Showing posts with label DiPietro. Show all posts
Showing posts with label DiPietro. Show all posts

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Wang loses his gamble with DiPietro

I have a friend who is a gambler. In addition to college and pro football and basketball, he's been known to put money on U.S. Open women's semifinal matches. That's hardcore.

Like most gamblers, he'll tell you all about his winnings, the three-team parlays and close covers, and then little or nothing about the bad beats. But that's the gambler's prerogative. You always want to believe you're up more than you really are.

Charles Wang would like to have that luxury now that it is becoming increasingly clear that the Rick DiPietro signing was a bad gamble. The bad beat of all bad beats. A bust.

The Islanders announced this week that D.P. will be shut down for the season because "surgical swelling" in his knee has not subsided. This after taking a particularly conservative approach where he did not play a game until January 10. He made it through only eight games, and has appeared in only 13 in the last two seasons.

Critics of the 15-year contract between DiPietro and the Islanders have been legion, and to their credit, they've been slamming the deal since before the ink was dry. Media, fans, unnamed hockey executives -- they couldn't understand why in God's name Wang would commit himself to a deal so big the player would be immovable.

But Wang does things his way, and at the time he needed a marquee player to build his team (and promotions) around. D.P. fit the bill. He was young, a budding star with matinee-idol looks and a game to match.

Why 15 years? Why not 10? Or even eight? Only Wang knows for sure. And, maybe Mike Milbury, who reportedly put the bug in Wang's ear about inking D.P. long-term. After all, it was Milbury who traded Roberto Luongo and drafted DiPietro with the first overall pick in 2000, instead of Dany Heatley or Marian Gaborik. I know, it's painful to think about. (By the way, Ilya Bryzgalov of the Ducks went No. 44, and the rest of the first three rounds produced almost no one.)

Wang defended the length of the deal by pointing out that the annual salary was just $4.5 million, so if DiPietro turned out to be a top-level goalie, it would actually be a bargain.

Wang, who likes to think he thinks out of the box, rolled the dice. At the time, DiPietro had no injury history to speak of. The year before he signed, he played 63 games. The next season, 2006-07, he played 62, and the following year he played in 63 and made the All-Star team. Had he followed that same trajectory, the deal would have been justified.

But we know what happened. Hip surgery in March 2007. An injured hip at the All-Star skills competition in 2008. Another hip surgery the following month. Knee surgery three months after that, followed by another knee surgery in November. Five games played in 2008-09, a long layoff to recover, and then eight games this season.

That dice roll came up snake eyes.

We assume (and hope) that the contract is insured, because we know it is guaranteed. If DiPietro retires due to injury, he gets paid. If he retires at any point for other reasons, he forfeits the remainder of the deal.

Personally, I wasn't a big critic of the deal. I wouldn't have done it myself, but I understood -- to a degree -- Wang's logic. DiPietro was his best player and he needed someone to focus the marketing on. There was no reason to think that he would get hurt the way he did, except this is ice hockey, and players do get hurt. A lot.

Garth Snow said he expects DiPietro to be ready to go next season. What else is he going to say? DiPietro insists that he is in the best shape of his life -- except, of course, for those darn knees. He said he's just following doctor's orders.

For his part, Wang is learning that when you gamble in sports, you can't hide the bad beats. Sometimes you win, sometimes you lose, and when you lose, everyone knows about it and won't let you forget it.

As a fan, I can only hope that DiPietro comes back healthy, but like most fans I don't expect it. In all likelihood, the D.P. era is over and the contract will go down as one of the worst in NHL history, right alongside the one the Islanders signed with Alexei Yashin.

That's the kind of history we don't need.

Friday, January 8, 2010

Remember him? DiPietro finally returns

Almost one full year.

That's how long it's been since Rick DiPietro has been on the ice in an NHL game for the Islanders, 364 days since a 5-4 loss in Phoenix. Now, rising from the ashes, DiPietro will be trying to win the Isles some games, while proving to the many doubters that his pro career is far from over.

Hard to believe it's been that long, but as a Mets fan, I've become accustomed to seeing my team's top players out of action for longer than anyone expected (hello, Jose Reyes).

A lot's happened in the 12 months that DP's been out. Barack Obama took over as president. Banks were bailed out. Man walked on the moon (wait, it hasn't been THAT long).

The Islanders carried on without their franchise player, and while the record was disastrous without NHL-caliber netminders, it did help them land John Tavares with the No. 1 pick. So maybe DP (or at least his knee) deserves some thanks.

Credit Garth Snow for landing Dwayne Roloson, who has been outstanding, and Martin Biron, to help man the nets until DiPietro was ready to return. Roloson's performance in particular made it easier to let DP take his sweet time in rehab.

And wouldn't you know it, the Isles have done pretty well without No. 39. Matt Moulson has been a revelation with 16 goals, Tavares has shown he's the real deal, also with 16 scores, and Kyle Okposo has been terrific as well. The Isles are just three points out of a playoff spot.

