So, I’m not sure if you know this – but hockey was back today at Nassau Coliseum.
It wasn’t quite what the Orange vs Blue scrimmage was earlier this summer – I think the Islanders learned what worked and what didn’t since then, like having the players wear their full jerseys, WITH numbers (a godsend for us media types located high above the ice….).
In all seriousness though, I felt they did a great job putting the scrimmage together. This time around, it wasn’t just prospects and camp invitees dazzling the crowd of 1500 with nifty passes and toe drags, instead it featured many of the players we will see on a daily basis during the upcoming season, which was a nice taste for a September afternoon. Those missing were those a bit banged up, Captain Doug Weight (shoulder), Kyle Okposo (shoulder), Rob Figren (foot), and Franz Nielsen was also absent and seen walking around the halls during the post game scrums.
The energy was high this afternoon and it was evident from the opening faceoff that the players missed catering to their fans and playing the sport they love.
From the puck drop on, I noted to those around me how strange it was heading Rick DiPietro quaterbacking the players from the goal mouth – I couldn’t honestly remember the last time he was in as good of a mood or as vocal. Not even when I went up to Bridgeport to see DP in his return to action was he as comfortable or vocal (and we know why now…).
Bruno Gervais was up on the scoreboard doing a pre-taped interview, when asked who his favorite athlete was – he quipped “Josh Bailey”. Unfortunately, I couldn’t see Bailey’s reaction – but those around us were laughing for a few minutes.
Mark Streit and James Wisniewski had plenty of time together on the power play – they had a number of chances each and moved the puck well. You could tell they could become a dangerous pair during the season. Unfortunately for Streit however, Matt Moulson would catch him with a cross check sending him awkwardly into the boards and he left the ice clutching his shoulder. He did not return.
Blake Comeau and Trent Hunter would each score two goals for their respective teams (White and Blue) – if any players could stand to contribute more this upcoming season – it’s those two.
Tavares looks like he will have a great sophomore season – he looked strong, poised with the puck and was even used in penalty killing situations this afternoon. He notched an assist when he hooked up with Comeau in the first period and would score on a nice wrap around on Dwayne Roloson later in the second period. Look for him to build upon his numbers from last season.
P.A. Parenteau and Rob Hisey each showed they have the tools to make the Islanders a better club, Parenteau had two assists.
Zenon Konopka proved he was more than just a fourth line agitator, scoring on a nice feed from Nino Niederreiter. Speaking of Nino, he looked like he belonged and wanted to earn his spot on the roster. While he may not have lit up the scoresheet – he was in the right place and the right time and had numerous chances. One of the most memorable was a wraparound attempt on Mikko Koskinen that he was able to stop (in spectacular fashion I may add).
Speaking on antagonists, Jon Sim would get under DiPietro’s skin and absorbed some contact behind the net. In return, DiPietro pretty much body slammed Sim and received a holding penalty on the play. Interesting that even a teammate could lose patience with Sim.
Andy Hilbert refreshed Islanders fans all over again why we refer to him as stone hands, although he earned the reputation of stone legs today too with his slow foot speed (sorry Andy).
Milan Jurcina, Mark Eaton, and Jeremy Yablonski – they all looked like they fit in. I don’t recall seeing anything (aside from a penalty here or there) that was generally concerning, so that’s a positive.
Goaltending was solid on both sides – Dwayne Roloson looked as sharp and agile as he did last season. Rick DiPietro looked solid and healthy – he tracked the puck well through traffic and made some spectacular and athletic saves throughout. Mikko Koskinen replaced Roloson after the second period and looked great as well – he’s such a big guy that he makes the net look very, very small.
The scrimmage ended in a 4-4 tie (which almost seemed scripted) and would come down to the skill competition to determine the winner.
First up was the hardest shot, for the white team Travis Hamonic lead off shooting 65 and 94 mph. Up first for blue, Milan Jurcina who shot 99 and 101 mph. James Wisniewski was up next for white, shooting 97 and 99 mph, followed by Andy MacDonald for blue dialing in at 90 and 96 mph. Up last for white was Blake Comeau shooting 93 and 90 mph and last for blue Radek Martinek with 92 and 100 mph. Jurcina would earn the point for team blue.
The next event was some short of shooting relay, there were four rounds consisting of two players from each team each round shooting on Mikko Koskinen. It went as follows:
White – Comeau and Eaton (2/4)
Blue – Sim and Martin (0/4)
White – Gervais and Bailey (3/4)
Blue – Moulson and Hunter (0/4)
Team white earned the point this round and it was tied 1-1
The last and final even was the breakaway contest. Mikko Koskinen remained in net once again and it played out as follows:
White – Nino Niederreiter – Goal
Blue – Jesse Joensuu – No Goal
White – P.A. Parenteau – Goal
Blue – Rhett Rahkshani – No Goal
White – John Tavares – Goal
Blue – Rob Schremp – Did not shoot
Team White earned the point and the win due to this event.
I did not interview anyone in particular today because it was an absolute madhouse down in the locker room. A big group was around Moulson, as they were Gillies and DiPietro – I honestly didn’t want to rehash what everyone else was talking about tonight so I skipped the locker room and just wanted to hear what Scott Gordon had to say.
Gordon would defend Moulson’s hit on Streit because it wasn’t anything you wouldn’t normally see during practice, and Streit’s injury was more a “flukish injury” and resulted because of his awkward fall. The head coach then went on to tell us that he would like to work with the team more during the week on a few areas, but overall he felt they have progressed well.
Overall I thought the team is coming together nicely, but another week of training camp cant hurt to bring them all together even more, get into game shape and of course learn Scott Gordon’s system.
I cannot wait for the season to start!