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Islanders Look for Change Against Rangers

Posted by on 15 Nov 2011 | Tagged as: Gameday, General

November is typically a tough month for hockey, teams begin to gel and string together wins – like the Rangers have or; in the case of the Islanders, begin to struggle due to weaknesses.

The Islanders have struggled mightily the last few weeks, they’ve had trouble scoring, hitting, and skating. They also have far too many players who are struggling offensively, or just struggling in general. Back on November 1st, I had started a post outlining all of the offensive woes of the current roster – but I got side tracked with the SEMA Automotive show in Las Vegas. I’ve taken on some more responsibility with my friends TV Show and Website – Motorz TV.

In any case, players up and down the roster are struggling – Blake Comeau, Josh Bailey, Kyle Okposo, Brian Rolson, and Marty Reasoner – just to name a few. Head Coach Jack Capuano has stated several times now that there are certain players that are simply along for the ride and not bringing what they can to the game. He’s done little to wake his team up however, only scratching Blake Comeau for two games last month. If you have players who feel they automatically deserve a roster spot, sorry they should be sitting.

Thankfully, Nino Niederreiter returns tonight from his two week conditioning stint in Bridgeport. His style of play and energy should be a welcomed and much needed boost for the slumping Islanders.

Newsday’s Arthur Staple reported via Twitter earlier today, that Capuano will not speak about his roster adjustments until closer to game time, but – he did say that Evgeni Nabakov will be in goal for the Islanders tonight.

The Gameplan

This shouldn’t come as a surprise – but the Islanders need to execute their shot selection better. The last handful of games the Islanders haven’t been able to get through their opponents forecheck, or even establish anything once they gain the offensive zone.

Defensively they’ve been no better, as they’ve allowed the first goal on the first shot against way too many times. They have also made a ton of mistakes, miscues and not been hitting aggressively enough. It’s almost like the entire team is afraid to be physical, well – aside from Martin and Streit.

Pressure – simply put, pressure the puck carriers coming into the defensive zone. Put pressure on the opponents defense to force turnovers and for once, just shoot the puck. The team has held onto the puck for way too long at times, it’s almost as if they haven’t learned anything last year.

Fortunately, the Islanders always seem to step up their game when it comes to their cross-town rivals. If there was ever a game that the team would break out of their funk – tonight would be the night.

I know that everyone watching in that arena will be amped up to see some spirited hockey, but will our Islanders?

Islanders Visit Tampa: Capuano’s Motivational Challenge

Posted by on 20 Oct 2011 | Tagged as: Gameday, General

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.

Isles Strome Home, DP Out, Nabokov Dressed Against Lightning

Posted by on 13 Oct 2011 | Tagged as: Gameday, General

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!

Two Games In: Some Quick Observations

Posted by on 10 Oct 2011 | Tagged as: Gameday, General, Post Game, Recap

Bruce Bennett - Getty Images

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.

Season Opener! Panthers at Islanders

Posted by on 08 Oct 2011 | Tagged as: Gameday, General

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!

Islanders Sign Shane Sims to ATO

Posted by on 09 Apr 2011 | Tagged as: Gameday, General, Signings

With the Islanders final game today in Philadelphia, the team needed to find another player for defensive help on an emergency basis. Trying as hard as I could yesterday, I had joked with Islanders GM Garth Snow that I was ready, willing and able to be signed to an ATO (this would fulfill the Twitter wishes from yesterday). Unfortunately, Garth said he’d seen me skate (Untrue! Blast that GM!) and today, signed Shane Sims over myself.

Some particulars on Sims, per the Islanders release:

The New York Islanders announced today that defenseman Shane Sims has signed an NHL regular season amateur tryout agreement. The club is under emergency conditions, with injuries to Jack Hillen and Milan Jurcina.

Sims, 22, led all Ohio State University defenseman in scoring this season with 19 points and ranked second overall on the team with 16 assists. The East Amherst, NY, native also led the Buckeyes with a plus-9 rating during his senior campaign.

The Islanders selected Sims in the fifth round (126th overall) of the 2006 NHL Entry Draft. In 152 career NCAA games with Ohio State, Sims recorded 16 goals and 55 assists for 71 points. Before his collegiate career, the 6-1, 195-pound blueliner played two seasons with the Des Moines Buccaneers of the USHL, earning all-rookie honors in 2006 and being named a USHL All-Star in 2007.

I suppose I’ll use the off season to bulk up and work with my power skating coach. Consider yourself lucky Sims.