Goaltending, however, hasn't been the issue at all, thanks to Roloson, and DP isn't going to score much, no matter how far away from his net he roams. But while DiPietro's return won't help the Isles light the lamp, it could provide a huge boost defensive and, possibly, emotionally, if he can return to his previous form.

That's a huge 'if.' Let's take it one game at a time. It will be great to see DiPietro finally back in goal, shaking off the rust.

It's a new year for everyone.

---

I love John Buccigross and his blogumns on ESPN.com, but I have to take issue with his latest edition, where in his mid-season look at all 30 teams he says of the Islanders, "Start losing and get down to the bottom three of the league to draft another star."

I hate that thinking. Sure, getting Tavares was huge, but you never tempt the hockey gods with talk of tanking to get a better draft pick. That's a sure sign of the return of Scott Scissons.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Wait... that's Rick DiPietro's music!

Fifteen minutes can save you 15 percent or more on car insurance with Geico, but the most important 15 minutes for Islanders fans came Monday when Rick DiPietro -- remember him? -- practiced with the full squad for a quarter-hour.

D.P. had been getting some practice time in with the club, facing shots, but Monday was his first real run with the full squad, and the first real sign that his long rehab is nearing its end.

How important is a healthy DiPietro to the Islanders? Well, the team's been pretty awful since he left, and the lack of depth behind him was exposed last season when a couple of minor leaguers tried to fill the void. The only positive that came out of it was the No. 1 pick, John Tavares, so I guess we owe D.P. a debt of gratitude.

It will be very interesting to see how much DiPietro's presence changes the Islanders' fortunes. You would think that it would have a ripple effect -- the defense would be more aggressive and confident, which would in turn help generate more offense. That's assuming that DiPietro returns to his All-Star level, which is far from a given. But he is a hell of a lot better than what's been there the past year.

No disrespect to Dwayne Roloson and Martin Biron, of course. With D.P. on the horizon, there's already talk of the Isles moving a goalie and the logical one is Biron, who has reportedly drawn interest from the Red Wings.

If the Isles were a contender, you'd like them to keep Biron and let Roloson go for whatever they could get. But Biron would bring back more in return, so figure on Roloson remaining as the backup.

And let's be clear, he is nothing more than a backup. For all of his strengths in terms of positioning and experience, his lateral movement and quickness has all but left him. How he's started three of the first six games is beyond me. He is awful on shootouts and breakaways, and you could argue that the Isles could have had 1 or 2 wins by now had someone other than Roloson been in net.

Which is to say, we're really looking forward to DiPietro's triumphant return.

Meanwhile, the OTM line is breaking up already. Not because the Okposo-Tavares-Moulson line has been unproductive, but because everyone else hasn't. Okposo will play alongside the returning Franz Neilsen, with Doug Weight taking Kyle's old spot. Scott Gordon is hoping that spreading the wealth will get the offense moving.

In other news, Suffolk County Executive Steve Levy said the Islanders are welcome to come to Suffolk County, and I'm right there with him. As a Suffolk resident, I would love to see the Isles play in Islandia, or Yaphank, or Brentwood, or Melville, or anywhere closer than Uniondale.

It would certainly be better than Brooklyn, Queens or Kansas City.

Charles Wang has already made the Nassau-to-Suffolk move, taking Computer Associates from Garden City to Islandia years ago. So could it happen again? Selfishly, I hope so, but let's first try and get that Lighthouse built. OK?

Friday, June 26, 2009

Start selling those Tavares sweaters... now!

John Tavares is an Islander. Let the merchandising begin.

And, yeah, some goals would be nice. And some wins. And another Stanley Cup at some point wouldn't be too much to ask.

Islanders GM Garth Snow kept 'em guessing until the very end, but let's face it -- this was a no-brainer.

Snow got tricky last year, trading down twice and acquiring a quality player in Josh Bailey while stockpiling picks.

This time around, he had the No. 1 pick in a draft with two -- and many argued, three -- players who could legitimately be taken first overall. But Snow played it cool and wouldn't tip his hand, and that was the smartest move someone at the helm of a struggling franchise could make.

Why not keep it a secret? It created drama. It built up interest. Lo and behold, the Isles had 10,000 fans at the Nassau Coliseum, ready to either celebrate like crazy or tear the place apart if Victor Hedman or Matt Duchene was announced, which would have been nuts since both are outstanding players.

So the fans who wanted Tavares went wild, and the fans who feared Snow would screw up are maybe giving him some props tonight. The Tavares pick also sets into motion the marketing machine that will sell tickets, jerseys, T-shirts and luxury boxes.

Fans, however, only care about the on-ice benefit, and Tavares brings plenty to the table. Four years as the top player in junior hockey yielded scoring records and a world junior championships. In a tournament with the best players in the world, he was the MVP, the best of the best, and he helped his team win it all.

Most importantly, he has a nose for the net that his new club sorely lacks. So now, assuming Rick DiPietro is healthy and comes back with something to prove, and if the defense can be shored up a bit via free agency, and maybe a veteran winger can be brought in -- suddenly this Islanders team is interesting.

