fan's first sports memories start at age 5 — a nice, round number. That means in order to remember the Islanders winning the Stanley Cup in 1983, a person would have to have been 5, or born in 1978.

Which means if you're younger than 30, you have no memory of the Islanders winning the Cup. Which means there are fans out there with jobs and kids and mortgages who have lived their entire lives not knowing the joy of seeing the Islanders winning a championship.

THAT is sobering.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Game recap: Islanders 4, Penguins 1

When I golf, I find I play much better against good players, like my man Frank Pasquale, and when I'm paired up with other duffers, we slog around the course like a bunch of Al Czerviks. The level of play is raised by better competition.

I guess that's the deal with the Islanders, because just a couple of days after improving to 6-1 against the Devils, the Islanders blasted the division-leading Penguins, 4-1, at home and in front of a national television audience. Sure, there was a 3-1 loss to Philly in between, but the Isles were done in by the power play that night, and hey, you can't win 'em all.

With so many young players fighting for 2008-09 roster spots, it was nice to see the veterans step up, with goals by Guerin, Park and Hunter, the last one created by Satan's superior effort. Bergenheim also scored and he's fast becoming a favorite. Dubie also played strong after getting the Flyers game off.

A couple of side notes for you: With so many eyes looking ahead to the draft, here's an interesting story by's Scott Burnside on the sorry state of the Atlanta Thrashers. The best part is that Ilya Kovalchuk's contract runs out in two years. Now, everyone will be after him and why wouldn't a superstar like him want to play for the Rangers? But Charles Wang threw a ton of cash at Yashin and isn't afraid of the big contract (D.P.). Hey, we can dream, right?

Also, you may have seen the video but what Jonathan Roy -- son of Patrick -- did in a QMJHL game the other day was disgusting. Thankfully, his cheap shot has been punished by the league, and so was Papa Roy, who denied that his gesture from the bench was meant to encourage his son to charge the opposing goalie at the other end of the ice. Roy senior was one of the all-time greats, but he and his son apparently have a lot to learn about sportsmanship and class.

Sunday, March 23, 2008

Game recap: Islanders 3, Devils 1

One of the main postgame themes after the Islanders dropped their sixth straight game Tuesday against the Maple Leafs was the lack of effort by the veterans. With so many callups from Bridgeport in the lineup because of injury -- and with Kyle Okposo making his NHL debut -- the Isles' vets were called out by Ted Nolan and Bill Guerin for not providing the kind of example they should be providing to the young players, never mind committing the sin of going half speed while the team was in a tailspin.

Consider the message received. In a hard-fought (literally) game on the road against the Devils, a team with plenty to play for and Stanley Cup aspirations, the Islanders played their best game in weeks, winning a 3-1 decision that featured terrific goaltending by Wade Dubielewicz and Okposo's first goal.

Of course, the joy is tinged with more than a bit of frustration with the knowledge that the Islanders can somehow be 6-1 against a team like the Devils and yet be out of the playoff picture. Dubie has become a Devil-killer himself, with three wins against the Jersey boys.

Not surprised to see Guerin mix it up, especially after his pointed comments Tuesday. It was surprising to see the Isles actually score three goals on Martin Brodeur despite having a season-low 18 shots.

As for Okposo, he said he was happy to get his first NHL goal "out of the way" so soon. So were we. The Isles look to continue to play spoiler Easter Sunday in Philly.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

DiPietro hip to be tied, out for the season

Two years into his 15-year contract, goalie Rick DiPietro will miss the end of another season with a second hip surgery. Last year it was his left hip, this year it was the right hip, an injury suffered during the All-Star game skills competition, of all things. He'll go to the same doctor and GM Garth Snow says he'll be ready for training camp next season.

DiPietro was not the same goalie after the injury, going 7-12 with a 3.38 GAA since the break. He was hurt. The Isles did win six straight in that stretch but the first four wins saw an offensive explosion of 16 goals, which certainly helped. And the Islanders, after that win streak, were in the thick of the playoff hunt so D.P. wasn't sitting. Then, after his grandmother's death, he missed three games, including the second Rangers game, when many (myself included) questioned why he wasn't in there. Was Nolan hoping an extra game would help his condition?

