Sunday, October 31, 2010

Special Teams Power Outage

It is no secret that the Isles lack firepower - particularly at even strength. For the first four games of the season they were able to make up for this deficiency by putting up some impressive numbers when they had a man advantage. During this stretch, they scored 6 goals in 22 chances (a 27% rate). They had Weight setting up Wisniewski's cannon at the point, along with Tavares, Parenteau, and Moulson sniping from down low.

In fact - 13 of the teams 31 total goals this season have come with the man advantage. That is, almost one-third of the team's goals have been on the power play. The last two games they were 0-12 on the PP, and they've had only 5 goals in their last 26 chances over the past 5 games (19% rate) --- a period in which the team lost 4 straight. It's no surprise that their dip in PP production coincides with their current losing streak. They still remain 8th in the league with an overall 22.4% success-rate, but it has slipped over the past week.

During this same stretch, the Isles have been merely average on the penalty kill. Last week they killed off 10 of 13 penalties, which is a less-than-impressive 77% rate. For the season, they have killed off 42 of 51 penalties and they are only 17th in the league with an overall 82.7% success rate. This is NOT good enough, and the 77% rate for the past week would actually put them 26th out of 30 teams.

Special teams play is an important aspect of the game and is one of the keys to a team's ability to succeed. But it is even more important to a team like the Isles who struggle scoring at even strength. The Isles are going to have to improve these numbers if they are going to compete for a playoff spot. Successful teams need to be closer to 85% on the kill, and somewhere between 25-30% on the power play.

Last, put this in perspective: Four of Tavares' six goals have come on the PP. Seven of Wisniewski's, Parenteau's, Weight's and Bailey's combined nine goals have some with the man advantage. That means these five guys have a total of 4 even-strength goals. These guys are not getting it done even strength and if the special teams continues to sputter... ... well, I think you know where this is going.

For the Isles its a new week, a new month, and hopefully, better results.

Reality Sets In

Well..... it looks like the wheels are starting to come loose and may fall off the wagon. While the Isles certainly have been bitten by the injury bug - they have also been bitten by the "we may not be as talented as we first appeared" bug. Newest casualty - Jurcina. Looks like Schremp may be back soon and Hunter returned to the line-up, but I don't think this is enough.

When the season started, I stated that I did not believe the Isles acquired enough scoring during the off-season. It looks like I may be right. Here are some not-too-impressive stats:
  • Isles have scored more than 3 goals in a game in only 3 of their 11 games.
  • They only have 8 goals in their last 4 games -- you won't win averaging 2 goals a game.
  • They have scored only 1 goal in a game 3 times this season and in 2 other games they only got 2 goals. So - in half their games, they have scored 2 goals or less.
  • They have lost 4 in a row and are now under .500.
  • Their top three point scorers actually only have 2 goals each.
  • With the exception of Moulson, Comeau & Tavares, no one on the team has more than 2 goals.
  • While he wasn't over-matched, it was obvious Niederreiter was not going to be a repeat of Tavares (or Bailey for that matter) and it was the right move to send him back to juniors.
  • Hunter, Sim, and Weight have been mostly invisible and I really don't think Parenteau and Grabner are the solution.
  • Bailey and Moulson have cooled off in the last half-dozen games.
Maybe things improve when Schremp & Okposo come back. But in reality, I don't think you can expect Schremp to make a huge impact and Okposo, when he returns, will be coming off shoulder surgery and will need some time to get his timing and legs back.

What does this all mean? I think it means Isles fans need to be prepared for more of what we've seen in the last 4 games and less of what we saw in the first 5. It's going to be a long season.

Sunday, October 24, 2010


Another injury hits the Isles - this time Andrew MacDonald goes down for 4-6 weeks with a hand injury that required surgery. Going into the season the Isles had 9 defensemen on the roster and only enough playing time for 6. Since then, Streit was lost to a shoulder injury and won't be returning until sometime in January or February at best. Wisniewski had to sit a pair for his lewd gesture in the Ranger game. And now A-Mac is lost for more than a month.

It's a good thing Garth stockpiled the defense going into the season. Now Hillen and Gervais get a chance - well, at least Hillen does. Reports from Isles veteran blogger extraordinaire Dee Karl was that Gervais was seen skating in practice as a forward. He's had a few games at forward in the last few years and it just might give a chance to get out of Gordon's doghouse and onto the ice. Bruno had a rough go of it in a number of games last season and didn't seem to make the progress the team had hoped for.

Isles lost a tough one to the Panthers and wasted a nice game by Tavares who netted his first career hat trick. I saw some media-types report that they thought DP over-handled the puck and also coughed up a fat rebound for the 4th goal. Some have gone on to suggest that Roloson should be the number one goalie. I strongly disagree for a few reasons.

