How could anyone resist opportunities to twist around a title for an easy play on words? I know I cannot pass up those opportunities.
Well, last night the Islanders took on the Coyotes and played good enough not to get blown out. The game was chock full of interesting things, the continued progression and scoring of the “kids”, a pair of milestones, and Rick DiPietro’s comeback from a comeback from a comeback after injury. DP would go on to allow a goal under two minutes into the opening frame, although it would be neutralized a few minutes later by Bergenheim but the ‘Yotes would get the go ahead goal late in the first.
Penalties continue to be an issue – even though they did not allow a power play goal, Campoli took an offensive zone penalty while on a man advantage to even things up at four apiece. Phoenix would turn around and score on a delayed penalty on the four on four and the Islanders would be trailing the remainder of the game.
Most importantly, the Islanders continue to pressure late in games while trailing – specifically scoring goals with their netminder pulled. We saw this twice last week in Buffalo which forced overtime and once again last night. In a season mired with disappointments and injury – in the very least it offers a bit of excitement for fans watching. I know it’s exciting for me anyways.
Down to the “uber positives” – Doug Weight would notch his 1000th NHL point assisting on Richard Park’s goal. Weight would be honored by an announcement and a standing ovation on the road for his feat – fittingly enough it was in a building against a team coached by Wayne Gretzky. It was a classy night and I am sure a very memorable night for both Weight and his Family. Weight became only the 8th American born player and 73rd in the NHL to reach 1000 points, although he didn’t stop there as he would also notch his 1001th point assisting once again on a Richard Park goal later in the game.
Earlier in the period, rookie centerman Josh Bailey would score off a beautiful play by Bill Guerin. Tambellini found Guerin streaking into the zone who would dump it cross corner. Tamby would pick up the puck and rim it back around towards Guerin who then found Bailey heading hard to the net. Bailey wouldn’t miss on the shot which would go top shelf – ending a 25 game goal scoring drought and marking his first NHL goal. Congratulations to both Josh Bailey and Doug Weight – it was fitting in a way that it would play out in the same game. Let’s hope for good karma and maybe even an omen.
As they just stated on the pregame – the Sharks have not lost at home in an astounding 29 (18-0-2 this season) games and also own the leagues best record at 28-4-5 for a total of 61 pts. There is clearly a mountain in front of them, although the Sharks have proved beatable at least once or twice this season.
If the Islanders wish to hook a Shark this evening (almost tomorrow morning here in New York) they need to build on their game last night. Strong forecheck, crisp passes, quick shifts, non stop skating, smart positional hockey, almost ZERO penalties against, great defense and backcheck by the forwards and finally – solid goaltending. Looking at that list you must be thinking there is no way in hell that the Islanders can pull this off – but they can certainly beat any team on a good night, we just have to hope that tonight is one of those nights.
A story to watch – our youth is beginning to come around (all points in last five games):
Sean Bergenheim: 3-0-3
Kyle Okposo: 2-5-7 (5 Game point streak)
Josh Bailey: 1-2-3
Blake Comeau: 1-4-5
*Mike Comrie: 4-1-5
Hopefully with players like Nielsen set to return and Trevor Smith playing for the injured Sillinger/Thompson the whole lot of younger players continue to grow and shine with the Islanders.
Game is about to start – let’s hope for the best.
Joey MacDonald is your starting goalie, DP as backup.