It’s amazing sometimes what happens when you subtract a few players close to the deadline. It seems that it really unites the remainder of the team and they support each other even more – as well as give a solid effort, if not the most solid effort of the season.
This was clear last night as we saw an awesome effort from Sean Bergenheim from the puck drop. Bergy had jump in his step and almost scored right in the first minutes of the game. Devils backup extraordinaire Scott Clemmensen made a marvelous save, and it gave me the impression he would have one of his normal outings and do everything he can to keep the Devils on their hot streak. However, Mark Streit would find Bergenheim streaking down the right wing and he would beat Clemmensen this time to give the Islanders a 1-0 lead.
The Islanders would play well the remainder of the first, but the Devils kept up with their pace – often times getting numerous scoring chances themselves. At one point I remember looking up at the scoreboard astonished that the Devils had around 24 shots in the second, shots that I really didn’t remember them having. In my ever present restlessness during the game, I bounced around from my seats in section 309 and spent the second period in the Blog Box in section 201. I think I do this because I get to see the Islanders attack in all three periods honestly – as my seats give me a good view during the first and third periods.
The Islanders would put good pressure on for parts of the second period, Jon Sim intercepted a clearing attempt and beat the lone Devils defender deep and score on a backhand fivehole to give the Islanders a two goal lead. I literally had to rub my eyes when I realized he was the player to shoot as he has scored goals in consecutive games for the first time this season. It was good to see him get on the board again because I felt he would be more active in the points department but have been pretty disappointed by him. As Dom from Lighthouse Hockey says – if anything it increases his trade value with every point he notches. Dom even says he wishes he would go on a tear so we can sucker a playoff team into giving us “at least a 6th round pick for him”. He has one year left on his contract at an affordable $1 Million dollar – chump change I say.
During the third period the fun would continue – the Devils David Clarkson would sit for 4 minutes for high sticking and the Islanders got set up on their power play. Not long into the first half of the power play – Blake Comeau fed a nifty pass to Kyle Okposo who one-timed it past Clemmensen for a three goal lead. With the Islanders still on the power play, Brendan Witt would take up his new position in front of the net and Bill Guerin fired a point blast past Clemmensen for their fourth goal of the game and second of the powerplay. This time when I looked at the scoreboard, the Devils had been out shooting the Islanders by about 8 shots – again surprising me because I just didn’t feel like they had that many. Call it disbelief because Yann Dannis would have a solid game stopping all 40 Devils shots and actually achieve his shutout for once. He has flirted with the no-no several times this season, but a late goal would always spoil his bid. Dannis is really coming into his own as a goaltender – I actually like his play better than that of Joey MacDonald who seems to allow a bunch of flukey goals or become victimized by deflections off his own men. Now that Campoli is gone, maybe he will fair better as it always seemed to go in off of his leg and/or skate.
The shutout was the first shutout by the Islanders ALL SEASON, and really seemed to put an exclamation point on things here as the season is winding down. The game last night really proves how effective the Islanders can be when the team works together and executes Scott Gordon’s systems properly. Dean MacAmmond would make his debut last night and fit right into the team. Dee Karl aka 7thWoman – claims his seemless fit is due to his 15 year career – but I actually think he fills a void for the team. As a veteran center – he won key draws for the Islanders last night and looks to be Mike Sillinger-esque in that area winning 7 of 12 faceoffs and playing a respectable 13 minutes 8 seconds. MacAmmond also wasn’t shy last night – Jon Sim would continue to play the role of antagonist and cause a scrum in front of Clemmensen. MacAmmond would jump in the pile and take a huge elbow to the jaw for his new teammates – that is the true definition of a veteran and hockey player. It was good to see honestly.
The Postgame Interviews
I don’t know what got into me last night, I generally don’t ask many questions because someone normally beats me with what I wanted to ask or I give the main stream media it’s chance to meet their deadlines out of respect. When Mark Streit was done talking to the likes of Dan Martin and Greg Logan, I jumped in there and asked him a few questions of my own.