D.P. returned against the Flyers and lost, 4-1, then got hammered by the Lightning and that may have been the death blow not only to the playoff hopes but D.P.'s season.

Players who battle through injury are called warriors, and certainly when you're dealing with a goalie, arguably the most critical position on the team, you like to see him fight to stay in there. But there comes a point when an injured player is hurting his team, and you wonder if that was the case here, although the Islanders certainly have plenty of other problems (scoring, the power play, injuries) that fed the collapse.

It reminds me of Robin Ventura when he was on the Mets. In a terrible slump, he was clearly not hitting like he should, yet he kept playing. Then, when the season ended, we found out he was hurt all along. Sit down, get whatever is ailing fixed and then come back strong. Having a hurt player batting fifth cost the Mets runs and, likely, wins.

Did that happen here? Probably. Would the Isles have done better with Dubie in the net? Maybe, but with their injuries and lack of firepower Billy Smith in his prime would have had trouble posting wins.

All we can hope for now is for D.P. to be healthy and back in top form next season, skip the skills competition, and for the Isles to land a stud in the draft. Maybe Snow can inject some life into this team in the off-season as well.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

LIVEBLOG: Okposo's debut - Leafs 3, Islanders 1

We're live at the Coliseum tonight for the game between your New York Islanders and the Toronto Maple Leafs, and we're very excited to see Steve Regier and Matthew Spiller take the ice.

Oh, yeah, there's Kyle Okposo, too.

The 19-year-old future of the franchise (no pressure, kid) makes his NHL debut wearing Number 21, and not the No. 12 he wore in Bridgeport. Kenneth Dick of OkposoNet informs us that Okposo wore No. 9 at Minnesota, so basically the number on the back doesn't matter as much as the logo on the front, or the numbers in the points column that he can provide. Or, he just likes Brent Sutter better than Duane.

Lots of youngsters in the lineup and Rick DiPietro is out getting an MRI on his troublesome hip, so basically, the Isles get a jump on the 2008-09 preseason. And we're pretty much reduced to rooting HARD against the Rangers. (Go, Sabres!)

Here's a fun fact: Okposo was born April 16 (same day as my son!), 1988 -- five years after the Isles last won the cup, when I was a sophomore in college. Ouch.

Okposo playing with Park and Comeau, doesn't touch the puck but generates some cheers when he steps out on the ice for his first and second shifts. Other than waiting on Okposo, not a ton of excitement here with these 2 teams. Personally? I'm looking for someone - anyone - to run Darcy Tucker. And I'm not alone on that front.

Okposo gets his first shot on goal at the 11:30 mark - save Tokala. No score but the Isles lead in broken stick blades, 2-0. You're welcome.

GOOOOOOOOAL! Talk about end-to-end! Rob Davison gets his first, shorthanded, FROM HIS OWN GOAL LINE. His clear bounced along toward Toskala like a football. He went down, it got by him. That'll be on YouTube within the hour. You got the feeling once the puck was in the Toronto end and it was clear that it was on net, that it could be trouble. But a goal? Unreal.

That's the book on Toskala - he has trouble with the long shots. The reeeeaallll long shots.

Isles up, 1-0, after one.

Besides the arrival of Okposo, the only other good news surrounding the team lately was the news that Nassau County executive Tom Suozzi threw his support behind the Lighthouse Project. Read more about it here. Hopefully, the legislature will get behind it as well and we'll have a new home here sooner rather than later. But knowing Nassau County government, I'm not holding my breath.

Isles killing their third penalty of the game early in the second. Meyer drills Blake, then Dubie stones Kubina on a slapper from the slot. Another good kill.

Penalty on Tucker for hooking, Isles on the power play. Of course, the Leafs have the best scoring chance so far, with Stajan stealing the puck at the blue line and then flying around Berard, who does his best imitation of a fire hydrant. No goal. Okposo almost gets a chance charging to the net, but the pass doesn't get there. Meanwhile, the Isles kill their fourth penalty (too many men).

End of two, still 1-0 Isles.