Islanders Sign Jamie Doornbosch to ATO

Posted by on 08 Apr 2011 | Tagged as: Gameday, News, Signings

Well, we knew something along these lines would have HAD to have played out, once we learned that Matt Campanale couldn’t play more than one game (a game in which he played just over 8 minutes and didn’t look completely out of place…).

Today, the Islanders have found another defensive stop-gap measure in Jamie Doornbosch.

Doornbosch, a 21-year old defenseman for the OHL Kitchener Rangers, will make his NHL debut tonight at Nassau Coliseum in the much anticipated rematch of the Pittsburgh Penguins.

Per the Islanders release today:

The New York Islanders announced today that defenseman Jamie Doornbosch has signed an NHL regular season amateur tryout agreement. The club is under emergency conditions, with injuries to Jack Hillen and Milan Jurcina.

Doornbosch, 21, scored 19 goals and 29 assists in 68 games in his overage season with the Kitchener Rangers of the Ontario Hockey League. The Richmond Hill, ON, native also added one goal and one assist in seven playoff games with Kitchener. Doornbosch finished second amongst Rangers defensemen and scoring and ranked second on the team with 12 power play goals.

In 264 career OHL games with Kitchener and the Peterborough Petes, Doornbosch recorded 41 goals and 106 assists for 147 points. The 6’ 2”, 190-pound blueliner was acquired by the Rangers in a 2010 trade with the Peterborough Petes, who selected him in the fourth round of the 2006 OHL Priority Selection Draft.

What will the team do for this seasons closer in Philadelphia you ask?

My friends on Twitter seem to think that Garth Snow Should sign me to an ATO contract, as it would make for some great story lines.

[blackbirdpie url=”http://twitter.com/YesIslanders/status/56417270100000770″]

[blackbirdpie url=”http://twitter.com/#!/RealKenDick/status/56442095694655488″]

From the Press Box to the Players Box: Blogger Turns Pro!

Yep, that would be something!

Rock Em Sock Em Against The Rangers

Posted by on 01 Apr 2011 | Tagged as: General, Injuries, Recap

Once again, the Islanders showed that they should be a pretty good team next season in a spirited 6-2 win over their rival New York Rangers last night at Nassau Coliseum.

Despite mounting injuries and a defensive group made up of mostly Bridgeport Sound Tigers – the Islanders defense held the Rangers at one goal for the better part of two and a half periods. What’s more, missing two important penalty killers (Grabner out his second game due to the birth of his first child and Nielsen suffering a head injury in the second period) – the Islanders PK was outstanding. I’m sure Rangers head coach John Tortorella will have PLENTY of tape to go over, having gone 0/7 with the man advantage, including TWO five on three opportunities.

I mentioned that the Islanders were sporting some defensive injuries, but they also suffered TWO more last night – Ty Wishart suffered a shoulder injury and Jack Hillen suffered an upper body injury as well. It got so bad, the Islanders were forced to play Okposo on defense for a shift.

The Numbers

Let’s take a look at just how spectacular the Islanders defense was last night:

One of the rare veterans in the lineup last night, Radek Martinek had a great game. He was credited with three hits, three take aways, had a goal, an assist and finished with a +1 with 22:49 minutes of ice time. When Martinek uses his shot from the point, great things happen. His goal, a blast from the blueline off a slick Parenteau pass, beat Lundqvist over his glove. He would add an assist, with a similar play, this time deflected by Joensuu in front.

I asked Martinek after the game if the coaching staff wants him to use that great shot of his more – he told me they [the coaches] have wanted him to shoot more all season, he knows he has a good shot and good things happen when he does – he just doesn’t often think shot first.

I wasn’t the only one to notice what happens when Martinek uses that shot – Head Coach Jack Capuano talked about it during his press conference when he said “When Marty uses his shot like tonight, he gives us a chance to win hockey games”.

Young Travis Hamonic continues his strong play and what has become a Cinderella season for him – never expecting to remain with the Islanders for the full season. Last night Hamonic had a team high 24:52 minutes of ice time, tallied an assist on the game tying goal, three hits, two blocked shots and get this – a +4 on the night.

Jack Hillen is another player that has come back from a rough start – he was good offensively last night, jumping in the rush and making smart passes, stood up for his team in his fight with Dubinsky, earned an assist with his cross ice feed to Martinek’s tipped shot by Joensuu, had 22:13 minutes of ice time (that was limited by his late injury), and finished with a +2 on the night. Hillen also lead the team in hits last night with four.

