SoHo, N. Y.– The New York Islanders (22-16-5, 49 pts) open up the most important road trip in recent memory this evening, facing the 5th place Toronto Maple Leafs (24-14-5, 53 pts) at the Air Canada Centre. Hyperbole aside, no roadshow in the last six years has meant as much to this reignited organization as the five games schedule within the next 9 days. And overall, April 2013 has proven to be the most electrifying of Springs in Islander country.
Tonight’s matchup features two teams who have played outstanding hockey in their last ten games: the Isles at 7-1-2 versus the Leafs 7-2-1, and more so than Saturday’s contest against the Rangers, will prove just how far the rabbit hole goes for New York. Tonight this rag-tag team of misfits will have the opportunity to prove itself a formidable opponent to all takers, and a legitimate threat going into the post season. Tonight isn’t about bragging rights or burying a rival. Not in the least.
Beginning at 7pm, on the most important of stages, the Islanders will have the opportunity in presenting themselves as a talented, rugged, and surging hockey team that defines ‘strong emergence’, that defines holistic hockey, funneling down from the head (Evgeni Nabokov) and then throughout the respective sum of parts. No longer is this a top-heavy team, solely dependent on the ebbs and flows of a first line.
In all, the Islanders are stingy, pesky, physical, hungry, and confident, a most dangerous mix at present for anyone hoping to surpass or maintain this New York team. I don’t see them being beaten by anyone other than themselves. Usually a euphemism used by coaches, reporters and critics alike, the statement applies deftly so to this Islanders club. The New York Islanders are in most definitely in control of their destiny, and it looks to be one in line for greatness. They just have to keep on asking: Why not us?
Lastly, no official word on Casey Cizikas, who left the game this past Tuesday with an upper body injury. Rumor is he traveled with the team to Toronto, listed as day-to-day, but as of this post, nothing from the Islander camp as to his suiting up for this matchup. Also, Brian Strait is getting closer to being game ready, after suffering a terrible ankle break earlier in the season. Expect him in the postseason, if and when the Isles make it. If you remember, Strait’s injury came against the Flyers on February 18th, a game the Isles lost 7-0. Strait back in the lineup will bolster size and speed on the defensive side of things.
Here’s our own Mike Willhoft’s brilliant piece reflecting upon the nature of fandom in both hockey and the sports world in general. Great read:
Leafs on the ice for morning skate. Big one tonight with the red-hot Islanders… twitter.com/Real_ESPNLeBru…
— Pierre LeBrun (@Real_ESPNLeBrun) April 18, 2013
- I’m not the only one, it seems, that understands the gravity of tonight’s game, and, what’s better, the serious task of playing the ‘new’ New York Islanders. But again, the Isles have to keep talking the talk and walking the walk. Sure money says that tonight’s game will dwarf the Isles’ last two in both tenacity and anxiety. In other words, an epic battle will ensue in just a short while.
Feel like #isles have been playing biggest games for the last month
— AllthingsIsles(@AllthingsIsles1) April 18, 2013
- AllthingsIsles sums up my sentiments exactly. I venture to say that the turning point in the season was the Isles defeat of the Habs at the Coliseum, or maybe it was when they beat them in OT on the road? Or was it the recent win against the Bruins? Or was it when Rick DiPietro was moved down? Or was it when they….See where I’m going with this idea? Thank our boys that each game is filled with such importance, night after night. Sign of a wonderful season. I wouldn’t have it any other way.
Skating Around the Ice
- Montreal Canadiens (26-12-5, 57 pts) v. Pittsburgh Penguins (33-10-0, 66pts): Three first period Penguin goals forced the Habs to play catch-up all evening, chasing Peter Budaj at period’s end, forcing Carey Price to cut short his much needed rest. Price would allow another 3 goals by game’s end, as Montreal continues to struggle, having lost their last 3 contests. Methinks the Habs are holding back a bit having now secured a playoff spot; perhaps not overtly so, but their lackluster starts to games shows a team holding back on energy and conviction. Nothing worse than stumbling into the playoffs. Final score: Habs 4 – Pens 6
- Buffalo Sabres (19-19-6, 44 pts) v. Boston Bruins (26-11-5, 57 pts): A capacity crowd of 17,565 overflowing with emotion and pride resulting from the recent marathon tragedy, witnessed a hotly contested game that went to an OT shootout, where the Sabres’ Drew Stafford keeps Buffalo’s playoff hopes alive for another day. The Bruins fired 43 shots on Ryan Miller, who looked true to form, but a late power play goal by Cody Hodgson at the 19:33 mark of the 3rd, sent the game into overtime; the Sabres would go on to steal a most desirous extra point. Final score: Sabres 3 – Bruins 2
- Detroit Red Wings (20-16-7, 47 pts) v. Calgary Flames (17-22-4, 38 pts): Miikka Kiprusoff garners a first star in a solid performance, facing 38 shots versus his Flames’ measly 17, as the Red Wings outplayed but did not out score this struggling Calgary team. Because of this loss, Detroit now finds themselves out of a playoff spot. Final score: Flames 3- Wings 2
- Columbus Blue Jackets (21-16-7, 49 pts) v. Anaheim Ducks (27-10-6, 60 pts): Columbus takes the game to an OT shootout, and with help by Fedor Tyutin, surpass both the Ducks and the Red Wings in one fell swoop. Keep an eye out for the Blue Jackets, for thanks to the addition of Marian Gaborik Columbus has found new life.
Current Eastern Conference Standings
|1||y – Pittsburgh||43||33||10||0||66||30||3||0||17-5-0||16-5-0||147||106||+41||8-2-0||Won 5|
|2||x – Boston||42||26||11||5||57||22||4||3||14-3-3||12-8-2||118||94||+24||5-4-1||Lost 3|
|4||x – Montreal||43||26||12||5||57||23||3||2||13-6-3||13-6-2||135||113||+22||5-5-0||Lost 3|
|7||NY Islanders||43||22||16||5||49||19||3||1||10-11-3||12-5-2||124||124||0||7-1-2||Won 1|
|8||NY Rangers||42||21||17||4||46||17||4||4||13-6-2||8-11-2||102||100||+2||5-4-1||Lost 1|
|New Jersey||42||15||17||10||40||13||2||7||10-9-2||5-8-8||96||115||-19||0-6-4||Lost 10|
|Tampa Bay||43||17||22||4||38||16||1||3||11-8-2||6-14-2||136||135||+1||3-4-3||Lost 4|
|e – Florida||42||13||23||6||32||10||3||1||7-10-5||6-13-1||101||147||-46||4-6-0||Lost 3|
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Other Facebook Islanders pages that deserve your attention!
Check out Gary Harding’s blog (former Isles booster club VP)