Hockey From The Blind Side, A Disappointing Weekend And A Let Down On Fan Appreciation Day
By John Panarese
After some impressive wins against the Penguins in their home and home series Tuesday and Thursday, and fighting back to the .500 mark, the New York Islanders dropped both of their weekend afternoon games. On Saturday, the Bruins broke open a 2-2 tie going into the 3rd period to beat the Isles 6-3. Yesterday, a Senator team missing both Jason Spezza and Daniel Alfredsson still handily defeated the orange and blue 5-1.
This, to me, was not exactly the kind of weekend I was hoping the Islanders would play. I was of the mind that they could take possibly 3 out of 4 points by shocking the Bruins and beating the Sens on Sunday. The way the Islanders had been playing, well, I thought the momentum would carry them onward.
Perhaps, getting “mathematically” eliminated from the playoff picture was a let down for the team, but they simply played with little concerted effort yesterday. After taking a 1-0 lead on a Mark Streit goal in the opening period, the Senators scored 5 unanswered goals after that. Realistically, Ottawa didn’t exactly play well themselves, but the Isles just didn’t seem to want to contest the game at all.
After Gary had written his post about his belief in not tanking the season, I was going to follow up with a post in which I was going to completely agree with Gary and add some additional thoughts. I had something in mind, “Run To The Finish Line”, but, apparently, the Isles have stumbled a bit. I was going to write how taking 3 of 4 points this weekend would make a very important statement for this team, and bring them some additional respectability as the season closes. Obviously, not making the playoffs was going to disappoint many in Islanders Country, but I personally share Gary’s belief that progress and further success for this team is much more important than draft position and waiting out another summer of “did we pick the best guy available”.
I still believe that the Islanders should seek to sweep the last 3 games of the season and shoot for the .500 mark. As I have said a number of times, 80 plus points is what this team needs to achieve to “salvage” any aspect of the season. I can care less where that would place us in the draft picture. I am tired of finishing 26 to 30 overall, and even 22nd place is “success” in my mind.
So, with that all said, here are a series of my “blind observations” as they pertain to recent games and the overall “state” of the Islanders;
• If ownership is truly going to allow Garth Snow to spend on the team this summer, besides the obvious pieces that are needed, let us consider my “old school” hockey approach once more. This team needs toughness and intimidation. As much as I dislike the Rangers, I have to give them credit for putting together a 4th line with some serious enforcer power. I am well aware of ownership’s opinions about fighting in the NHL, but I live in the “real world”, and a successful hockey team requires grit and an intimidating presence. Even Detroit has guys who can and will stand up when necessary.
• On that note, hats off to Micheal Haley again. Going up against a heavy weight in the NHL and still holding his own. THAT’s what I’m talking about!
• Interesting that, at one point, Jack Capuano sent out 5 defenseman after the Isles gave up a goal in the 2nd period. Was THAT a message or not?
• A “bit too late” or not, it has been nice to see some of that “secondary scoring”. I have read a lot in other places about this, but to me, it’s all about building on this season.
• Kyle Okposo hitting the 21 goal mark, to me, is a nice turn of events considering the start he had and the hard luck he has often faced. I have always believed that Kyle can be a 25 goal plus scorer, and I still do.
• Perhaps the Penguins did not play their finest hockey last week, but sweeping the home and home was emotionally satisfying to this Islander fan.
• Did Sidney Crosby not miss almost a full year of hockey because of concussion related issues? Did I imagine that? He, of all people, then should be much more aware about making contact to the head with an elbow. He should have gotten a Lot more than a 2 minute boarding on Mark Streit in Tuesday’s game.
• Al Montoya simply has not been the same goaltender since he suffered his concussion. I cannot blame him in all 11 goals the Isles surrendered this weekend, but he surely should have been able to stop more than a few of them. Something just isn’t right there.
• The defense on this team needs to be retooled completely. No more “bargain basement” signings. Mobility and toughness needs to be Garth Snow’s goals.
• Long before July 1, PA Parenteau should be signed long term. Let’s stop the nonsense and get that task done. On a team that needs offense, you just don’t pass on what he has brought and his contributions to the top line.
• Congratulations to Matt Martin for winning the Bobby Nystrom award. If there is an Islander who deserved it, Matt certainly does. Nice job, Mr. Martin!
• On a similar note, do not overlook the value of Matt Martin setting the record for the most hits in a season. Again, I’ve read a lot of thoughts about this record and, to me, it is a great achievement. On a team that has lacked team toughness, Matt Martin has often been the single guy to stand up for his team mates and deliver messages with big hits. As far as I am concerned, this is a record that I am proud of for an Islander to have set.
Tomorrow evening, it’s a last trip to New Jersey. Then, it’s the Islanders last home game on Thursday against the Jets. Willl we see Al Montoya again on Tuesday?
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