Quietly however, Dylan Reese made the most of his 16:33 minutes of play, unless you count his fight with Fedotenko late in the game of course. Reese would finish the game with THREE assists, and a +3 rating. He’s one of those steady players that you often don’t really notice on the back end, which is never a bad thing.

Mark Katic finished the night -1 and with 19 minutes of ice time, and Ty Wishart was playing well – until a shoulder injury would finish him for the night, having only played 12 minutes.

The forwards were equally impressive, Tavares had two assists and was +4, Comeau finished with a goal and was +3, Joensuu FINALLY used his size in front of the net on his deflection and was +1 with 11:37 minutes of ice time, Moulson had a goal (his 31st) and an assist and would finish +3, Parenteau would also notch a goal (his 19th) and assist (has now reached 50 points) and would wind up +4 on the night. The most surprising goal of the night? Trevor Gillies netting his second of the season and second career goal on a nice deflection of a Reese point shot.

Al Montoya played another solid game, making 25 saves on 27 shots. He was great positionally, gave the Rangers very little to shoot at and controlled his rebounds well. Considering the defense that was in front of him, the Islanders really supported Montoya last night – and gave him his first win over the club that drafted him.

The Fights

The fight card was chock-full of action last night:

Hillen fought Dubinsky
Avery got clobbered and bloodied by Haley
Prust fought an injured Konopka
Fedotenko fought Reese

But that wasn’t all, there were plenty of hits, pushing, shoving and just outright old school hockey throughout the game. It’s great to see this team stand up for each other, especially when Nielsen was hit from behind by Gaborik in the second period.

In a game with nothing to lose, the Islanders played great and really took it to their rival. They also made it that much harder for the Rangers, who are barely staying in the playoff picture.

They can do even more damage against the Hurricanes this weekend – should be interesting.

In closing, I doubt the league will – but I hope they look into the hit on Nielsen. But we know how that goes.

Isles-Rangers, Montoya Extended, Donovan Signed

Posted by on 31 Mar 2011 | Tagged as: Call Ups, Gameday, General, Hot Headlines, Signings

It’s been a slow few weeks here at Islesblogger, but not because there hasn’t been anything going on in Islanders Country lately. No, instead – this blogger was in Sunny South Florida, escaping the crazy fall weather here in NY that has featured, rain, rain with snow, snow with lightning and of course – the accompanying cold.

While in Florida, I missed a few games – First in our ugly loss to the Atlanta Thrashers and then in our loss against a team we cannot ever seem to beat in the Philadelphia Flyers. My sincerest appologies there – but, I did catch two baseball games down in Ft Myers, Twins-Orioles and Twins-Yankees. First time ever watching spring training live, it was fun!

Tonight, the Islanders are looking to exact revenge on many levels against their cross town rival New York Rangers. Al Montoya gets the start again against his formal club, looking to make up for being pulled in their last meeting two weeks ago. The Islanders could potentially steal two VERY important points against the Rangers, who have fallen to eight place in the East after their 1-0 loss to the Sabres last night.

The Isles have been mathematically eliminated for a few games now, so they have nothing to lose – figuratively of course. Unless you count pride that is….

The Islanders also played last night, in a 3-2 loss to New Jersey at the Prudential center – a game in which they struggled for long stretches, came close – but couldn’t find the will to win.

Michael Grabner will miss his second straight game as he is expecting the birth of his son. Al Montoya will be sporting his best – a one year, one way extension with the New York Islanders.

In other news, Islanders defensive prospect and 2008 Draft Choice Matt Donovan has been signed to his rookie deal. He joins the Bridgeport Sound Tigers on an ATO, like Ness was also done a few weeks ago. The Sound Tigers find themselves in need of defensive help lately, with Gervais and Jurcina both hurt – Reese and Katic are up with the big club.

In other news, perhaps you missed my interview with the Islanders website, which was also featured on the NHL website – or so says a few emails and texts I received!

Oh yea – injuries! We lost Andrew MacDonald for the rest of this season with a hip injury, Mark Streit was not cleared to play and wont play in the upcoming worlds, Bruno Gervais and Milan Jurcina are banged up (as I said earlier), and Doug Weight if you couldn’t guess is done for the year and may retire.

While there may not be too many exciting things left in what’s left of the Islanders season – at least this awesome rivalry will keep us entertained.

Be sure to follow along as I tweet live during the game on Twitter and check back later on for in-game and post game analysis.