Tavares, Bailey, Okposo, Comeau, Nielsen, Bergenheim -- you've got some nice young players in that group. Throw in vets like Streit, Witt, Sutton, Park, Hunter and Weight, and maybe they've got something going, not just for the future, but now.

Last season, with a backup and minor leaguer tending goal instead of DiPietro, the Islanders went 11-26 in one-goal games, with 9 losses in OT or shootouts (31 points). By contrast, the Rangers, with Henrik Lundqvist in the net, went 24-19 in one-goal games, also with 9 OT/SO losses, for 57 points.

How many points would a healthy DiPietro have been worth? Then again, if he's healthy, the Isles probably don't get Tavares.

Everything happens for a reason.

Maybe someday Snow will get his due, but he's still relatively new at this GM business, and we all know you can't truly judge a draft until a few seasons have passed, but the guy should start getting some credit.

Nice work, Garth. Even if it was a no-brainer.

UPDATE: Snow traded up twice to get the 12th overall pick and selected Calvin de Haan, a puck-moving defenseman from the Oshawa Generals of the OHL.

A curious move in that Snow first traded up to the 16th pick and de Haan, based on his rating, probably could have lasted to that point. But you target players you like, and Snow obviously liked de Haan and felt he needed to move up to ensure he'd get his man.

Unlike Tavares, de Haan is 3-4 years away, and he could stand to gain another 30 pounds or so on his wiry frame. But he's a well-regarded and intelligent player, so file him away for a couple of seasons.

Isles have the 31st overall pick, first in the second round, and still have No. 56 and No. 91 (the final pick of the third round).

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Once proud? Always proud

When the Islanders dropped a 9-0 decision to the Hurricanes a week ago, ESPN featured it on their NHL highlights package and referred to the team that came out on the short end as the "once proud" Islanders.

And when the Isles finished the season Sunday with a loss to the Bruins, the team's fourth straight loss, another media outlet described the Isles as "lowly."

Fine. The Isles finished with the worst record in hockey and had one of the worst records in team history. But as a fan -- at least, as a fan who likes to keep things in perspective -- I wouldn't call this team "lowly." And I'll never not be proud to be an Islanders fan.

We knew going in -- before the season-ending injury to Rick DiPietro and before the other injuries that piled up like so much firewood --- that this could be a rough season. No expectations. We liked a lot of the young players and liked guys like Brendan Witt and Radek Martinek and Doug Weight. But with a new coach, a new system, very little firepower (the team finished with no 20-goal scorers for the first time ever), and with a clear mandate to get the youngsters a lot of playing time, the playoffs weren't likely. But it was a step in a new direction.

Once D.P. and the others went down, the writing was on the wall. The rest of the season would be an experiment. Bill Guerin left for Pittsburgh. We had Joey MacDonald and Jann Danis as our goalies. A lot of players saw time who otherwise wouldn't have made it to the big leagues.

But you know what? The team showed signs of life. Prior to the final four losses, the Isles were 14-14-5 over 33 games. So they basically played .500 hockey in the second half, and STILL secured one of the top 2 draft picks.

That's half-glass full thinking, but I'm a glass-half-full kind of guy. I don't have the time or the energy to be negative.

And whether the Isles get the No. 1 or No. 2 pick, they know they'll either get Tavares or Hedman, a win-in if there ever was one. Of course, almost every fan wants Tavares, who could be the marquee offensive threat this team has been dying for. But if they end up with Hedman, they have a backline anchor for the next decade. Coaches love that.

Was the season a failure? Whenever you don't make the playoffs, it's a failure, and 14 other teams failed. But did we really expect that this season? What we did see was plenty of promise from the likes of Josh Bailey, Kyle Okposo, Frans Nielsen, Sean Bergenheim and even Jesse Joensuu, and a terrific season from Mark Streit.

Getting Tavares or Hedman will be a huge addition to a young team that is trying to build for the future, and literally build a new home.

For me, there are only two disappointments. The continuing mystery over the health of DiPietro, and the politics of Kate Murray and her gaul at sending a mailer to county residents as part of her misguided effort to get stimulus money to renovate the Coliseum and derail the Lighthouse Project.

Hey, Kate! Nassau County wants it. Tom Suozzi wants it. Based on most public feedback, the majority of residents want it. Islanders fans certainly want it. The NHL wants it. Plenty of unemployed and underemployed Long Island residents want it.

Someone needs to vote her off this Island.

Anyway, as far as still being proud to be an Islanders fan, I have a quick story. My son plays deck hockey and for some reason likes playing goalie. When he does, he wears a blue Islanders jersey instead of his team T-shirt because it fits over the pads.

After one recent game, he walked off the court raising his stick and yelling, "Let's Go, Islanders!" To which the opposing coach, wearing his Rangers hat and satin jacket, said something like, "Oh, too bad."

In my younger, pre-parent days I might have fired back with a sharp retort and a promise to back it up with Jack Johnson and Tom O'Leary. Instead, I patted my son on the head and told him to keep it up.

Let's go, Islanders.

