October 30, 2010

Massacre and Fight Night on Broad Street

On the eve of Halloween, I feel that the use of the word "massacre" is fitting for the game between the Islanders and Flyers on Saturday night. In a sense, anything that could have gone wrong, did go wrong for the Islanders.

The game was a sloppy one all the way around. The Islanders gave the Flyers way too many chances on the power-play. This is a very deadly team with more weapons than they know what to do with, and you could see it.

The Flyers had no goals from defensemen entering the game, but got three, with Chris Pronger getting two while Kimmo Timonen got one of his own.

Rick DiPietro was less than stellar tonight. He seemed very out of place and was off on some of his anticipation. The 2nd Flyers goal was evidence of this, with DiPietro expecting Mike Mottau to block Jeff Carter's shot, leaving his 5-hole wide open for the puck to sneak through. He fell a couple of times, came out of the net way too much and even flubbed a clearing attempt that Blair Betts almost buried into an empty net.

After the score got to 6-1, various fights broke out. The last few minutes of the game took forever, thanks in part to the Islanders 73 penalty minutes and the Flyers 47. The refs did a rather poor job of controlling the game. They threw Zenon Konopka out of the game after his second fight of the game with Dan Carcillo in order to try and keep the peace, but obviously it did not help. Every subsequent move they made after that seemed to make matters worse, actually.

Trent Hunter got ejected for an alleged hit to the head on Andrej Meszaros, when it in fact was not. Expect the NHL to review that and rescind the game misconduct. Trevor Gillies acted out, but I can say that I have never seen a triple minor penalty handed out, nor did I even know that they existed. Gillies definitely should have gotten something for his little spat with Briere, but a triple minor is just odd. Frans Nielsen received cheap shot hits by both Briere and Carcillo, and while they both got something for that, Nielsen got the worst of it by getting a 10 minute misconduct. Nielsen appeared to say something prior to the face-off, which he probably shouldn't have done, but for him to get 10 minutes while the others didn't get thrown out but were handed majors, whatever. It was in garbage time, but the league is primarily responsible for the ending in this one as far as I'm concerned.

I like the intensity on DiPietro, but honestly, we don't need him to try and fight people in a 6-1 game. It's great to show that leadership, but not after you have had at least two knee and two hip surgeries in the past two years. It looked more like Pronger was trying to keep DiPietro out of his own way rather than trying to fight with him. You can see them having a conversation, and After DiPietro says something to Pronger, Pronger responds with a "well, OK" type of response and lets go of him so he can go after other players. I give some props to Pronger for that.

All in all, this was an ugly game on many levels. The Islanders seemed to be running into each other a lot on plays, and it's been happening a lot during the four game losing streak. The penalty kill setup is off as well, sometimes with two forwards in the same area of the ice. If the Islanders are trying to work with a diamond penalty kill formation, it hasn't looked too solid the past couple of games. I'm not a big fan of it.

One thing worth pointing out on the Flyers side was the play of Sergei Bobrovsky. This is an impressive young net minder. In the Flyers games I have been able to watch in the early going of the season, I find myself sitting in awe at some of the saves he has been making, and he continued that tonight. The Islanders did have a couple of good chances and he just stood tall. His movements are really quick for someone that big. He has learned well in the KHL, and if he keeps it up, then we may not hear too much about these Flyers goal tending issues much longer. Great job by him tonight.

Fortunately, the team has off until Wednesday. This is a tough loss to sit on for that long, but if you are looking for something to hang your hat on, you can be proud of the way you tried to defend yourself in a game that had no business getting this much out of hand. Work on the systems, get everyone healthy and go back at it.

Hopefully, Michael Grabner can return to the line-up. We already know there is a good chance Rob Schremp comes back seeing as his conditioning stint is now over after a really nice performance against the Manchester Monarchs. We'll see what the lineup looks like after the next few days.

PODCAST COMING: Sean and I will be recording a podcast Sunday afternoon, and we'll definitely have a lot of things to discuss for this one. I can tell you that we both have a lot on our minds after this week, so we'll share all of that with you guys.



Habs Sweep Home and Home, Isles Head to Philly

Lats night, one could essentially say the Islanders played twi different games.

For the better part of 15 minutes, the Montreal Canadiens controlled the play, and really took it to the Islanders. They could not get anything going. The Canadiens seemed to have figured out the gameplan and picked up right where they left off. Fortunately, the Islanders figured things out in the last few minutes of the period, and began to battle back.

The second period saw more of the same from the Islanders, as they closed the gap in shot total and battled hard to tie the game on a goal from Matt Martin. Frans Nielsen made a really nice play from behind the net to Martin, who was positioned to the right of Alex Auld for one of those infamous dirty goals. Those are going to be the kind of goals Martin will score throughout his career as he establishes himself as an immovable object in front of the net.

It seemed as though when the Islanders got their hitting going, their play improved and the Canadiens were reeling a bit. Martin layed two big hits on Hal Gill early in the contest and things seemed to improve from there. He even had a fight with Gill later, which is a bit of a mis-match when you compare the size. Gill definitiely has longer arms, so it was difficult for Martin to get his punches in with Gill holding him back, but I tip my hat to him for holding his own in the fight.

The Islanders continued to press in the 3rd period, but couldn't put one past Auld who made some really nice saves. A A breakdown with three Canadeins flying into the zone lead to Benoit Pouliot's goal to give the Habs a 2-1 lead. Poulit has a really nie shot, and has struggled a bit in the early going this season after finding his game after a mid-season trade from the Minnesota Wild last season.

Scott Gordon after the game said lack of backchecking is was caused that goal, and I would agree. It is clear that Montreal is a much faster team, and that paid off in that situation. You can see how much the team misses Rob Schremp and Michael Grabner.

Blake Comeau had a bit of a sloppy game, but still appears to be backchecking. He isn't as involved in the offence as he was prior to Josh Bailey's injury, but as long as he keepts pushing hard and at the very least forechecking he'll get his touch back.

The ice at the Coliseum was really bad last night from what I could see. We know that the puck always takes some odd hops here and there, but last night it was a lot more noticeable than past games. The Islanders are on the middle of this long string with most of the games on the road, and there were a couple of events at the Coliseum in the past couple of weeks. That certainly played a factor in the poor ice.

The attention now turns to the Flyers. Rick DiPietro gets the nod against a team that the Islanders have not had much good luck against in recent years. Milan Jurcina is out with what appears to be a hamstring injury, so Bruno Gervais gets back in the lineup but as a defenseman today. The Islanders are looking for their first win in Philly since April of 2007 (nine games).

The Flyers are a team that started off slow, but have picked up their play of late. They currently sit in 1st in the division by way of a tie breaker from the Penguins, and one point in front of the Islanders. Jeff Carter has been on a hot streak of late with rumors of him being close to re-signing with the Flyers. Chris Pronger has not been feeling all that great this year, and perhaps is one less problem to have to deal with when not at 100%. Danny Briere and Claude Giroux have been on fire, with each having six goals each so far this season.

This is another team that has some speed to it, but not as much as Montreal. I do think this is a team the Islanders can match up will with. As I said with the game last night, once the team started throwing the body it changed the feel. The Flyers are a team that doesn't hesistate to throw checks, so Martin and the rest of the Isles are going to have to be doing that from the get go.

If more news comes about any last minute changes, we'll have it for you here.



October 29, 2010

Life Without El Nino Begins as Isles go for Round 2 vs. Habs

Coming off the heals of yesterday's announcement that Nino Niederreiter is heading back to Portland of the WHL, the Islanders prepare to take on the Montreal Canadiens at the Coliseum for the 2nd part of a home and home.

Sending Niederreiter down was the right move for various reasons, some of which I discussed here yesterday. Now he'll get solid playing time, be a leader on his team, and perhaps make the Portland Winterhawks one of the powerhouses in all of junior hockey. Niederreiter is a great player and a good kid who is taking it all in stride.

Matt Martin will stay up and take Niederreiter's place for now. I felt Martin had a solid game on Wednesday night, so we'll see if any of that carries over to tonight. I thought he was going to make the final roster of Niederreiter originally, but as Scott Gordon said the injury he sustained during camp hindered his chances near the end.

Michael Grabner remains out, and will probably not play Saturday against the Flyers either. Trent Hunter is playing tonight. The Islanders are making a change at forward, however, in the form of Bruno Gervais. Yes, that is not a typo. The Islanders, who have used Gervais as a forward in practice, are going with a little experiment for at least tonight. It is a bit odd, but one would suspect that perhaps Trevor Gillies is out of the lineup tonight. He was supposed to be scratched Wednesday, but ended up playing with Hunter out and logged a whopping 55 seconds of ice time. The Islanders can't do that against a fast team like this, so it appears they just decided at the last minute to go with Gervais rather than call someone up. Will be interesting to see how this works out.

Dwayne Roloson gets the start again. He looked sharp to me on Wednesday, and the result was more of a product of those in front of him. If they are not going to skate, and are going to stand around, then expect a similar result to Wednesday. I do not anticipate this happening. Gordon most likely let them hear it after that performance.

SCHREMP TO BRIDGEPORT: If you caught it on his Twitter account last night before the comment got deleted, Rob Schremp is in fact heading to Bridgeport for a conditioning stint. He seemed to jump the gun with reporting the news, but myself and a few others saw it. The Isles made the news official today, and he is playing tonight against Manchester. He had been skating with the team a little this week, so you knew he was close to returning to action. It'll be good to get his creativity and improved skating into the lineup within the next week or two.

