For the second time in two straight games, Islanders forward Blake Comeau finds himself on the outside looking in – or more appropriately, on the topside looking down.
As always, there has been wild speculation as to head coach Jack Capuano’s decision to shelve Comeau in favor of heavyweight Trevor Gillies. In Gillies’ appearance last weekend against the Rangers – he played under three minutes after all – so this leads to further
On one hand, the mere possibility of Gillies playing or pummeling someone is as good of a deterrent as any. Policing if you will. On the other, it gives Capuano an option, at least a second option with Matt Martin in the lineup. It’s no secret that in the games without Gillies around, players have taken liberties with several Islanders. Perhaps Capuano is experimenting with added toughness in the lineup – before things get out of hand for his club.
But many question, and rightfully so – scratching a player who averages 12-18 minutes a game in favor of someone who averages TWO.
Let’s work it out:
In three games this season – Comeau has played 39:25, has two penalty minutes and, ONE shot on goal.
In the games I’ve seen Comeau skate this season – I haven’t been very impressed. He’s been slow to the puck, made questionable decisions on both sides and hasn’t generated much. Comeau started off last season slow as well – perhaps it just takes him a while for him to find his groove.
I’ve seen some talk on Twitter asking why Comeau over Bailey, so to be fair here are Bailey’s stats for the four games he’s played:
Josh Bailey has 3 shots and 2 PIM in 56:29 played. While it’s not too much better, perhaps Capuano sees more on Bailey’s game at this point.
I’ve also heard Capuano repeatedly refer to “passengers on the bus”, both after a loss and a win so far – so to me he’s unhappy with effort out of some of his players.
At the end of the day, this is just part of the game – it doesn’t mean a player is about to be traded or there is a huge conspiracy behind anything that’s happening. It’s a coach holding his players accountable for their play – and that’s what good coaches do.
In other words, move along folks – nothing to see here.
The Islanders (3-1-0) have embarked on their first road trip of the season, to a place many of us wish we’ve been with the weather here on Long Island – sunny and warm Florida.
The team will face the struggling Tampa Bay Lightning tonight, who only have one win in their first six games (1-3-2). Teams like Tampa are always dangerous because they are desperate clubs and have a hunger that can often consume (pardon the pun) the strongest and hottest clubs.
Islanders head coach Jack Capuano faces his first real challenges of the season – readying his club to face a Lightning team that may look different then the team they rolled over in their last meeting. He may also face a different challenge, in that the Islanders have had five days of downtime since their win over the Rangers last Saturday.
Historically, the Islanders have sometimes struggled in games following playing the Rangers – it’s come to be known as “Rangers Hangover” to both fans and those in the media. Hopefully, the downtime following the game only helps them in this case, although it will clearly prove to be a battle for Capuano – who’s club is riding a three game unbeaten streak.
Will the downtime cool off the white hot trio of Moulson, Tavares (The NHL’s second star of the week this week) and Parenteau? Will Montoya and Nabokov keep the Islanders at the top of the league with second fewest goals allowed (Detroit has the fewest allowed)? Will DiPietro play or dress against either Tampa or the Florida Panthers?
Many questions lie ahead, and if I had the answers – I’d have to play the lottery I suppose.
One thing is a given, the Islanders need the continued strong play of Reasoner, Pandalfo, Staios, Streit, Montoya, and the three guys mentioned earlier – if they want to come out of tonight’s game with two points. They also NEED, Nieslen, Okposo and Grabner to keep up their defensive game – all the while re-kindle their chemistry from last years second half.
If Josh Bailey doesn’t wake up soon – he may find himself swapping stories with Blake Comeau, who was scratched last weekend against the Rangers.
These Islanders aren’t perfect, they’re playing with energy and confidence – but they need the machine firing on all cylinders. The season is early and the kinks will work themselves out – but they need to answer the bell tonight and play a bug game against Tampa. It’s the first step towards showing the rest of the league that the club is on the upswing – and that the post season isn’t as lofty as a goal as everyone makes it out to be.
It always seems to happen this way, the off season takes forever to pass – but here we are already almost three games into the 2011/12 NHL season, at least for the Islanders.
