The impostors that kidnapped the Islanders at the last game last month against Carolina seemed to have been exorcised, hopefully for good. Solid D, taking advantage of the other teams mistakes, solid goal tending, and a bit of an assist from the goal posts and the Islanders have a 4-0 shutout victory. Oh.. and poor Andy Hilbert, he is the definition of Snake Bit and at this point can't even seem to be able to shoot the puck in the Atlantic Ocean. Hopefully one will bounce in off someones leg as he is overdue to have one bounce his way.
First of all, congratulations are due to Mike Sillinger. Playing in the NHL by itself is a tremendous accomplishment. Playing well enough to last 1000 games is something that should be honored and the Islanders did a fine job with it last night. The attendance I will say was disappointing. An announced crowd liberally announced at 11,008 was all the fans could muster despite the team offering a 40% off promotion. I have said it before, empty seats bug me. Hopefully on Saturday the place will be packed rightfully so as that game has an awful lot going for it. Anything short of the capacity of 16,234 would be a disappointment as Al Arbour will be behind the bench one more time. Oh, and there is that Penguin team has a couple of pretty good players on it... Some kids named Crosby and Malkin have made some sort of a splash. Ill have to keep an eye on them Saturday, see if they have anything to bring to the game.
Locker Room Report - After being shuttled down past the security hopefully getting a glimpse of Al Arbour who was in the building, waiting in the interview room and this time Coach Nolan was up first. Looking a heck of a lot more comfortable than he did last year.. err..month err week, at the last press conference he speaks positively about what the Islanders had to do to try and recover from the beating they took last week. They tried to put DiPietro in as many game situations as they could, scrimmages with lots of traffic in front, clogging the middle and shots through traffic to get him the work he was missing through the teams inactivity. He also said the Islanders are looking forward to getting past this hiccup and getting back into a schedule that resembles the NHL and not the NFL (My words not his). Nolan speaks fondly of Sillinger and the hard works it takes not only to make it to this level but to stay here as long as he has. Nolan also speaks about Arbour and what a joy and an honor it will be for him to stand next to the Hall of Famer behind the bench.
After Nolan was shuffled off to the Locker Room on the Blogger hot seat was Josef Vasicek. I'm a tall guy but this guy is big. When asked he speaks about the lapse in the schedule and the fact that the team had 6 games in 9 days, and then 2 games in 11 days saying it is tough to start the season with such a flurry of action to sit and wait to play for so long when all you want to do is play games, especially after a game like the Carolina game which probably had to be tough for him as it is his former team. I ask Josef about any special drills or practices the team went through and he says that Nolan tried to put them through as many real game situations that he could, using a 5 minute 4 on 4 structure simulating overtime to keep them skating. He says that helped but there is nothing like real game activity. I asked him about Saturdays game against the Penguins and anything they do to watch guys like Crosby. He says with a guy like that you always have to be aware when he is on the ice and try to contain him as best you can because he is a guy that every time he is on the ice he can make an impact, so you try and minimize his opportunities. He also speaks fondly of Arbour looking forward to having him on the bench for the game Saturday night.
The Team and its coach seems really pleased they are passed this stretch of the schedule because despite what they said to the contrary this blogger's opinion is is bothered the hell out of them as a team. So its back to business and a somewhat normal schedule. The Islanders stand at 6-4 and well beyond what anyone with a NHL column or show thought they would be.
We will see (hopefully) a FULL HOUSE on Saturday and welcome back for a night a huge part of the Islanders history as Al Arbour returns to the bench for his 1,500th game as coach. Hopefully that 739 banner that is hanging from the rafters will become outdated.