KABANOV TRADED IN QMJHL: As I had re-tweeted yesterday, Kirill Kabanov was traded to the Lewiston MAINEiacs from Danny Flynn's Moncton Wildcats. The deal had been rumored for about a week, which covers a good chunk of the time where Kabanov was in Russia for a "personal issue." Kabanov spend about two weeks back home.

It's not right to jump to conclusions at all, but one has to wonder if these things are related. When he left, it seemed very odd to say the least. usually when players head home for personal reason's you hear about why. There have been only some theories on why he returned to Russia, nothing concrete though.

At any rate, Lewiston gave up quite the package for the talented winger, sending away goalie Jordan Kennedy, a second round draft pick in 2011, a fourth round draft pick in 2011, a first round pick in the 2011 CHL Import Draft, and a fourth round draft pick in 2012. Problems aside, there is a reason why the kid was at one time regarded as a top three pick. We'll see what this change does for him.



October 28, 2010

Attention Turns to Niederreiter as Habs Down Isles

3:10 PM: Kirill Kabanov has been traded by the Moncton Wildcats to the Lewiston Maniacs. Detials on this coming later as well.

11:46 AM: As I expected, the Islanders are sending Niederreiter back down to Portland. This means that he still has all three years of his entry level deal still remaining.

More to come later.

8:45 AM: The Islanders lost to the Habs 5-3 in a game where they definitely did not bring their "A" game. There were often times where they were found standing around rather than playing their up tempo style of hockey. This isn't a team that is overly skilled, and has to learn to constantly move their feet in order to be successful.

The Canadiens are a very fast and skilled team, and they showed that last night. Of course, the Isles made them look much faster because of the lack of skating. It was not a banner game for Mark Eaton, who made a couple of weak passes, including one that lead to a penalty shot attempt for Benoit Pouliot.

I felt that Dwayne Roloson player pretty well, and did the best he could with what he had to work with, which quite frankly was not enough. There were many lackluster players, on both sides of the puck. Roloson was one of the few who didn't disappoint.

Matt Martin had a pretty good season debut, mixing it up at times and parking himself in front of the net for the 3rd Islander goal. After following him in preseason, and being very impressed with the changes in his game, I can't say I'm surprised with how he played. He needs to get his head up though a little more, for example on the break he had that P.K. Subban broke up.

Speaking of Subban, I need to apologize to those who told me to look out for him as a potential Calder winner this season. I dismissed any thought of that, and he has been quite impressive this season. The kid is some defenseman.

Doug Weight had some problems in this game too. I'm noticing more and more this season that he seems to cough up pucks at the blueline on the power-play. He's still an asset there, and is probably the closest thing we have to a power-play quarterback, but he needs to be a little more careful with that.

Speaking of assets at the blueline, James Wisniewski had yet another outstanding offensive performance. He had a couple of hard shots that created Islander goals as he notched a goal and two assists. His defensive play was decent, aside from the play on Montreal's second goal, but that was slightly awkward and everyone was scrambling there to cover the 2-on-1 breakout.

These are things that have to be improved upon if the Islanders are to walk out of Friday night's game with any points.

The attention now will be on Nino Niederreiter as we await his fate. Will he stay with the Islanders and play Friday, starting the countdown on his entry-level contract, or does he go back to play more junior hockey with Portland of the WHL?

Niederreiter played just over 14 minutes last night, and in keeping up with the rest of the team appeared sloppy at times. Obviously, a decision will not be made based on one game, but I would agree with Chris Botta's statements. Don't think that the decision was made overnight.

As far as my opinion, after originally thinking he would stay, I've thought differently over the last week or so.

Niederreiter certainly hasn't played bad, and if he stays it would be deserved. Physically, he can handle the NHL and has not been over matched on too many occasions. But, the NHL is a faster, tougher game than juniors. While Niederreiter has been trying to adjust to the NHL, the league has been trying to adjust to him. It isn't often where young, recently turned 18 year olds come in, not shy away from contact and cut to the net to create scoring chances.

When the league figures out his style, his game - how will Niederreiter play? Will he be as effective as he is now? I'm not sure anyone can confidently say yes, when you factor in taking the beatings for a much longer period of time.

Don't discount Scott Gordon's thought process in any of this either. Despite the comments he made yesterday, he is going to do what he thinks is best to make the team win right now. He finds himself in the very unusual situation of fighting for his Islander life as coach. If he feels that his chances of success are better with having Martin, Rob Schremp, Michael Grabner or even prospects David Ullstrom or Jesse Joensuu in the lineup, he will let it be known. I don't think that this team is better off with Ullstrom or Joensuu over Niederreiter, but with the other guys I think the team will be fine.

Niederreiter will be a better player than all of those guys in the long run, but right now the others are so much further ahead in terms of development, obviously. Martin still has some developing of his own to do, but I liked a lot of what I saw out of him last night, and some of it is similar to what Niederreiter provides, with Martin adding some more aggression and slightly better skating.

I know some people talk about injuries as playing a factor in the decision, but I don't see that being the case here. As I mentioned just before, if Gordon thinks this team is better off with one guy over another, he'll say so. Schremp is going to get back in the lineup once he comes back. The Islanders need someone with his creativity, not to mention his improved skating. Kyle Okposo is a non factor essentially since his return can be anywhere from December to February, but that is still murky. Jon Sim and Trent Hunter have been filling bottom line roles, and that is not something Niederreiter should be doing at this stage. He needs to consistently be playing 14, 15 minutes a night if he's going to stick.

We'll find out most likely today the fate of Niederreiter, but I wouldn't bank on him staying here. Don't discount the impact Gordon has, and don't read too much into those quotes from yesterday. Expect Matt Martin's stay to last a little longer until Schremp/Hunter/Grabner are ready to go.

When news breaks, I'll try and have something for you. Until then, we play the waiting game.



October 27, 2010

Isles Take on Canadiens, 7:30 PM

7:07: Trent Hunter is not in the line-up tonight either. Trevor Gillies will be taking his place. Trevor has averaged under two minutes of ice time per game this season.

4:45 PM: The Islanders are in Montreal tonight to take on the Canadiens. As originally thought, Dwayne Roloson gets the start for the Islanders with Rick DiPietro having played the last two games. Roloson's last start was in Toronto. I doubt he'll show much rust though, if any. It took a couple of games at the beginning of the year before he got a nod, and he had a nice performance against Washington in that game.

Josh Bailey returns to the lineup after missing time with the hip pointer injury. I'm very happy the Islanders took it slow with Josh so that he could get to 100%. Very excited to see him get back on the ice tonight, and I would imagine the combination of him playing with Frans Nielsen and  P.A. Parenteau will be a good one. Nielsen has quietly been having a strong start to the season, and Parenteau leads the team in points. Bailey has made those who have played with him better this season.

Matt Martin, in for the injured Michael Grabner, plays his first game of the year, and will be on a line with Doug Weight and Nino Niederreiter. This has the makings of a fun line to watch. Nino is playing in his 9th game, and a decision will be made about his future after the game. I have a feeling that he is going to be going back to Portland of the WHL. That's not from a source or anything, just something I'm feeling in my gut (more on my reasoning either later tonight or tomorrow).

Carey Price stars yet again for the Canadiens. The young goalie has certainly had his ups and downs since arriving on the scene a couple of years ago, but is off to a nice start this season. He has played in every game so far this season.

The Canadiens are a very fast team, with a virtually non-existant power-play so far this season. This, of course, is due in large part to the absence of Andrei Markov, who might return Friday for the 2nd part of the home-and-home. But in the meantime, the Islanders defensemen are going to have to do an extra good job of forcing the play to the outside. This Canadiens team is too quick and skilled to get caught out of position, no matter how big you are compared to them. Look for Milan Jurcina to have yet another steady game for the reason's I highlighted in this space yesterday.

This should be another fun one, in a building that hasn't been too kind to the Islanders in recent years. It's another early season test. Let's hope they break this hex tonight.



October 26, 2010

MacDonald Injury Gives Jurcina Opportunity to Continue Solid Play

Milan Jurcina might not be the flashiest name on this Islanders squad, however Scott Gordon has been using Jurcina in a role he is very well suited for, on the 3rd pairing providing some steady play for just under 20 minutes a night.

After the game against Colorado, I had asked Milan about his confidence level as it appeared to me he was playing the best he has at any point in his career.

"Yeah, it's a big thing with the confidence. A game like that (two goals vs. Colorado), it's a big boost for the confidence," Jurcina said.

Obviously, the story of that game was the offensive outburst. But there were a number of things in that game he did well including throwing some hits and making a couple of nice defensive plays.

The injury to Andrew MacDonald (4-6 weeks after hand surgery) opens up the free spot for Jack Hillen and Bruno Gervais to battle it out. But Jurcina now has a chance to fill in some of the void that is being left by MacDonald.

Since he came up with the Islanders in the middle of last season, one key aspect of MacDonald's game has been blocking shots. Jurcina has a big body to put in front of the net, but he has always had inconsistency issues when it comes to playing the body and trying to get in front of pucks.

Ever since that game against Colorado, Jurcina seems to have been using that size to his advantage with some consistency. He has brought himself up to 11th in the league among defensemen in hits with 20, and his 16 blocked shots are ironically one behind MacDonald's total of 17.

The game against Florida was a good performance for the Slovakian defenseman as he had a season high five hits in the game. Against Tampa, he had three blocked shots. He has become one of the key defensemen on the penalty kill as his 3:41 of PK time per game leads all Islanders defensemen. More often than I can remember seeing him do, I notice he is tying up opposing forwards and doing a real nice job of forcing the play to the outside.

Aside from the game against Colorado, there has not been much of anything offensively. Jurcina has an excellent shot that he has always had problems getting on net. As far as I'm concerned, we need him more for his size and defensive ability more than the offense right now.