Earlier this afternoon, the Islanders sent their 2011 5th overall draft pick Ryan Strome back to Niagara IceDogs of the Ontario Hockey League (OHL). Unlike years past, in which the Islanders give a majority of their young newly drafted players a quick nine game taste of NHL action, Strome stuck around long enough to experience the rigors of the NHL preseason and take in two NHL contests from the Owner’s box before being sent back down to Juniors.
This is a big development, not because he didn’t play, but because the Islanders chose a completely different path for the young Strome. Perhaps it’s the decision of now Head Coach Jack Capuano, perhaps it’s Garth Snow learning from his mistake with the rushing of the oft-invisible (for now) Josh Bailey or, it could just simply be Strome didn’t look ready for the NHL – and that’s fine.
Not everyone can be John Tavares or Kyle Okposo and step right into NHL duty and fit in, nor – are they Nino Niederreiter, whom in his nine games looked decent.
In any case – Strome is home.
Now, this next bit is something I cannot make up. Rick DiPietro has suffered another injury, this time in practice off a laser of a shot from Marty Reasoner. The puck hit DiPietro’s mask and shook him up I’m told. I shouldn’t have to remind you all of his recent injuries – the fractured bone in his face and the concussion history specifically. It’s no surprise the Islanders want to keep DiPietro out for tonight’s contest – or well, until he’s without a doubt 100% healthy.
That pretty much solidify’s Al Montoya in net tonight, as he’s been playing like a number one goalie for the Islanders the last two games – but who will that masked man be behind the bench? None other than the
holdout, Evgeni Nabokov.
The speedy and always dangerous Tampa Bay Lightning are visiting town tonight. This team is chock-full ex-Isles – Eric Brewer, Nate Thompson, Dwayne Roloson and Bruno Gervais – who had a goal and assist (no, I am serious) on Monday in his Lightning debut.
You can’t make that stuff up. I’ll be back later for some post game thoughts – be sure to follow alone with the conversation on Twitter – by following @islesblogger!
Last weekend at the Islanders home opener, Capital One asked me to be a judge for their High Five For 5X contest – and it went well!
Update 10/13 Check out this highlight video I was sent! It gives you a great idea of how fun this thing really turned out!!
As a matter of fact, one fan submitted a photo of their High Five from a tailgate in the parking lot!
Kudos to Twitter user @michcarp7 for this very enthusiastic High Five!
And if you know me, I just HAD to vote!
The contest took place outside the Islanders box office in an area dubbed “The Visigoth Ice Village”. I got to witness hundreds of fans do their best, most creative high fives. Islanders Alumni Benoit Hogue was a fellow judge, and I think he had as good a time as I did – in fact he actually added a minus sign to one of his scorecards, to taunt – in his words, Rangers Fans!
Here are some samples of the awesome high fives:
Another memorable moment was when Hogue sparred verbally, in French mind you, with two Nordiques fans that were insistent upon the Islanders becoming their team. Hogue did his best to squash that notion, the fans were fun and respectable though.
Just to recap the contest, fans would show the judges their best high five for a chance to win 5X the tickets to an upcoming Islanders game.
Although that contest is over, you STILL have the chance to win 5X the tickets to ANY sporting event!
You want to know how?
Metro-area sports fans can enter the “High Five for 5X the Interest” Online Photo Sweepstakes. Beginning October 8 at 6 p.m., fans can log on to http://highfivefor5X.snapfish.com and upload their favorite “High Five” photo to be entered into a drawing to win five tickets to an upcoming game of their favorite metro-area professional or college sports team.
I should have some photos of the event soon!
The Islanders have completed their first two games of the season, suffering from a 2-0 loss to the Florida Panthers on Saturday and hanging on for a 2-1 win this afternoon against the Minnesota Wild.
While it’s entirely too early to accurately gauge what to expect in the remaining 80 games this season – I’ve seen, and heard a few things that are worth noting at this point.
Saturday’s game was disappointing, not only from the standpoint of it being a let-down for the fans that packed out Nassau Coliseum, but because the team looked flat and often misplayed the puck. The bar was raised really high by the organization (well, the players themselves really) – so it stung seeing the team struggle before a building filled to near capacity in their season opener.
The ice at the Coliseum looks horrible, like the players were skating in soup. At one point at the start of the second period on Saturday, the on ice officials spent about five minutes with squeegees getting the pools of water moved from the ice surface. You can only really blame the County for this one – as they are responsible for any repairs. I hope to have more on this in the coming days.
