An independent blog on the New York Islanders and the NHL by a guy from New York.

Thursday, January 28, 2016

Accountability Equals Consistency: My Five Keys


So in the past few days, I’ve had 2 articles partially written to analyze the Isles and their play a little more than half way into the season and heading into the All-Star break.  I’ve had to change them around and do some re-writes to bring you the current version of this article.  I had to do so in hopes of not retelling much of what many of my colleagues or those in the local media have written about the team.  Sometimes, not a very easy thing to do at all. But know that my delays in writing have come at expense of caring for my Dad, a trade I happily make without hesitation.


It all comes down to accountability.  I need to take care of business in my own life and still manage the immense burden of caring for an aging parent with Alzheimer’s and dementia. Sometimes, it seems like a losing battle, but it doesn’t deter me one bit.  If I am not there to care for him, no one else will. I am OK with that obligation.  What I am trying to do here is draw attention to the different responsibilities and accountability.  While the example is my own, its merits can be applied to many other examples, even a hockey organization like the New York Islanders.


Recently, your New York Islanders defeated the Vancouver Canucks, 4-2 in O.T at home, the Senators 5-2 in Ottawa, had their home game against the Flyers snowed out (no make-up date announced yet)  and lost a 4-2 game at home to the Detroit Redwings, since we talked last.  It was an up and down, back and forth 9 days of hockey.  They seem to dominate each period with a physical edge or were forced to play catch-up for much of the game after a slow start during that time.  They now find themselves 3 points behind the 2nd place Rangers (25-16-6 with 56pts in 47 games) and 7th in the eastern conference.  They have gone just 7-8-1 in their last 16 games, but have been outscored 29-9 in those 9 loses.  All season long, lines have been changed, guys called up and injuries endured for what still amounts to a successful 2015-16 campaign for New York so far.  Adjustments must be made in the best way that the GM, coaching staff and players are able to accomplish.  But you have to wonder how good the team would be if their shortcomings were properly addressed and they found a way to evolve even more than they have managed so far this season.


I am acquainted with a professional coach in a major sporting league.  This coach has managed to have a very successful career in his chosen sport and has even won a title at the pro level.   When I asked about his opinion on Jack Capuano, he basically said he wasn’t the biggest fan and feels that under his guidance, the Isles fail to consistently play with energy.  He also sighted that the staff doesn’t hold guys accountable and although he is a fan of Doug Weight, like most of us, he doesn’t feel the PP (now 19th in the NHL at 17.5%) unit is a legitimate threat game in and game out.  He feels that some more moves need to be done by Garth Snow and the first should be finding a legitimate winger for star center, John Tavares.  Greg Cronin has been good for most of the season with the PK, now 2nd at 87.2% (including a consecutive 22 game kill streak) and has helped the team win close games for much of the campaign.


It seems the consistency is still missing and it must start taking a toll on every level of the organization.  Accountability that includes, but goes beyond the players on the ice while this talented squad in burning their limited time as one of the better, but underachieving units in the league.  Capuano has the respect of his players per reports and he has non-specifically called out his team on more than one occasion.  He has also made it a point to mention that personnel decisions are something Garth Snow will need to think on because he feels certain players are just not getting it done.  I have questioned Capuano on decisions, but no one is getting fired or moved with the success that the team is having now - unless the shortcomings continue as the trade deadline approaches.  But I think they are continuing and will continue without the proper adjustments.  This will be especially true when you look into next season with new ownership taking majority control of the team.  Charles Wang will remain as a minority owner and advisor, but Garth Snow will need to continue to take strides in team depth and try and find a way to help the Islanders reach the consistency they so desperately need.  Not an easy thing to do and I am far from an NHL level GM or Coach for that matter, but I am confused by the same shortfalls that we take exception to as fans.  I do have 5 keys that could help the Islanders in the 2nd half of the season and into what should be a playoff push.



5.  More balanced scoring.  The Isles need it in bunches and need to score first.  Per Eric Hornick, “The Isles are 21-2-0 when they score at least three goals (including shootout winners) and are 4-14-6 when they do not.  The Isles were 40-8-4 when they scored at least three goals (including SO winners) last season and the Isles are 17-3-2 when they score first and are 8-13-4 when they allow the opening goal.”  The Isles need their stars (Okposo 35, Tavares 34 & Nielsen 30 pts) to continue to lead by example and offensive contributions need to come from everywhere.  Like how Brock Nelson’s 11 goals in his last 19 games have him 1st on the team in goals (19) scored and one off his 20 goal high from last season.  Mikhail Grabovski has managed 21 points in 47 games and is looking better as of late.  They need even more from Anders Lee (20), Ryan Strome (17), Josh Bailey (20).



