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

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

New York Islanders 2014-15 Season Wrap Up


Your New York Islanders finished the 2014-15 season with 101 points, going 47-28-7 in 82 games.  This was the team’s most wins since 1983-84 (50).  Several players had career seasons per Eric Hornick:



John Tavares established career highs in both goals (38) and points (86) and led in several statistics including goals, assist, points, pp goals, OT & gwgs to name a few and came within hours of an Art Ross trophy.


Brock Nelson went 20-22-42, establishing new highs in all three categories. And along with Ryan Strome (50pts) and Anders Lee (41pts) showed a glimpse of what is in store for New York with regards to home grown talent.


Josh Bailey established a new career high in points (41) and took another step forward & Nikolay Kulemin showed how a well-rounded forward who works hard can have an impact, especially in the SHG (3) category.
 

Frans Niesen had 43 points in 78 games playing his reliable brand of hockey.
 

Casey Cizikas established new career highs in goals (9) and points (18) and Matt Martin matched career highs in both goals (8) and points (14).  Along with Cal Clutterbuck, the trio was the darling of the NHL, being called the best “4th line in hockey.”  They were the energy source and the bane of opposing teams whenever they were on the ice.
 



Travis Hamonic established new career high in assists (28), points (33), matched a career high in goals (5).  He showed that he could be a top shut down, NHL D-Man.


Thomas Hickey established a new career high in assists (20) and matched a career high in points (22).


Johnny Boychuk established new career highs in goals (9) assists (26) & points (35) & Nick Leddy established a new career high in goals (10) and matched a career high in points (37).  Both were Mammoth additions prior to the start of the season for the improved Isles blue line and brought a veteran presence and improved stability in front of their net.

 
Jaroslav Halak established a new career highs in games (59), minutes (3550) & wins (38) and gave the Islanders a chance to win on most nights.   He was a clear reason for the improved season.
 



Calvin de Haan missed some time with injury, but had his share of time off as a healthy scratch.  Sources tell me his attitude may have hampered his ability to flourish and achieve his potential a top NHL defensemen.


Brian Strait saw far more playing time than he should have in my opinion and while he improved after missing time for “personal" reasons, he wasn’t the kind of player the Isles should have relied on.  I would rather see a younger player learn from his mistakes than a mediocre, declining vet struggle to keep up with his game.


Injuries were a factor in some of the teams struggles this season.  Michael Grabner and  Mikhail Grabovski struggled to find their game while Kyle Okposo was knocked off his as a result of injuries during the season.  Tyler Kennedy missed game action in his limited time with the Isles and may not have had the impact management expected when acquiring him before the deadline. Eric Boulton seems to have found a backup role with the team and based on his leadership and presence in the locker room, may have found himself a spot somewhere in the organization when his playing days are over.


We know the Chad Johnson experiment didn’t work out as planned and the Michal Neuvirth (1-3 with a .881Sv% & 2.94 gaa in 5 games) trial may be over which leaves a question as to who will back up Jaro Halak next season.


Michael Dal Colle & Josh Ho-Sang are guys that can push for a spot out of camp and may be able to make a splash like the guys named Neslon, Strome or Lee.


Griffin Reinhart & Ryan Pulock will get a look in camp and Scott Mayfield has been developing nicely and looked solid in his limited playoff showcase along with Matt Donovan who has played his last game for the Islanders.  I am among those who contend Dono never got a fair shot to crack the lineup.



So the Islanders were 25-14-2 on home ice, equaling their most home wins since 1984-85.  They went 831-610-224 in 1,665 regular season games all-time at the Coliseum.  On the road, the Isles finished the season with a 22-14-5 record.  The Isles have won at least 20 road games in consecutive seasons for the second time in franchise history (1981-82 and 1982-83).

 
Their special teams were the ebb and flow of the season.  Their PP started well and spiraled downward quickly to include a dismal 0 for 14 in their playoff series against the Caps.  Their PK was able to improve respectably, but still fell short by the end of the season.


Despite finishing their playoff appearance with another first round elimination at the hand of the Washington Capitals, General Manager Garth Snow said there would be no changes by him on the team’s coaching staff.  Capuano and his coaches have fallen short with another early playoff exit this season and still have a lot to prove in my eyes, but the core team is pretty good and only needs a few tweaks.  A few key prospects look very promising and should generate some pressure in training camp for veterans to open next season.  While I am not convinced Capuano and crew made consistent adjustments where they needed to be made throughout the year, sources tell me of his full command of the room and that the improvements realized this season, with a better squad, may have been enough in Snows eyes to keep them around.

 
Next season the Isles will open the 2015-16 campaign in Brooklyn and start a new chapter in the team’s storied history.  I am optimistic and hopeful that they will be able to correct the shortcomings from last season and take another step back to respectability.