The Blue Collar Islanders

Posted by on 11 Mar 2011 | Tagged as: Gameday, General

The life of a blue collar worker usually involves going about his or her business quietly, without much notice or recognition. They do the dirty work to get things done, often rolling up their sleeves and digging right in. The truth of the matter, the world wouldn’t turn without the hard work and dedication of this group of working class. These are our Islanders.

While there are a few players that will undoubtably reach stardom, Garth Snow has assembled a team of hard working players – who, under the tutelage of what is the epitome of Blue Collar in coach Jack Capuano, is perfecting a recipe for success on Long Island.

They say, with hard work and dedication comes success. Sprinkle in the right attitude – which Capuano has appeared to do here with this team, often comes greatness. I’m not saying that the 2011/2012 New York Islanders are a lock for a Stanley Cup next year, but greatness starts with a strong foundation – and it’s hard to argue the Islanders have been building from the ground up, the same way your blue collar workers build pretty much anything.

The Islanders have seen their fair share of the bad times; injuries, suspensions and along with it the ridicule and disrespectful press clippings from around the NHL and North America. The Hockey World was put on notice a few weeks back – when these young Islanders decided to revolt, stand up for their image and most importantly each other. Through all of the adversity thrown at the team – their bond and strength has only continued to grow. Young boys often become men on the battlefield – the same holds true here.

AP Photo/Paul J. Bereswill

Players like Josh Bailey, Kyle Okposo and John Tavares have all made positive strides, showing physical and mental strength and maturity. Matt Moulson is on track to surpass his points totals from last season – proving he was very deserving of his recent contract extension.

Younger players thrust into the spot light like Travis Hamonic, Kevin Poulin, and Micheal Haley – have all shown guts and gained the respect of their “veteran” teammates.

Michael Grabner is proving to the world he is more than just waiver fodder, joining Tavares and Moulson in flirting with the 30 goal mark, the first time the Islanders could have three or more goal scorers since 1993-94. All the while Blake Comeau and PA Parenteau could quietly reach 20 goals on the season.

Not so quietly, Zenon Konopka has been banging the drum – leading his troops into battle. He’s changed the teams image in many ways on and off the ice. Be it through his fists, his words, his hard-nosed style of play and most importantly, his veteran leadership. Konopka is also VERY vocal about his desire to remain an Islander after this season. While talks of an extension have yet to begin between Garth Snow and Konopka’s agent, I feel this is the type of player and LEADER this team has lacked for a very, very long time.

There are teams beginning to take not that the Islanders will not just roll over when they show up to play hockey. That may have been their MO in years past, but they cannot be taken lightly. The Isles have been playing very spirited hockey with Jack Capuano at the helm these days. They have played some tough teams both on the road and at home, while they may not have won them all – even the losses have been entertaining to watch. You can just tell that Capuano has them believing there is nothing they can achieve.

The Media has begun to take notice as well, with some pretty good articles coming out as of late as well. Two even mention that Capuano should be at least considered for the Coach of the Year award. Even if Capuano doesn’t get the nod for the Jack Adams trophy, he is certainly earning his chance to drop the Interim Head Coach tag. He’s earning himself his next contract.

There have been a bunch of consistencies over the last several weeks and even since the All Star Break – the Islanders have turned their play around, they’ve established a team unity and identity that have not been seen in some time, they’ve corrected their scoring issues from earlier in the season and – these are not the same Islanders we saw the last several seasons. The sun is shining brightly over the horizon, while the team may no make it to the post season this year – they are certainly making everyone pay attention and look forward to the immediate future.

Perhaps it’s fitting, that these blue collar Islanders award a games hardest worker with a hard hat – it represents the image they portray in a way that words just cannot seem to capture.

The Islanders take on Zdeno Chara and the Boston Bruins tonight at the Coliseum, be sure – as always, to follow me during the game on Twitter and on Facebook.

Weekend Warriors Look to Top Toronto

Posted by on 08 Mar 2011 | Tagged as: Gameday, General, Recap

After some strong play over the last four games (six out of eight points) and three out of four possible points over the weekend, the Islanders next task and test of strength comes against the visiting Toronto Maple Leafs tonight at Nassau Coliseum.

The young Islanders are set to face off with another team rebuilding their image in the Leafs, as General Manager Brian Burke did his thing prior to and on the trade deadline.

