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

Saturday, January 31, 2015

Islanders Powerless In Detroit

It’s a good thing your New York Islanders are 8-1-1 against the Detroit Red Wings since the 05-06 season, because they will be looking for a bounce back with a win after Thursday’s lack luster loss against the Bruins.  Both teams are tied with 65 points coming into the game.  Colin McDonald (34pts with the BST) has been recalled on an emergency basis for Casey Cizikas, Lubo Visnovsky returns from the IR in place of an improved Brian Strait and Chad Johnson will get his turn in net for New York.  Visnovsky should give a boost to the PP.  McDonald saw time on the third line in practice while Strome replaced Cizikas on the fourth.

Update:  Cizikas is in the lineup, McDonald scratched with Strait & Donovan.

Forwards:  Grabovski-Tavares-Bailey, Lee-Nielsen-Strome, Grabner-Nelson-Kulemin, Martin-Cizikas-Clutterbuck

Defensive Pairings:  Leddy-Boychuk, de Haan-Hamonic, Hickey-Visnovsky.

Chad Johnson gets the start with Jaroslav Halak backing up.

Early in the first, Grabovski is called for interference, Isles to the PK.  de Haan with a weak clear and Tatar scores through traffic, 1-0 Red Wings.  PK continues to struggle.  Eric Hornick mentions, “Isles have allowed 8 PP goals in last 14 times short, including at least 1 in 6 straight games.”  Isles are having trouble carrying the puck and their defense looks a little shaky so far.  Could it be a confidence issue with CJ?  Glendening with goaltender interference, Isles go to the PP but don’t generate much as the period closes.  Not a good period for New York in the neutral zone and special teams struggled.  Shots are 8-5 in favor of Wings. 

Islanders getting pressured by Red Wings to start the second period, especially in the offensive zone.  Johnny Boychuk sets up Brock Nelson who somehow misses the open side stuff in to keep the score at 1-0 Wings.  Capuano goes back to changing lines, Bailey, Tavares, Strome & Grabovski, Nielsen, Kulemin. to start things off.  Islanders have been able to generate a little more jump by the midpoint of the period.  Thomas Hickey is nearly beheaded by Quincey, no call on the ice.  Somehow, JT draws a penalty from Ericsson slashing the stick out of his hands, Isles to the PP.  Officiating has been very inconsistent today.  New York is able to put a few pucks on net, but can’t convert.  Red Wings are called for too many men, Isles right back to the PP, but can’t get it done.  Capuano continues to juggle lines to no effect.  They need to convert on these kind of opportunities.  Red Wings have done a good job of jamming the neutral zone, negating the Isles fore check and not giving them any room on their PP chances.  Jurco makes it 2-0 with 46 seconds remaining in the period.  Their play was a little better and able to generate a 9-4 advantage in shots, but hasn’t been where they need it to be.

In the third period, the alternating lines continue to try and generate a spark for the Islanders.  Clutterbuck draws a Smith penalty, Isles go back to the PP & Lubo Visnovsky puts in a nice shot from the slot to pull the Isles within 1, 2-1 Red Wings.  Much better movement on the PP that time.  de Haan nabbed for a weak holding call against Tatar, Isles to the PK.  Ericsson makes it 3-1 Detroit lead from the blue line as penalty expires.  It all started off a bad clearing attempt by Strome.  Isles heading to the PP & officials call Nelson for embellishment as he steps on a stick and falls to the ice. 4 on 4 as a result of the call.  Tough break for the struggling Islanders. The Isles have been their own worst enemy, but the officiating has been awful today. You can’t make this stuff up.  Wings go the PP as Hamonic is called for a hook against Zetterberg with: 40 seconds remaining in the 4 on 4. After the 4 on 3 advantage expires for Detroit, they go to a 5 on 4 advantage. Nyquist gives them a 4-1 lead.  Johnson having another tough outing.  Tempers flare with under two minutes remaining.  Matt Martin sent off , JT serving in the box with 1:38 remaining.  4-1 is the final. 

The Islanders allowed Detroit to dictate play and force them to the outside all game long.  This magnified their inability to keep pace and forced them to take bad penalties and push enough for the suspect calls to affect their game.  Michael Grabner & Frans Nielsen barely saw action in the second half of the game.  Passengers?  Chad Johnson wasn’t the reason, but he will be the goat again in today’s team loss.  His 15/19 performance with a dismal .789 Sv% won’t help his case at all with the fans.  He simply wasn’t good again when his team faltered in front him.  I think I will finally say the backup goaltending position should be a serious concern for Isles management.  For whatever reason, Johnson is struggling and shows little hope of regaining the form that got him signed last summer.  The Isles were 1 of 4 on the PP and 2 of 4 on the PK.


