The Story Behind Montoya’s Mask

Posted by on Jan 26 2012 at 2:48 pm | Tagged as: General

I’ve been slacking way too much around here, given my duties with the TV show

I am working on a few stories leading up to the All Star Game, the teams play over the last few weeks, the ever looming trade deadline and what to expect out of the Islanders the remainder of the season.

That said, I came across this great clip from a series on The Score called Face Paint. This time they interview Al Montoya and ask him about his current mask design. I am sure there are clippings on this story on the internet somewhere from preseason or earlier in the year, but it’s always great to have the players full explanation.

Pretty cool, have a look:

John Tavares an All Star

Posted by on Jan 12 2012 at 5:40 pm | Tagged as: Gameday, General, Hot Headlines, News

Three years ago in Montreal, you couldn’t tell any of us there in attendance on the Draft Risers that whomever selected John Tavares in the first round wouldn’t be getting anything less than a dynamic player and future all star. Luckily enough for those around the Islanders, Garth Snow wisely selected him with his coveted number one pick.

Flash forward to the present, Tavares has grown leaps and bounds. He’s more confident, he’s a stronger skater and for the most part, has proven he can shoulder the weight of his team.

Look no further than last season, when Tavares would get muscled off the puck, or taken down while skating and compare him to today just to see the difference. It’s night and day how far he’s come, credit that to his character.

Sure, there were knocks on his skating and defensive skills – but he’s improved in those areas tenfold.

John Tavares is who the Islanders needed to rebuild around, he is an integral part of the nature of the team. It’s a good thing he signed that contract extension over the summer, as he will be with the Islanders for a while.

Here are some notes per the Islanders release:

The National Hockey League announced today that Islanders center John Tavares has been selected to participate in the 2012 NHL All-Star Weekend.

Tavares, 21, leads all Islanders in scoring with 39 points (14 goals, 25 assists) through 40 games this season. The first overall pick in the 2009 NHL Entry Draft also led the Islanders in points during each of his first two seasons, but 2012 marks his first All-Star selection.

Only 20 players in the NHL have more points this season than Tavares, who has recorded 10 multi-point games, including two four-point efforts and one hat trick. The Oakville, ON native, leads all Islanders forwards in ice-time, averaging 19:39 a game.

Tavares joins some other recent Islanders who’ve gotten a taste of the All-Star weekend: Mark Streit, Rick DiPietro, and Michael Grabner.

It’s great to see Tavares noticed and rewarded for his great work here on Long Island. It’ll be interesting to not how well he’ll do skating alongside some of the greatest players in the game, and if the Garth Snow takes note of whatever chemistry he may have with them.

Either that, or get a dose of reality in what a shot in the arm by way of “upgrading” his roster could do for this team.

Only time will tell.

Islanders Look For Answers Against Flames

Posted by on Dec 29 2011 at 5:26 pm | Tagged as: Gameday, General

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.

Islanders Face Dallas: No Retaliation Needed

Posted by on Dec 15 2011 at 7:26 pm | Tagged as: Gameday, General

AP Photo/Paul J. Bereswill
Dallas has come into New York, beating the Cross Town Rival New York Rangers 1-0 on Tuesday night and riding the hot hand of local kid – Eric Nystrom. The Islanders have now lost three straight, so they will be looking to turn their fortune against the Lone Star’s tonight.

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!

Islanders Look to Continue Stride Against Lightning

Posted by on Dec 06 2011 at 7:10 pm | Tagged as: Gameday

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.

Isles Look For Third Straight Road Win in Chicago

Posted by on Dec 02 2011 at 8:53 am | Tagged as: Gameday, General

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.

Rangers Hand Isles Another Loss, 3rd Jersey Revealed

Posted by on Nov 16 2011 at 8:25 pm | Tagged as: General, Hot Headlines, Recap

So the Islanders lost in a tough way last night against their rival New York Rangers 4-2. The game was a fairly entertaining game, and although the Islanders played much better than they have in the last few – it wasn’t enough to beat the red hot Rangers.

For long stretches of time, the Isles were out muscled, out played and out hustled. They did manage to turn it around for a bit towards the end of the first period, and then again during the second with a few power plays but ended the second period down 2-1. The game got chippy at times, with Mottau and Avery fighting and then Martin and Eminger as well.

Nabakov absorbed lots of contact, as have his fellow keepers had the previous games – it’s no wonder why the league is looking into ways of protecting goalies.

There were the typical gaffes, bad passes, blocked shots, poor clearing attempts and a few miscues around the net. But none took the cake like Josh Bailey’s bone headed backhand clearing attempt late in the third. An ill advised attempt that was up the middle of the ice and went directly to Brad Richards who scored the game winner. Josh Bailey may find himself on the outside looking in, as soon as tomorrow nights game.

The team clearly responded Kyle Okposo’s benching last night, but they were just no match for the stronger and more talented Rangers.

During the post game, it was your typical somber and quiet locker room. The players were milling about, with Austrian news crews going through and interviewing Grabner, Niederreiter and Streit, in German. I could barely hear Moulson in his scrum, he was monotone and looking at the floor for the most part. The only thing I managed to understand was how the team is frustrated and that they know they can play better.

Tavares’ scrum was no different, as he is already a quiet person. However, you could literally see the pain and frustration in his expressions and through his words.

I am not going to lie, I’m glad they are frustrated and mad. A team that accepts defeat and begins to expect losing isn’t a team I would want to watch – so perhaps this is another learning experience for the young crew.

Listening to head coach Jack Capuano speak during his post game press conference – it was good to hear that he felt there weren’t any passengers and he saw lots of effort last night. He admitted that they had paid the price on the 5 on 3, and nearly scored right after killing it off.

Third Jersey Revealed

The Islanders 3rd jersey was revealed tonight at a special event, it had been speculated about for months and was even leaked to a few different websites. Unfortunately, it was that black design that just wouldn’t go away – which I admit I don’t hate, but I don’t love it either. It reminds me too much of the jersey the Mets wear and I really don’t want to emulate that team any more than we already do.

Please, tell me what you think in the comments. Although, I may regret that.

Islanders Look for Change Against Rangers

Posted by on Nov 15 2011 at 2:14 pm | 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?

The Curious Case of Blake Comeau

Posted by on Oct 20 2011 at 1:58 pm | Tagged as: Opinion, Roster Moves

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 confusion, speculation.

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.

Islanders Visit Tampa: Capuano’s Motivational Challenge

Posted by on Oct 20 2011 at 7:59 am | 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 Oct 13 2011 at 6:03 pm | 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!

You Can Still High Five For 5X!

Posted by on Oct 12 2011 at 7:38 am | Tagged as: General, Hot Headlines

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!!

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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!

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And if you know me, I just HAD to vote!

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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.

Follow @SnapfishbyHP on Twitter for updates about the online photo sweepstakes and join the conversation using #highfivefor5x. For more details, see official rules at http://highfivefor5X.com.

I should have some photos of the event soon!

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