First - I watched the Florida game and Ricky did not cough up a rebound leading to Florida's go-ahead goal. It was a shot from the point that was deflected on its way to the net and Ricky just got a piece of it with the bottom of his pads and it took a lucky trip onto Dvorak's stick. Not Ricky's fault, in fact -- who was responsible for picking up Dvorak? Why is he sitting wide open, alone behind the defense? Second, while Rollie has certainly played well and has earned the "starting goalie" tag - let's not lose site of the fact that he is 41 years old and has a limited future. Moreover, this team is not likely to be making a run at the cup (especially with Streit & Okposo out for half the season). Like it or not, DP is only 29 and can play another 10 years ---- if course, if he stays healthy. I know he's not been spectacular - but don't lose site of the fact he's played less than a dozen games in the last 2 years. He needs some time to knock the rust off. The Isles will need DP to be their number one for the next few years until one of the guys in the system is ready to step into the crease. Until then, it is in the Isles best interest to get DP back into his old form (or as close to old form as he can get) and to help build his confidence.

Last - I think some people got a little delirious over the past 2 weeks with the Isles being in first place and playing well. They've played 10% of their games -- they are doing better than anyone predicted - but at some point they will come back to Earth a little. Until then, let's just hope they can get through the next game without having someone leave the ice with an injury.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Isles Continue to Look Good - Bailey Hurt

Isles dominated the Av's on Saturday night. I had predicted a 4-3 Isles win... I was close, it was 5-2 Isles. Then tonight they took on the 4-0 Leafs and played them even for 60 minutes until Tavares blasted home the game-winner in OT with a one-timer from the right circle a little over a minute into the extra session. The Isles played another good game and according to Butch Goring who was interviewed by Kris King at the morning skate - all the GM's and coaches he spoke to have declared the Isles to be the hardest working team in the league right now. That's a pretty big compliment.

Mixed into all this good news is the continuing pile-up of injuries. Josh Bailey left the game in the middle of the first period with a hip flexor. No word yet on how serious it is or if Bailey will miss any games. The good news is that the Isles are off until Thursday when they square off against the 4-1 Lightening in Tampa so Josh has a few days to recover. However, the game against the Lightening will be a big test because Tampa Bay is clearly a better team than the Leafs. They bring in big guns like Stamkos, St. Louis, Lecavalier, Malone, big defensemen Hedman. It will also be our first look at ex-Isle Sean Bergenheim in a new uniform - I am sure he will be up for this game, trying to prove the Isles were wrong to let him go.

You have to worry that, despite the team's early success, the injuries will eventually catch up and take its toll on this team. It's remarkable that the 4 players that have been injured so far are probably the Isles top 4 players (Streit, Okposo, Tavares, and Bailey). and while we won't see Streit or Okposo until probably after the New Year, thankfully JT doesn't seem to have any lingering effects from the concussion as he has scored in 2 straight games and has a total of 3 points in the two games. Let's see what happens with Bailey.

But for right now, there is a lot to smile about for Islander fans.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Don't Want a Lost Weekend

Isles lost a tough one last night in Pittsburgh. Fell victim to the ole - "you skated too close to Crosby so you deserve a penalty" syndrome. How ridiculous was the penalty call in the 3rd period? Wasn't even close to an actual penalty - and even if it was close - it certainly wasn't a call you make in OT.

So, the Isles earned points in 3 of their first 4 games so far. That has to be a positive to take away - especially since they did it without Tavares, Streit, and Okposo. Tavares will play tonight against the Avalanche (matched against the guy picked right behind him - Duschene) and the Av's are coming in with a 3-1 record and an impressive win against the Rangers.

Isles caught a bad break yesterday in Pittsburgh - they need to put that behind them and put a "W" up on the board tonight to avoid having a lost weekend. I think we'll see Rollie in net - DP has played 2 straight OT games and probably can use a break and Rollie needs to play to stay sharp. I think the Isles will surprise the Av's - prediction - Isles 4, Av's 3.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Rivalry Day - Isles v. NYR

Isles faced off in a matinee with cross-town arch-enemies the NY Rangers on Saturday at the Coli.

First observation: there is a VERY small crowd for a NYI/NYR game. I get it, it's a Monday at 1:00 - but so what. This is THE game for NY area hockey fans. Where is everyone? Between periods we (media) interviewed Commissioner Gary Bettman and he was asked about the sparse crowd and used the same lame excuse - its a Monday afternoon game. OK - then why schedule a game involving one of the biggest rivalries in all sports on Monday afternoon if you know there is a chance the crowd will suck. You know the Isles need help selling tickets - so the league screws them by scheduling this game as a matinee. I digress.

Second observation: Ranger fans are IDIOTS. How disrespectful -- all the moronic shout-outs during the national anthem. I get it - Potvin sucks, you hate the Isles, whatever. But it's the NATIONAL FREAKING ANTHEM. Have some respect, stand up, take your hat off and SHUT THE F**K UP. Seriously.