As far as my knowledge of Jurcina goes, thinking back to his time in Boston and Washington for the most part, this is certainly the best I have seen him play. Being re-united with Scott Gordon seems to have helped him out a bit, and being brought in with three other new defensemen, all with NHL experience has really helped the Islanders in the early going this season as they try to turn around what was one of the league's worst defensive corps last season.

Jurcina is going to have to continue his recent play, and not just until MacDonald returns. A consistent Jurcina using his body to his advantage is the best thing we could have asked for after signing him to the one year, $1 million contract, and so far he is proving to be a solid, yet unheralded addition to the blue line.

MATT MARTIN TO PLAY: With Michael Grabner day-to-day, it was announced that the forward will not go on the trip to Montreal for Wednesday's game. This opens up a spot for Matt Martin, who was practicing on a line with Doug Weight and Nino Niederreiter.

Yesterday, Grabner sounded very hopeful on his Twitter account as far as playing in Montreal, which made me wonder why Martin stayed up through the night. I had thought that it was perhaps because the Islanders were going to decide to send Niederreiter back to juniors, but alas another theory shot to pieces. Oh well.

It's exciting to see Martin get his chance this early in the season, and against a team that took some shots in the preseason. Mike Cammalleri slashed Niederreiter and earned a one-game suspension as a result. Don't expect that to happen again.

This is all we have for now, in what has been a relatively quiet couple of off days. If something pops up throughout the day, be sure to check back here for some thoughts.

CHECK OUT SUNDAY'S PODCAST: For anyone who may not have gotten it yet, the podcast is up and available here. Enjoy!



October 24, 2010

Panthers 4, Isles (Tavares) 3; Other NHL Notes

The Florida trip is something that hasn't been too kind to the Islanders in recent years. While they were able to walk out of Tampa Bay with a win, they continued their losing skid in Sunrise, Florida.

Despite the efforts of John Tavares, who scored all three Islander goals, the Panthers once again walked away with a win. The Islanders are now 0-7-1 in their last eight games at the Bank Atlantic Center.

Obviously, when it comes to analyzing the Islanders, their best player was Tavares. Not only did he have a hat trick, but he also played fairly well in the other zones. Unfortunately, he had a bit of trouble on face offs last night, which is an area that he has improved on going into the season. Aside from his goals, there was one play that stood out to me. After losing control of the puck along the boards at center ice in the 3rd, he rushed back to take the puck away from the Panthers player who stripped him just seconds before. That is something we don't see Tavares do last season. That is the type of play I am referring to when I say he has greatly improved and was the Islanders best player last night, and not only for goals.

James Wisniewski extended his points streak to eight games with another two point performance. Each one of his nine points this season have come on the power-play. He was better and a little more solid than he was against Tampa Bay, so that was a plus as well. There are going to be games where he appears overly aggressive, such as the Tampa game, so for him to come back and have a bounce back game is going to be key for the team.

Milan Jurcina had a strong game as well. He had just over 15 minutes of ice time, but he had five hits. This is very important because when you look at what the knocks have been on him throughout his career, the number one thing is that he doesn't use his size enough. In the 3rd period, the Panthers had a 2-on-1 break but Jurcina did an excellent job to tie up Chris Higgins and force him and the puck into the corner. It appears as though the Colorado game was a confidence booster for him because he has been nothing but solid as a bottom pairing guy on this team. I won't go into all of the details on him here, because I am planning a small little feature on him for one of the off days coming up. So be sure to look for that.

Rick DiPietro looked OK again to me, but he needs to calm himself down at times when playing the puck. The first panthers goal came when he failed to clear the puck completely around the boards, and it went right to Keaton Ellerby at the blue line. Ellerby passed it across the ice to Mike Weaver who was able to take a slap shot that went past a screened DiPietro. His rebound control was also a little off, as you can see from what ended up being the Panthers winning goal. DiPietro kicked the rebound to his right, directly to an open Radek Dvorak. DiPietro dove to try and get back in time but was not fast enough. The 2nd Florida goal, from Steve Bernier was a bit of a freak thing as Mark Eaton made the block with his stick but it went right to an open Bernier on the right side where he put it into an open net.

Michael Grabner, another guy I plan to have a small feature about soon, had a solid game as well. He took some nice shots on Tomas Vokoun, but unfortunately couldn't score. But it was great to see him involved a lot in the play against the team that cut him in the preseason. Grabner got penalty killing time in this game as well, which is something that I found interesting. Defense is something that has always been lacking in his game, but he seemed to manage well. It doesn't take him much to go from a stand still to top speed, which can dramatically alter the time a power play unit has to make decisions. Perhaps it can be used to our advantage.

The reffing in the game was a bit off again as well. In the 3rd, they called Zenon Konopka for a goaltender interference when he never touched the goalie but was pushed into the post. Shortly after that, DiPietro was run into and there was no call. If you think back to the Islanders games so far, there are a number of examples of refs making bad calls. For example, the head shot call on Kris Letang for his hit on Blake Comeau. This has been a problem all around the league early on. I can't imagine the league is too happy with how their officiating has been so far.

The Islanders have a couple of days off before they go to take on the Canadiens in Montreal in the first part of a home and home against them. Like I said, I plan to have small little features out about specific players for the off days, so be sure to look out for those.

Around the NHL: Meanwhile, the rest of the NHL has been abuzz since last night on the heels of Ilya Kovalchuk's benching by the New Jersey Devils. They have been off to a very slow start, and things did not get better after a 6-1 loss to the Buffalo Sabers, who have been equally as bad in the early going. I have to give some credit to head coach John MacLean for benching Kovalchuk. That takes a lot of guts. I'm not sure why he ultimately decided to do it. Sure, he's off to a bit of a slow start, with only five points in seven games. But to bench your best player? Perhaps he was trying to send a message to the team. That is certainly one way to do it. I'll admit, I haven't been able to watch the Devils a lot in the early going here, but if the other aspects of Kovalchuk's game are lacking, then by all means he did what he had to do to make a bold statement to his team. Mum has been the word, and it is unclear if the consulted Lou Lamoriello before making the decision, but we'll see what dividends this pays, if any. The Devils play the Rangers tonight.

Aside from Tavares, there were two other hat tricks last night - Alexander Semin of Washington and Brad Richardson of the Kings. On Friday night, there were also three hat tricks from Rene Bourque of Calgary, Daniel Alfredsson of Ottawa and Steven Stamkos of Tampa Bay. Who says offense is down?

The NHL is going to have their work cut out for them when deciding who the players of the week are. There are more than a dozen worthy candidates out there.

New Podcast Coming: Seeing as it is Sunday, you can expect a podcast to come later from Sean and I. There's plenty to talk about once again, so we'll know better later as far as what is on the docket.



October 22, 2010

Isles Defeat Bolts After Waiting Game, Remain atop Division and Conference

The Islanders faced another early season test on the road in Tampa, a building that hasn't been too kind to them in recent years. Tampa entered the game with a 4-1 record, sitting in 1st in the South East Division. Prior to the game, it was decided that Vincent Lecavalier would be playing, meaning all the big guns were going to be on the ice.

But when it was all over, the Islanders would still find themselves sitting atop the Eastern Conference and the Atlantic Division and off to their best start since the 2001-2002 renaissance season.

The game started out with the Islanders looking strong. It didn't take very long for the Isles to get their first goal. Doug Weight took the puck behind Tampa's net, and passed it in front for a shot by Nino Niederreiter. Niederreiter got the initial shot off, but Dan Ellis kicked the rebound to the slot where Michael Grabner was waiting to put in his 2nd of the season.

Tampa Bay wouldn't answer with a goal of their own until late in the period, with Sean Bergeheim scoring on a breakaway. DiPietro had an odd approach to playing it, and I don't think he expected Bergenheim to get it off after the late deke. Either way, there were a couple of things he could have done better there. Kudos to Bergie for getting the goal against his former team. He's off to a fast start.

The second period was a slightly different game, with more stoppages and more penalties coming to both teams. Early in the 2nd, Bergenheim took a holding penalty on John Tavares. It was actually quite blatant, but Bergie being Bergie argued the call. The Islanders weren't able to cash in on that power play, and Martin St. Louis made them pay (of course). Steve Stamkos stripped a rather careless Blake Comeau of the puck at the blue line and passed it up to St. Louis. Mike Mottau did a lot to try and tie him up, but St. Louis used speed and skill to get the better of him. Meanwhile, DiPietro I don't think expected a shot to get off and went down really early, and didn't have much of a reaction to the shot. St. Louis roofed it to give the Lightning the lead.

The Islanders would tie the game when P.A. Parenteau converted on a 5-on-3 powerplay. A shot deflected right to Parenteau with Ellis going down expecting the original shot from the point to get through but couldn't move to his right in time.

Tampa Bay would get a 5-on-3 of their own, but for a full two minutes. Jon Sim continued his battle with Matt Smaby, and when Sim refused to go with him Trevor Gillies tried to get Smaby to dance. Both Sim and Gillies were penalized, something that quite frankly should not have happened there with the game tied. The Islanders penalty killers were up to the task, with Zenon Konopka, Mark Eaton and Andrew MacDonald all coming up in big ways, keeping Tampa Bay to just one shot. MacDonald injured his hand from his blocked shot, and left the ice and did not return. No update on his situation yet, but he was still with the team after the game and bandaged up.

The 3rd period had the Lightning really playing their game, and preventing the Islanders from playing theirs. There was a lot of standing around from the Islanders side. DiPietro had to make a lot of saves in the period, and came up big for some. Early on he was very sloppy, including one series where he was down on the ice with the puck going across the goal mouth and Victor Hedman missing a shot to a wide open net.

