April 9, 2011

Isles efforts vs. Pens, Flyers Pefect Symbols of Season

For those who watched the ups and downs all season long, the final two games of the 2010-2011 season may have looked awfully familiar.

That's because they were both perfect representations of this season and the future. Everything that went right, that went wrong, that could use improvement and that are set for the future were seen.

On Long Island on Friday night, the Islanders came out very slow. Pittsburgh would get a 2-0 lead, but the Islanders - behind a very inexperienced defense changed the pace of the game, came back to tie it and took the game all the way to the shootout.

This against a team that has been without it's two biggest stars since January, and yet had found themselves vying for the Atlantic Division Title up until the very last day of the season.

The fact that the Islanders tied the game up with 35 seconds remaining showed the grit and determination that we have seen for much of the time from mid-December until now. Losing in the shoot-out to a team like that by only 1-0 shows that we're almost there. That was what everyone felt like after the prolonged losing streak ended in December. A lot of "almosts," a lot of "not quites." But the change happened before our very eyes.

Saturday night in Philadelphia, the Isles went into a building that has not been kind to them. It took 47 seconds for the Flyers to build up a 2-0 lead.

The Islanders would battle back again, tying the game twice before taking a 4-3 lead. After a few weak goals, they found themselves trailing again.

In net for the Flyers game was Rick DiPietro. His play left a lot of folks frustrated to say the least, and that too is a statement for how his season went. Not only was it frustrating at times to watch, but it was frustrating for the team, for Rick and for the NHL. I guess, if you're looking for a positive out of that situation it's that DiPietro ended a season healthy. Considering how things have gone for him, that is a step in the right direction. He now doesn't have until September to rehab something like last season. Now, he can perhaps regain some strength that may have been lost. He'll have that extra time now that won't be spent trying to come back from injury, but in trying to get back to where he was and hopefully be a capable netminder for a half of a season.

Michael Grabner capped off his rookie season by scoring his 34th goal. P.A. Parenteau wrote the last chapter in his Cinderella story for this season by getting his 20th goal. John Tavares scored one of his own, but fell one short of the 30 goal plateau.

Travis Hamonic scored his 5th goal of the season, on the powerplay. The 20-year-old was up much earlier than any of us expected. You'd be hard pressed to find anyone out there who thought he would stick around for as much as he did. But by the time we all expected him to be back down at Bridgeport, Hamonic was a mainstay on the Isles first pair, getting 22+ minutes a night quite often. He became the first Isles rookie defenseman since Denis Potvin to register 20+ assists and 100+ penalty minutes this season.

While neither of these efforts resulted in wins, I was glad to see them battle back and keep things interesting against two of the toughest teams in the East this year. It's hard to see that silver linings at time, especially in a season where you didn't finish with as many points as the previous year. But it is there. We're almost there.

A lot will be riding now on this offseason. Howie Rose summed it up perfectly when he said as the final seconds ticked off of the clock: "For once, a summer of optimism is ahead."

Here's hoping you're right Howie. The players have shown us a little bit. Now it's your turn, Garth Snow.

TUNE IN SUNDAY MORNING! As we begin to tie a ribbon around this season, Sean and I will be on one more time live for NYI FYI tomorrow morning at 11 AM. You can watch us by tuning into our UStream page. Come with your questions and comments and participate in the chat room. We'd love to hear from some of you.

I'll have a couple of reflection type posts within the next few days, so just because the season's over and our show will take a bit of a break doesn't mean we'll be completely silent. Be sure to continue to check up on us, as we'll surely do for some of you.



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