4.  Get even more defensive and gritty.  The defense needs to continue to jump in on the rush and help change momentum, but a priority on defense must be kept from within their own zone.  The Isles must keep finishing checks, agitating opponents and neutralizing scoring chances by the opposition to result in more odd man rushes the other way and SHGs (4).  The 4th line of Martin, Cizikas and Clutterbuck are infectious with their physical play and need to continue to frustrate the competition along with their team mates on both sides of the ice.


3.  Goaltending needs to stay sharp.  The Isles are 10-5-6 in games decided by a single goal.  They have stayed in the playoff hunt by their depth in net.  Jaroslav Halak (ranked 24th) is 12-9-4 with a 2.14gaa & .923Sv% while back-up, Thomas Greiss (ranked 22nd) is 13-6-2 with a 2.32gaa & .927Sv%.  The goaltending the Isles get each night has given the team confidence and is sometimes the only reason the team stays in games that they are losing.


2.  Power Play must improve.  It has been up and down all season long as is currently in the bottom half of the league at 19th.  The Isles need their extra man to take advantage of close game and turn momentum when it is needed most.  It is necessary to add points within a game and by default, in the standing of a close eastern conference race to the post season.  If changes need to be made to direction or tweaks to their PP units, then it needs to be done.


1.  They must stay healthy as a team.  This is a huge need for any team and it’s a credit to the depth built by Garth Snow that time lost to Jaro Halak, Travis Hamonic, Johnny Boychuk, and Thomas Hickey wasn’t too much to overcome for the Islanders so far.  The depth and improved play provided by Thomas Greiss, Calvin de Haan & Adam Pelech have helped New York stay in the hunt, but key players need to stay healthy so they can focus on the task at hand.  Competing at a high level for a better chance of winning games.



Let’s hope that the injuries, fatigue and focus can improve over the All-Star break and some rest and film work can be done to sharpen the team for the conclusion of the season.  I still feel they have the talent and players to make a splash, but without the accountability necessary to keep their edge, the team may not have what it takes for that next step towards Stanley.  That accountability must be owned at every level.


Consistency is sure to follow.



Isles Notes:


The All-Star game is this weekend and John Tavares (4 goals in the game last year) has been named Captain of the Metro Division squad to represent New York again.  The game will feature a 3 on 3 format style of play.  Tavares credited his team mates when he spoke about attending the weekend for the Isles.  “There are a few guys from our team who could be going instead of me,” Tavares said. “Kyle [Okposo], Frans [Nielsen], Nick Leddy and our goalies have had some outstanding seasons. I’m really the beneficiary of many guys.

The Isles return to action on 2/2 at home against the Minnesota Wild at 7pm before a two game road trip against Washington (2/4) and Detroit (2/6) before coming back to face the Oilers on 2/7.



Friday, January 15, 2016

Islanders Latest Gut-Check


Your New York Islanders dropped a pair of ugly games against the Capitals & Flyers last week to raise more flags about their consistency and legitimacy on being a top team in the east.  The streaky play and shaky resolve has become an issue for them at different times this season.  While I feel the team is a real contender, I have always felt they lacked the consistency necessary to be a serious threat in the playoffs.  Especially now that they have a much deeper roster and more experience playing together as a squad.  With the new ownership of Jon Ledecky & Scott Malkin coming to power next season, the margin for error for everyone in the organization is closing in.


So much so that head coach, Jack Capuano had questioned the resolve of players and making mention of “compete levels,” far too often.  Capauno had this to say after the 4-0 loss vs. the Flyers, “I think the top guys that are here are playing pretty good hockey to be honest with you, the experienced guys,” Capuano said. “It is some of the other guys that need to find their game. That is a decision that Garth [Snow] will have to make as far as personnel. But we are going to have to sit down and talk about it going into Columbus as far as what we are going to do. Obviously it is not working with some of the guys we have now.”  But even team captain, John Tavares has been off this season and simply needs to be better.  He has 15 & 16 for 31 pts and a -7 in 41 games played this season.  Still good enough for 2nd in points on the team, but not good enough for Tavares.  “We’ve (coaches & players) got to be better,” Tavares said.


