No, this is not a nod to the classic retort by Wayne Campbell in the movie Wayne’s World – I wish I could offer something as comical in a time like this. Instead, I want to say “As if it couldn’t get any worse”. Unfortunately, it can, does and naturally for the Islanders it did.
If you look at the past 10 games, one couldn’t really picture the Islanders playing any worse than they have been. Yet somehow, no matter how hard the team is pushed at practice or how ever many meetings are called – they let their fans and more importantly themselves down. I have heard so many different words thrown around lately – words such as; luck, bounce, post, crossbar, passing, speed, transition, offsides, hurt, pain, warrior, injury, excuses, changes, indecision, soft, dump, wide, high, icing, letdown, faith, blocked and so on. What does this have to do with anything you ask? Repeat them out loud and paint your own picture about this Islanders team.
If the psyche of the team wasn’t already in distress before tonights game, suffering a 3-0 loss to a team who only had 1 goal in their previous three games and the possible potential loss of another player to injury, may very well put the team over the edge. Miroslav Satan went down hard into the boards in the first period and was helped off the ice by his linemates. His right knee was clearly injured, he would return later on in the game but wasn’t anywhere near healthy. Fast forward through the “game” and into Ted Nolan’s post game press conference and we would learn that Satan had been playing on a sore knee for sometime (since Vancouver) and the fall aggravated it even more. He was evaluated and pushed himself to play – Nolan admitted it is a mistake he could come to regret.
There are several things here that concern me – first is Nolan’s reluctance to play youth even when his veteran players are all suffering from bumps and bruises. Second, is that Nolan is not in touch enough with his players who are apparently suffering more than minor bumps – however he is likely taking feedback from the players on their ability to go game time (and in Satan’s case, after he was re-injured) so I can give him a slight pass there. Irregardless Tambellini had less than 8 minutes of ice time before he was thrown on a line with Nielsen and Hunter in the second half of the third period. This line had several nice passing plays on the same shift, the chemistry was there and I was literally yelling out loud and questioning why it took 50 minutes to make such a line swap.
While on the subject of lines – what was with line changes tonight? In the first minute and a half of the game the Islanders were called for a bench minor for too many men on the ice. This is the second time in as many games where the Islanders were called for an unnecessary penalty. I kept an eye on the changes the rest of the game and they got away with bad changes 3 other times. Every other change the players would coast to the bench and not make ANY effort at skating – that is UNACCEPTABLE for a professional hockey team. Skating in general was horrible, as was passing, shooting, communication – all the typical stuff.
Nolan looked like a man who was at wits end (no pun intended Corey and Brendan) and for someone who doesn’t accept excuses, sure did go through a laundry list of things affecting this team. Someone else who was clearly aggravated – Rick DiPietro. Anyone who has ever been around Ricky – knows he is a fierce competitor, win or lose. I almost feared for my safety standing elbow to elbow with him in the locker room as he answered the questions fired at him by the quote hungry press corps. At one point, when asked if the losses were affecting the team mentally he quipped
“You guys keep fishing for mental effects on things, the bottom line is we need to start winning hockey games and we are not winning hockey games. It doesn’t matter who’s healthy, who’s not, you’ve got to step up – everyone’s got to step up and we’ve got to win games. Bottom line.”
I know it has been said before – DiPietro is a leader and a big voice in the locker room, but I have never really seen him or heard this tone from him. He was a man who was wearing his emotions on his sleeve and letting us know that he feels his teammates need to step up and do everything in their power – no matter their condition to win hockey games. I was glad that I witnessed this from him tonight, because it was really the first time anyone on the team has “lost it”. Bill Guerin danced around the issue during his interview and was struggling for words in his explanations. You could tell he was perplexed by the recent play of the team, but in his own calm way let us know the team would get through their current slump. It’s just funny sometimes how you can have two contrasting personalities as two of the leaders on a team. Guerin, Sillinger and Witt have all been vocal at some point – so I think it’s a positive (in a way) that there is still calm in the room – at least in front of us.
Will this team make the playoffs, make a big deadline trade or move some players in and out? I am not a mind reader and don’t really make those types of predictions. I would love to know what is being discussed in the business offices of Garth Snow, the scouts, coaches and of course Charles Wang – but we will eventually find out. I just hope by the time things are all straightened out – it’s not too late.
Oh, Dee (7thWoman) just reminded me about something else inside the locker room. Shakey (the Islanders Assistant Equipment Manger) seemed to be going out of his way to bump into me with hockey bags last night. It got to the point where it seemed he was totally doing it on purpose.