"There ain't no island left for Islanders like me." -- Billy Joel.

 

 

Isles Notes:

 

The 2014-15 Isles Awards Hit of the Year winner is @mattymarts17.  


The U.S. Men’s National Team posted a 3-0 victory over the Czech Republic in the bronze medal game at the 2015 International Ice Hockey Federation Men’s World Championship.  Brock Nelson had 5 & 2 for 7 points in 8 games while Anders Lee had an assist in 5 games played.  This is the first international medal awarded to both players.
 

Nikolay Kulemin had 1 & 7 for 8 points in 9 games for Russia and finished with a Silver Medal.  Its Kulemin’s 3rd international medal.


Congratulations to Isles prospect @MDalColle71 and the @Oshawa_Generals on winning the OHL Championship.  Dal Colle was tied for second place in OHL playoff scoring with 31 points.


Islanders head amateur scout Trent Klatt is leaving the Islanders organization to coach high school hockey per the Duluth News Tribune.
 
 
 
 
 

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

The End Of An Era: The NVMC & Your New York Islanders



Today’s breakdown day was a sad realization that the Islanders time at the storied NVMC was over.  It was much worse than locker clean out day, any post season team interviews or final team meetings for the Islanders organization.


Dismantling the playing surface is something that follows every NHL regular season & playoff campaign, but for the Islanders, the Coliseum and their Long Island faithful, todays break down was a cold, final reminder that their time on Long Island is really over.  It would be the last time the proud logo of Long Island’s team would hold secure at center ice.


A few of the breakdown images circulated across social media today.  Speaking for myself, I realized that a part of me died today that I will never get back.



 

 
 
 
 
 
 



But as sad as it was to see the ice & boards removed from the Coliseum for the last time, at least our team will open next season at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn.  If the Isles move away from the Island proper makes you mad, just remember that you can always talk to fans of the Hartford Whalers who watched their team move all the way to Carolina and then win a Cup.
 
Isles Notes:



 
 
 
 
#Isles @BNelson (one goal) and @leeberr09 (one assist) of @USAHockey defeated Nikolay Kulemin and Team Russia 4-2 yesterday at the #IIHFWorlds.  Team USA is now 3-0.
 
 
Brock Nelson with the GW Goal -- #USAHockey 2, Norway 1 at #IIHFWorlds in game 2.
 
 
Michael Dal Colle and the top-seeded Oshawa Generals advanced to their first OHL Final since 1997, where they will face the Erie Otters and the projected first-overall pick in June’s NHL Draft, Connor McDavid.
 
 
Per @NHLhistorygirl, “On this date in 1984, #isles Billy Smith became the #NHL all-time leader in career playoff victories (81).”
 
 
 
 

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Tavares Named Finalist For Hart


The National Hockey League named John Tavares a finalist for the Hart Memorial Trophy today.  The Hart is awarded to the player judged as most valuable to his particular team over the course of the regular season. Its the 2nd such nomination for Tavares over the past 3 seasons.  John Tavares played all 89 games for New York this season and was named to the NHL All-Star team where he scored 4 goals, good enough to tie ASG record as one of only 6 players to be recognized for that distinction.

Tavares had 38 & 48 for 86 pts this season & finished 1 point behind Jamie Benn in the final hours of eligibility for the NHL scoring title.  It was a career high in goals and total points for JT, who helped your New York Islanders reach a 101 point season (franchise best since 83-84) at 47-28-7and a 2015 NHL playoff berth.  Although the Isles were eliminated in 7 games by the Washington Capitals, Tavares led his team with 2 & 4 for 6 pts during the first round post-season competition. 

 
John Tavares was named along with Goaltender, Carey Price of the Montreal Canadiens & Forward, Alex Ovechkin of the Washington Capitals as a finalist for the Hart.
 
 
 
 
Isles Notes:
 
 
Anders Lee (USA), Nikolay Kulemin (Russia) & Frans Nielsen (Denmark) have accepted invitations to represent their countries at this years World Championships in Prague this summer.  It is Lee's first opportunity to represent the United States in the tournament.
 
 
Travis Hamonic, Calvin de Haan & Lubo Visnovsky say their recovery is on schedule & they may have been able to play for the Isles if they were able to make the 2nd round of the NHL playoffs.




Monday, April 27, 2015

2015 Playoffs: Isles Fall Short in Game 7.


Tonight, your New York Islanders are on the road and in a do or die game 7 situation against the Washington Capitals.  The winner of tonight’s game will face the New York Rangers in the 2nd round of the eastern conference playoffs.  The loser goes home and will have to wait until next year.


The Islanders are 3-4, all time in game 7’s and will have some extra motivation to win tonight.  Capuano: "There is nothing more that we wanna do then to come back in front of our fans."  So what do the stats tell us?


