Monday, October 31, 2011

New York Islanders: Winless Streak Must End Now

Five games. It doesn't seem like a lot especially when two of them are 1 point overtime losses.

How Islander fans always know that things can spiral out of control. Of course we know. We're Islander fans are we not?

Last season a promising start was derailed by a horrific win less streak that killed the season before it had the chance to get under way. Will this season be any different?

The Islanders played one of the better games that they have played all season against the San Jose Sharks in defeat Saturday night. The 3-2 overtime loss was amplified by the fact that a mystery call led to the winning goal in overtime as Travis Hamonic was whistled for a delay of the game call when clearly the puck bounced off the glass before it went out of play.

Non of the four officials on the ice seemed to agree and Travis was assessed a 2 minute minor that resulted in the winning power play goal for the Sharks.

There is no question the Islanders are not the same team that went through that horrid win less streak last season. Problem is, Islander fans are concerned. These games are strikingly similar to some of the games during the streak last season. Overtime losses, close one goal defeats, valiant efforts. When does it all end.

It has to end with the Islanders next game against the Winnipeg Jets on Thursday night. If there is such a thing as a must win game in November, this is it. The Islanders have to get a win under their belt and it has to be now.

Plug that hole before the erosion of losing spins out of control again. The Islanders and their coached are all saying the right things, they are all doing the right things. Except winning. Winning fixes everything. Get that win and people stop worrying. Lose, and the beat goes on and not in a good way.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

New York Islanders: Islanders Top Line Flexing Offensive Muscles


That is what you have to say at the scoring totals of the Islanders top line of John Tavares, P.A. Parenteau and Matt Moulson.

John Tavares is looking like the player that Islanders fans went nuts for at the Draft Party when he was drafted. His only criticism of the game he plays was his skating and strength. That issue has obviously been solved with Tavares working extensively with his skating coach to build up his strength on his skates. If the first four games of the season are any indication Tavares has been much tougher to push off the puck and has demonstrated a nose to find open space on the ice.

P.A. Parenteau is another story and is in a lot of ways the polar opposite of Tavares. If you called him a late bloomer you would be accurate. Last year was his breakout season when he scored 20 goals and had 33 assists primarily playing with Moulson and Tavares. So much is made of Garth Snow's pick ups of Michael Grabner and Matt Moulson. Do not forget about P.A. Parenteau. He has become a valuable asset to play with Tavares and is an excellent play maker. He currently has one goal and six assists in four games.

Matt Moulson was basically signed to make John Tavares more comfortable in his rookie season. He lit up the preseason two years ago and people said, he wont score in the regular season. Score he did. he netted 31 goals. The next year, people said he wont score near that many again. Then he went ahead and scored 30 more. He currently has four goals and six points in four games.

The chemistry exhibited by these three cannot be ignored any longer. Long gone are the days where three guys played together for a season or multiple seasons. Now coaches are always looking for the right mix and will mix and match lines. I happen to believe this is the wrong approach. Teams should be built the way the Islanders are building theirs. If you fine three guys who exhibit some chemistry and you stick with it.

To start the season Nino Niederreiter was slotted to play with Tavares and Moulson. Is it a stroke of luck that he pulled his hamstring and is now on injured reserve? The Islanders first line is in tact and should stay that way no matter what. These guy are playing like they are wirelessly connected and that is something you simply cannot teach.

Islander head coach Jack Capuano has a lot of other pieces besides his first line which should remain together untouched. I love the aspect of the high draft pick and two guys that Garth Snow plucked off the scrap heap and are now lighting up the NHL. He should absolutely try and find two more lines with chemistry and absolutely not touch the first line. They should lead the Islanders this season if the first four games are any indication.

It works. Stick with it and ride it for as long as it can possibly lasts. If its one month, great. If its the whole year, great. If its the rest of these young men's careers, great.

Friday, October 14, 2011

New York Islanders: Offense Wakes Up, DiPietro Concussed

The Islanders season is three games old and this season already is different from the past few years in quite a few ways.

First of all the Islanders came into this season with a positive on ice outlook for the first time in many years. That in of itself is a major change.

In addition to that the Islanders came into this season with stability, a powerful young offense teeming with potential to improve on a very sucessful second half last year. They have an expereinced veteran defense with a few young stars on the rise and rookies ready to step in if anyone falters or gets injured.

The Islanders also have a lot of depth in goal, with Al Montoya, Rock DiPietro, Evgeni Nabokov all on the main roster with 2 excellent prospects backing them up yes the Islanders are deep, young and very talented.

The offense was non existend against the Panthers on opening night and struck twice in game two against the Minnesota Wild.

Last night the Islanders faced their most skilled opponent yet in the Tampa Bay Lightning and quite simply rolled right over them chasing ex team mate Dwayne Roloson out of the net and beating the Lighting 5-1.

The Islanders first line of Matt Moulson, John Tavares and PA Parenteau skated like they were joined by some new Apple technology bridghing thier brains together and frustrated Tampa's veteran defense which includes Zdeno Chara wanna-be Victor Hedman.

Al Montoya was sharp again stopping 34 of 35 shots and the defense was poised and calm against a high powered offense forcing most shots tot he outside of the prime shooting areas.

Rick DiPietro came into this season healthy for the first time in four years and came in with a much improved attitude knowing that he had a lot of competition in the crease this season. Not only did he come in healthy but he also looked very sharp in pre-season games giving fans hope that he would become the all star goalie again we all know he can be.

Then something very familiar happened.

