The night began like most nights, a chill in the air and a long walk across the parking lot at the Coliseum. Once inside – despite being early to ensure a bobble head, you could tell that the night would be a sellout. Why wouldn’t it be? It was a Saturday game and also Town of Hempstead night – one of the many nights this season where residents of the particular town get reduced admission.
Did you know this about the Town of Hempstead?
It is comparable in population to San Francisco or Jacksonville. It is significantly larger and more populous than Boston, Baltimore, or Seattle. It occupies the southwest part of the county. If it were a city, it would be the 14th most populous city in the nation, just above San Francisco, California. In terms, of land area, it would rank number 67th among US cities.
The other reason for the sellout; the Philadelphia Flyers were in town who were only 3 points ahead in the standings – so there was a large contingent of out of state fans at the barn. If there was ever an important game – it was tonight. Divisional games at this stage of the season are ALWAYS 4 point nights – ask any of the players and they are aware of that. So what was the problem tonight?
The game started and the Park was called for a borderline tripping call, it didn’t take Philadelphia long to score on the power play, given they have the leagues best power play and all. However, Richard would redeem himself not long after while on a breakaway. The game was tied….but not for long.
Philadelphia began a parade to the penalty box and Bill Guerin would score on the power play. 2-1 Isles, the team was chugging away out shooting the Flyers by a very big margin – so much so that the Flyers elected to take an early timeout. Josef Vasicek would score next, while parked in front of Biron to make it 3-1. Scottie Upshall would then trip DiPietro later in the period and receive an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty for arguing the call towards the end of the period. The Isles could not score with the time left, so the power play carried over to the second period. The Flyers killed off the remainder of the double minor and from then on the Islanders were outplayed in just about every aspect of the game.
One of the biggest things that I noticed was a reluctance to shoot the puck. There would be prime chances while someone was in front of the net, and they would elect to pass almost every time. It was driving me crazy watching a team that outplayed the visiting team in the first period, to play the complete opposite 20 minutes later. Since the Blog Box began, I have NEVER asked Ted Nolan a question – I have my reasons for not doing so – but they were more nerves than anything else. Tonight, there was a very long lull in the questioning from the media – so I jumped in with the beauty:
“Did you feel there was a reluctance to shoot tonight?”
As the coach was answering me, I noticed Mark Herrmann of Newsday jotting down a bunch of notes – I could tell I asked a good question because Ted had a very long answer. When I got home tonight, I was extremely surprised to see the answer to my question as the lead quote in Herrmann’s article for tomorrow’s paper. Here is the quote and link to the online story:
“A reluctance to shoot, a reluctance to back check, a reluctance to chip it in,” Ted Nolan said after his team turned its early lead into a 5-3 loss Saturday night at Nassau Coliseum. “It was just a total team fall-apart.”
I could go on for hours about what the Islanders did or did not do tonight – but it’s not necessary. Instead I will direct you to some of my fellow Blog Box bloggers – who have also given their take on what transpired tonight. 7thwoman has an excellent perspective on the game, Tom Liodice of The Tiger Track did an excellent job live blogging like he always does, as did B.D. Gallof of Hockeybuzz. I am sure the other bloggers will update at some point between tonight and tommorow – I will update as they give their take.
If I learned anything tonight, it was that the Islanders have somewhat of an identity problem – as if they are uncomfortable in their own skin and that I should really ask more questions. I guess I do know what I am talking about after all.