They say that Jaroslav Halak is 6-1 in game 7’s and a solid 4-0 against the Capitals in elimination games (including Saturday’s win).  Per @EliasSports, Capitals have scored 2 or fewer goals in 10 straight Game 7's. Longest streak in NHL history.  Erick Hornick points out that, Johnny “Boychuk is only current Isles to have scored a goal in a game 7 (1-2-3 in 7 game 7's).”   Boychuck knows the importance of playing well in a game 7.  You have to pay more attention to details. It’s a critical game for both teams. You want to stay disciplined, but you still want to play hard.”


But stats are not what the Isles need to rely on to win what is sure to be a hard-fought and gritty game in D.C. tonight.  The Islanders will have to pressure Holtby all game long with balanced scoring, contain Ovechkin & Backstrom with thinned defense, and have an answer to the physical play of the Caps with toughness of their own.  They will need to play a strong checking game and get a huge game from Jaro Halak to win tonight. 


Nelson-Tavares-Strome, Bailey-Nielsen-Okposo, Kulemin-Grabovski-McDonald, Martin-Cizikas-Clutterbuck.

Leddy-Boychuk, Hickey-Strait, Donovan-Mayfield.

Jaroslav Halak is in net and Michal Neuvirth will serve as back up.


The Isles 4th line out duels the Caps 4th and Jaro Halak makes a pair of huge saves to start the game.  Scott Mayfield continues to look comfortable with some good opening shifts and is hitting everyone in a red jersey.  The Islanders see a lot of action in their own zone in the first 5 minutes, generate a little pressure of their own, but aren’t able to control play in the 1st period.  The game has definitely taken on an unfriendly, physical flavor.  Ovechkin looks as if he may have hurt his arm, but returns to the ice for his next shift.  Holtby “loses his mask” and benefits from an official’s stoppage in play.  That was an intentional move to slow things down if you ask me.  Halak coming up big time and time again towards the end of the period.  Isles badly outshot (10-3 WSH) late in the period with Washington controlling much of the neutral zone.  37 hits in the period.

Islanders with a tough start to the 2nd period, getting out played & committing turnovers.  Jack Capuano calls a timeout at the 13:15 mark with the Isles in “survival mode,” per Howie Rose.  Holtby hasn’t seen much action so far in the game with the Caps outplaying the Islanders thus far.  Halak has been the answer, but he is going to need some help.  Capuano trying to stir something up with juggling lines: Bailey, Tavares & Clutterbuck.  Isles coming to life a little and Washington calls their time out.  Now Nelson out with Nielsen & Strome.  Arthur Staple points out that the Isles register their 6th shot of the game (16-6) after 31:00 of play.  Not a good sign.  Nielsen is caught with a high stick that bloodies his nose, no call.  The officials have been “hands off” all game.  Ovechkin levels Hickey from behind into the boards with no call.  Hickey slow to get up and skates to bench.  Meltdown is imminent if the officials allow game 7 to continue at this pace. Someone can be seriously & needlessly hurt.  Isles lose another face off, Ward high sticks Boychuck in the face, then scores a backbreaker with 1:25 remaining in the 2nd. 1-0 Caps.  Shots are 10-4 in the 2nd & 21-7 Caps after 2.  Terrible officiating.  Good news is a 1-0 deficit in game 7 on the road is a best case scenario for the Isles & how they have played so far.  Time to play a desperate game.  Here's where an NHL coach that is ready to take his team to the next level gets things turned around with a talented team like this. Prove me wrong Jack.


The Islanders generate some pressure after the first few shifts and Fran Nielsen (Hickey & Strome) gives the Islanders the tying goal.  The score came just 3 minutes into the 3rd period on a goal that Holtby wants back.  Score tied at 1-1.  Beagle benefits from a golden bounce off the boards with Jaro moving out to play the puck, but somehow, Halak recovers to make a huge save with the entire lower bowl jumping to celebrate a goal that wasn’t.  Both teams clamp down for the second half of the period.  Kuznetson out waits Halak who goes down & makes it 2-1 Capitals with 7:18 remaining.  Isles return to some desperate play, but send several shots wide of the net.  Isles to the PP with 2:43 remaining for a rough call on Casey Cizikas by Carlson.  Halak goes to the bench in the final minute after PP expires.  Caps ice puck with 30 seconds left.  Huge face off in the Caps end for the Islanders.  Too little, too late for New York and the Capitals will face the Rangers in the second round of the Stanley Cups playoffs with a 2-1 win in game 7.  The Islanders season is over and so is their tenure at the Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum.


