April 7, 2011

R.I.P. EJ McGuire; Thought on Isles - Bruins; Nelson Hurt

The hockey world received some sad news on Thursday when we all found out about the passing of NHL Central Scouting Director EJ McGuire, who lost his battle with cancer. McGuire was 58.

In all honesty, I had no idea that EJ was sick and when I logged on at lunch time and saw the news I almost choked. EJ was a guy Sean and I hoped to get on the show in the near future to talk about prospects.

He was such a great hockey mind, and one of the most involved folks when compared to others who hold high positions around the sport. When prospect videos were released, he was always the scout talking about the player and could talk about seemingly anyone for any length of time without needing much material in front of him. He never judged a player solely on his numbers.

It's folks like him that make people know so much about the future of this sport. EJ's insights were something I would go out of my way to find in order to brush up on a prospect I did not know.

More importantly, McGuire passing away at such a young age is really a killer. Our thoughts and prayers go out to his family.

ISLES - BRUINS THOUGHTS: Michael Grabner tried his hardest to give the Isles a win over the struggling Bruins, but in the end it wasn't meant to be.

Grabner scored two goals - one on the power-play, the other short handed - but the Isles could not overcome two quick Bruins goals in the 2nd period and lost 3-2.

For the Islanders, it was one of the better efforts they have had in a loss lately. Rick DiPietro, in my opinion, looked the best he had in a number of games. Early on he made some nice saves and really kept the Islanders in the game. On the Bruins 3rd goal (Greg Campbell), Mark Katic looked just plain silly. I have a hard time faulting DiPietro for something like that.

Speaking of goalies, Wednesday night they needed the netminding to be stellar as they were icing five defensemen with under 60 games played in the NHL.

The newest member of the defense, courtesy of injuries to Jack Hillen and Milan Jurcina, was Matt Campanale. Campanale actually has a cool story about how this all came about, starting with originally planning spring break, to signing an ATO with the Sound Tigers, to signing a one-game ATO with the Islanders. Campanale would only get 8:21 of ice-time, and it's difficult to really say how he played. I don't recall seeing him make any glaring mistakes in his brief time, but he didn't do anything spectacular either. Congrats to him and his family, as he can at least say he played one game in the NHL. Who knows what happens to him in the future. In the meantime, he'll go back down to Bridgeport where he had only played two games thus far.

Josh Bailey had a better effort than he's had in the past. He was cutting to the slot area at the right times to get passes and good chances on net. If it were anyone other than Tim Thomas in net, Bailey may have ended with a couple of points to show for all of his troubles. But Thomas was very confident in net, coming far out of his crease at times to make saves. Twice Thomas made miraculous, sprawling saves on Bailey.

Radek Martinek looked a bit shaky, and has in the past few games. I'm chalking that up to the defensemen that he's being surrounded by right now as the clock winds down on the season.

John Tavares played well, had a couple of penalties and didn't get on the score sheet. However, one thing I did notice that perhaps some of you picked up on as well (if Jiggs and Butch discussed it then I didn't hear it) was that he was wearing an 'A' on his jersey with Frans Nielsen now out for the remaining games.

There aren't a ton of options on the ice right now, but I do think it's rather telling that Zenon Konopka, who has pretty much been the voice for the team all season long, did not get a letter to close out the year. I think the team has plans to try and explore other options for their money.

All in all, while it wasn't the greatest effort it certainly was not the worst. It's a shame that a decent start by DiPietro and some great play from Grabner goes to waste, but that's what happens when you play extremely short handed and have such a green line-up.

The Isles now get to return home for their last home game of the regular season as they take on the Penguins. I will be at this game, but not in the press box. I'll be a paying customer for the first time in a couple of months. I'm really looking forward to sitting down in the seats one final time this season.

If anyone is expecting similar stuff to go on like the last time these two teams met, then I'm sorry. Neither I, nor many other folks are expecting much of anything to transpire. This is a very good Penguins team battling for home ice advantage right now, and what they have done without Sidney Crosby or Evgeni Malkin is commendable. A win for the Isles would be huge here.

BROCK NELSON HURT: On Thursday night, Isles prospect Brock Nelson was taken off the ice in a stretcher during UND's final four match-up tonight with the University of Michigan. He was taken to the hospital as a precaution, and the team is calling it a lower body injury for the time being. Hopefully it really is one big precaution. This team has had enough injury and the NHL and AHL level that they don't need it dipping into their prospect pool right now, especially with some of those higher quality prospects playing big games at this time of year.



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