Late in the 3rd, the Islanders got some of their legs back and Comeau was able to break in on Ellis by using a power move around Pavel Kubina. Kubina tripped Comeau up on the play, which created a powerplay for the Isles that went into overtime.

The Isles didn't score on the power play, but Matt Moulson put the puck in just after it ended. The goal, however was reviewed for about eight minutes. It took a while to get the camera views that the league wanted after it looked like it was very possible it went in. One view from over head clearly showed the puck over the line in mid-air before Ellis swatted it away. It was Moulson's 4th of the year.

As far as individual performances are concerned, one notable player who didn't look too great was James Wisniewski. Sure, the ice in Tampa Bay is notoriously bad. But, he had two big turnovers in critical situations that lead to rushes the other way, one of them Bergenheim's 2nd breakaway that DiPietro stopped. He shanked a few shots too. He appears to be using different sticks, but who knows for how much longer after that performance.

Frans Nielsen looked very strong again as well. He skated hard the whole game, and won a critical face-off late when Konopka was kicked out of the circle. He continues to do the little things right, particularly on the defensive side of things. He's been chipping in with assists here and there too. Good stuff coming from Nielsen this year.

Niederreiter had a strong game, and I noticed that he finally started to get some time on the power play. It's about time, quite frankly. The Islanders have two games left to decide what to do with him, and they need to be sure he can handle the special teams so he can get consistent minutes in order to justify developing him up here and not on a top line with Portland of the WHL. He doesn't shy away from contact in the corners, and is most noticeable in getting to the scoring areas in front of the net. He and Weight seem to have some chemistry when it comes to a play like that, and it essentially created Grabner's goal.

Josh Bailey sat this one out, but it is expected that he will return Saturday against the Florida Panthers. Trent Hunter returned, so the team did not have to call up anyone from Bridgeport. However, next game may see someone sit out. I would think the early favorite for that would be Gillies. Sim could be another candidate, but when you look at how much PK time he has been getting, and how well the Islanders PK has been performing these last few games, I think he'll stick for now. Grabner had an excellent game, and needs to remain in the lineup right now. Ditto for Parenteau.

The Islanders road trip is off to a great start. They have eight of the next 10 on the road. I think its great that, in these last two road games, the Isles have not had anywhere near their best effort but walked out with all four possible points. We'll have a better read on how real this team is as the road trip rolls along, but for now it is certainly enjoyable to watch.



October 19, 2010

Undefeated No More (sort of): Islanders 2, Maple Leafs 1 (OT)

On a night where the NHL's only remaining undefeated teams were both in action, the Dallas Stars and Toronto Maple Leafs lost.

However, the Maple Leafs loss to the Islanders doesn't count as a true loss by NHL standards. But they no longer have a point percentage of 100. Dallas, meanwhile, lost to the Tampa Bay Lightning, the team that the Islanders will take on next. I'll get to that in a little bit.

The Islanders and Leafs seemed hesitant to me at first last night. Both teams we're playing their up tempo styles, but seemed a little conservative in the early going. Neither wanted to get behind. The Leafs controlled the play for much of the first period, taking seven of the first nine shots. With a little over five minutes remaining in the 1st, the Islanders came back and started to gain more control, and at one point had six unanswered shots on J.S. Giguere. There were barely any stoppages, and the period went along rather quickly.

Matt Moulson scored early in the 2nd, shortly after an Islanders power-play ended. Frans Nielsen made a nice backhand pass from the right side to John Tavares, who then quickly made a backhand pass to Moulson in the slot. Moulson deked to his backhand and put the puck over Giguere. That would be all the scoring for a while.

Dwayne Roloson came up big more often than not, in similar fashion to the way he came up big in the 58 save performance last November. As with the game against Colorado, his post-to-post coverage was very good, and his reaction time was excellent. He has shown and unbelievable ability to look through screens and know how to react no matter how fast a puck is thrown at him. It took him a bit at the beginning of last season to get to the level of play that he is at now. It's wonderful to see him pick up where he left off. This certainly changes the rotation of the goalies for the upcoming Florida trip, or at least it should.

The Islanders gave Roloson some help this time, as they blocked 23 shots in addition to the 30 that he had a chance to stop. Nielsen, Josh Bailey and Jon Sim made some good defensive plays for most of the game. Unfortunately, Sim had the failed clearing attempt on the penalty kill that led to Phil Kessel's goal. But He did have what I felt was a rather good game up until that point. But Bailey and Nielsen, on multiple occasions, got back and covered for defensemen who jumped in on the offensive play and intercepted passes or cancelled the opposing player out. Good stuff.

Speaking of Bailey, he appeared to injure himself on an attempted hit. He was listed as having a hip flexor, and at practice today it was said that he is unlikely to play in Tampa on Thursday. We have a couple of days before then, and this is a day-to-day injury. A gun to my head though, and I doubt he plays Thursday or Saturday against the Panthers at least.

The Islanders did have some good fortune overall in this game. It was by no means a complete effort, and in a way the Islanders are fortunate they came out with both points. In the 3rd period they were on their heels a bit, and weren't trying for as many offensive chances. That is a case of an old habit rearing it's ugly head. They cannot sit on one goals leads, especially 1-0. The Leafs had one goal and one non-goal waived off, and the one that actually went in the net appeared to be knocked down with a high stick. It is really difficult to find a good angle of that, though, but from what we can see it appeared to be the right call.

In the final minute after the Leafs tied the game, they continued to put pressure on the Islanders. Roloson came up huge a couple of times, but it was Radek Martinek who had perhaps the biggest save of the night as time expired with Roloson down and an open net. Martinek came up slow after the block, and did not practice today. No word yet on what happened or how he is feeling, only that he did not participate.

Tavares cashed in on the power-play in overtime, with Brett Lebda in the box for goalie interference. Tavares has always seemed to have problems with one-timers, but he got this one. It was his 2nd goal of the year, and 3rd point in the last two games after missing all but the 1st period of the opener with a concussion.

As I mentioned earlier, the next opponent is the Tampa Bay Lightning. If you got a chance to check out that game against the Stars, you saw that the Lightnings offense is still very deadly. As Sean said on the podcast on Sunday, Steve Stamkos is playing like last season never ended, and even better in some aspects. Vincent Lecavalier appears to be out, but Islander killers Martin St. Louis and Ryan Malone are still around. The Islanders won't be able to play the same kind of game they played in Toronto. Dan Ellis and Mike Smith, although solid goaltenders, can be exposed if you take a lot of shots. That is something the Islanders haven't done the past couple of games, despite playing well and winning two of them.

We'll see what these couple of days off bring. It would certainly be great to get Martinek, Bailey and Trent Hunter all healthy, but at the very least the early indication is that the latter two will remain out.



October 18, 2010

Battle of the Surprises: New York Islanders @ Toronto Maple Leafs, 7 PM

The Islanders (2-1-2) Take on the undefeated Maple Leafs (4-0-0) at 7 PM tonight. In the hockey world, this seems to be an anticipated match up, with differing view points across the board.

Despite what others around feel, be it about how good either of the teams really are or what have you, this is a huge game for the Islanders.

These two teams aren't the same ones that have skated the past two years. Brian Burke, believe it or not made some good additions to his team in the off-season. Meanwhile, their stars are actually playing like stars. Phil Kessel has gotten off to a very strong start (4 G-2 A-6 P in 4) while Dion Phaneuf looks like the Phaneuf of three seasons ago, the captaincy not phasing him at all. J.S. Giguere is a good goaltender, who fell on hard times the past couple of seasons, but also looks like he did a few years ago and is off to a hot start of his own (3-0-0, .914 SV %, 1.98 GAA). Add in some good supporting guys such as Colby Armstrong and Kris Versteeg, and you can see how this Maple Leafs team is better than the previous editions.

The Islanders announced that Dwayne Roloson will be in net tonight, with Scott Gordon pointing to the 58 save performance from last season. One would hope that, with an improved defense, Roloson doesn't have to come anywhere close to that tonight. This is the right decision as far as I'm concerned. Sean and I disagreed on the podcast last night (more on that later) about how much leeway Rick DiPietro should get. I feel that this will be a very long, drawn out process, as it should be for someone who had played 13 games the previous two seasons. He was beat up pretty good in the Pittsburgh game, most of it courtesy of Matt Cooke.

Trent Hunter did not make the trip and won't be in the lineup once again. Blake Comeau, who didn't play in the 2nd half of the 3rd period on Saturday after blocking a shot (we could hear it cleanly all the way up in the press box) will be playing.

Josh Bailey and John Tavares both had strong performances against the Leafs in Toronto last season, the team both have listed as the one they grew up rooting for. With the way Bailey has started this season, look for him to have yet another solid performance. Tavares seemed to still be getting his legs going during Saturdays game after missing the previous three with the concussion. I'll assume he needs another couple of games before we see the real Tavares show up, but don't put anything past him.

The power-play looked much better on Saturday with Tavares and James Wisniewski returning to the lineup. Not having their creativity affected the team in Washington and Pittsburgh. Toronto's PKers have been performing at a sky high rate of 93.3%. They have some excellent defensive forwards on the roster, which might make Wisniewski's job a bit tougher. That is where Mike Mottau and Andrew MacDonald will have to be on their games.

Toronto's power-play is middle of the road for now, but you always have to be concerned about the big guns of Phaneuf and Kessel. This is an Islander team that has generally been disciplined, but when they do go on the PK it seems slightly disorganized, despite having some success the last couple of games.