So with the back and forth play, the Isles need to try and find the formula to a more consistent effort.  Everyone is indeed accountable and need to direct their efforts to a more focused approach.


So what can they do to be better?  How about win.  They came back and won their next two games against the Columbus Blue Jackets (5-2) and New York Rangers (3-1) to stand alone in second place for the Metro division & 4th in the east with a 24-15-5 record for 53 points in 44 games played.  Brock Nelson scored his first career hat-trick vs the CBJ and helped start the surge the Isles rode into Thursdays tilt against the Rangers.


After benefiting from some dumb luck in their defensive zone and being outplayed in much of the first half of the game, the Isles were able to shrug off a NYR goal with :45 seconds remaining in the second and mount a 3 goal third to beat the Rangers.  They did so with a physical edge and controlled play on both ends of the ice in the period.  Brock Nelson, Nick Leddy (PPG) and Kyle Okposo (ENG) scored for the home team in front of a well-represented, but still mixed sellout crowd.  Nelson now leads the team in goals with 18 and has stepped up to be an offensive force for the Islanders.  They improved their play in the neutral zone and took over the battle for loose pucks late in the game to seal the win.  The Islanders broke the Rangers 15 game winning streak when leading after two periods and won their second straight against their arch rivals at the Barclays Center.



Jaroslav Halak made 34 saves and was absolutely the main factor in the win.  He improved to 12-6-0 vs the Rangers and has an 11-8-3 record (2.17gaa and .923Sv%., 2 s.o) on the season. Halak now has an 8-0-0 streak vs Henrik Lundqvist in their last 8 head-to-head match ups.  Leddy, Nelson and Pelech were named the three stars of the game.  The play of Calvin de Haan continues to improve, especially with the top pairing minutes made available by injuries to Boychuk and Hamonic.  And defensive call up, Adam Pelech is playing well & was credited with assists on the tying and ENG in the Isles big offensive 3rd period outburst.  It was Pelech’s first NHL points in a game where he took a skate to the face and got back out on the ice after getting patched up.  To me, if Pelech’s play continues to be at this level, it should be hard to take him out of the blue line rotation.


So when you look at the latest game against the Rangers, you can see a microcosm of the Isles season so far.  They had elements of offense, suffered defensive breakdowns and got steady goal tending and gritty physical play.  This time, they had scoring from different parts of the line-up and had a strong PK showing with a sometimes erratic PP.  These Islanders have showed a little of what they need to do to be better in their overall game, but still need to find that mark consistently to be taken as serious contenders in this league.  As long as they are able to dig in and give the kind of effort they were able to find late in the game against their arch rival throughout the second half of the season, they should find themselves in just about every game.


“I thought it was a gut-check for our team tonight,” Capuano said. “I thought our team played extremely hard against a good team.”  They are home against Vancouver at 4:00 this Sunday to see if they can do it again.





Isles Notes:


New York Islanders Head Coach Jack Capuano has been named an Assistant Coach of Team USA for the 2016 World Cup of Hockey.


Tavares was named to 2016 NHL All-Star Team:  "I'm excited about participating again. It's a reflection of our team and our team's success." –Tavares


The team has moved its practices to Ice Works from morning arrivals at the Barclays Center.  The team was vocal on the strain that the time away from home can bring, "Just long days," forward Anders Lee said. "Being out all day, I think it got a little long. This way we're home -- can eat around (there) and go in a little bit later for the game."


Isles prospect Söderström auctions off #WJC2016 equipment for children's cancer fund.


The Isles have VAN this Sunday at 4pm and are away at OTT next Friday and back home for a rematch against PHI next Saturday.


Isles fans are making a difference in Maya’s memory.



Sound Tigers Notes:


Ryan Pulock and Joe Whitney are the BST 2016 All-Stars! 



NHL Notes:


Blackhawks extend streak, Joel Quenneville passes Al Arbour for second all-time in wins.







Tuesday, January 5, 2016

Isle Be There: Paul Cartier



In a series of articles, called Isle Be There, my intention is to focus on the different social groups that support your New York Islanders team and its players.  This will also include current events or situations in and around the team as it relates to its fan base and community.