Although the officiating made me sick tonight, the Islanders simply never consistently got their game in gear, getting out shot 26-11.  Their abysmal PP failed them again, this time it happened at the worst possible time.  With less than 3 minutes in the 3rd, down by one with a chance at forcing overtime, it went 0-14 in the series and helped eliminate the New York Islanders from the 2014-15 playoffs.  Erick Hornick pointed out that NYI forwards generated only 3 shots over the entire game tonight and John Tavares had none.  After a season that can be counted among the best in years, the offense was missing for too many periods over the second half and for much of the play offs.  The injuries to the Isles blue line hurt them, but I think Matt Donovan & Scott Mayfield showed a lot about their games.  But this series taught us the Isles need to get bigger, especially on defense.  With Reinhart & Mayfield on the horizon, that will be addressed and bolstered by the possibilities of several good prospects.  I am not satisfied with the coaching staff for several reasons, but I am most disappointed in how this team couldn't get it together for 60 minutes in such an important game.  And while it could be considered a great season, it was another failed post season without a series win.  The Islanders have a bright future, but the stink of this loss is indicative of some major flaws that were exposed over the length of the round.  This is a good team, but there is some work to do in making it a serious contender.  Another tough lesson learned.


I am still proud of this this group and I like several things about them.  2014-15 was a positive campaign in many ways & I will take a look back at it in my recap in the coming weeks.  I am however heartbroken that we cannot ever see our team play at the Coliseum ever again.


Tavares:  “It’s just hard to believe it’s really over."
***

Grail Knight of the game goes to Matt Donovan & Scott Mayfield.  As the 5th & 6th D men is a playoff elimination game, these guys were solid for the Islanders.  Despite not getting a lot of time with the Isles this season and this being only their 2nd NHL playoff game, they filled in and gave New York a stabilizing presence on their blue line.




***
Grail Knight of the series goes to Jaroslav Halak who was great again tonight as the games 3rd star of the night, going 22 of 23 with a .957Sv%.  He was a major component of the Islanders success throughout the season and was the core of any success this team was able to generate in this series.  Halak finishes 3-4 with a 2.30 gaa & a .926Sv%.







Saturday, April 25, 2015

2015 Playoffs: Isles Dig Deep in Game 6.


R.I.P. Papa Joe
 
 
This afternoon, your New York Islanders face the Washington Capitals at the NVMC for what could be their final game at the storied arena.  The Islanders are down 3-2 in the series and must win at home today to force a game 7 in Washington for the right to face the New York Rangers in the second round of the playoffs.  If they are to win this game, it will be without Travis Hamonic, Lubo Visnovsky and now Calvin de Haan on defense.  Per Capuano, Matt Donovan is in for sure and either Ryan Pulock or Scott Mayfield will dress as the 7th defensemen.  Pulock is an offensive-defensemen while Mayfield is known for his shut-down capabilities on the blue line.  Just prior to game time, it was announced Mayfield will make his NHL playoff debut along with Matt Donovan.  Colin McDonald returns to the lineup for Anders Lee who was scratched for an undisclosed injury.  Coach Capuano has juggled the line in hopes of an offensive jumpstart.  Jaroslav Halak is 5-1, 1.84gaa & a .953Sv% in eliminations games over his career and he will guard the Islanders net again today.  He will need more help than he received in game 5 if New York expects to force a game 7 on Monday. 

 

“We know what it means to our fans. That can’t be the last game there, it can’t be the last game for them,” Thomas Hickey said Thursday. “We’re going to come with our heads on and be ready to play and make sure that it’s not the last game there. We have to find a way.”  Hopefully, the Islanders will focus on team defense and get a more concentrated effort on offense, especially by their top players.  John Tavares will have to lead the way and the Islanders will need to play their game, not falling prey to the distractions of Ovechkin’s quotes in the press or the sarcastic smirks of Tom Wilson.  Like I have said before, winning the series will be the best way to even the score with the Capitals.  The Islanders need to leave it all on the ice today & not worry about tomorrow, because without a win, there won’t be any tomorrows left for them at the NVMC.
 
 
 


Nelson-Tavares-Strome, Bailey-Nielsen-Okposo, Kulemin-Grabovski-McDonald, Martin-Cizikas-Clutterbuck.

Leddy-Boychuk, Hickey-Strait, Donovan-Mayfield.

Jaroslav Halak is in net with Michal Neuvirth backing up.

 

In the 1st period, the Islanders come out hitting everything that moves and have certainly dialed up their intensity.  Despite being outshot early, they have kept the puck moving in the Washington zone.  Jaro Halak makes a big save on Ward after a Donovan miscue. John Tavares (Strome & Leddy) beats Holtby on a screen by Brock Nelson, 1-0 Islanders.  Credit the 4th line for once again setting the pace in the first period for New York.  Strait called for high-sticking and the Isles respond with an aggressive and well defended PK.  Nikolay Kulemin to the box now for cross-checking and the Isles go back to the kill.  Halak makes several good PK saves, especially on Ovechkin, to reserve the lead.  Caps are now 1 of 24 in the series on the PP.  Islanders take a timeout with 1:23 to rest after the PKs.  And John Tavares takes a bad slash to give the Caps another PP chance opportunity with 30 seconds remaining.  Carlson scores with 4.3 seconds left for a 1-1 tie.  A tough break to kill off all the momentum built by New York over the period.  The Islanders need to stay out of the box.  You can only blame bad officiating so much.  Shots were 16-9 Washington.

