Just two more games to go before the season for the New York Islanders comes to an end. Tonight, it is their final home game and fan appreciation night. How fitting that the Pittsburgh Penguins happen to be their opponents this evening prior to the Isles finishing things up with a trip to the city of brotherly love tomorrow.
This will be the first meeting between the Penguins and Islanders since the “ferocious Friday” epic at the NVMC a few months ago. To me and many others, that wild game was a significant turning point for the Islanders and seemed to really bring this club together. Additionally, well, despite the bad publicity and the ridiculous, double standard comments by many hockey commentators, it also earned the team a bit more respect than they had been getting.
What do I expect to happen after the 350 or so total penalty minute, fight-filled game in February? Do I think we will see a “repeat performance” or something similar? Do I believe there will be payback caught by some Penguins players? Will we see the type and tone of the hitting we saw previously? I do expect that there will be some big time hits and, perhaps, a fight or two throughout the course of the game. However, I have no doubts phone calls to both organizations from the NHL front office have already been made and warnings have been issued to both teams. Frankly, I’d be surprised if we see anything similar to what occurred back in February. If there are any signs of that, I’d also expect quick ejections and serious PIM times given out by the officials, as I am sure they will come fully prepared for the game.
From my perspective, this is an important game for the New York Islanders as far as simply WINNING the game on the scoreboard goes. They have been playing extremely well since mid December, and beating the Penguins again at home will show that the last win against the boys from Pittsburgh was not a fluke. Trying to keep the momentum going and playing out the season on a high note is, to me, what this team should do. Despite the injuries to our blue liners, I think the Isles are surely capable of beating the Pens again.
There are also, as far as I am concerned, other more important matters than additional fights or sending messages on the ice the Isles should be looking to establish. These are team related achievements that, to me, are things worth accomplishing.
• Getting PA Parenteau his 20th goal, which would give the team 5 20 or more goal scorers on the season.
• Getting John Tavares to 30 goals, which would give the Isles 3 30 plus goal scorers on the season.
• Seeing Michael Grabner score 35 or more goals. I must disappointingly say that I don’t think he will win top rookie of the year, but having him reach a nice milestone like 35 goals and put him in the Islanders all time history books with Bossy, Trottier and company would be really nice.
• Generally having the boys play well and compete from opening whistle to final buzzer. Some jobs next season could very well be decided up until the end, so let’s see what we have and who really wants to be back next season.
I’m sure others can toss in other points here, but the bottom line is regardless of not making the playoffs, I don’t expect to see this team tank the final 2 games.
Will we see Ricky in net again tonight? It wouldn’t surprise me, though I feel that Al Montoya will most likely get the nod. With back to back games to wind down the campaign, starting Al tonight and Ricky tomorrow would be the scenario most likely to occur.
In any event, it will be a spirited game tonight nonetheless. It’s going to also be a sell out, which will be a nice way to conclude the home schedule. Let’s go Islanders!
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