Friday, January 23, 2009

Losing DiPietro just adds to a lost season

Mama said there'd be seasons like this...

The fact that Rick DiPietro is officially out for the season is hardly shocking, and while disappointing, considering the laundry list of injuries the Islanders have already suffered this season, it's almost fitting.

Should we be concerned? Of course. You would think that a meniscus surgery wouldn't be such a big deal, but the fact that the knee hasn't responded well to a second surgery, and the fact that doctors aren't guaranteeing anything once he rests it for 6-8 weeks, are red flags of the highest order.

What gets me are the yahoos (you can find them in most any comments section or message board) who use the injury as the latest excuse to crucify Charles Wang and Garth Snow. DiPietro was pretty durable up until last season, when he was an All-Star. Since then, he's suffered a bad stretch of luck that may or may not be related to his prior workload.

His 15-year deal was signed a season before his All-Star nod and since that time, there have been many long-term contracts inked by the league's top stars. The Islanders had no marketable marquee player -- D.P. was it. He was 25 at the time, with his prime ahead of him, and at $4 million a season, he traded the opportunity to make bigger dollars down the road for security, and Wang rolled the dice that his goalie would not only earn his money and stay healthy, but that he would be the cornerstone of the club -- on and off the ice -- much as Martin Brodeur has been in New Jersey.

You wonder if he'll ever be the same, and hope the extended rest and rehab is what he needs. But if something like this was going to happen, a season like this -- where, remember, we had no expectations anyway -- is a good time for it to happen.

Of course, all the injuries and not having your No. 1 goalie -- on a team that was offensively challenged to begin with -- have made for some tough viewing.

Fans who actually watch the games have noticed that the Isles have played hard and have been in almost every game. But without go-to scorers and with so much inexperience -- including backup goalies in the nets -- complete games are few and far between. There's a lot of learning going on, and a lot of new faces in and out of the lineup, so consistency hasn't been there.

Again, to me, it doesn't matter. Mark Streit -- playing in his first All-Star game this weekend, and deservedly so -- was a tremendous pickup, and who doesn't love Josh Bailey? Despite the losses and the insane amount of injuries, there has been enough positives to see to prevent this fan from calling for people's heads or heading for the nearest bridge.

Then again, I root for the Jets and the Mets. Patience and perspective are required.

Monday, January 19, 2009

We shall overcome

Not to make light of a holiday that celebrates the life of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., but as we prepare for the Islanders' holiday matinee this afternoon against the Capitals, consider:

  • The Islanders are 2-17-2 since December 1, picking up 6 points in 21 games.

  • They are 1-10-2 in their division.

  • Rick DiPietro is just about lost for the season, and Joey MacDonald, his backup, is also out, which means Yann Danis is your starting goalie.

  • The team and fans were crushed to learn that Wade Dubielewicz was claimed off waivers by Columbus, ending his return bid.

  • Chris Campoli became the latest to be sidelined by injury.

  • Newsday identified the person behind Kansas City's bid to get a pro sports team, and he's considered a more powerful figure in sports than Gary Bettman. Wonderful.

  • The team has moved its training camp to Saskatchewan, which is a lot closer to K.C. than Uniondale.


Bad news, right? Well, please consider this as well:

  • In this awful string the team is struggling through, 15 of the 12 games were decided by two goals or less, including eight one-goal games, so the Isles aren't getting blown off the ice despite being severely shorthanded by injury (and, yes, a talent gap that was there at the season's start).

  • The Arizona Cardinals are in the Super Bowl.


Yes, the Cardinals, a team that hasn't won a football title in more than 60 years, a team that has been a laughingstock for decades, is in the Super Bowl against the Pittsburgh Steelers.

If the Cardinals can make the Super Bowl -- and don't be shocked if they win -- then anything can happen. So keep the faith.

Thursday, January 1, 2009

Islanders ring in the New Year with hope

The 10-game losing streak that began December was like a cinder block lashed to the Islanders' collective foot, dragging them to the bottom of the NHL standings and taking the fans' spirit with them.

And although Rick DiPietro continues to provide his best impression of a china vase, the Islanders have showed some spunk recently, closing out 2008 with five points in their final four games, the latest an entertaining 4-2 victory New Year's Eve against the Florida Panthers.

I've said all along that as an Islanders fan with zero expectations, all I wanted to see this season were signs of progress. But the many injuries coupled with the growing pains of learning Scott Gordon's new system have made it difficult to determine whether the team was moving in the right direction.

But things have finally started to look up. DiPietro's return in a 4-1 win over the Maple Leafs turned out to be just a cameo appearance, but it made clear that his presence means the world to this team. Joey MacDonald has done an admirable job filling in for so long, but he's not at DiPietro's level.

In fact, had D.P. been healthy enough to face the Rangers, you could see the Islanders taking that game, as MacDonald's proclivity for allowing big rebounds and the annoying soft goal reared its ugly head.