 

New York comes out hard and generates pressure in the Caps zone.  Beagle off for hooking on Kyle Okposo.  Isles with another ineffective man advantage and are now 0-13 on the PP.  Halak settles things down with a big save at the 13:00 mark.  The Islanders are suddenly scrambling in their own zone.  They need to tighten up on defense again.  Boychuck, and then Leddy come close to a go ahead goal.  Mikhail Grabovski rips a rising shot that rolled up and behind Holtby and trickled just wide of going inside the post.  Colin McDonald & Green off for roughing, nothing happens with the 4 on 4.  Martin & Latta go off for roughing, 4 on 4 washes again thanks to some heroics from Jaro on Kuznetsov in close.  Grabovski sets up Kulemin, but Holtby makes the save.  Matt Donovan is surrounded and abused but comes up with a 10 minute unsportsmanlike conduct penalty and sent off the ice in the final minutes of the period, Isles to the PK.  Shots were 17-10 Isles in the period and are tied at 26 after two.  New York has generated chances throughout but are still nursing a 1-1 tie going into a very crucial third.

 

The fans greet the home team with a standing ovation to start the 3rd.  The 4th line opens the period like they always do, generating energy and getting under the skin of the Capitals.  Kyle Okposo rings one off the post less than two minutes in and the Islanders are generating some good pressure, hemming the Caps in their own zone.  Mikhail Grabovski with another good scoring chance but goes wide.  Ovechkin takes Tavares into the boards but Nikolay Kulemin (Leddy & Tavares) puts it behind Holtby for a 2-1 Islanders lead at the half way point of the period.  Beagle puts one past Halak but it goes off the crossbar and cleared out by Boychuck.  Under review, no goal.  Bad calls continue with a suspect icing.  Capitals call their timeout with 1:31 remaining and pull Holtby. Cal Clutterbuck scores the ENG with 50 seconds remaining and the Islanders take a 3-1 lead.  Islanders take exception to late shot at the buzzer and respond by answering some nastiness.  Way to stay classy Caps.  Both teams tangle and are separated by the officials.  Isles win game 6 by a 3-1 score and survive for a game 7 in Washington on Monday.  Shots were 13-12 in the period and 39-38 Washington in the game.  The Isles were 0 for 1 on the PP and 2 for 3 on the PK.  Hits were 46-32 in favor of NY and they were credited with 23 takeaways.  Nikolay Kulemin, John Tavares & Cal Clutterbuck were named 3 stars of the game.




The negatives today were that New York needs to temper their energy and grittiness with composure to avoid giving Ovechkin and a real good Caps PP so many chances to burn them.  They also need to make correcting their PP a priority - immediately.  There is no excuse for why it can’t work with the guys they have on this roster.  I have to vent and say that when officiating is this bad, it has a chance to deprive the NHL and its fans of the game they deserve.  Some of the calls (& non calls for that matter) on the Islanders were ridiculous.  I still don’t get the 10 minute Donovan unsportsmanlike conduct call.  My rant is over.  Also, did Niskanen really throw a bottle into the stands after the game?



On the Positive side of things, the 4th line, Nikolay Kulemin, Mikhail Grabovski, Kyle Okposo & Josh Bailey stood out again for me today.  Colin McDonald deserves a mention, while Matt Donovan and Scott Mayfield did everything that was asked of them.  It’s about time Donovan gets a chance to earn a spot on this team.  Johnny Boychuk and Nick Leddy led in ice time and were solid in a shutdown role as well as jumping into the rush when possible.  From the forwards through the defense, the Islanders played a strong game in their own zone and worked hard to keep the Capitals in their own zone for much of the game.  Coach Capuano made some adjustments that paid off and John Tavares was big in another huge game for his team.  "Everybody worked as a team today. It wasn't one guy or two guys, it was everybody," Nikolay Kulemin.
 




It was great to see Jaroslav Halak (38 of 39 with a .974Sv%) respond with another solid game and get rewarded behind a much better defensive effort by his team today. Dan Savarino quoted the updated stat, “Jaroslav Halak is now 6-1 in elimination games w/ 1.71gaa, .956sv%. Against the Caps: 4-0rec, 1.00gaa, .977sv%.”  Jaro Halak is my Grail Knight for game 6.
 