Happy New Year Isles fans!


The biggest thing we have as fans is a team to rally behind and a very likeable collection of personalities both in front of and behind the scenes.  Whether it’s the BOA, the return of Sparky the Dragon or the hundreds of passionate fans that I have met over social media, Islanders Country bleeds orange and blue every day of the year.  I want to tell you about someone who I have gotten to know from a distance, but strikes me as a good guy.  Even the legendary Jiggs McDonald wished him a Happy Birthday on Sunday’s broadcast.


One of the top requests on the list of things that fans wanted brought over from the sacred grounds of the NVMC to the state of the art Barclays Center was organist, Paul Cartier.  Paul has been the team organist for years and he has been the master of anthems throughout several of the team’s most memorable games.  He got the attention of Mike Bonner and the New York Yankees from his work with the Isles and has been Yankees official organist since 2004.  Since retiring as an air traffic controller after 27 years, Paul is grateful for his time playing for the fans and the team he has cheered for since he was a kid.


Paul has been an Isles fan since ‘72 when he attended the first Isles game ever played against the Atlanta Flames with his brother Rudy. It was then that he embraced the idea of playing organ for the team.  Afterwards, if he couldn’t get tickets, he did anything he could to see John Tonelli, Bryan Trottier and the rest of his team play, including sneaking in to the NVMC.  His strongest memories of the old barn was the atmosphere and passion of the fans cheering for their team.  Whether it was Mike Bossy’s 50 in 50, the 19 consecutive playoff series wins, the team’s first Stanley Cup victory or the clutch come-from-behind wins, the memories he associates with his early fandom are a precious part of growing up on the Island.


At 8 years old, his first experience on a small Korg organ was enough to sell him on the power of music.  At 15, he went to the NVMC to try and win the job of team organist, but was told he was too young.  Not being someone who gives up on what is important to him, Cartier kept working at it until he was invited to play during intermissions by Dr. Fred Mendolson, who by coincidence, happened to be his brother’s music instructor.  Cartier got opportunities later on filling in at Islander games and got most of his professional experience by playing for the New York Arrows indoor soccer team who played at the Coliseum. In 1981, Paul finally landed the job with his beloved Islanders and stayed through 1985.  Later he came back to fire up the fans at home games, where he has remained for the last 15 years.


Whether it’s as a member of the South Hempstead Volunteer Fire Department for 37 years or playing the organ at Our Lady of Hope church, Paul enjoys doing his part in the community.  At the Barclays Center, Cartier mentioned to me that, with his new set up playing out in the open, he has had a much better connection to the fans. This has enabled them to meet on social media and at the games.  Even his commute on the train to games has turned into a time to talk Isles hockey with fellow fans on the way to Bklyn.


Paul hopes to reunite with long time Islanders NVMC anthem singer, Joe Duerr to properly represent the national anthem at Islanders games in their new home at the Barlclays Center.  He told me about @organistalert, a Twitter group that connects fans to the “starting organist” at specific sporting events and serves as a place to talk about the music that they play during games.  Feel free to say hello to Paul at the Barclays Center, look him up on Facebook or say hello to him @PaulGCartier on Twitter.


Paul is a fan of John Tavares and loves the new attitude of the current Isles team.  “They seem to be back and I enjoy watching them win again.  The fans respond when the team wins and when the place (Barclays Center) is full, you can’t beat it.”   When you can make an Isles home game, be sure and stop by and say hello to Paul.


He will be the guy starting a certain chant that has become a crowd favorite.  You know, the one about clapping your hands?




Isles Notes:


The Isles lost to the Penguins on Saturday, 1/2 by a 5-2 score and beat the NHL leading Stars, 6-5 at a packed BC in Brooklyn on 2/3.  They are 3rd in the east with 49 pts after 40gp with a 22-13-5 record.  They have the Capitals on Thursday 2/7 and then visit the Flyers for an early game on Saturday 2/9.


Jaroslav Halak has been activated off the team's IR list and participated in a full team practice today.  Christopher Gibson has been returned on loan to Bridgeport.


Per John Kreiser, Johnny Boychuk “out 4-6 weeks with upper-body injury. Have allowed 84 SOG, 10 goals, 3 PPG in 1st 2 games without him.  Adam Pelech was recalled on loan from Bridgeport to fill in on defense.