And give Mike Comrie credit for coming back to the lineup and providing the offense the team has sorely lacked. Sure, he could be showcasing himself for a seemingly inevitable trade off this sorry Island, but since he's been paired with Kyle Okposo and Blake Comeau, that line has looked terrific and finally gives the team a semblance of a scoring threat. And his two goals against the Sabres helped salvage a point in the road in what was the second game in as many nights, another positive sign.

It was nice to read that Doug Weight doesn't want to leave, and he has been a great addition to the team. With a one-year contract, a veteran like Weight is prime trade material, but with so many young players not ready to be leaders, having guys like Weight and Bill Guerin are necessary to show them the way and provide direction, even when the playoffs are a long shot.

Trevor Smith is the latest newbie to suit up in the blue and orange, and here's hoping his goal-scoring ability made the trip with him from Bridgeport, something that hasn't happened with Jeff Tambellini.

And wouldn't you like to see more goals like the one Sean Bergenheim scored against Florida? Highlight-reel plays like that have been extremely rare in these parts, and maybe that's the kind of play that Bergy can build on as we enter 2009.

The new year begins with a western road trip, and DiPietro was on the plane, so presumably he'll play. Maybe one of his New Year's resolutions will be to stay in the lineup.

If he does, it gives the Islanders a decent chance to make 2009 interesting, if not successful. But at least there's some hope.

Happy New Year, everybody!

Friday, December 12, 2008

Changing the channel was never so easy

My kids dominate the television in our house. If it isn't Noggin or PBS Kids, the TV is tuned to Cartoon Network, Nickelodeon or Toon Disney, or a Scooby-Doo DVD. I've got the theme for "Arthur" burned into my hippocampus.

Thursday night my son couldn't decide what video to watch before bedtime, so I said, "Great, we can watch the Islanders," and we turned on the game in time to see the Penguins go up, 2-0. Moments later, we saw Mark Streit score on the power play and I felt a surge of optimism, and wondered if I shouldn't start recording the game on the DVR so I could watch the whole thing after the kids went to bed.

Maybe not. Two Pittsburgh goals later, we switched to "Sid the Science Kid" (not to be confused with Sid the Kid), and by the time the kids were asleep, the score was 7-1. Guess I didn't miss much.

Joey MacDonald allowed two soft goals before being pulled, but when you lose, 9-2, you can't put it all on the goalies. Blowouts like this are on everyone, coaches included, and the Isles' malaise continues. Are they really this bad?

I have a hard time saying 'no.'

But there was some good news. Rick DiPietro is almost ready to return to the ice, and is awaiting medical clearance. He says he hopes to be back before Christmas.

Will that give us some Happy Holidays? We can only hope.

Monday, November 3, 2008

Islanders are down, DiPietro is out

Well, at least the third jersey is a hit.

Scott Gordon's first 10 games as head coach are among the worst in team history, down there with Earl Ingarfield and Phil Goyette, who posted their stanky stretches in the inaugural and historically bad 1972-73 season. But you can't completely blame Gordon for what's gone on so far.

Yes, the team has had its troubles adapting to a completely new system after a tough training camp, and those growing pains were expected. But injuries -- to defensemen Brendan Witt, Radek Martinek and Freddy Meyer, and goalie Rick DiPietro, who will be out 4-6 weeks after surgery to repair an unidentified damaged meniscus -- combined with an inability to capitalize on scoring chances when they present themselves have conspired to sink the Islanders to the bottom of the standings and dampen whatever enthuiasm the fans had at the start of the new campaign.

Regarding DiPietro, whether the meniscus in question is in his right knee or his left, it really doesn't matter. Let's say the injury he suffered was unrelated to his previous injuries, as the team has stated. It doesn't change the fact that DiPietro has had three surgeries in the last seven months and is looking as stable as a one-legged stool.

We're willing to give DiPietro a chance -- he played 62, 62 and 63 games the previous three years -- to get healthy and be the team's horse. But there may not be much of a race left to run by the time he gets back.

Getting a point on the road in Philly is something, but the overtime loss is still a loss. What happened Saturday night, in the third jersey's debut, was just awful and sort of typified the Islanders' young season.

You just cannot blow a 4-1 lead at home. I understand the Canadiens are a popular choice to win the conference, but after playing so well for 40 minutes, to allow four unanswered goals -- regardless of who was or was not in the net or on the ice -- is unacceptable. That third-period collapse is the kind of thing that can rip the heart out of a team, and here's hoping the Islanders learn from it and not let it drag them down any further.

What made it worse was the sound of so many Canadiens fans cheering the outcome. Watching the game on televison, it sounded like the game was being played in Quebec. Fellow Blog Boxer Frank Trovato has an excellent point -- many Islanders home games are almost like road games with so many fans of opposing teams buying available tickets at the Coliseum.

It's disheartening and it sucks and I can imagine what it's like as a player to hear that in your own arena. But I cannot condemn Islanders fans for not filling those seats, considering how much tickets cost, especially in this economy, and considering the team's recent lack of success and amount of turmoil the franchise has experienced.

Put a winner on the ice, and fans will come.