Several of the Islanders have been consistently hot, often times scoring highlight reel worthy goals. Kyle Okposo scored a nifty between the legs goal against Minnesota in their 4-1 win at home last Thursday. It was Okposo’s fourth goal of the season and he would finish the game with a goal and assist (4g 12a 16 points in 21 games). Blake Comeau would find the scoring touch he found prior to suffering a concussion against Pittsburgh, netting two goals Thursday – his 16th and 17th of the season.

Frans Nielsen would finish the game with three assists, although he played a great game – you could tell he was still upset about his defensive mistake that lead to the Capitals game winning overtime goal the game prior and told us he felt he played like, well – excrement. If a three point night is a bad game, well I’d like to see what his idea of a great game is.

Moving onto the matinee game against St. Louis on Saturday – John Tavares would open the scoring for the Islanders, off a sweet pass from Parenteau that certainly earned highlight space. Tavares muscled his way to the slot, beat two men low and then the Blues netminder for his 24th of the season. PA Parenteau would make up for missing a gimme, scoring off a slick pass by Michael Grabner – giving the Isles an early two goal lead.

Defenseman Andrew MacDonald would double up on his goal total, adding two more for four on the season and third in two games. His first tally of the game came on an absolute howitzer from the point and his second on a breakaway. Speaking of breakways, Grabner would finally break his scoreless streak topping off the scoring for the Islanders by netting his 26th of the season and his second point of the game.

The trio of Islanders players all flirting with 30 goals are all getting closer – Tavares now with 24, Grabner with 26 and Moulson with 28. Each player has plenty of time to reach the feat, with 15 games remaining on the season.

On Sunday, the second of back to back matinee games this weekend, the Islanders suffered a 3-2 Shootout loss to Red Hot New Jersey. While the loss was disappointing, the Islanders played very well against a team doing all they can to reach the post season.

After a scoreless first period, the Devils would score early in the second period on the power play – needing only one shot to tally the go ahead goal. The Islanders would score the equalizer on a power play of their own – Josh Bailey found a small section of open net above Martin Brodeur and make him pay.

The tie would last until the third period, when Ilya Kovalchuk would catch Al Montoya off guard with a knuckler that beat him between the pads. Blake Comeau would again tie the game for the Islanders, capitalizing on a Devils turnover and beating Brodeur. The tie lasted the remainder of the third period, and overtime. The Shootout did not end well for the Islanders – although Nielsen would score first, Kovalchuk and Rolston would score for the Devils giving them the extra point and the win.

Toronto comes into tonight hungry for two points – they are 4 points behind 9th place Carolina, 5 points behind the 8th place Sabres and 7 points behind the 7th place Rangers – with 16 games remaining.

The Islanders sit at 14th in the East at 60 points, 12 points out of the 8th seed with 15 games remaining. While not technically mathematically eliminated – it would take some unstoppable hockey down the stretch. That said, they CAN continue to play the role of spoiler and give the teams ahead of them headaches from here on out. It only helps their experience for next season, one that’s sure to be better before it even begins.

I’ll be covering the game tonight, be sure to follow me on twitter @islesblogger all throughout the game!

Islanders Look to Change Gears Against Wild

Posted by on 02 Mar 2011 | Tagged as: Gameday, General

You can’t fault these Islanders, I mean well – you can but let’s just call it growing pains. The Islanders held off the always dangerous Washington Capitals 1-0 for almost the entire 60 minutes last night. It only took two missteps, two breakdowns, two well – marvelous Washington plays to tie and ultimately win the game in overtime.

The Islanders are winless in their last four, although they have managed a few points in that span – they’ve certainly cooled off from that February stretch of excellent hockey. One can say that it could be because they’ve played a ton of hockey down the stretch, or that having the uncertainty of the trade deadline looming could have affected focus or psyche.

Moving forward, the Islanders have played some very good hockey against a tough team or two. They have shown some grit, character and given the league if anything a glimpse of the good things to come from this team.

Moving into tonight, the Islanders take on a Minnesota Wild team a few points out of the eight spot in the Western playoff race. Like every other team that comes into the Coliseum – they will be looking to skate off with an easy two points. I hope Ex-Isles draftee Jared Spurgeon, hometown boy Eric Nystrom and company came prepared.

In net for your Isles tonight – Al Montoya. Trevor Gillies is also back after sitting out his nine games for the fight fest against the Penguins. Micheal Haley is out after suffering a knee injury last night in Washington.

I’ll have more after things wrap up here at the Coliseum. Please follow me as I do some play by play on Twitter – @Islesblogger

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