The #BST have signed Patrick Cullity to a PTO. Two other players up from #MoMavs, three players down.



Hockey Notes:



Finland wins the gold at the WJC gold over Russia while team USA wins the bronze over Sweden.  Isles prospect, Linus Soderstrom wasn’t in goal for Sweden for the final, but finished tournament with an impressive 1.42gaa.



Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Islanders Getting Offensive


Your New York Islanders had another curious start to their post-Christmas initiative.  A home at home with the Toronto Maple Leafs who sat last in the Atlantic, but with a bit of recent successes.  The Isles were 1-8-2 vs the Atlantic division including a dismal 0-6-0 record at home while going 12-0-2 vs rest of the NHL.  They came out slow and sluggish before a sellout crowd at the Barclays Center and didn’t even really start to play until late in the third period, already down 2-0 on the scoreboard.  Nikolay Kulemin (Leddy & Strome) scored to bring the game within a goal, but the Isles fell by a 3-1 score (ENG) to the Leafs in what many called a lifeless effort and blown opportunity to gain ground in the standings.


No doubt, revenge would be on their minds when they got to Toronto yesterday.  They were so fired up and in different line combinations, that they got goals from every line and managed to tally 3 goals in each of the first two periods.  13 forwards not named Okposo registered at least a point and saw the Isles match the season high in goals en-route to an impressive 6-3 win. Brock Nelson, John Tavares, Frans Nielsen. Nikolay Kulemin, Matt Martin and Anders Lee had the goals in a spirited offensive effort despite being outshot 33-21 in the game.  Thomas Greiss was in net for the Isles (Halak out do to upper body injury) and was good, going 30 of 33 with a .909Sv%.  Tavares, Nielsen and Lee were named 3 stars of the game.


The Islanders defensive game is on point and has been all season.  The tandem of Halak and Greiss (.932 and 10 wins) sit among the best in save percentage and (2.09) goals against average and 7th as a team in goals against.  Their penalty killing is an impressive 87.7%, good enough for best in the NHL.  This includes 39 consecutive kills and no goals surrendered in 15 straight games (best since 87-88).  “It’s our second year here together with [Assistant Coach Greg Cronin] and we’re kind of figuring out what he wants us to do and our routes,” Nielsen said. “We’re working hard, sacrificing and hopefully we can keep it going.”


The Isles play their best (13-3-2) when they score first and compliment themselves on defense.  Their offense has been on and off all season, but they have managed to score 2.70 goals per game (12th in NHL) and a rate 17.5% with the extra man (10th in NHL.)  The power play is a major reason for the team’s limitations.  Isles have proven that with a 10-3-3 record when scoring at least one PPG and a 10-9-2 record when they unable to score on the man advantage.  That includes a 17-2-0 record when scoring at least 3 goals and 3-10-5 record when they are unable to reach the 3 goal mark.  It all starts with the play on ice.  Tavares (27 pts), Okposo (26) and Nielsen (24) lead the team in scoring and Brock Nelson (21) has been hot lately with 3 points in his last 6 including 1 GWG.  He also recorded a career long 5 game point streak in November (5 & 3 for 8 points.)  John Tavares scored for the first time in 6 games and has started to generate more opportunities in the last few contests.  For New York to complete their efforts, the offense needs to keep pace with their defense.  Once that happens, they will be an even more dangerous team to play against.  That will require a major adjustment and consistency in their overall game.


A more complete game by both players and coaches.  They have the attention of their opponents and for all they are having trouble with, you can’t ignore the big picture.  The Islanders are 20-12-5 with 45 points in 37 GP sitting at 2nd in the Metro and 3rd in the eastern conference.


That’s what I call, “Battle Level."




Isles Notes:


Islanders are in BUF @6pm on NYE, PIT @7pm on Saturday and home against Dallas @5pm on Sunday.


Eric Hornick, “The Isles earned 97 points in calendar year 2014.  With their win tonight, they have earned 95 points in calendar year 2015 (with 1 game to play).”




Sound Tigers Notes:


Kyle Burroughs has been reassigned by the #Isles to the #BST, Loic Leduc to the #MoMavs.


Christopher Gibson (Halak Injury) has been recalled to the Islanders and Parker Milner to the Sound Tigers.