Based on comments from Leafs head coach Ron Wilson, his team won't be taking the Isles lightly as they seem to fly under the radar. They have a lot that they are playing for - defending their home turf and trying to get to 5-0-0 to start a season for the first time since 1993. The Islanders, meanwhile, will be looking to get to three wins and start their long road trip (10 of the next 12 on the road) with a statement win, while trying to take sole possession of 1st place.

This should be an interesting one.

New Podcast Posted: Sean and I recorded and uploaded our latest podcast late last night. For those of you not subscribed yet, it can be found at the NYI FYI podcast site. It's another long one, one and a half hours, but we talked about some good stuff without making it sound too boring. Hope you guys enjoy it.



October 17, 2010

Jurcina Tallies Twice as Isles down Avs 5-2

Milan Jurcina entered Saturday night's contest against the Colorado Avalanche with 15 career goals in 323 games. He would turn out to be the Islanders key source of offense, notching two goals and adding an assist as the Isles went on to defeat the Avalanche.

Jurcina's first goal came in the second period with the Isles on the penalty kill. Josh Bailey won the faceoff, which banked off the boards and went right to Jurcina for a quick shot that goalie Craig Anderson tried to catch with his glove, but missed. Later in the period, with Jurcina pinching towards the goal line to Anderson's left, Jurcina threw the puck at the net. The puck hit the post and the side of Anderson's pad in the small space he left and rolled over the goal line to give the Isles a 2-0 lead.

All of this happened after a fairly uneventful 1st period, one in which the Islanders were outplayed by the Avs. Bailey, earning the hard had for his effort in the game, told us in the locker room that Scott Gordon showed frustration after the first, pointing to the turnovers. That is an area that has killed the Islanders in the times when they haven't played well, and it certainly was the story of the first period tonight. Dwayne Roloson was very sharp, and really was the reason the Islanders were able to come out of the first unscathed.

Bailey scored a goal of his own on the powerplay to make it 3-0. He received a nice pass in the slot from P.A. Parenteau, and was able to be patient enough to wait for Anderson to go down into a split before lifting the puck over him. Bailey has been the Islanders best player most nights, and that was pretty much the case again tonight. He is really developing rapidly before our eyes, and it's been fun to watch so far.

Michael Grabner scored his first goal as an Islander, using his speed to go on a 2-on-1 with Parenteau and received the pass from him. Anderson appeared to play the pass pretty well and make the save but the puck went in anyway as Grabner got a lot on it. He had had a fairly quiet game until that point, and admitted after the game that he is still trying to learn things, but his main objective is to use his speed to push the opposing defensemen back. He did that a couple of times tonight, but still made some of those blind and dangerous passes.

John Tavares had the final goal for the Isles, adding an empty netter with 19 seconds left to seal it.

The Avs goals came from Chris Stewart and T.J. Galiardi. I was very impressed with Stewart this game. He had some good speed and has come a long way since being drafted in the 1st round in 2006. He'll exceed last years breakout numbers for sure. Anderson did not play badly either, and made a few big saves of his own. He's very quick for a goaltender his size, and will be a huge key to success for the Avs this season once again.

The defense was generally pretty good tonight. The Avs are a quick team and were able to exploit them on a couple of occasions, but in the end no real damage was done. Several guys, especially Mike Mottau once again, had the poke check working. They seemed more alert in getting pucks away from the front of the net, particularly when Roloson was sprawled out trying to make a first save. A number of Avs found themselves tied up when going for second chances as well. Jurcina was frequently involved in plays like this. He truly had his best game as an Islander, offense aside.

Here are some clips from the post game interviews (note: I only asked a couple of questions, and I want to give credit where credit is due to the others):

Milan Jurcina

Michael Grabner

Scott Gordon

NYI FYI Podcast Coming: It's Sunday, and of course that means a new podcast coming from Sean and I. Be sure to stop by the podcast site to check that out as we recap a very busy week that was in Islanders Country.



October 16, 2010

Pens defeat Isles in OT on Phantom Call

The referees played a big factor in the Penguins 3-2 overtime victory over the Islanders, including on the penalty call on Milan Jurcina that led to the winning goal. Jurcina was called for hooking, but if there was any Islander guilty of that it was Mike Mottau, and about 10 feet to the right. Regardless, the Isles walked away with a point they worked very hard for.

The Isles were down 2-0 in the game when Blake Comeau took a pretty hard hit and went down to the ice. The hit was shoulder to shoulder, and clean - the refs saw otherwise. They called Kris Letang for the hit to the head, and the Isles got a five minute powerplay as a result. They cashed in on that once, with Josh Bailey corralling a Comeau shot and putting it past Brent Jonhson. Shortly after that, Comeau factored into the 2nd Islander goal by making a pass from behind the net to the slot that was intended for Zenon Konopka. Konopka missed, but Radek Martinek was there for a quick shot that got passed Jonhson to tie the game up at two.

Special teams got a ton of work in the game, with Pittsburgh getting eight powerplays while the Islanders had six. Each team cashed in one time. The Islanders haven't had as much creativity in this area in these two road games, and that is where having James Wisniewski back from his suspension is a good thing. The Isles only had five shots on the powerplay, and if you don't throw pucks at the net, you aren't going to have a great deal of success. The Isles have a number of guys who thrive down low, and trying to get rebounds is going to be key.

Rick DiPietro got the start, and looked very strong. His reactions were very quick. He did get beat up a lot though, mostly by tough guy Matt Cooke. His antics were a bit interesting in this one, and the refs really didn't put up with them very much. On two occasions, within minutes of each other, Cooke was thrown in the box for actions related to DiPietro tumbling to the ice and being slow to get up.

Each one of the Pittsburgh goals weren't DiPietro's fault. You could make the argument for the first one, which came from Mike Rupp, as DiPietro blocked it to the side but not out of reach of Rupp. He ended up backhanding the puck in with DiPietro lunging to try and stop it. It was a good effort though. Good to see him be able to move that quickly to try and make the save.

The usual suspects looked very good tonight - Josh Bailey, Comeau and Doug Weight all had strong games. Mottau has been good on defense, and hasn't made as many glaring mistakes as some of the others. I felt tonight was one of his better games here so far, and he really had the poke check working. He's going to be relied on a lot to provide 22+ minutes a night, and so far, generally he has been up to the challenge.

Michael Grabner looked really good Wednesday night against the Capitals, but not so much for this game. Yes, it's only three games into his Islanders career but he made a number of errant passes from what I saw. That is going to have to be improved upon as time goes on here. I would imagine he's trying to get out some of the jitters of playing with a new team, in a new system. He was thrust into his role when John Tavares went down with his injury. Tavares is expected to be back tonight against the Avs, so we'll see who sits now. I would really like to see Grabner and Tavares together.

Two of the penalties the Islanders took tonight were for too many men on the ice. This is a very young and talented team, but one that is obviously still doing some learning on the fly. The sloppiness in some of the line changes is very visible. I've seen defensemen come onto the ice and immediately have to scramble into position to prevent an odd man rush because the forward changes were a bit sloppy. This is something that is almost certainly going to have to improve, and it will over time. This is a problem that is usually worked out during training camp - a normal one, not one that was shortened.

There seems to be some miscommunication on the penalty kill as well. Fortunately, it hasn't decimated the team yet, but there have been numerous times where it seems two players are going to the same area, leaving one guy having to cover a large area. It's usually one forward having to watch both point men for a little bit. It seems at times that this is what the Islanders play calls far, and while I'm not a big proponent of that it hasn't killed them too much just yet. But that's something that will have to be worked on as well.

Jack Hillen only had nine minutes of ice time, and I would imagine that means Gordon hasn't seen enough of him yet to prove that he isn't over-thinking and still feels he is trying to do too much. I'd expect to see him out of the lineup for Wisniewski.

With Tavares coming back, don't be surprised to see Grabner stay in and Trevor Gillies the odd man out here and there. Gillies played a grand total of nine seconds tonight, and got into a fight with Eric Godard. Not every team has a guy for Gillies to go with that Konopka can't handle himself. The Islanders would sacrifice that every so often to get more speed and hockey sense in there. It could happen as early as tonight.

More to come later with a little preview of the game vs. the Avs. This is the first game that we'll be represented in the press box. I'm very excited to get my chance to go up there and bring you guys some good coverage. I haven't completely figured out what I'll do yet, but I'll know more in a bit and of course let you guys know whats going on. For now, make sure you are following us on Twitter and Facebook.



October 11, 2010

Isles vs. Rangers (1 PM) Pre-game Notes; Podcast Posted

3:50: The Isles have come from behind to defeat the Rangers 6-4. More coming later, with a write-up.

2:03: Isles are leading 2-1 after 1 period. Comeau and Bailey scored the goals for the Isles, Dubinksy for the Rangers. New Isles goal song is "Live is Life" by Opus, according to one of my Blog Boxers. Can't say I know who that is, or what it sounds like. Will have to check it out when I'm at home, by a computer with sound.

Konopka and Prust had a long fight, Avery up to his usual antics. DP apparently looks strong. Lets hope it stays that way.

12:52 PM: Konopka, Jon Sim, Sean Avery and Brian Boyle apparently all exchanged words during the pre-game skate according to Katie Strang and Rob McGowan. Looks like the fun has started already.

11:20: It took all of eight minutes for me to be wrong about something. Rick DiPietro is starting today, as per the team.

11:15: The Islanders will be wearing their white uniforms today. Also, they have announced that they have a new goal song for today. The players, Zenon Konopka in particular, have requested a change. Very interested to see what they choose.

11:12 AM: The Islanders and Rangers waste no time going at it, with the teams facing off with each other in each teams 2nd game of the season.