Is it wrong to be looking up the top 30 2008 draft prospects according to International Scouting Services? That's what I'm doing between the second and third periods. Here's a list -- no profiles yet, but the top prospects are ranked. Here's a tip: Use the list to look these guys up on YouTube. There's plenty of highlights to enjoy. Love that Internet. Here are some profiles as well. Again, you're welcome.

Bad goal allowed by the Isles so I guess they're even on that score as well as the actual score -- and we're tied, 1-1. My hand to God I had just been thinking about writing that the Leafs will score midway through the period, then again with about three minutes left, with an empty netter to cap it off. We'll see - we're a third of the way there.

While the glass is being fixed, here's a thought: The NYI Mobile trivia question asked, who was the first Islander to win the Calder Trophy. And it was multiple choice - Potvin, Trottier, or Bossy. Of course it was Potvin, who was here first -- and yet the most popular answer was Trots at 51 percent??! Let's hope a bunch of weisenheimers texted the wrong answer on purpose, because that's just flat-out embarrassing.

WEAK call against Johnson for holding against Blake. Is this hockey?

Sure enough - a power play goal by Kubina. Give them enough chances, and they're going to score. We'll wait patiently for the make-up call, refs. It's 2-1 Leafs with 8:49 to go.

Leafs goal waved off, Blake called for interference on Dubie, two minutes. Awwwww, tough break, Blakie. And thank you, Mr. Official. Alas, the spirit was willing but the power play is still weak.

Dubie to the bench, breakaway - but Toskala makes the toe save on Comrie. And then there's the empty-netter. Game over, 3-1 Leafs. That's six straight losses and 10 of 12 for the Isles-slash-Sound Tigers.



Ted Nolan came out and said the veteran guys on the squad gave a poor effort and Bill Guerin agreed with him. Both praised Okposo's debut.


The young kids played extremely well. We need a better effort as a whole.

ON NEEDING TO GIVE A BETTER EXAMPLE: I don't care who's in the lineup, you care about who competes in the lineup. We played OK, but that's not good enough.

ON OKPOSO: You can tell he's a player when he steps on the ice, he has a great sense for the game.

We didn't want to give him too much in his first game but he did well. He wants the puck.

Dubie gave us a chance. That's all you want from your goaltender.

BILL GUERIN ON NOLAN'S COMMENTS: I 100 percent agree with him.

They didn't have too much to work on off the older guys. It just wasn't there. We're going to try to win with who we have. The lines were shuffled, but in the end, hockey's hockey. You can't use that as an excuse. We could have won that game tonight. We have to do our best to avoid getting down and avoid getting negative.

ON OKPOSO: He played well. Your first game in the league, you're nervous. I think only Mario
came in and had a good first shift and was ready to go.

It's quite a thrill, your first NHL game. (Guerin remarked that his own debut was too long ago to remember but recalled it was at the old Chicago Stadium.)

He got involved in the game and had a couple of opportunities. There's a reason he's here.

KYLE OKPOSO (whose locker is between Comeau's and Guerin's, for what it's worth):

I thought the game was faster than it was the first period, but then I calmed down a bit.

On his scoring chance: I had a little more time than I thought.

The first period I was very nervous.

It's not different than what I've played. Obviously the skill level is higher. But hockey's hockey, whether it's on the pond or here. You've played a thousand times.

All the guys were really supportive and just said to relax.

Simon, Pronger and Campbell - not a tasty soup

So before we get our first look at Kyle Okposo tonight I wanted to weigh in on the Pronger stomp and say that I agree with our man Chris Botta that the punishment didn't seem to fit the crime based on what Chris Simon got. But I'm not surprised in the least.

Yes, the actions were very similar. In fact, you could make the argument that Pronger's was worse in that, on the video, it looks like he makes two attempts at stomping on Ryan Kesler's leg, while Simon looked like he tried to get away with something on the way into the bench. But basically, they were the same -- identically illegal and offensive.

And while Pronger has his own disciplinary record and reputation, Simon's is longer and darker, and at the time he was coming off the long suspension. So to step on a guy so soon afterward called for a longer suspension, hence the 30 games. Should Pronger have gotten more? Sure -- 12 or 15 games, which would have included playoffs, seems more fair.

But here's where the real problem is -- Colin Campbell and how the NHL deals with discipline.