Third observation: Both teams skated well. Both teams came out flying and hitting. No surprise here. DP looked sharp early and came up huge on Gaborik's penalty shot. Early reports on Bailey are correct. He is skating better and looks like he is brimming with confidence. He has shown some additional maturity already this season - looks like an experienced veteran out there. Bailey displayed some SICK stick work in front of the net to tuck one past Lundquist as he was getting knocked down. As I said earlier, talk about Bailey’s elevated play are not exaggerated. Just before the goal he made pretty set-up in front to Parenteau that was denied. Isles have shown some resiliency so far -- coming from behind in 2 of their first 3 games.

Final observation: Commissioner Bettman was asked between periods about the Isles and/or Phoenix moving to one of the cities allegedly begging for a team (Winnipeg, Kansas City, etc). He stated - the league has NO plans to expand and currently has no interest in moving one of its existing teams to either city. He continued by agreeing that the Isles NEED and DESERVE a new facility and that the clock is ticking. The Isles are still a few years away from having to make a critical decision about the arena. He said maybe Nassau Cty needs to step in and cut the Town of Hempstead out of the process to get things moving in a positive direction.

Commissioner had all god things to say. Hopefully the local politicians were listening.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Isles Help Open a New Rink

Over the past few years that I've been a blogger for the Isles, there have been a few consistent themes running through most of my posts, such as: Isles need more scoring, my boys & I are huge fans of the team, the Isles are one of the most generous sports franchises with regard to community service; and I can't understand why Jon Sim still plays for this team.
Well.... this post is going to be a little about item 3 - the Isles giving back to the Long Island community. Say what you want about the product on the ice or how the team is run - but no one can criticize how much community service the Islander organization engages in each year. Many of the efforts are visible - Isles support for literacy; the school visits by Sparky and the Ice Girls; the incredible charitable giving seen at most games; and the visits to hospitals at Christmas and in the off-season; just to name a few. But the Isles do so much more.

Just last week the Islanders helped a local roller hockey league achieve its dream when they were present at the ribbon cutting ceremony for the new St. John of God roller hockey rink in Central Islip. The St. John of God roller hockey league (SJOG) has been around for over 30 years and is a tremendous organization that enables almost 1000 kids each year to play organized roller hockey. The league started in a old parking lot behind SJOG church on Carleton avenue in Central Islip. They used old timbers for an edge to keep the puck from disappearing down the street. Over the past several decades, as the league grew in popularity, the rink morphed into an imitation hockey rink with painted plywood boards, chain link fencing, wooden benches, and a well-worn but playable blacktop surface. Last year the league reached a critical stage - continue to spend money attempting to maintain the old rink, or, take advantage of a unique but costly opportunity staring them right in the face. For years the league had dreamed of installing a more professional rink for the kids to use - but the cost of making that dream come true seemed insurmountable. Then the NY Islanders contacted the league and made them aware of an old ice rink that was being torn down and replaced in Brooklyn. With the Isles help, the league was able was able to obtain the old rink (which was still very good condition) and have it transported to Central Islip where one of the league coaches volunteered to store it for the season until enough money could be raised to replace the old rink.

The Islanders stepped in a second time and gave the league more than 1000 discounted tickets to sell to help it raise money. The kids in the league jumped in and sold almost 1500 tickets to one of last season's Isles/Devils game. It was SJOG night at the Coli and the money raised in the 50/50 raffle was also donated back to the league. Because of the Isles incredible giving spirit, the league raised more than $50,000 that night toward construction of the new rink. As a reward offered to the players from SJOG who sold the most tickets, the Isles invited the 3 top ticket selling kids and a parent to accompany the team to an away game in Pittsburgh. These young hockey players (who each sold over 100 tickets) got to ride on the Isles chartered jet, stay in the team hotel, attend the morning skate, and were the Isles guests at the game that night. Other top sellers won a ride on the Zamboni between periods, could high-five the team as they headed to ice each period, sat on the bench & was stick boy during warm-ups, and other meet & greet opportunities with Isles players. This was a night these young boys would NEVER forget. All made possible by the generosity of the NY Islanders.

Last week, on a beautiful late September evening, the officials from SJOG, the Islanders, and several hundred of the roller hockey league players and parents all gathered together to celebrate the grand opening of the new rink. It was truly a special night.

The new season is underway at SJOG. The kids are flying around the rink delivering clean checks, crisp passes, and congratulatory handshakes after the games. The tremendous smiles on the players faces can be seen through their caged helmets as they marvel at this beautiful new rink they get to play on each week. It is truly a sight to see.

One last note -- a little more than a year ago the Pastor of SJOG passed away from cancer at the too young age of 45 years old. Father Jim Kissane was a terrific priest, a good friend, and a tremendous supporter of youth hockey. He will be missed, but never forgotten --- the new rink was dedicated to his memory.

Next Up: A New Season Begins