Brian Rolston hit him in the temple with a shot in practice causing a concussion that has Rick out indefinitely. Is there anyone that you can think of that has had worse luck than Rick? Rick did everything right so far this year and for his troubles gets rung like a bell by a shot in practice.

Rick should stay far away from Atlantic City and Las Vegas because his luck cannot possibly get any worse. The Islander fans while skeptical DP can regain his pre injury form had some hgope with his performance in pre-season. Now they say oh well it is a good thing we have Nabokov now.

I cannot help but feel awful for Rick. Yes that's me, an electrical contractor making a small fraction of what Rick makes feeling bad for a guy who gets to play pro sports and make millions of dollars. All the guy wants to do is play and show everyone he can still be a number one goalie and now this.

I hoe this is not a major issue for Rick and he can come back in quickly and get a few games under his belt. I remain a skeptic, but that does not mean i cant root for the guy.

Monday, October 10, 2011

New York Islanders: Laying an Egg On Opening Night

In the grand scheme of the season that is about to unfold the 2-0 shutout loss to the Panthers on opening night really is not that big of a deal and is not indicative of how this season will unfold for the young Islanders.

What it did do was disappoint a sold out Nassau Coliseum crowd that was absolutely jacked at the start of the game. As the game unfolded you could feel the frustration and dissapointment in the Coliseum. That is something the Islanders cannot afford to do.

Fans who went to the game to see the young Islanders take the first steps of a season filled with opportunity and expectations all left disappointed. Short of Al Montoya's performance there was nothing for fans to point at and say "yeah, well at least.."

The game was a total bust.

The sad part is that so many of the Islander fans that showed up were leaving the Coliseum who were going to stop by the box office and buy tickets if they were impressed by what they saw left saying "no, I'm not spending money on that team."

The Islanders had the chance to come out flying and feed off of the rabid crowd at the start. Instead they came out like it was a mid December game that had no meaning. Call it nerves, call it what you will no matter how young they are the team is a group of professional athletes. The effort on opening night was inexcusable.

Is it a reason to panic?

No one is panicking yet but the Islanders better show their fans that there is a reason to be optimistic pretty soon starting with Monday's game against the Minnesota Wild. That is unless they want to play in front of a half empty coliseum. Everyone knows that the Nassau Coliseum is not going to draw anyone to see the Islanders play. The only thing that will draw people to see the Islanders is wins and exciting hockey.

That is not what we saw opening night.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

New York Islanders: Expectations High For a Change

Do not look now, but it appears that the New York Islanders have earned a bit of respect in the NHL circles.

Predictions still have the Islanders for the most part finishing out of the playoffs but not at the bottom of the Eastern Conference.

Thats progress, but well short of what this team is capable of doing.

Now that that is out of the way let us look at what is apparent about the Islanders that has not been apparent in the past. The NHL season begins on October 6th and the Islander begin their campaign Saturday the eighth against the revamped Florida Panthers.

What can we expect from this group? Seriously?

The Islanders who failed in another bid for a new arena that has been an anchor around the teams neck for a while, seems to have been pushed to the side for the time being while the politicians and the powers that be fumble around looking for a new solution to the arena issue.

Belmont Park, A new complex on site with a parking garage, all that will be sorted out at some point.

Let's focus on the team itself on the ice.

The Islanders young core has a few additions this season to add to the mix. Notable adds are Marty Reasoner who will essentially take the place of Zenon Konopka in the Islanders lineup is also capable of killing penalties, winning face-offs and scoring the occasional goal.

Former long time Devil Jay Pandolfo has also been added to the mix and should provide some veteran leadership to the group and is a capable third or forth line penalty killer.

Veteran defenseman Steve Staios has the chance to make a nice impact to bring stability to the Islanders defense and will most likely be paired with the returning from injury Mark Striet.

Evgeni Nabokov has decided to continue his career with the Islanders and play out his contract and at the very least brings the Islanders a veteran net minder who has had a lot of NHL success under his belt.

Ryan Strome has signed a three year entry level deal and will at least get the obligatory nine game look to see if he can be the next 18 year old to crack an NHL line up. Odds are he goes back to juniors but there is always the chance he "wows" the Islanders brass to stay for the season.

Nino Niederreiter has made the team also and will likely get some top six forward minutes as he starts his full time NHL career. He has been hampered with a minor injury but saw time with John Tavares and Matt Moulson in the pre-season.

Brian Rolston is a serviceable forward who should be able to help the team across the board in all aspects of the game most notably penalty killing and giving the team three lines that are a scoring threat.

The new comers give the Islanders a couple of proven NHL veterans to lean on when the young Islanders either start to crack under the pressure of a long NHL season or need a guy who has "been there" to speak to about remaining consistent over an 82 game NHL season.

The Islanders biggest problem as of late seems to be the issue of remaining consistent and avoiding a season killing win-less or losing streak.

Every team has losing streaks, the key is to minimize the damage and get past it before it manages to kill your season.

From top to bottom the Islanders put what can be the most complete NHL team the franchise has seen since the 2002 season.

Dare I say this, the goaltending appears to be solid with the addition of Nabokov, the return of Al Montoya and the resurgence of Rick DiPietro who has had a solid pre season and managed to stay off injured reserve so far.

The defense is back and healthy from top to bottom.

The forwards are young, hungry, talented and have been spotted with a few veterans to steady the ship through the rough patches.

The team has stated that they think the rebuild is over and the time to win is now.

I whole heatedly agree that. The old barn in Uniondale will be a fun place to be this year and I am not talking about Rhianna concerts and monster truck rallies.