Having Campbell as judge, jury and executioner, in what is really a closed process, is just plain bad as policy. Having Campbell in charge only makes it worse because, from what I've seen, he is thick-headed and arrogant and probably not the sharpest tool in the shed.

Read Scott Burnside's take on the situation on I don't agree that these things should be trials, but there is plenty of room for transparency and openness, which is the exact opposite of how discipline is currently meted out.

Sunday, March 16, 2008

The future is now

Because the present just ain't much to look at.

Kyle Okposo will make his Islanders debut Tuesday against the Maple Leafs, and we're sure Ken is giddy with excitement over at OkposoNet. Okposo will bring his Number 12 (hey... that's Dog's number!) to the lineup of a team that has performed down the stretch in a manner that calls to mind the Hindenburg.

Injury-riddled and utterly powerless on offense, the Islanders will give Okposo a free look in these last few games because he's going to be on the big club next year and hopefully for many, goal-filled years to come. Everything we know about him has been positive, and it will be exciting to see him on the ice, despite otherwise depressing circumstances.

Not much to add about the shutout loss to the Canadiens, or the loss to Florida, for that matter. You know the ugly numbers -- five losses in a row, 7 of 8, 9 of 11, all coming at what was supposed to be the start of a playoff push.

Did we have high hopes that the Isles would make the playoffs? Sure, and that makes the last two weeks incredibly disappointing. Did we think they'd go far? No, but once you're in, you never know, and every team looks forward to playoff revenue. Do we think Garth Snow should have been more of a seller? Not at all. At the time, the Isles had as much a chance at a playoff spot as anyone else. Snow made a couple of safe trades, picking up a couple of picks while keeping players who he figured would produce in a critical time.

That didn't happen, and no one could have foreseen this bad of a collapse. But it's over now. Time to watch Okposo and the other youngsters and try and get a glimpse of what's to come.

And if you needed more incentive, tickets are HALF OFF!

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Well, that sucked

Frustration at every turn if you're an Islanders fan. Just when the team looked like it was pulling things together for the stretch run, with six straight wins and 13 points in just seven games, it all went down the tubes. Since then, the Isles have lost seven of nine, including Tuesday night's 8-4 debacle against the last-place Lightning of Tampa Bay. That puts the Isles eight points out of the playoffs with only 11 games to go, and unless your name is Sparky, optimism is hard to come by.

This is the same Islanders team that is 5-1 against the Devils, who lead the Eastern Conference with 40 wins. And making matters worse is the fact that the Rangers are absolutely surging (8-0-2 in their last 10 games) while the Isles are dropping like a stone.

And while eight goals allowed isn't exactly a terrific defensive effort, in their previous four losses, the Isles totaled four goals. They are a tough team to watch, a team that has to outwork
its opponent every night to have a chance to win. That takes a toll.

Mike and the Mad Dog were at the Coliseum Thursday, before the loss to the Rangers, and while their hockey knowledge is as scarce as Eliot Spitzer's common sense, the Dog made a good point to Ted Nolan. "It's nice to win 7-1 once in a while."

That just doesn't happen with this team. If you define a 'laugher' as a game decided by four or more goals, then the Isles have had exactly one of those this season, a 4-0 win over the Lightning on Nov. 1. On the flip side, they've lost five games by four or more, and could end the season with the fewest goals scored in the league. Not much fun there.

Friday, March 7, 2008

Game recap: Rangers 4, Islanders 1

Sooooo, that didn't work out the way coach planned.

No, it wasn't Dubie's fault the Isles lost, 4-1, to the Rangers Thursday night at the Coliseum. Blame an absolutely pathetic power play and a defense that had more holes than Roger Clemens' Congressional testimony.

Give credit to the Islanders for making a game of it with a strong second period, but let's face it, a couple of inches here or there and it's 4-0 at the end of one, not 2-0.

Did benching Rick DiPietro take "a lot of guts" as Greg Logan writes in Newsday? Perhaps. But D.P. was ready to go against the Rangers and didn't absolutely have to have another day off to be ready for the stretch drive. He was geared up for the Rangers at home and the team has a better chance of winning when he's in there.