The Islanders came out relatively flat, often misplaying the puck or not making smart decisions with and without the puck. Andrew MacDonald showed plenty of rust, committed several turnovers – even though he wasn’t officially charged with any in the post game stats. Mark Streit played a decent game for someone who hadn’t seen professional action in over a year. Mike Mottau took three penalties – three too many.
The forwards were often unable to get things going, chipping the puck past Florida’s defense and just being stopped cold. Al Montoya kept them in the game though making 27 saves for the Isles. They need to do more offensively, which I’m sure they will once all cylinders are firing.
I don’t want to hammer the team with negatives, so let’s jump right to the positives.
Travis Hamonic threw down the gloves and jumped to the support of his teammate Al Montoya by fighting Scotty Upshall. When I asked him during the post game interviews if there was any words exchanged, or if it was just something he had to do to support his goaltender – I got one of the greatest answers one could expect from the budding defenseman.
Every time you fight, I say you fight for a couple of reasons. One is to defend a teammate, two is to change the momentum of the game and three is to defend yourself. I think that in that instance, it hit the nail on the head for all three of them. I was trying to defend Al, and you know next thing I know I turn around and he [Upshall] was in my face. That’s the part of the game that I welcome, I think it happens with the style of play that I play and at that point it was 1-0 for the other team and I felt it it was a good opportunity to change the momentum of the game, so that’s why I did what I did.
Every game the young Travis Hamonic plays – I become more and more impressed. He hits, he makes sound passes, he’s very physical and he plays big important minutes for his team. When he’s paired with Andrew MacDonald – the two of them compliment each other very well.
Fast forward to this afternoon’s game against Minnesota – the Islanders came out a very different team in the first twenty minutes. They skated, they passed and they moved the puck past the defense in a way they couldn’t manage against Florida the game before.
Andrew MacDonald played a much better game, and made up for the mistakes he committed in his first game back. At the start of the game I never would’ve pegged him to score the first goal of the 2011/2012 season – but score he did and it was a beauty. Take a look for yourself:
The Islanders second goal was even better. Mark Streit fakes a shot from the point and moves down the boards. Frans Nielsen is moving towards the Wild net and Streit executes a perfect shot pass – Nielsen redirected it perfectly to give the Islanders a two goal lead. This goal, you just HAVE to watch:
The rest of today’s game wasn’t as good – even though the Islanders managed to hang on and win 2-1. They looked fatigued as the game wore on, at one point not getting a shot for almost ten minutes and being held in their own zone for long stretches. Despite the negatives, the fact that the team held on is a testament to how far they’ve come since last season. Perhaps you can credit the veteran infusion, but you certainly have to credit Al Montoya for his stellar performance once again.
At the end of the day, the Islanders won, we heard the new Goal Song, the team moved to .500 on the season and improved their record to 1-1. It’s certainly a start.
In an off season that saw the Islanders very active in areas all across the spectrum, it’s finally behind us and we are ready to drop the puck.
While the team may not have drawn in big name marquee free agents, they signed Marty Reasoner, extended veterans Jay Pandolfo and Steve Staios tryout contracts and were each ultimately signed to one year contracts. The Islanders also extended John Tavares, Josh Bailey, Kyle Okposo, Michael Grabner this off season. They also traded Trent Hunter to New Jersey for Brian Rolston earlier this summer.
The roster for tonight, should look something like this:
Forwards: Josh Bailey, Blake Comeau, Michael Grabner, Matt Martin, Matt Moulson, Frans Nielsen, Kyle Okposo, Jay Pandolfo, PA Parenteau, Marty Reasoner, Brian Rolston, and John Tavares
Defensemen: Mark Eaton, Travis Hamonic, Milan Jurcina, Andrew MacDonald, Mike Mottau, Steve Staios and Mark Streit
Goaltenders: Al Montoya and Rick DiPietro
The scratches for tonight: Evgeni Nabokov, Ryan Strome, and Milan Jurcina.
With the Florida Panthers visiting Long Island, there are some interesting stories. The Panthers had a very active off season. Our old friend Sean Bergenheim was signed as a free agent, Ed Jovanovski, Upshall and Campbell were all also acquired or signed.