WJC:


Matt Barzal has shootout winner for Canada in 3-2 victory over Switzerland.


Islanders prospect Linus Soderstrom, Sweden shut out USA at World Juniors: 5 things to know.







Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Isles Christmas Goals


Your New York Islanders scored 3 goals in a 4:49 span of the 1st to overcome a 1-0 Anaheim lead yesterday at the Barclays Center.  The series was en-route to a 5-2 victory and a sweep of the Ducks on the season.  After a Matt Martin tilt against Josh Manson, Cal Clutterbuck, Travis Hamonic, Brock Nelson, Josh Bailey and Martin (ENG) scored for New York with 2 assists and a noticeable fight (Ryan Getzlaf) from John Tavares to help keep things moving in the right direction for the Isles.  With the team on their longest PK streak in team history (29) in 13 straight, the Isles defensive game is becoming their strength.  Jaroslav Halak made 27 saves (10-6-3 with a 2.09gaa and .923Sv%) in the victory and made several key stops to preserve the offensive surge, especially in the second period.



Most importantly, the win ended a 3 game skid in which the Isles managed to score a total of only 3 goals (11 goals in the prior 3 wins.)  The 5 goal effort was a good way to enter the Christmas break and possibly build momentum from another game in which they were able to take control and contain their opponent.  They showed versatility in their scoring depth and were led by JT’s example on the ice.  While the defense needs to improve their scoring output by continuing to jump into the play, Ryan Strome (3 & 8 for 11 pts), Brock Nelson (12 & 8 for 20 pts) and Anders Lee (4 & 11 for 15 pts) have been better for New York to help create offense.



The Isles are 6-3-1 in their last 10 games, but still need to find a way to score on a PP (0 for 3 in game vs Ducks) that ranks 16th in the league at 18.4%.  Once some offensive consistency evens out, the Isles will be close to where they need to be as a team.





Isles Notes:


The Islanders welcome the Toronto Maple Leafs on Sunday, 12/27 at 6pm to start a home at home series (12/29 in Toronto at 7pm.)

The Islanders are 19-11-5 in 35gp with 43 points good enough for 3rd in the division and 4th in the eastern conference.

Kyle Okposo (lower body injury) & Eric Boulton were scratched for the game.

Barzal & Beauvillier make Team Canada, Missouri starts new streak. 

Per Eric Hornick, “The Isles have lost 69 games this season due to injury/illness.”


Monday, December 14, 2015

The Improving Play Of Calvin de Haan


Your New York Islanders are now 18-8-5 with 42 points after 31 games played and have extended their non-losing streak to 8-0-2.  After a solid 4-0 win against the rival Devils at the Barclays Center in front of 13,259 screaming faithful last night, the Islanders showed how they can play a methodical and complete game.  They were so good, they chased Corey Schneider from the net and overtook second place seat in the Metro from the Rangers following the win.  The Isles are 7-0-2 in the Metro and are the only NHL team to earn a point in all their division games this season.  Against the Devils, Zidlicky book-ended 2 and Tavares & Martin scored the middle 2 goals in the game.  Thomas Greiss (9-3-2) got his 4th career shutout, his first as an Islander and as Eric Hornick points out, it’s the only shut out by an Isles keeper not named Halak in the last two NHL seasons. Your Isles are only 1 point off their pace from last season and haven’t lost in regulation since before Thanksgiving.  You remember those dark days, right?  That was way back when the very same New York Rangers held an 11pt lead over them.


Just think of when the first line gets back up to speed with the other 3, how dangerous their offense could be in time for the playoffs.  It will lend itself to how well the team has been playing their defensive game in front of the only top 10 (Sv% & gaa) goaltending tandem in the NHL.  Johnny Boychuk, Nick Leddy and Travis Hamonic are elite NHL defensemen game in and game out.  Marek Zidlicky is a skilled journeyman highlighted by his memorable game against NJ and Thomas Hickey’s return has been a big improvement to the blue line.  But the play of Calvin de Haan (12th overall in the 2009 NHL Entry Draft) goes well beyond the stat sheet and his game has been noticeably improved this season.


de Haan is 1 & 4 for 5 points and a +6 in 31 GP for the Islanders.  He averages over 20 minutes of ice time a game and has been counted on in many key situations by Coach Capuano and his staff.  de Haan’s special teams play has improved along with his standard defensive game.  And with his strong skating and improved veteran D game falling into place, It feels like it’s only a matter of time before his juniors offensive output could start to reach his pro game performance.  Especially watching a veteran player like Marek Zidlicky do his thing day in and day out.  de Haan has been limiting some of the bad decisions and turnovers that he seemed to commit over the past few seasons.  I think a few fans might be noticing that he has started to make a difference.  What do you think?