I asked Streit how important it was to come out and get a big win after some player transactions and he had this to say:
Well I mean, it’s obviously nice to get a win, but it’s part of the business. You feel bad when you lose teamates that you have been working with for a while, especially a guy like Campoli whos been here his whole career – MC too, they are both really nice guys. It’s tough, it goes fast, you don’t see them from one day to the other and just hope the guys are doing really well. It’s good for them and hopefully it works out for them and you’ve got to move on and just focus on the game, try to get a win. It’s great for Danis too, his first game after and he gets a win – it was certainly sweet.
I followed up with asking if there was an extra sense of urgency to get the win for the coach or some of the other guys this close to the deadline that would maybe save some jobs. Streit gave me another great response:
Everbody in this league wants to win every game. Nobody in this league goes out and says OK we are not playing tonight, you don’t do that. You want to play hard and then some nights you play a team that plays really well, and they get a little lucky. They work hard, maybe you have a tough night and then you lose. You know NOBODY wants that. I think the important thing is you don’t let your head hang and be negative about it. You have to turn the page, come in the next morning work hard and you know, focus on the next game and just try to do your best out there and try to win. There is nothing else you can do, if you are mad about it and your grumpy the next day, and negative it doesn’t do anything. You have to turn the page and move on and just try to do better and learn from it.
It was really the first time I got to speak with Streit at length, he is such a well spoken and positive guy. It makes me so happy that he chose to sign with the Islanders for such a long period – we really need a guy like him. It’s even better that he is having such a great year, it has been a long time since we had a player like Mark. I topped off my little interview with a “Danka” – knowing he is fluent in German, I think I caught him off guard but he replied with a “Bitte” and smiled. Just had to plant the seed for later I guess.
Having finished up with Streit, Sean Bergenheim strolled into the room and we joined the scrum in front of him. I waited patiently again as the main stream guys did their stuff and once the area cleared out I asked Bergy a few questions of my own. I wanted to get his opinion on the same things I asked Streit – but these were more important because of the way Bergenheim has struggled and found himself in and out of the lineup and the subject of trade rumors himself.
I started with the same question on the importance of a 4-0 win the day after player transactions and if there was a sense of urgency because of them:
Yea, we lost two great, great guys from the team. They are two great players and I hope they will do really well there, but at the same time we have to continue to do what we can here. Some guys may get more ice time than others, but this is a chance for other guys to come in and show what they can do. Certainly, I think many of the guys wanted to show that they could play more minutes. With these guys gone now, we can show we can play them [more minutes].
My follow up question seemed like a natural one because he focused a bit on the extra playing time afforded to different players in the wake of the trade of Comrie and Campoli. I asked if personally being in and out of the lineup and not getting as much as a chance this season, if he felt affected the day after the transactions and caused him to come out with more of a spark which lead to his strong game. I asked him if his spirits were lifted and if it sent a message that says “I deserve to be here and deserve a shot”. Sean replied in a way I wasn’t expecting – and I was really impressed with another player who just plays the hand he is dealt and carries his head high
I don’t really think that way, because I think every player has to beleive in themselves. I beleive that I do belong here and this trade did not affect me in any way. As far as me being in and out of the lineup this year, it has been a really frustrating season. Right now, what I am focusing on is just to play my game, and play the way I thought I played last year during the last part of the season. I have just been feeling more comfortable out on the ice and lately it has feet much better.
I know this much about Bergenheim – if he continues to play the way he has been playing, he will not be going anywhere for a long time. Home grown players don’t exactly grow on trees in Islanders country. Once he figures out what his game is (and I feel he is on the road to finding himself) he will be the force he was at the end of the season last year in which he referenced. We are getting glimpses of the future of what Garth Snow is looking to accomplish, and the future looks pretty good.