Their lineup tonight:
Forwards: Fleischmann-Weiss-Versteeg, Booth-Kopecky-Upshall, Bergenheim-Goc-Skille, Matthias-Carter-Bradley
Defensemen: Jovanovski-Gudbranson, Garrison-Campbell, Weaver-Kulikov
Goaltenders: Theodore, Markstrom
Expected Scratches: Dadonov, Ellerby
The Florida Panthers team the Islanders are facing tonight is a far cry from the team they faced last season. They’ve added speed, toughness and some scoring punch – so it should be a good matchup. Last season, the Islanders faced the Panthers four times and tied the season series with 2 wins and 2 losses.
The Islanders have added experience in veterans Marty Reasoner, Steve Staios and Jay Pandolfo – whom without a doubt, will be feeling much younger playing with the Isles young squad.
It’s going to be a great game, I know I’m glad hockey is back in action!
If you’ve watched any TV the last few weeks, you may have seen some of Capital One’s new commercials featuring their 5x Checking Accounts. The commercials are pretty funny and feature Jerry Stiller as a movie theatre usher and actor.
Well, there is a hockey tie in here – trust me!
This coming Saturday at the Islanders Home Opener, Capital one is holding a High Five Contest for fans outside the Box Office, in an area called Visigoth Ice Village (Visigoth’s are those characters from the Capital One commercials, the Vikings). I’ve been asked to take part in a panel of Judges that will also include former New York Islander Benoit Hogue!
Capital One is promoting its new High Yield Checking account by highlighting the excitement of competitive sports with a pre-game “High Five” sweepstakes at this weekend’s New York Islanders game, in addition to an online sweepstakes recognizing metro-area New York teams. Both sweepstakes give fans the chance to enter and win “five times the tickets” (five tickets) in recognition of Capital One Bank’s new High Yield Checking account, which earns at least five times the national average interest on checking.
New York Islanders fans who come to the Nassau Coliseum on October 8 before the game can give their creative “High Fives” in front of a panel of judges and enter for their chance to win five times the tickets to an upcoming Islanders game. The High Five event begins at 6 p.m. at the Capital One Bank Visigoth Ice Village, just outside the box office entrance of the Nassau Coliseum.
Additionally, metro-area sports fans can enter the “High Five for 5X the Interest” Online Photo Sweepstakes. Beginning October 8 at 6 p.m., fans can log on to http://highfivefor5X.snapfish.com and upload their favorite “High Five” photo to be entered into a drawing to win five tickets to an upcoming game of their favorite metro-area professional or college sports team. Follow @SnapfishbyHP on Twitter for updates about the online photo sweepstakes. You can join the conversation on Twitter using the hashtag #highfivefor5x. For more details, see official rules at http://highfivefor5X.com/a>.
Earlier this off season, the Islanders lost two of their MSG hockey reporters in Deb Placey and Rob Carlin. Placey was moved to the Devils telecasts, while Carlin moved down to Baltimore to be near his wife, who is expecting the birth of twins.
This left a pretty big hole in the Islanders telecasts, with MSG slow to name a replacement. Yesterday, MSG Network finally named a replacement in Peter Ruttgaizer.
Ruttgaizer, a Toronto Native, isn’t a newcomer to the sport of hockey – having covered the Colorado Avalanche recently for Altitude Sports Network. He’s also done work for CBC Sports, EastLink Television, TSN in Winnepeg and CTV in Toronto covering professional and junior hockey as well as the CFL.
Here are a few clips of Ruttgaizer in action:
In a story on the Islanders website, Ruttgaizer had this to say:
“I’ve always thought about working with the MSG family, and the Islanders are an up-and-coming hockey team with a great history, so I’m honored to have this opportunity,” said Ruttgaizer. “MSG Network and MSG Plus are two of the premiere sports networks in the country and I’m excited to get started with Howie, Butch and the talented production staff.”
As you can tell from the video clips above, Ruttgaizer sounds professional and has knowledge on the game. He’s also said the right things about the organization, which is what we want to hear as fans. Carlin and Placey were great in their own ways, but sometimes change is ultimately not a horrible thing.
The MSG telecasts will still be held down by long time play by play man Howie Rose, with the color being called by Islanders alumni Butch Goring.