Isles Notes:


The Isles have killed all 22 opponent power plays in their last nine games. It’s the second such streak this season.



Sound Tigers Notes:



The Islanders AHL affiliate, Bridgeport Sound Tigers are 16-10-1-1.


Wednesday, December 9, 2015

Frans Nielsen: The Great Dane



Your New York Islanders are 16-8-5 with 37 pts in the NHL standings.  That puts them 3rd in the Metro at just 3 points behind the first place Capitals, and sitting 4th in the eastern conference.  Their play hasn’t been perfect, but they are 6-2-2 in their last 10 games and on a 6-0-2 non losing streak.  The Isles are on an 8 game point scoring streak and are at a season high 8 games over the NHL .500 mark.  It is a bit concerning that they have blown leads and have been subjected to 4 consecutive O.T./Shootout games (Including a victory against the Rangers) while being out-shot by a 16-8 margin in those extra sessions.  Per Eric Hornick, they are now the winning-est NHL team (67 wins) in the shootout.  Their recent defensive game and particularly from the net out has been the primary reason for their success with Jaroslav Halak winning his last 2 shootout appearances. Halak made 43 saves in the last win against the Flyers, his most as an Islander, and improves to 8-4-3 on the season.  Although offensively, while their primary scoring has been struggling, the Isles secondary scoring has improved. But their tendency to take the sloppy and untimely penalty (like 2 too many men penalties in last 2 O.T. periods) has made closing and winning games much more difficult than it should be.  But they are getting points and staying close to the top of the division.  I wrote about the goal-tending tandem being the primary reason for the team’s success in a prior article, but there is a particular player who is making a major statement on the offensive side of the ice for the Islanders this season.


Frans Nielsen will be an unrestricted free agent heading into next summer and is sure to get a raise from his current $2.75M salary from the Islanders or anyone else.  When they selected him 87th overall in the 3rd round of the 2002 NHL entry draft, they probably didn’t realize that he would be one of the most consistent players for the modern day Islanders franchise.  He is certainly reaffirming his quality as one of the standout players for his team with 11 & 10 for 21 points and a +4 in 29 games on the season.  As a complete two way threat, Nielsen seems to be getting better each and every season.  In last night’s win, Nielsen scored twice and was a major component in the team preserving the win.  That puts him one goal behind John Tavares for the club lead and one point behind Kyle Okposo & John Tavares for the team lead in points. 


Whether it’s his fan dubbed, “Danish backhand of judgement,” his five-hole shot or are n improvisation of the moment, Nielsen has all hockey fans eyes glued to the ice when his number is called in the Isles shootout rotation.  And it doesn’t seem to matter that goalies know what shots are coming.  Nielsen’s proficiency in the shootout (33/60) has also been a major contributor for his team’s success in that area and their ability to hold on and win when it counts.  His success rate remains as the NHL record holder in shootout goals (all-time), and game deciding (shootout) goals.


How Frans Nielsen will finish the season and what will happen over the summer isn’t known to us at this point.  But his character and commitment to his craft is beyond question and out of anyone who has worn the orange and blue in the last 13 years, I hope he can stay with this team for a long time to come.




Isles Notes:


From a historic standpoint (Hornick), Frans Nielsen’s 110 goals has him 25th all-time for the NYI, and just 6 behind Ray Ferraro.  He tallies 208 assists, good for 16th all-time and 29 behind John Tavares.  That’s a total of 318 points.  19th all-time for the Islanders, 9 behind Kyle Okposo and 13 behind Ziggy Palffy in 554 games played, ranking him 15th among Islander skaters and 40 behind John Tonelli.



Sound Tigers Notes:

The Sound Tigers are 15-9-1-0 on the season, beating Hartford by a 4-2 score on Sunday.



NHL Notes:

NHL exec committee member says no discussion on when vote on expansion will happen. There was only information passed on to board during Monday’s meetings.

The range on next year’s salary cap was given out, with high number of $74.5M.