As for the third jersey, I was unsure about it at first glance, but having watched the Montreal game and seeing the jersey "in action," I am sold. Getting one with 27 TONELLI on the back is a given at this point. I've added it to my Christmas list.

That, and a couple of victories. Please, Santa?

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

No DiPIetro, no win against the Rangers

The power of positive thinking can only take you so far.

Up until Monday night's game against the Rangers I'd been trying to convince myself that the Islanders season won't be as bad as everyone thinks it will be. A playoff appearance may not be likely, but I thought that maybe these young players will come together in Scott Gordon's new system, and maybe some of the veterans will feed off the mojo, and we'll all be pleasantly surprised.

But, like Carl Spackler in Caddyshack telling the bishop in the midst of a torrential rainstorm, "I don't think the heavy stuff is coming down for a while," I think I've been deluding myself. Because all signs are pointing to a long season.

Start with Rick DiPietro, who really is injured. His situation was clarified somewhat by the team, which explained that the fragile goalie has a "lower body injury unrelated to his previous injuries" and is "day to day." So maybe it's his knee but not the same injury, maybe it's a groin, maybe it's a quadricep pull -- your guess is as good as anyone's.

What's clear is that DiPietro hasn't been 100 percent all season, is coming off multiple surgeries, and is now on the shelf for an undetermined amount of time. And this is the guy who was supposed to be the glue holding everything together. Yeesh.

And he's not the only one hurt. Half of the team's defensemen are out, continuing the injury bug that sunk the squad last year. Mix in the struggles of learning a new system and you're looking at another lottery pick (which is what many fans want, anyway).

That's not to say that the Islanders played poorly Monday night. In fact, they played pretty well and even outplayed the Rangers for a good portion of the contest. Kyle Okposo in particular had a standout game, scoring his first goal of the season. The kid was all over the place. Trent Hunter, Richard Park and Mark Streit also had very solid games.

Joey MacDonald also played well, undone by a couple of bad breaks. The Rangers' first goal went in off the stick of Bill Guerin, a luck bounce found Ryan Callahan, and another deflected shot went right to Scott Gomez at the side of the net. Sloppy stick control gave the Rangers a 5-on-3 and led to their fourth goal.

Otherwise, the Islanders played hard and had plenty of good scoring chances, but couldn't finish, which of course is a big problem. Along with the injured defensemen. And DiPietro, who could be back in a couple of days. Or weeks. Or months. Who knows?

Again, there was a lot to like Monday night. But the end result was another loss, the team's fourth in five games at home.

Play hard and lose. Not exactly the most effective marketing slogan.

--

As far as the third jersey is concerned, I wasn't sure how I felt about it at first glance. Okay, it's a throwback to the old days, and we know the Islanders are all about celebrating the past. So in a sense it's not too exciting. Then again, did we want something ridiculous? Or something with the lighthouse on the chest?

The more I looked, the more I liked. It's retro. I decided I would possibly buy one. So I guess it works.

Monday, October 27, 2008

Memo to Islanders: We can handle the truth

First of all, setting a team record for shots on goal in a loss doesn't mean a whole lot to me. A loss is a loss (the third in four games at home, by the way) and scoring only three times on 60 shots isn't much to be proud of. I'm sure Mike Bossy in his day could do better than that blindfolded.

Yes, the Islanders played well enough to win, but the last I looked there was no such column in the standings.

The real news, unfortunately and again, surrounds Rick DiPietro and his health (or lack thereof), with the added twist supplied by the NHL policy of injury nondisclosure, which the Islanders have taken to like tween girls to the Jonas Brothers.

What does it say that the team captain, Bill Guerin, wasn't aware of an injury when he gave his postgame interview? I find it hard to believe that during the first intermission, the players weren't aware of DiPietro -- the franchise goalie -- being hurt. And why no announcement during the game? When a player is hurt and comes out (like Witt the game before), an announcement is always made.

So Guerin, who is asked to stand before the media every night and tow the company line like a good soldier, is hung out to dry and looks out of the loop. Nice.

Was there an injury? Was Gordon using the injury as an excuse to punish DiPietro by yanking him without embarassing the player who supposedly is protected from on high by the owner who gave him a 15-year deal (a deal with which I have no problem, by the way)?

We don't know because of the NHL's policy allowing teams to reveal nothing about injuries, and the Islanders' strict following of said policy. Newsday's Greg Logan had a humorous take on the situation, but it isn't funny. If DiPietro was hurt, it should have been revealed immediately. Instead, we're left with clouds of suspicion.

Blame the league for sanctioning such shenangians and the Isles for following along in lockstep.

We can only assume that DiPietro really was hurt and Guerin was in the john or something when the coach told the team, or maybe Gordon forgot to tell the team, or ... you get the idea.

But if D.P. wasn't hurt and was pulled for once again trying to clear the puck up the middle -- something my six-year-old son's dek hockey team is implored NOT to do on a weekly basis -- or for coughing the puck up one too many times, then fine. Charlie Manuel of the Phillies was praised for benching Jimmy Rollins for not running out a ground ball and Rollins basically said, "He's right. My bad."