Unfortunately, it appears that the Coliseum will not be sold out, and might even be the lowest attended Isles-Rangers game since the 1970's.

The Rangers defeated the Buffalo Sabres 6-3 on Saturday night, with rookie Derek Stepan scoring a hat trick. He'll be one to watch out for. He was already coming into the season highly regarded and his performance only added more fuel to that.

The Islanders will be without John Tavares for this one as he is going to be re-evaluated today for his concussion. Yesterday he was said to be in good condition, only feeling some pain in his neck and performed off ice workouts. I think it's a wise move to keep him out of a game like this one. But this is good news, as it appears he'll be back by the end of the week.

No official starter has been announced yet, but I'm assuming Dwayne Roloson will get the start in this one based on the set schedule for Rick DiPietro. Josh Bailey will move up to JT's spot on the first line, while Michael Grabner makes his Islanders debut on a line with Doug Weight and Nino Niederreiter. Weight and Bailey were two of the best Islanders on the ice in the home opener on Saturday. Look for them to have strong games. Blake Comeau always seems to elevate his game against the Rangers, so it's a safe bet that he will pick up where he left off on Saturday night and have a strong game as well.

The Islanders special teams were a strong point the other night as the powerplay went three for eight, while the team successfully killed off six of seven penalties. The Islanders need a performance like that again in order to really be successful in this game. They need to cut down on their penalties as well though - the Rangers offense is slightly more established and stronger than Dallas. You can't give them too many chances.

The Islanders need to shoot as much as they did against Dallas in order to create some opportunities for the offence. Without Tavares, it is the best thing they can do.

PODCAST POSTED: Our latest podcast is now posted for your enjoyment. It was nice to finally talk about actual game action, and we were able to get some thoughts from a Dallas Stars fan as well. Be sure to check it out.

That's all for now. As we get some updates about Tavares, or the game I'll try to post them here or on our Twitter account (unfortunately for us, Columbus Day isn't much of a "holiday" in the working world). So be sure to check back for that, but definitely come back tonight for the post game write-up.



October 10, 2010

Isles Rally Without Tavares, Fall 5-4 in Shootout

If there was ever a time for the Islanders to show the fans how much character and heart they have, the home opener was the time to do it.

The Islanders rallied from multiple two goal deficits against the Dallas Stars on Saturday night to force overtime and ultimately, a shootout. The Islanders fell short in their comeback, but walk away with a point that they didn't look like they were going to get for most of the game.

The Isles suffered an early blow, with John Tavares taking a hit up high. He stayed down on the ice with his head buried in is arms for a minute, but was able to skate off on his own. The team later said he suffered a "mild concussion" and will be re-evaluated on Monday. Yikes. Let's hope for the best here.

Although the Coliseum was not sold out, the crowd was certainly loud. The reception for New York Jets head coach Rex Ryan was loud, as expected. I think he was a good choice for the ceremonial puck drop. He is definitely an inspirational figure.

As far as the game goes, the Islanders goals came from James Wisniewski, Doug Weight, Blake Comeau and Matt Moulson. Three of those goals were on the powerplay, as the Stars played a pretty undisciplined game, and even unravelled late in the 3rd to give the Islanders multiple power play chances that they ultimately cashed in on.

Looking at individual players, some guys stood out to me. Weight finished the game with three points, and skated really well. All preseason he has been saying how healthy he was, and how much he was looking forward to showing everyone that he has a lot left in the tank still. Fans got an early glimpse of this, and everyone who sat around me in 107 was amazed at the night and day transformation from previous seasons.

Comeau had a strong game as well. He didn't seem disinterested, and was always going hard on the forecheck. He made some nice plays, and scored his goal on a slap shot from between the faceoff circles. This is the Comeau we need to show up more often than not. Very happy to see him pick up where he left off.

Wisniewski made some strong plays aside from his goal, such as the hit on Jamie Benn in the 3rd period as the Islanders were in the midst of a momentum change. He did have a couple of defensive gaffes, one that led to a Dallas goal, but all in all he had a solid showing. He's an excellent skater, and you can see how much of an offensive game he has. He is a two way defenseman, one that we have needed for quite some time. Hopefully he stays up to the task and can continue to log big minutes for us all season (he had just over 24).

Trent Hunter had a nice game as well, throwing some big, and relevant hits. He was most noticeable in the 3rd period with the Islanders making their comeback, and had one shift where he hit whatever Stars player was near the puck. It helped the Islanders maintain possession, and although they didn't score on this play, it lead to a frustrated Stephan Robidas flipping the puck out of play for one of his two late period delay of game penalties.

Mark Eaton is a good skater, but definitely avoids contact. He looked a little soft to me. Obviously, his game isn't to hit people as he only had 27 hits last season. He's here primarily to block a ton of shots and provide some stability on the back end while logging 20+ minutes per night. He didn't make any huge mistakes, but I wanted to point out that he doesn't have a hard hitting game since that is going to be something that people will probably complain about. It's just not his game.

Milan Jurcina had a nice showing, and also made some big hits in the 3rd period comeback. His minutes were limited (18) and in that amount of time, he is at his best. There was one Dallas breakout where Jurcina had to get back, and was able to and force the Dallas skater to the outside. For a big man, I found that pretty impressive. Hopefully he can remain effective on that 3rd pairing.

Josh Bailey, as we had been saying on this blog for a while, looked bigger, faster and stronger. He had a very strong game, and was involved in the play a ton. He even played a lot in the corners, battling for loose pucks - an element of his game that was virtually non-existent last season. He finished the game with two assists.

Finally, one other guy I would like to point out is Rick DiPietro. He obviously had some rust. You can make the case that one, maybe two of the goals were his fault, but there were some defensive breakdowns in front of him. He played much better in the 2nd and 3rd periods of the game, as was the case for most of the team. I'm still not sure how much playing time DiPietro will get, despite Scott Gordon effectively making him their number one with his comments yesterday, but it wouldn't be the first time I was off.

The Islanders took 47 shots last night, something rarely seen from them. This is what they are going to have to do to be successful with a big chunk of their offense missing for the time being. The Islanders have some guys who like to play in front of the net, and taking a lot of shots is what will make guys like Moulson flourish as we saw with the tying goal. Tavares is the other guy who flourishes down low, and all we can do is hope that he isn't out for very long.

Despite loosing Tavares, and even though the Stars essentially handed the Islanders a point, you have to tip your hat to them. Tavares goes down, the team found themselves down 2-0, 3-1 and 4-2, and they took it all the way to a shootout. Take some of that momentum into Monday against the Rangers.

PODCAST COMING: We'll be making a podcast this afternoon. With more analysis and recap of the home opener. Be sure to check out the NYI FYI Podcast website and look for that to go up. We'll post a reminder, as always, in this space.



October 8, 2010

The Faceoff: Is the Season in Danger?

Sunday's episode of NYI FYI started off with a bang when Sean asked Chris point blank, "Is the season over before it started? It seems to be the million dollar question, and our opinions are different. It's time to face off.

Is the season in danger?

While I'm not writing them off before we see the first game, I am certainly concerned with the way that things are playing out. We had two devastating injuries to Kyle Okposo and Mark Streit - both of whom needed surgery; both of whom are missing a significant chunk of the season. Then we find out that Rob Schremp will also miss the first few weeks of the season. While this isn't as devastating as the injuries to Streit and KO, it's still not going to help the team win.

I would like to focus on the injuries to Streit and KO first and foremost. On Sunday, I said that losing those two would also mean the loss of around 20 goals. There have been some who agreed, while others think that 20 goals isn't a big deal. Let's assume Okposo misses 3 months, meaning he returns at the beginning of January. I went along and pulled out the old statistics from last season. Factoring in overtime and shootouts, the Islanders had 16 wins and 26 losses at the end of the calendar year(2009). Out of our 26 losses, 15 of them were by one goal. Out of our 16 wins, ten were by one goal and three were by two goals.

Honestly, you can't look at those numbers and tell me that 20 goals isn't a big deal. Knock out a large chunk of goal scoring, and you'll find yourself in a deep hole by the All Star break, which you probably won't be able to dig yourselves out of. Not to mention that you probably can't assume they'll return at 100%. It's going to probably be a slow process to get back in the swing of things, considering the length of time missed. It's probably going to lead to slow starts for the both of them. Couple that with slow starts after missing significant time, and the picture doesn't look very pretty.

You've also got to think about how this is going to hurt the power play, which is something that the Islanders haven't found a lot of success in for a long time. I think that in the last 5 seasons, our power play was at its best with Streit and Doug Weight. When Weight suffered his injuries, the power play suffered. Of course, when Streit's numbers were down, the power play struggled. Without Streit in the line up, even with Weight at 100% perfect, I feel that our power play will be lack luster. Without that big gun on the blue line, you're going to see a lot of passing back and forth from point to point with very little shooting. Face it, we've seen this a thousand times and it's not going to get any better. We've all sat in the stands at the Coliseum screaming "Shoot!".

A lot of people have also said that everyone else is going to need to pick up the slack to help keep us in it while those two are out. Of course we do, but has anyone taken into consideration how that's simply not going to do it? We finished with the 5th worst record in the NHL last season. We needed everyone to up their game and improve from last season, which is going to take a lot of work within itself. Now coupled with that, they're going to need to pick up MORE slack. I'm not sure if you're going to have enough players improving that much, that early.

John Tavares isn't much of a question mark in my mind. You can probably pencil him in for 30 goals, maybe 35. Matt Moulson has to prove that he wasn't a flash in the pan, but can he score 35 goals? Can he score 40? Probably not. He'll probably hover around the 30 goal mark, which is still a good season for him. Josh Bailey scored 16 goals last year and added 19 assists. It was a good season for Josh, and I figure he'll score between 15 and 20 goals this season. Can he be a guy who scores 25 goals or more? He played his best hockey on the wing, but I'm not sure if he's going to improve by 10 goals.