In closing, it was another clunker.  I don’t want to say their recent misfires have become patterns, but they have been faltering a lot in certain areas lately.  The Isles have struggled to open & close periods effectively in recent games.  They have allowed bad goals at inopportune times.  The PP has been absent and their PK is far too inconsistent.  They need to regain their neutral zone transitional play and establish their fore and back checking game.  Taking ill-timed penalties has the potential to cause any team damage, especially when they aren't scoring goals.  Their special teams have not been at all special and are starting to drag them down.  In addition, they have started to work against their ability to get back into or close out close games.  The Islanders deserve to be called out for the last two games and although it’s hardly the time to panic, it is a little off-putting to watch the way they have been underperforming lately.  Adjustments must be made and corrections must be implemented.  Another slip up against the Atlantic division with another chance to regroup against the Panthers. 

Florida comes to the NVMC on Tuesday for a 7:00 start.


Isles Notes:

The Isles announce that Colin McDonald has been returned on loan to the BST.  Since the emergency conditions were terminated, C-Mac had to be returned ASAP to avoid waivers.


Sound Tigers Notes:

The #Isles have reassigned goaltender Kent Simpson from the @StocktonThunder to the #BST   

Thursday, January 29, 2015

Islanders Mistakes Bolster Bruins

The Boston Bruins are in town on Mike Bossy tribute night.  I met the greatest pure goal scorer in the NHL last night, and it was a huge thrill for me as a longtime fan.  The Bruins have earned points in 11 of their last 12, but your first place Islanders have shown that they are the team to beat in the east.  Especially at 17-4-0 playing in Coliseum.  Look to Johnny Boychuk to have another big game against his old team.  He is going to make the curse of the Bambino look tame.

Forwards:  Grabovski-Tavares-Bailey, Lee-Nielsen-Strome, Grabner-Nelson-Kulemin, Martin-Cizikas-Clutterbuck.

Defensive Pairings: Leddy-Boychuk, de Haan-Hamonic, Hickey-Strait.

Jaroslav Halak is in net with Chad Johnson on the bench.

In the first period, the first line is buzzing.  Grabovski looks like a different player since his return.  Lee draws a hooking penalty from Krecji, Isles to the PP.  Isles can’t convert on their first man advantage.  Bruins doing a great job in the neutral zone against New York.  Smith victimizes Lee and gives Boston a 1-0 lead in the game.  De Haan off for tripping, Isles to the PK.  How Hickey bites on that fake & lets Bergeron skate in like that is beyond me, 2-0 Bruins.  That’s 2 goals in 2:10.  Capuano is juggling lines again to chance things up.  Martin with Tavares & Kulemin and Nielsen with Bailey & Grabovski, then puts things back to “normal.”  Cizikas looks hurt after blocking a shot.  He has trouble getting back to the bench.  Boston able to capitalize on the mistakes made by New York.  The period ends with the Isles behind a couple of goals and in need of a much better effort in the second.  Shots are 15-11 Islanders.

The Isles start the second period strong again, putting pressure against Boston in their own zone.  Cizikas is back on the bench.  Rask somehow stops Grabner just before the goal line on a gaping net.  What a save.  Nelson follows suit, but somehow hits the post behind Rask.  Isles are turning it up.  Casey Cizikas looks like he reinjured himself as he skates to the bench.  John Tavares  takes a Clutterbuck feed and chips in a puck on Rask, splits the Boston defense and then gets his own rebound. 2-1 Bruins.  Cizikas goes to the locker room.  The Islanders are starting to control play and are putting pucks on Rask (13-4 so far in period), who looks a little rattled.  John Tavares creates the turnover and Michael Grabner (Boychuk & Tavares) rips it past Rask, score tied at 2-2.  Boychuk’s assist on Grabner’s goal gives him his 100th point.  Halak plays the puck behind the net, 3-2 Bruins with 4 seconds left in 2nd.  Isles dominate most of the period, let up late & but trail by one.  Shots were even at 16-16 in middle stanza, closed to 31-27 after two.