John Tavares said, “I wanted to make sure we gave ourselves a chance to get back to this building.”  It’s all about chances & it starts with a win on Monday in game 7.  Let’s see what Johnny & the guys can do to set that up.



 

Isles Notes:
 
 

Per NHL Public Relations, “@NYIslanders scored 1st in 5 games of a #StanleyCup Playoffs series for 2nd time in team history (also 5 from Apr. 7-13, 1982 vs PIT).”


Thursday, April 23, 2015

2015 Playoffs: Defenseless In Game 5.


Tonight, your New York Islanders are back in D.C. to face the Washington Capitals in what should be a very intense & physical quarter final game 5.  The series is tied at 2-2, so tonight’s winner will take a big 3-2 lead in the series and the Islanders want it to be them for a return home on Saturday.  Mikhail Grabovski has been activated off the team's IR list and will play tonight in place of Brock Nelson, while Lubo Visnovsky remains out indefinitely following a hit from Tom Wilson in game 4.  There is no secret that the Isles took exception to what they feel was a dirty hit, but will need to stay focused on winning tonight’s game.  The Isles PP is the only unit without a PPG (0/10) in the playoffs so far.  That will need to change if they expect to get out of this series.



Griffin Reinhart & Ryan Pulock skated in warm ups and hope to be inserted into tonight’s line up in place of Visnovsky.  Both Reinhart & Pulock are excited about the possibility of playing.  Reinhart spoke about tonight, “Ever since I came up, I was waiting for the opportunity. It's unfortunate it had to happen like this, but whether I get to play tonight or another time in this series, I'm really excited and I came ready for it."  Pulock said he is ready, "I'm obviously excited to be here and I was told to be ready here... If I can get in and help the team, that's my plan."  Just prior to game time, Griffin Reinhart was put on the roster and will make his NHL playoff debut.


Bailey-Tavares-Okposo, Lee-Nielsen-Kennedy, Kulemin-Grabovski-Strome, Martin-Cizikas-Clutterbuck.

Leddy-Boychuk, de Haan-Strait, Hickey-Reinhart & Pulock.

Jaroslav Halak is in net with Michal Neuvirth backing up.


The bad blood already boiling over in the first minute of the opening period as both teams finish their checks.  The Capitals come out firing pucks in net from every angle on Halak.  Griffin Reinhart opens his playoff debut against Ovechkin.  Anders Lee opens the fight card against Wilson.  Challenge accepted.  Josh Bailey (Tavares & Leddy) snipes one from the circle to give the Isles a 1-0 lead at the 5:48 mark of the period.  The Islanders have finished all their hits on Ovechkin.  Isles lose zone face off & Kuznetsov slaps in a shot on net to even it out at 1-1 a few minutes later.  Both teams continue to play with a noticeable edge to their game.  Halak stops Chimera on a breakaway chance to preserve the tie and then Leddy strips Brouwer on another break way chance shortly after.  Washington has had the better scoring chances in the game so far.  Johnny Boychuk hits Ovechkin hard, but clearly pulls back to avoid a knee on knee.  Shots are 10-8 Caps after 1 and dominating in face offs by a 12-6 margin.



The 4th line has come out to play again in the second period. The Islanders doing a better job pressuring the Caps in their own zone and creating some scoring chances.  Halak comes up with huge saves on Wilson and then on Kuznetsov.   A slow whistle and Calvin de Haan misplay of the puck as Halak tries to cover, and Alzner makes it a 2-1 game for Washington.  I like de Haan, but it might be time for the Isles to give Matt Donvan a game.  Kuznetsov is called for a high-stick, Isles go the PP but fail to generate much including some complacency by Anders Lee, 0 for 11.  Reinhart hasn’t seen much ice time in the period and the defense looks tired and is starting to get outplayed.  Thomas Hickey turns over the puck to Ovechkin, who somehow draws a tripping call off Halak as Nielsen collides with him in the crease, Caps to the PP to start the third.  There has been suspect officiating in the game so far to say the least.  The depleted Islanders defense is looking tired and needs to be ready to answer the Capitals in what should be a hard fought third period.  Halak has been huge for New York in the game.  Shots are 18-8 in the period and 28-16 Caps after two.  Washington dominated in the faceoff circle by a 31-18 margin.


The Islanders kill the penalty to start the third, but Laich converts on the second rebound against Halak after another miscue at the net, 3-1 Washington.  De Haan goes to the dressing room, Reinhart takes his place.  Cal Clutterbuck called for retaliation slash to Gleason, Isles back to the PK.  4-1, Kuznetsov. Wheels coming off and frustration starting to boil over.  5-1 Washington after a goal by Chimera, Michal Neuvirth will make his Isles playoff debut.  Cal Clutterbuck sent off the ice for a slash and a game misconduct, Caps back to the man advantage.  Isles go through the motions in a meaningless and fruitless PP chance late in the game to seal their fate in a 5-1 loss and go down 3-2 in the series.  This was a statement game and a big opportunity to go back home with a chance to make things happen, but it wasn’t meant to be.  The Capitals won by playing their kind of game, something the Isles couldn't manage to do tonight.  Shots were 13-7 in the period and 41-23 for the game.  The PP was 0 for 2 (0 for 12 in the series) and the PK was 3/3.