We'd rather have seen the same from Gordon -- again, IF DiPietro wasn't really hurt, which is only speculation, which is the rule of the day around the Islanders. (You want some mystery surrounding the new uniform? Be my guest. Forgive me for the anticipatory cringe.)

No one is above the team. Just ask Mike Singletary, who benched starting QB J.T. O'Sullivan and gave a detailed explanation as to why he ordered highly-touted tight end Vernon Davis off the field during the Niners' loss to the Seahawks. A coach like that you'd follow to the gates of hell.

It's called accountability, and the great teams have it.

What also bothers me about the Islanders and their injury policy is that it's the way the Patriots do business, and I hate the Pats and Bill Belichick. Sure, they've been successful, but in a league where all injured players are not only named but categorized (for the gamblers, of course), the Patriots are the standard-bearers for subterfuge, and it stinks.

And as far as Belichick -- a so-called defensive genius whose teams have a habit of imploding in big games -- I often wonder what his record would look like without Tom Brady, or Adam Vinatieri, or without cheating, or without Ernie Adams behind the curtain.

What can I say? I'm a Jets fan.

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.

POSTGAME NOTES:

- 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."

Monday, October 20, 2008

Cablevision forces Islanders into a low-def world

Was at my mom's house Saturday, and after dinner, I went to the TV to watch the Islanders play the Panthers in Florida.

Punched in 717 on the remote for MSG Plus HD, and there were the Devils. Backed up a spot to 716, MSG HD, and there were the Rangers. Where was this game? Not in HD, although I checked 701 just in case. Because I can never remember that C-SPAN2 is the carryover channel -- the cleverly named MGS Plus 2 -- I went to the iO channel guide to find that the game was on Channel 14, which is normally the channel guide channel.

We should be used to this by now. Neil Best wrote about the Islanders' second-class status here, addressing the opening-night fiasco where the Islanders opener didn't appear on CSPAN2 untio after the first period was OVER because of a "technical error." Yeah, sure.

It's certainly one of the most frustrating things about being an Islanders fan: the local cable monopoly, Cablevision, also owns the Rangers, the Isles' chief rival.

Cablevision claims it is all about ratings, but I want to see the numbers that say the Devils -- a team that still has trouble selling out a building that is the Taj Mahal of NHL arenas, a building with terrific public transportation access -- have better television ratings than the Islanders.

It's baloney. Cablevision has absolutely no incentive to help the Islanders out and will stick it to them every chance they can. Whenever the Devils and Islanders have a conflict, the Devils get the regular channel, and the HD channel, and the Isles end up on the overflow channel, and not in HD.

It's enough to make me want to switch to Verizon FiOS -- except FiOS does not carry the MSG channels in HD. Auugh! I know, having FiOS wouldn't allow me to see the Isles in HD, but at least I wouldn't be paying Cablevision for screwing us fans.

And don't hold your breath about the situation changing anytime soon. The Isles' deal with Cablevision was extended to 2031, and the team gets roughly $20 million a year from it. So unless Cablevision dedicates an HD channel for the Isles, at least for when they conflict with the Devils and Rangers, Islanders fans who enjoy their hockey in HD will have to settle for watching the Isles in awful low-def, which is very tough to go back to.

Best also mentions the radio deal and Chris Dey's detailed explanation, but I have no beef with it because I happen to get WMJC pretty well where I live and could never hear Bloomberg Radio at night anyway.

It's my lot in life. Like many others, I'm a Mets-Jets-Islanders fan, a second-class citizen all the way. That's OK. It makes it that much sweeter when they win.

--

Oh, and about that Panthers game? At least Rick DiPietro played and did pretty well. Otherwise, the 2-0 shutout loss wasn't much to write about. Consider it the first of many such games we'll experience this year as the offense struggles to score and the team struggles to find its identity and get in the flow of Scott Gordon's system.

Friday, October 17, 2008

Two out of four ain't bad

Wins aren't going to come easy for the Islanders this season, so when they get one like Thursday's night's 4-3 overtime victory over the Lightning, we should all be happy.

Sure, they lost a 2-0 lead and a 3-2 lead in the third period to a winless Tampa Bay club, but let's look at it this way: In the first four games of the season, playing without their starting goaltender, playing for a new coach in a new system with a bunch of new faces, the Islanders are 2-2.

You think Barry Melrose would take that right now? They guy's tearing his mullet out.

This was a game that the Isles could have easily let get away from them -- and it almost did. But credit the forechecking Frans Nielsen for being where he should have been, and send a nice big fruit basket to Olaf Kolzig for wandering behind the net and coughing up the puck to Nielsen, who found Trent Hunter for the winner.

Hunter had two goals in the game and after looking a little sluggish in the opener has picked up his game, with four tallies so far. We'll take offensive production wherever we can find it, and we know Hunter can score. If he can step it up a notch this season, that will go a long way.

Rick DiPietro looks like he could be back soon, if not Saturday against the Panthers then almost definitely for the home game against the Stars on Thursday, Oct. 23. D.P. had a solid practice this week and his return should provide a big boost.