Blake Comeau is the most interesting case of them all. He was looking great last season, which was cut short when he broke his foot. He tallied 17 goals and added 18 assists. I'm still figuring him to score around 25 goals, but in order to do so, he's got to play consistent. Unfortunately, I'm not sure, or convinced, that he can improve his play enough to make up for the other losses. Truth be told, if any of these guys can improve from last season, that's great. It's exactly what you want to see, and it's what you want for the long run. But in regards for this season, you're going to need to see a lot of improvement early, and I'm not sure that you're going to see it.

On waivers we claimed Michael Grabner, a move that I am very happy about. I mentioned on the show the other day that he brings speed and has all the makings to be a very good hockey player. His age is just right for what we're trying to do in regards to staying young. In 20 games last season, Grabner had 11 points. If he can get it started early, he can help close the gap, which might make all the difference in the world. With
Schremp out for the first few weeks of the season, and if Grabner cracks the line up, he's basically his replacement in regards to speed and productivity. There's a lot to be proven here, and it will be fun to watch.

In regards to our defense, it got a lot better this offseason. It got better defensively, and we needed that to happen. In regards to having offensive help on the blue line, we're looking a little thin. James Wisniewski was an excellent addition to our defense this season, and he has said that he wants to try and chip in offensively. His 27 assists from last season was pretty good considering Streit had 38. It is possible that Wisniewski can become more of a puck mover which would be a great help, but I'm not sure that he will be lighting the lamp as much as Streit. You might be saying, "Yeah but if he's assisting, he's helping to get the puck in the net." This is true, but Streit is a player that can do both, and those types of players are few and far between, making them very difficult to replace.

Mark Eaton is an interesting case to me. On this very forum on July 1st, I held a chat with some of our listeners and readers. One of you asked if I thought the Isles may sign Eaton, and I had said no. While he was an option for what the Islanders were looking for, I thought that his injury prone history would scare them away. Well my crow was a little rare, but edible none the less. A lot of people are talking about how good our defense can be and how we have depth. We do, and that's a good thing. My question is for how long? Take a look at our defense for a moment. As good as it is, it can be delicate.

Eaton played in 79 games last season, but in the years prior to that, he did get battered around. His knees have taken a bit of a beating, and has had a history of back injuries. Streit is already hurt, so our best defenseman is already out of the mix. Wisniewski has missed some games in the past, but he is a few years removed from knee surgery and if you take away the 10 games he was suspended for last season, he didn't miss a lot of time. He'll probably be in the mix for almost the entire season. Milan Jurcina has been chipped apart a little as well. Figure him in to 65 games, maybe 70. I'm sure at some point he'll miss a little time.

In regards to missing time, Radek Martinek is certainly going to miss his share. I'm not sure when, but eventually his knee or shoulder will re-aggravate itself. He's played in the NHL for 8 seasons, and he's never played a full one. His best was 74 games five years ago. The shame of it is when he's healthy, he may be the best defensive defenseman on the team. He could be a top d-man on any team, but his injuries keep him restricted. Remember, he hurt his ACL last season, and we've learned how devastating ACL injuries can be for a strong player (Mike Peca). You're going to be seeing depth players and maybe some AHLers throughout the course of the season. My fear is that with Streit already out, Martinek goes down and either Eaton or Jurcina go with him, or around the same time. If you're without these guys for any period of time, our defense will be significantly weaker, and if the offensive players aren't making up for the lack of scoring, then we are right back where we started.

A lot has happened since I made my statement on Sunday. Grabner's addition can prove to be exactly what we needed, but I'm looking at the situation for what it is: Two of our top three points makers from last season are out. Our defense is strong, and a lot of people are looking at them to carry the workload, and make up for the lack of scoring. But what if we lose three of them at once? What if we lose four of them at once? Can all of our young guys get it going early? Because that's what its going to take. Anything (both positive and negative) is possible, and that's what makes me nervous. Is the season over before it started? It might be. Is it a definite? No. Does it scare me that we might be in a hole too deep for us to climb out of by the time KO and Streit return? You bet.


While the injuries to Okposo and Streit obviously hurt, this season is far from over. Should we just not play the games at all? Of course not, and to suggest that the season is over is way off base. Yes, the offense takes a hit. Yes, the Islanders lost one of the top defensemen in the league. But this team, before those injuries, was still going to rely on two main things: breakout years from other co-stars and a solid defense.

We can look at numbers of wins and losses and how many goals each game were won or lost by. The one thing that sticks in my mind is how many of the games the Islanders had decided by the shootout. Five of the first 20 games were decide by the skills competition, 14 over the entire season. This number will change due to the improved defense that the Islanders will be sporting, even with Streit out. There's going to be a little bit of a swing for some of these close games.

As far as individual players are concerned, the Islanders were already hoping for some breakout seasons from some of the supporting cast. Now, they almost need it to happen. Sure, it's really hard to go into a season with a  bunch of "ifs" but I think you, Sean, are being too pessimistic in some of your thoughts on these guys, especially when some of them are young and up and coming.

Lets start with Bailey. He scored 16 goals last season, and had 23 points in the final 34 games in the season, including a stretch of seven games in January when he had 12 points. Bailey was invisible for much of the first part of the season, and a switch to the wing, which he appears better suited for now, seemed to do him well. As he said to me when I interviewed him, he has played his best hockey there. To say that he most likely won't score more than 15-20 is not fair. Based on the numbers he put up as a 20 year old, and after being a disappearing act for much of the first half of the season, then by theory it should continue. In preseason he looked pretty good to me, and seemed to be skating really well and throwing his body around more. He's going to have a breakout year, and will absolutely hit 22-25 goals. Keep in mind that Bailey will be playing for a new contract as well. That will play some sort of a factor. He needs to show what kind of player he is, and now is the time.

We can agree on Tavares getting 30-35 goals. Moulson is where we differ. You seem very skeptical as to whether or not he can even put up 30 goals again. I think he can. The key for him is not getting away from the style of play that made him successful last season. He has said multiple times this offseason that he is keeping that fresh in his mind, and is using it as justification for his self-proclaimed prediction of 40 goals. I'll agree 40 goals is a bit optimistic, but I have seen this guy all camp and there is no changes in his game. He went through a little slump of his own last season, where despite being 26 he still had to learn the ropes and did get away from his game. I do not expect him to make the same mistake.

I agree with you about Comeau being one of, if not the most interesting player this season. He finished last season with 20 points (11 goals, 9 assists) in his final 18 games before suffering a broken foot from blocking a shot. He is going to be playing on a line with Tavares, and the two of them had some excellent chemistry to end last season. From what I had seen during camp, they continued that. To me, Comeau has looked very strong and appears to have added a power move to his arsenal. His ability to read plays and use that move will come in handy, especially during Okposo's absence. Comeau is entering the crossroads point of his career, and needs to step up. He has the tools to do it, we just have to hope is head is in the right spot now as well.

Weight looks healthy and rejuvenated and should be able to help quarterback the power play. PA Parenteau is another wild card and will be on the line with Comeau and Tavares to start the year. He seems to have some skills and good hands, and time will tell if that translates into a Moulson-like story. Trent Hunter, if healthy over a full season can put up 20 goals. Grabner, if he plays like he can when he ultimately gets into the lineup, may very well produce here and this is the perfect situation for him to come to. Also, who knows what we'll see from Nino Niederreiter, and who knows for how long. But he's a guy who likes to play in front of the net, and protects the puck well and he heads to the in tight areas. Who knows how much NHL success that will translate to at 18.

As I mentioned earlier, this team is going to have to get strong showings from the defense and goaltending. Eaton was a guy I always felt the Islanders liked, and I did want him. How you were able to say they would have no interest due to injury history, I'm not too sure. He is a few years removed from all of those injuries, and over the past two seasons was one of the go to guys for the Penguins, averaging almost 20 minutes a night last season and being paired with Sergei Gonchar.

Wisniewski was always thought of as an offensive defenseman when he first came up with the Blackhawks. Over the past few seasons, he's really evolved his game, but not necessarily at the cost of the offense. Last season, his best in the NHL by far, he did have good numbers and also played a much more complete game while averaging 24 minutes a night. He has said himself he didn't get used on the power play as much as he would have liked. Well, now he'll get that chance and I don't see him failing. There is no one that the Islanders could have or would bring in that will offset the loss of Streit. He's a very hard player to replace. But you can mitigate the loss.

Wisniewski, Jack Hillen and Andy MacDonald will all be go to guys when it comes to offense on the blue line. There's been a lot of talk about MacDonald and how he sees himself stepping up and showing the offense that he is capable of. He ended last season as Streit's defensive partner more often than not, and I'm sure he learned a thing or two. He has looked very strong to me in preseason, and I would expect him to turn some heads this season.

Jurcina as of right now is a spare defenseman. He has always been bounced in and out of lineups in his career, and did not have a major injury until last season (hernia). To say he's injury prone and his body is chipped at is unfair and wrong. What he is, however, is good depth to have in the event of further injury. He has the relationship with Gordon, and Gordon thought enough of him for the Islanders to bring him in as a wild card. He is a bit of an unknown.

Martinek has always gotten hurt in freak accidents. Every time he's come back, he has looked great. Nothing was re-aggravating itself. If he gets hurt, it's because of a freak accident. I'm going to cringe at the beginning of the year every time he is about to be hit against the boards because that seems to be where he gets hurt the most often. Hopefully he has learned more on how to take a hit over the years.