Grail Knight of the game goes to Josh Bailey who has played hard and been one of the better guys on the ice over the last few games with a series leading 5 points for the Islanders.
Tonight’s game started well, but too many penalties and without Travis Hamonic, losing Lubo Visnovsky and now Calvin de Haan put too much pressure on a thin Isles defense.  Even Johnny Boychuk & Nick Leddy were worn down as the game went on.  The Isles weren’t able to clear the puck very well or maintain any kind of proficiency in their transition game.  These were the primary reasons Washington was able to score 5 unanswered goals.  The Isles power play continues to be missing in action and has really cost them.  A sparsely supported Jaro Halak (30 of 35 with a .857Sv%) was pulled, but was really the only reason the Isles were in the game through two periods to begin with.  Michal Neuvirth finished the game with 6 saves.  Butch Goring has mentioned the Capitals free reign on face off interference and it really showed tonight.  The Officiating was horrible, but the Isles didn’t help themselves by the situations they put themselves in throughout the game. Their PP has finally taken them out of the series and the coaching staff is really starting to show their lapses in management. 


Capuano deserved to be given an opportunity to lead this team in the playoffs.  He led the Isles through a great campaign this season, but has the team off their mark since the All-Star break.  I said the Isles would win in 7 and I stand by that as long as adjustments can be made and their defense can hold on.  If de Haan is out for any period of time, you have to think Donovan or Pulock will get a shot.  Griffin Reinhart had a tough night tonight and the big guns for New York were nonexistent.  John Tavares needs to be better in this kind of game.  His lack of impact throughout the night cannot be acceptable.  The lack of an effective physical effort late in the game was a strange development to see unfold.  Mikhail Grabovski looked pretty good in his return to the lineup.  Game 6 is at the NVMC and hope this team shows up and answers some of its own questions with a win wrought by pride and determination.  Then they can go to Washington and answer all doubts away from home in a game 7 scenario.  I am proud of what they have done this season, but if they bow out of the playoffs in the way that they played tonight, there should be some changes moving forward.  Hopefully Friday’s practice won’t be optional.


See you Saturday.


Wednesday, April 22, 2015

2015 Playoffs: Isles Broken & Powerless In Game 4.


Yesterday, I went to the NVMC to see our New York Islanders face the Washington Capitals in game 4 of their 1st round match up.  The Isles had a 2-1 lead on the Caps and a win would have given them a commanding 3-1 series edge before heading back to Maryland.  Over the course of regulation, Ovechkin & Casey Cizikas (Clutterbuck & Leddy) exchanged goals in the second period of what turned out to be a very gritty and physical game. 


In the second period, Cap’s wing, Tom Wilson hit Lubomir Visnovsky behind the Islanders net 20 seconds after leaving the box for serving a kneeing penalty.  From the stands, I observed Wilson go after Visnovsky while he was away from the puck with a shoulder to his head, leaving his feet as he finished the hit.  To me, seeing him accessed with a 2:00 charging call was a joke.  It was clearly an attempt to injure a player with a concussion history.  Visnovsky left the game and his injury status is unknown at this time.  To make things worse, we get to hear Wilson’s team mate, Brooks Laich state that it was "a good penalty to take. Knocks them down to 5 defensemen for the rest of the game,” when he spoke about the Wilson hit on Visnovsky.  If I’m part of this Isles team & I read that no further discipline was handed out to Wilson & see the Laich comment, I wouldn't need any other motivation than the brotherhood of the other guys in the room. It's on.  And by on, I don't mean respond by using your own form of goonery or dirty play. I mean police your ice as a team & protect you own.  Raise your level of play. Winning this series is the real justice, not revenge.


Per Katie Strang, “Tom Wilson won't face any supplementary discipline for his hit on Visnovsky.”

Capuano on Wilson hit, "I don't have an opinion on it."

Tavares on Lubo hit, "we could've hit their guys like that but we play within the rules"

Kyle Okposo on Tom Wilson, "He's an idiot …The guy runs around, hits reckless, leaves his feet. There's no place for that."


New York went 0 of 4 on the PP and broke what seemed to be countless sticks at the worst possible times.  Several scoring chances and strong plays in the offensive zone were thwarted by the Isles continued plague of stick casualities.  After heading to over time with the score still tied at 1-1, Backstrom took advantage of another broken stick by John Tavares to somehow slip in the game winning goal behind a screened Jaroslav Halak.  The shot somehow fluttered through & into the net about half way through the extra session.  Halak was 28 of 30 with a .933Sv% in the loss and played a strong game for the home team.  Holtby also played well, negating the Islanders 37-30 shots advantage on the night.


