Islanders Face a Habs Team in the Habit of Winning
By Rich Dias-Rodrigues
(EYESONISLES fans or fan — heh– let me quickly introduce Scotty Bonner, recent addition to the site. The following is his first contribution)
MONTREAL, QC–Tonight as the two teams take to the ice I’d like to say to all Islander fans that it is quite alright to look upon the Habs and be filled with some envy. For they like us were picked to miss the postseason dance. They like us were expected to be a lottery pick. They like us exited the lockout with little to no expectation. Yet here we are, a self-fulfilling prophecy year, after year, after year. As yet another organIzation coming to town exceeding everyone’s expectations as they have somehow turned their ship away from the rocks. And here I sit jealous.
The Isles entered this season with little or no expectations, and they haven’t disappointed. With that being said it is important to find the why. Why are we right where everyone said we’d be? And are we that team next season that is the “pleasant surprise.” To do so we must take a quick set of vitals on our squad, so as to prioritize the issues in need of redress.
Any fool can tell you that John Tavares is really, really good, and that whenever he scores the he makes the team that much better. Or the fact that whomever plays on a line with him benefits greatly statistically. Well , sort of (Kyle Okposo, looking at you, pal.) JT has been on the ice for Matt Moulson’s last 67 goals. That streak is mind boggling. It pays homage to JT’s greatness, but also speaks volumes to Matt Moulson’s ability to finish.
First let’s look at the glaring signs. At the quarter pole of this abridged season we can certainly begin to look at individuals, and the team as a whole to see where our “vitals” are trending, so to come up with a plan of care. Our patient is not on life support, but he is headed towards ICU, and here are some of the top 3 reasons why.
Generally, I’ve felt that this stat can be over analyzed and may misrepresent overall achievement, and a team as a whole, because there are so many variables that go into it. However ,when even giving a quick glance over the Islanders, their +/- “situation” is cause for pause. There is only one player on their current roster that is even in the “+” category (a +3) . And he just fractured his ankle Saturday.
Suffice to say that Brian Strait is severely missed on the blue line–just ask Mark Streit how he’s faring holding the line. With Strait on the shelf for 6-8 weeks the Islanders have not a single player on their roster that is a “+”.
Of the 3 defenseman who have played 10 or more games for the Isles this season, the best +/- rating is a -9 shared by Andrew Macdonald, and Travis Hamonic. Topped only by the wonderful play of our captain Mark Streit “leading” the way at a -10. Couple that with the combined NHL experience of 23 games between Joe Finley and Thomas Hickey, and you can quickly see the root of our organIzation’s problems.
With league’s #7 ranked power play and the #10 ranked penalty kill, one can easily conclude that when the Isles are faced with the daunting task of playing 5 on 5 hockey we have our lunches handed to us.
60 minutes Please
The Islanders lead the league in 2nd period goals with 21. Which would indicate that on more than one occasion they have had a lead, or a share of one in the final stanza. Losing 5 of those such games. Ladies and gentleman we have only played 16 games so that’s over 30% of the games this season where we had an opportunity to get 10 points, and have came away with just 1 (in Winnipeg 1/27). The Islanders are dead last in the league with 27 goals against in the 3rd period and are a – 14 in it as well. This fact is perhaps the most concerning vital of all, and is indicative of a systemic problem that needs to be rectified STAT or we will be hitting March first, and planning yet another draft party.
In short, the Isles D is stretched way too thin. We have 3 out of the top 29 players in TOI Time On Ice, or ice time. Mark Streit is 9th in the league, Andrew Macdonald is 12th, and Travis Hamonic is 29th. This enormous amount of ice time combined with the shortened frantic schedule has shown in their play, and in the team’s overall defensive efforts night after night. It is the most likely of all reasons for the disparity in the 3rd period goal differential. The three work horses have a combined -28, as a team the Isles are 29th out of 30 in goals against. So sending these poor lambs out night after night to the slaughter isn’t doing the team much good anyway. Now I really like Andrew Macdonald, and Travis Hamonic, and I am in no way blaming our record as a team on them. But they are horribly over worked, and their games are suffering and regressing for it. Unfortunately for them with Matt Carkner, and Briand Strait on IR it looks as if there is no rest for the weary in the upcoming days and weeks ahead. With our D in shambles, no back up net minder to rest Evgeni Nabokov, and no relief in sight it would appear that in the words of the Commish we could be in for a, “long, short season.”
Being born and raised a goalie (yes I was a “butterfly birth”) I firmly believe in my waffle of waffles that defense wins championships, or could at least get you to .500. The Islander vitals clearly show a diagnosis of defenseitis or swollen/bloated defense. The prognosis is not great, and the treatment calls for a defenseectomy at the trading deadline and throughout the off season. I recommend keeping Hamonic, Macdonald, and Strait, those are the only parts of the defensive leg that are not gangrenous and need of removal. Lubomir Visnovsky is a nice player, but unless he asks to be here, he is great trade bait. If he does want to stay then great, but the Isles have the very worst defense in the league both on and off paper, and no MD in the world can help that.
So tonight, my brethren, I say look upon the Habs, and smile, for if we believe it in our heart then one day we can be like them. The team another fan gazes upon and says “I wish that were my team.” We have to first believe it possible, then say it aloud because always remember, “ If you say something enough times, someone is going to believe you.” So I say we will one day soon (preferably before we make the move to Brooklyn) be a perennial powerhouse. Young, nasty, and fast lead by John Tavares and co.
One can easily look at our vitals and feel well just awful, but what would be the purpose of that? I did not ask you to take the time read this so you can feel worse about our club. Hey worst case, the number 1 ranked prospect in the upcoming 2013 draft is a Defensemen, and we have an excellent crop of young defensive prospects in the pipeline. So this too shall pass. I ask all Islander fans not to panic over a 48 game season which we started with 3/7 defensemen off waivers a week before the puck actually dropped. What did you expect our vitals to look like? Have the Defenseectomy done, take 2 aspirin and call me in the morning. But in the meantime call the ICU tell em to get that bed ready…
Follow Scotty Bonner @moosiestmoose42