Meanwhile, Radek Martinek is out 4-6 weeks and Blake Comeau is working on his game in Bridgeport. Martinek's injury hurts but is not surprising -- he's pretty brittle. Hopefully, Comeau will get the message that no one is given a spot in the lineup -- you have to work for it. He's a good young player with the kind of skills this team can't afford to pass up, but Gordon did the right thing by sending him down.

One last thing -- welcome aboard and good luck to the 10 new members of the Islanders Blog Box. That makes 20 of us. And who says no one cares about this team?

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Welcome to Goaliegate

The conspiracy theorists are out in force surrounding Rick DiPietro, Scott Gordon and Joey MacDonald, wondering what DiPietro's true condition is, and why he wasn't inserted into the game Monday after Buffalo jumped out to a 5-0 lead in a 7-1 embarrassment at home.

(Note to the kids who were there -- that was NOT Islanders hockey, at least we hope not. Please don't try that at home.)

Newsday's Greg Logan wrote: "This was a case of chickens coming home to roost. DiPietro wasn't healthy enough to start the first three games of the season, but he was deemed healthy enough to be the backup.

Don't try to look for the logic here. There isn't any, which probably is why Gordon pulled a Sarah Palin, ignoring a question he didn't like and changing the subject when he was asked directly if DiPietro's readiness was a factor."

Gordon later said: "I'm not a strong believer in pulling goalies to change momentum. I want our goalies to not get the feeling that, if things don't go right for them, they can look to the bench and look over their shoulder, thinking, 'When am I coming out?' I want them to find a way to battle.

"Ask any of the goalies that have played for me. It's been the same thing. I've been through that, and I know what it's like when your coach has a quick hook ... We might have suffered a little bit tonight, but Joey will know when he's in this situation, it's his battle."

I have no problem keeping a goalie in when there is a rout on. If that really has been Gordon's philosophy all along, and he is a former netminder himself, I'll take him at his word.

And if DiPietro is not 100 percent, which he clearly is not, and is only on the bench in case of emergency -- and Gordon doesn't think a 5-0 lead qualifies as one -- then I can see why they would not want to put DiPietro into a losing cause and risk injury just by being on the ice, since anything can happen; better to just leave him out.

But it's hard to see what the Islanders have to gain by having DiPietro on the bench at all. If he's out, he's out. If he's on the bench, he may as well be in street clothes. What's the harm in having Yann Danis back up MacDonald for a week or so while D.P. gets in game shape? And if his injury is worse than they are letting on, then this is truly a ridiculous charade.

Based on the team's actions, you would assume DiPietro would be ready to play at a moment's notice, and if MacDonald was knocked out in the crease, DiPietro would be able to come in and play the rest of the game without risk of injuring himself any further.

You would think.

Hopefully, that is really the case and this is all much ado about nothing, and is a situation that has only been exacerbated by the NHL's policy of saying virtually nothing about injuries, which is a terrible policy to begin with. The Isles, like every other team, are behaving like a gang of Belichicks because they have been allowed to by the league, so they're just playing by the rules they've been given.

Reporters, bloggers and fans may not like it, but hey -- we just help pay the bills. Who are we to judge?

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Who's worried about the offense?

Five goals? In one game? Four in the first period? That's like a week's output for the Islanders.

OK, so maybe the Blues were a step slow, playing their second road game in as many nights. But give credit to the Islanders for taking it to them right off the bat, grabbing a 4-1 first period lead en route to their home-opening win Saturday night.

Joey MacDonald started again amid a TSN report that Rick DiPietro had fluid on the knee. D.P. said any swelling that was in the post-surgery knee wasn't serious and that if it was, he wouldn't be the backup. Scott Gordon commented that even if the Isles lost their first three games without DiPietro, if the time off was good for him, it would ultimately be best for the club, which is, of course, true.

So the "JO-EY" chants rang through the Coliseum as MacDonald looked sharp again, further erasing what had been one of the club's many question marks heading into the season -- would the Isles have a capable backup in net?

As far as the avalanche of goals, they came thanks to aggressive play and a shoot-first-ask-questions later approach. Kylo Okposo got it started by grabbing a turnover in the corner and flicking a pass to Richard Park, whose rebound was knocked in by Mike Comrie. Trent Hunter fired a blast on the power play that beat Chris Mason, Sean Bergenheim followed with a score, and after the Blues cut the gap to 3-1, Andy Hilbert scored a shorthanded goal thanks to a terrific pass in traffic by Mark Streit, who has looked very good in two games.

Gordon noted after the game that it was only two points, but "it was the way we played. Hopefully that's going to be our identity as a team and that's how we're going to play."

Identity. It's something the Isles have lacked for some time. Under Ted Nolan, the team's identity was, well, Nolan. Now, under Gordon's system, this batch of young players has the chance to establish themselves, not only as individuals but as a group.

And if they can play this way -- especially at home -- for the rest of the season, then at least going to the Coliseum can be something we can look forward to.

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.

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.