The Islanders deserved better than a frustrating O.T. loss last night.  It had the feel of a heavy weight bout with each team striking hard only to be countered at the last second by the other.  The Isles worked hard and came close several times to scoring the go ahead goal in regulation, but saw pucks go off posts, sail wide and get deflected away from the net. Even more frustrating was seeing their power play & constant flow of broken sticks become a huge factor in the loss. Now they need to focus on winning game 5 & set up a chance to close the series at home.  The fourth line was awesome and guys like Brian Strait & Kyle Okposo had strong efforts in the game.  Casey Cizikas was named 2nd star of the game.


Reactions:

Casey Cizikas: “I thought we did a good job of that tonight, it was just a tough outcome."

Johnny Boychuk: "We have a young team but you can't get down on yourself. You just have to look at it as a best-of-three [series] now."

Capunao on the broken sticks, “I've never seen anything like it. It's frustrating, guys are working so hard."

Grail Knight of the game goes to Matt Martin, Casey Cizikas & Cal Clutterbuck of the fourth line.  These guys were even more amazing to watch in person.  Seeing the way they work as a unit and orchestrate what can happen on the ice was fun to see.


Finally, I had a great time walking the grounds with MaryBeth and enjoyed catching up with friends and followers of my blog.  There were tailgates and great conversations to be shared with several groups of fans that stretched across the parking lot.  I even got a chance to grab a few things at the team store before we left.  It was nice to see another playoff game at the old barn, even if it turned out to be a loss. 




***


Opinion:


It is quite common for rivalries to be built or rekindled from an NHL playoff series.  Sometimes, that rivalry can involve a bitterness or resentment that becomes an obsession to some.  I have seen and experienced my share of loud, obnoxious or inebriated fans at other arenas while attending these kinds of games.  I can appreciate good natured or even unfriendly verbal jousting, but I don't agree with when someone chooses to involve another unwilling fan in a physical altercation.  Pouring a beer on someone or lashing out at them just because they are wearing a different jersey just isn’t cool.


I have met tons of great people at Isles games over the years.  Some have even become buddies that I contact in real life and will see in a social capacity as friends.  I have also met some fans who constantly complain about everything other fans, the organization or specific players do.  Some spew negativity so often, I wonder why they would want to call themselves fans of this team.  Nothing seems to ever be good enough for them.  And even when things do work out, these fans strive to downplay the success by clinging to past failures or scramble for reasons that the player or a situation could have been better.  Do us all a favor and become a rival fan or something.  At least then, your negativity would make a little more sense.


It is also over the line to disrespect a player at the game. Heckling is fine, but you should not throw things on the ice or even worse, at a player or member of the staff.  It just isn’t cool and really has no place at a social event where people come to have fun.  What is even worse, are those who instigate situations like that and come to a game with plans of ruining another person’s good time.


Recently, a Caps fan blogged about how he and his group suffered some mistreatment at the hands of Islanders fans during the Washington loss in Game 3 at the Coliseum.  He was quick to point out all the injustices he & his friends experienced as a result of hostile Islanders fans.  I could feel for anyone who got abused in this kind of situation and quite frankly, we should do everything possible to avoid to be painted like this as a fan base.  But before you think I am attacking Isles fans here, let me finish.


It turns out there is another side to the story.  I have learned from several groups who were at game 3 & tailgating around them, that they were the ones being abrasive and hostile to anyone wearing an Isles jersey.  They were seen by several fans and people at the game yelling obscenities at passing Islanders fans, giving them the finger and playing the part of the aggressors or agitators.  This kind of behavior was witnessed throughout the day and during their tailgate in the parking lot.  What a sad attempt at trying to garner undue attention at the expense of others by playing the victim. 



Isles Notes:



Per Katie Strang, “Capuano said there will likely be changes to lineup for Game 5. Said there's a "real good chance" Grabovski could play.”


Yesterdays’ Line up:

Kulemin-Tavares-Strome, Bailey-Nielsen-Okposo, Lee-Nelson-Kennedy, Martin-Cizikas-Clutterbuck.

Leddy-Boychuk, Strait-de Haan, Hickey-Visnovsky.

Jaroslav Halak in net with Michal Neuvirth on the bench.

On Monday, 4/20, Matt Carkner, Scott Mayfield, Kael Mouillierat, Ryan Pulock and Johan Sundstrom have been recalled from the BST.


Per Daniel Hungerbuhler, “According to an interview with an Austrian paper. Michael Grabner needs another hernia operation this summer! Explains his lost speed.”