Now, the stretch drive is that much tougher with only 13 games remaining, and maybe the move to start Dubie had an effect in the locker room. Who knows? The Islanders came out firing in the first few minutes and hit all game long, but broke down too often and showed nothing on the power play.

And ultimately that will do this team in. The league is geared to reward special teams and the Islanders' power play is as pedestrian as they come. Bill Jaffe said on the telecast that the Isles need to shoot more on the PP. But the real problem is that they have no offensive playmakers and so there is no creativity. Defenses know this and simply pressure the puck constantly. A good power play will tic-tac-toe an overly aggressive PK to death, but since the Isles can't do that, the shots they do get off are of the low-percentage variety.

We've said from the beginning that no one on the Isles' offense scares you, and while they can win when they're all playing well within Nolan's system, that will only take them so far.

Thursday, March 6, 2008

Dubie, Dubie, Dubie, Du-BEEEEEEE...

Dubie, Dubie, Dubie, Du-BYE!!

Can't get that song by The Stories out of my head now that it's been announced that Wade Dubielewicz will start Thursday night's rematch against the Rangers at the Coliseum. It's a curious move by Ted Nolan for a couple of reasons, not the least of which is that Rick DiPietro is back and ready to go and is unquestionably the starting goalie for this team.

You'd think that after getting two strong efforts from Dubie while DiPietro was attending to family matters, Nolan wouldn't press his luck looking for number three. And don't you think that DiPietro, who has carried this team for much of the season, isn't raring to get back in there, especially at home against the hated Rangers? Don't you think he'll be a LITTLE bit P.O.'d? Why mess with him?

And then there's this S.A.T. analogy: Dubie is to the Rangers as Garth Snow was to the Flyers. Is that true now?

Maybe we're getting a little ahead of ourselves. Let's just focus on winning the game tonight, then getting DiPietro back in the nets, where he'll hopefully remain for the next 13 games, plus playoffs. Needless to say, I'd LOVE to be there tonight, but having just returned from a conference in sunny Palm Springs, I'm still getting my work and home lives in order and can't spare the evening out, so I will instead watch from the comfort of the living room.

What a game I missed, though (gotta get myself a Slingbox, I guess). Another blown two-goal lead, but winning in an extra-long shootout only makes a win over the Rangers that much sweeter, and the sting that much more painful for Blueshirts fans. And you love seeing a guy like Tambellini score the game-winner in an atmosphere like that. What a confidence boost.

And let's face it, Dubie played well so you don't mind giving him another shot and playing the hot hand. But me? I'd thank Dubie for filling in so well, then hand the mask to D.P. and tell him to go beat the Rangers. Either way, with the Isles three points behind the Flyers for eighth place -- a win is a win.

Sunday, March 2, 2008

Game recap: Flyers 4, Islanders 1

Call this one 'Afternoon Debacle.'

It's funny that when the Islanders were winning six in a row, Ted Nolan talk about how the bounces were suddenly going the team's way, unlike the previous couple of weeks. Well, where are those bounces now? Going in for the opposition.

Take the Flyers, who a week ago were sinking like the FedEx plane in "Cast Away," but are now winners of three straight. Mike Knuble's fluke deflection midway through the third gave the Flyers a 3-1 lead and that was that.

Bill Guerin scored the Isles' only goal, his 20th of the season. He became only the second player in NHL history to score 20 or more goals for six different teams. Even he said, "I don't know if it's good or bad."

The Isles have now lost three of four, the only break a 5-4 OT win over the Thrashers on Thursday night. Sure, two points on the road are huge, especially given the logjam that exists for the final playoff spot, but you can't like blowing a three-goal lead. That's never good. But you had to like the two goals from Comrie and the OT winner by Trent Hunter, after Josef Vasicek capitalized on a Thrasher defensive error with a nice assist.

Meanwhile, on the injury front, Brendan Witt is back, but Frans Nielsen is out 2-4 weeks with a bad shoulder. We'll take that trade. Witt will be sorely needed down the stretch.

But the stretch of what? The Isles are now four points behind the Flyers for the last playoff spot, and Philly has a game in hand.

Condolences, by the way, to Rick DiPietro, whose grandmother passed away this week. He'll miss Sunday afternoon's game against Florida after starting 14 straight. Hello, Dubie.