This has been a tough season.
Not just for the New York Islanders, but – for those of us who follow the team and more importantly, TRY to blog about them. All too many times, I’ve started a post – felt like I have been repeating myself or just don’t have anything positive to add and either quit or delete it completely.
I don’t get paid to write – this is something that I did because I enjoyed watching (and playing) hockey and I liked writing even more.
When you’re a fan and a blogger (a Flogger? No – that’s something completely different…) this task becomes even more difficult the worse the team does, or the more frustrating things around the team make you.
I’m going to make a huge admission here on my blog; I do not enjoy watching this team as much as I have. It’s to the point (for several reasons) – I discontinued my Season Tickets over the summer. I can honestly say, I have not missed them.
I watch the games on TV and I yell at the team as if I am at the arena, or even better – I change the channel. That’s exactly what I did when the Islanders got shutout for the seventh time this season on Monday. Sure, the Rangers are a better team – but that’s besides the point.
What makes the losing even worse? This commercial:
The Islanders have not done a heckuvalot to improve. The team has struggled to score at even strength, at times even seem unable to hit the broadside of a barn. This season isn’t all to different from the last up to this point, being a point or two off of their record from that crazy November skid and the goal differential is almost identical. How is that improvement? How is that COMMITMENT? This is what you do for Islanders fans on their 40th year of existance?
I know this sounds like one gigantic vent – and it is, maybe because I rarely use my blog to lament on the stuff surrounding this team but I cannot hold my breath any more. Something needs to give, waiving a Blake Comeau is not the answer. That said, at this junction there is nothing about this season that is salvageable – it’s another year chalked up to the rebuild. Get this years number one and call it a day.
But no, we have the huge question mark of where the team will play or even if the team will stay on Long Island forever looming over our head. Too many questions, too many variables.
Ok, rant over.
In any case, the Islanders are taking on the Calgary Flames tonight at the Coliseum. It’s a meaningless game in that it’s a Western Conference team – but it’s a chance to earn two points and break out of their funk.
Nabakov is in net, and according to Arthur Staple of Newsday – there are some possible line changes tonight.
If the team comes out and has a strong first period anything can happen. If they allow a goal in the first few minutes, they’ll likely chase the remainder of the entire game – and we know how that ends.
Fans hoping for a little retribution or retaliation on Mark Fistric for his concussion inducing hit on Nino Niederreiter – will have to wait. The Stars, likely by design – have made him a healthy scratch for tonight’s contest. It’s also important to note, he also just returned from a three game suspension for his hit on Nino.
That should all be of no worry tonight for the Islanders, as John Tavares, Josh Bailey and Kyle Okposo are all finding their stride and potting goals for their team. Josh Bailey has been playing like a man possessed as of late – 1 goal and 2 assists in the last five, but that’s not completely indicative of his play. He’s been much more confident on both sides of the puck, and been an absolute beast on the penalty kill. Then you have Okposo, who’s starting to play like he did prior to his injury, being physical and initiating contact.
There are some new faces in the lineup for the Islanders tonight as well, Calvin de Haan has been called up to take the place of concussed D-man Steve Staios to make his NHL Debut – and Kevin Poulin earned the start tonight in his replacement of Evgeni Nabakov. It feels like just yesterday that I was interviewing de Haan and Poulin on draft day!
The Islanders simply need to play their game – smart plays, passes, confidence and poise all the while continue that element of toughness with the puck. As I write this, the Islanders have allowed Dallas to score as the Power Play expired – not the start they were looking for, but they need to continue to pressure Dallas.
I’ll have a full recap after the game, but until then, be sure to follow me on Twitter @islesblogger!
The Islanders have turned their snide around these last four games – earning 7 of 8 points, on the road no less.
Tavares still cannot finish, but he’s certainly been able to start – earning three assists in their win over Dallas on Saturday night, and two the previous game in Chicago. Tavares now has 21 points, 8 goals and 13 assists and is tied with PA Parenteau for the team lead. Matt Moulson had a heck-uva game in Dallas, scoring four goals, the first time any player has scored four in a game this season – and wound up with the NHL’s First Star for the week. Moulson is in third place on the Islanders now in scoring, with 13 goals and 6 assists for 19 points. After that, it’s a pretty big drop off.
While there are some things to be worked on, the Islanders have shown some resiliency the last several games – going deep in the game and coming back when the opposition finds a way back into the game.
Injuries are beginning to mount as the season moves along, with Niederreiter out with a concussion, DiPietro out with a groin injury, Grabner a groin injury, MacDonald a leg injury, Eaton a knee injury, Nabokov with a groin injury, the list goes on. To replace some of the walking wounded, Kevin Poulin backs up Montoya in net and Tim Wallace up to replace Grabner. Wallace looked great during preseason and has fair stats down in Bridgeport – 9 goals and 11 assists for 20 points, top scorer for the Sound Tigers. Also up with the big club, Micheal Haley.
Tampa is on the second game of their four game road trip, and also coming off a loss to Ottawa. It should be a chippy game all around, as the Islanders need these two points to continue their strong play and to make a point that the pushing around that started in Dallas, is going to stop.
Things haven’t been easy for the Islanders this season, but they seem to have found the effort to weather the storm and find ways to win.
Nobody could have seen this start coming for the Islanders, who finished strong last season and looked to carry the momentum into the start of this season, but it’s not the way things have worked out.
The team has struggled to score goals, when they have scored they have struggled to hold onto leads and at times, just struggled in general. The Islanders are a young, talented team on paper, supplemented by some key veterans as well. So why have things been so tough?
Some are quick to cast all that aside and blame management, others even quicker to discount the talent on the team because “they’re the Islanders” – my hope is that the team, like last season, uses the negativity to fuel their fire and drive to prove everyone wrong.
Islanders head coach Jack Capuano is in his first full season as an NHL coach – so it’s really hard to place 100% blame there. Charles Wang has come out, as well as GM Garth Snow stating confidence in Capuano. Trust and confidence goes a long way in the NHL, where we have already seen three coaching changes in this young season.
John Tavares is riding an 11 game scoring slump and the pundits are coming out in full force. If you follow me on Twitter I was quick to point out that nobody seems to bring up the recent slumps of Stamkos and Ovechkin – two players surrounded by world class talent. But hey, Tavares is an Islander, right?
Chicago comes into the game tonight in fourth place in the Western Conference at 14-8-3, and off a recent loss. The Islanders have had a few days rest since their great game in Buffalo, they need to be smart defensively tonight against the Blackhawks scary offensive attack.
No announcement has been made on the starting goalie for the Isles, but Capuano often rides the hot hand and that’s been Al Montoya as of late. He had a superb game in Buffalo, making highlight reel save after save.
Andrew MacDonald is out tonight, with Dylan Reese called up to take his spot – a solid replacement and someone who had hoped to make the opening night roster.
The keys to a win tonight are simple: good puck movement, a continued strong forecheck, a good first pass and entry into the offensive zone. Utilize speed to help the transition and get behind the Chicago defense. Last, but not least – stay out of the penalty box.
If the Islanders bring what they have the last few games, earning their third straight road win is a good possibility.