Don't forget where Mike Mottau fits into all of this. He made a name for himself with the Devils the last three season's and is a guy that Gordon seems to really like. Garth Snow described him as a good puck mover, and I can't say I agree or disagree with that because I don't know how he is on the offensive side of things. But I do know that he's a guy who played 22 minutes a night last year, has been very durable, blocks shots and plays solid defensively. After Streit went down, bringing him in was a good move. It brought the depth back, and made Jurcina and Bruno Gervais the 7th and 8th guys it appears. We won't be seeing some of the same guys, the AHLers, we saw last season for a while, if at all. There is not going to be your doomsday scenario where four defensemen are going to get injured at the same time, when really there is only one guy who you can say for absolutely certain is prone to injury (Martinek).

Couple that with the goaltending of Dwayne Roloson and a healthy Rick DiPietro and I think we'll get by for the beginning. The goalies work loads will hopefully be less than they were last year which helps to make them more effective, and which helps us to win some games. This team still has a lot of potential given how young they are. It's not like this is an older team where we are hoping that players at 35 can repeat production from earlier in their careers. We are looking for guys who were between the ages of 19 and 23 last year to continue their development as logic says they should.

Who do you agree with? Do you have your own thoughts you would like to share? Feel free to comment or send us your e-mails.

You can e-mail us at: nyifyi@gmail.com

October 6, 2010

Isles Final Roster: "El Nino" Arrives, De Haan to Juniors

The Islanders announced their opening night roster for this Saturday. Using the lines from practice, here's what it looks like:


Blake Comeau - John Tavares - PA Parenteau
Matt Moulson - Frans Nielsen - Trent Hunter
Josh Bailey - Doug Weight - Nino Niederreiter
Trevor Gillies - Zenon Konopka - Jon Sim
Michael Grabner


Mark Eaton
Jack Hillen
Bruno Gervais
Andrew MacDonald
Milan Jurcina
Radek Martinek
Mike Mottau
James Wisniewski


Rick DiPietro
Dwayne Roloson

Long Term Injured Reserve:

Kyle Okposo
Mark Streit
Rob Schremp
Nathan Lawson

So Niederreiter makes the team, and while no one is surprised at that, time will tell if it's the correct move. Many of you know by now that while I was open to the idea of Niederreiter starting the season here, I was not in love with the idea. At the same time, I do like what I had seen by the end of the preseason. It could pan out well, and to be honest the line he is playing on is actually pretty good. Weight looks rejuvenated and has shown off some slick passing ability again, connecting at times during the preseason with Bailey, who also finds himself on this line. Bailey, expecting a breakout season of his own, will benefit from Weight and perhaps bring Niederreiter along in the process. If not, then Niederreiter will find himself back in Portland of the WHL after nine games.

Martin returns to Bridgeport to start the season, a move that might be the best one at this time. It is better for him to be getting minutes on a top line rather than getting next to nothing on a 4th line with the big club. Despite coming back from his foot injury a couple of days ago, Martin didn't show Scott Gordon enough to warrant him staying at this time. Martin, of course took it all in stride and will look to continue to develop his offensive game. The other stuff is there for the most part, and will improve as well. He's close, and we'll see him in due time.

Grabner is going to sit out the first two games of the season, a move that we shouldn't be surprised with given what we saw with Schremp last season. Once Grabner gets the system down, then it's up to him to prove that he belongs here for the long haul. He is very talented, and certainly has said all the right things as far as understanding this opportunity and why Florida put him on waivers in the first place. Really hope that works out, and can't wait to see him play.

Sim makes the team, but mainly due to the injuries to Okposo and Schremp. Sim played like we know he can during the preseason as he continued to show why he is and will be an effective 4th liner for the team. He'll be looked at to be a pest, along with Konopka, while the latter and Gillies will provide some muscle for a pretty tough 4th line. Gillies will be in and out of the lineup this season, and to me, is the most likely candidate to sit for Grabner to start off.

De Haan returning to juniors was perhaps the best decision of all. I agree with Gordon's assessment that he showed us more towards the end, but it took him a little while to get to that point, as it would take most other 19-year-olds coming off a major injury. When you combine that with the fact that the Islanders brought in Mottau when Streit went down, then this move really isn't all that surprising. I'm really glad that the Islanders agreed with mine and many other's assessment and sent him back to Oshawa of the OHL. Now he can continue to develop at the junior level and make up the time he essentially missed for most of last season. He will be the captain of his team as well, as Oshawa announced today. Good stuff Calvin, and we'll see you next season.

Aside from that, pretty much what we expected and not a ton of surprises. We'll see how the eight man defense works for the time being, and who sits. Early indications point to Gervais and Jurcina being out for now, but that can change on a game by game basis for the first few weeks of the season.

One more thought on the roster: I am expecting Rick DiPietro to start on Saturday night vs. Dallas. That seems to be the popular line of thinking among those in the know as well. I find it hard to believe that a healthy DiPietro sits out the home opener.

With the roster set, Sean and I are currently working on our first installment of a series we are calling "Faceoff." We take topics that we disagree on, and elaborate on them to make our cases for your enjoyment. Looks like it'll be a long one, and it will be up before the season starts. So look out for that.



October 5, 2010

Isles Claim Grabner, Waive Hilbert

The Islanders today claimed winger Michael Grabner off waivers from the Florida Panthers. As a follow up move to that, the Islanders placed Andy Hilbert on waivers with the intention of sending him to the Sound Tigers.

Grabner, who turns 23 today, comes in with a real shot to prove himself, similar to the way Rob Schremp did last season. The 14th overall pick of the 2006 entry draft had five goals and six assists in just 20 games last season for the Vancouver Canucks. He was dealt to the Panthers in the blockbuster deal that sent defenseman Keith Ballard to Vancouver on draft day. After having a sub par showing in training camp with the Panthers, he did not earn a spot and Florida had hoped that he would clear waivers and go to the AHL.

Grabner is a great skater with good speed, and has very good offensive instincts. By many accounts, defense is the weak part of his game (perhaps even non-existent). The Islanders were in dire need of offense after loosing Kyle Okposo until December and Schremp for the first three to four weeks of the season. Grabner comes to a situation that could potentially be very good for him, and for us.

Some people have concerns about picking up any players from waivers. Schremp has worked out well for the team. Many of the concerns with him were his skating, defensive play and attitude.

I have yet to see any indications about Grabner's attitude, but one concern that people seen to have is the fact that he was unable to crack a Panthers roster that many expect to be last in the Eastern Conference. The Panthers are going through their own rebuilding phase, and have been trying to build a new culture there, one that began when the jettisoned Nathan Horton, one of the poster boys of attitude problems, to the Boston Bruins. Was there any issue with Grabner as far as work ethic? Not from anything I have seen or read, but it is a valid concern.

Judging from the comments made by Garth Snow, the Islanders have some big plans for their new acquisition. As I mentioned earlier, he's a guy who is speedy and likes to shoot a lot, which could possibly help to create chances if on a line with guys like Matt Moulson, John Tavares or Josh Bailey. It will be interesting to see where he will skate in practice, and if this has any bearing on Matt Martin or Nino Niederreiter.

Before last season started, Sean and I went on the air to discuss the Islanders moves. Sean expressed disappointment that they did not go get a "top six try" like some people had speculated. I argued that the move had not come yet, but would come in the form of Schremp. Two days after that, we had Schremp. In similar fashion, this past Sunday Sean thought Grabner was going to be an Islander. Here we are, two days later, and now he gets his 15 minutes of fame. Congrats.

Welcome, Michael Grabner, and Happy Birthday. Here's your chance to show the NHL what you can do. For our sake, please put up the numbers that the Hockey News predicted you to in their fantasy edition - 25 goals.



October 4, 2010

The Hits Just Keep on Coming: Schremp Out

3:12 PM - The NHL has suspended Montreal Canadiens forward Mike Cammalleri one game for his actions against the Isles' Nino Niederreiter Saturday night.

This move is unsurprising, and I'm glad that he was suspended at the very least. I was hoping more for two games, but after comments coming out about Niederreiter's hit, I was hoping for just one at that point and not your typical inconsistency from Colin Campbell. Good stuff. The first Isles-Canadiens game at the end of the month should be fun.

1:09 PM - The Islanders have announced today that forward Rob Schremp is out three to four weeks with a lower back strain. Chris Botta seems optimistic that we could have him back in two weeks.

Obviously, this isn't a major injury, and for that we should be thankful. We'll have a little bit of a rough go for the first few games, but then Schremp will be coming back. For the time being, we look to John Tavares, Josh Bailey, Matt Moulson and Blake Comeau to pick up (even more of) the slack. I have not seen anything in any of their play that screams to me "regression." Throughout the entire preseason, these guys were some of the most hard-working individuals that I noticed. They were already poised to have breakout years of their own, without all of this factored in. I have faith that it makes these guys want it more.

Obviously, strong defense and goaltending is going to be key here. The Islanders strengthened their defense in the offseason, and we are going to hopefully see it come to fruition. For the most part, they will be playing minutes that they are best suited for. Keeping the puck out of our net just became all that more imperative until we can get some of the injured scorers back.

Very interested to see now how many of those forwards still with the team stay past Wednesday, or if they try and bring someone in on waivers after all. One interesting note, is that none are centers like Schremp. Curious who will fill that role as Bailey seems to be very comfortable at wing. Right now, we're most likely looking at Tavares-Frans Nielsen-Doug Weight-Zenon Konopka. Our depth at center will pay-off right now.

Keep an eye on us later, as news continues to come out as we rapidly approach the day when rosters need to be finalized.