Cal Clutterbuck not on the bench to start the third period, Casey Cizikas is back on the bench.  Krug  puts in a weak one through traffic, 4-2 Bruins. That's one in the closing seconds of 2nd and now one in the first minutes of 3rd.  Cizikas draws a penalty off Soderberg for holding the stick, but fail to generate much on the PP.  Nielsen & Lee stopped on a nice 2 on 1 breakaway opportunity.  Isles seem to have lost their polish in the third.  John Tavares mugged by Marchand, no call on the ice.  Halak is pulled at around with 3:20 remaining.  Lucic scores an ENG with 2:06 remaining, 5-2 Bruins.  Halak goes back to the Isles net, but that will do it.  Isles had a 14-6 shots advantage in the period, a 45-33 edge in the game.  Their PP was 0/2 and their PK was 0/1.  Rask was really good for much of the game, Halak was not. 

The Isles started strong, but Boston feasted on their mistakes and took the lead.  Somehow, they dug deep, changed the pace to get the game tied late in the second period.  Jaroslav Halak (28/32 with an .875Sv%) turned the it over when he cleared the puck with a few seconds left and the Bruins re-took the lead going into the third.  It was a huge momentum killer and gave Boston some life going into the intermission.  It was the 4th giveaway Halak was charged with according to Howie Rose.  After that, New York still managed to apply pressure, get shots and generate some chances, but were never able to get their rhythm back.  It was far from the kind of game we have become used to seeing by the Isles, but it should be of some concern for them.  When mistakes are made by the Isles and capitalized on by the opposition with regularity, their mortality becomes evident.  A big comeback is nice, but you can’t keep these guys in the game.  It should serve as a huge building block and lesson for the upcoming playoffs.  It’s hard to say Halak has been playing too much at this point because he has been winning, but at some point the organization needs to tap Chad Johnson to steal a few wins. 

John Tavares was good again tonight.  Matt Saidman quoted Tavares: "[Marchand] was head-locking me, the ref was staring right at it. Different set of rules I guess."  Tavares was the third star of the game with a goal & an assist.  Tough loss, but it’s all good.  They did some good things tonight and should continue to build on them for the next game.

Islanders are in Detroit (without Jimmy Howard) on Saturday for a 2:00 start.  They have done a lot of damage there and should have a good sized chip on their collective shoulder.


Isles Notes:

Per Rich DeKorte, “Cappy says Lubomir Visnovsky's return is a "day by day" situation.”

Cal Clutterbuck was fined $2,000 by NHL for embellishment from a play that occurred on 1/19 against the Flyers.  There was no penalty for embellishment on the play.

The AHL has approved the formation of a five-team Pacific Division for the 2015-16 season.
An open letter from Brad Rowbotham (Stockton Thunder) to you, the fans about the sale of the team.

Al Arbour Continues His Fight Against Dementia

Last night at the Islanders Booster Club meeting, Mike Bossy mentioned that Jiggs McDonald & Eddie Westfall had visited Al Arbour in Florida.  Al is suffering from Dementia & balance issues.  He was said to be in good spirits and doing well in his rehab.  While many of you might know what Dementia is, you would have to experience it to realize how devastating it is to the person affected and their families.  It is a frustrating and crushing illness that can bring down the strongest person over time.  Seeing the photo makes it real.

It's tough for me to keep up on Coach Arbour’s story because I am going through the same thing with my Dad. And to be honest, Mr. Arbour was a type of father figure to me growing up as an Islanders fan. I want to thank Howard Berger for posting the following contact information if you would like to reach out to Mr. Arbour.

Al Arbour, The Pines (The Garden), 1501 N. Orange Ave., Sarasota FL 34236.

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Snow Day: Isles Unleash Blizzard On Rangers

Head Coach Jack Capuno announced Kyle Okposo (44 pts in 46 games) will be out 6-8 weeks with an upper-body injury.  That’s bad news for the Islanders who welcome their arch rival New York Rangers into the NVMC for an essential 4 point game in a tightly contested Metro division.  Mikhail Grabovski is back from injury and will get another chance to find his game paired with JT & JB on the top line.  Cal Clutterbuck is wearing Okposo’s A for tonight’s post-blizzard, 12th sell out of the season and 8th of their last 9.

Forwards:  Bailey-Tavares-Grabovski, Lee-Nielsen-Strome, Grabner-Nelson-Kulemin, Martin-Cizikas-Clutterbuck.

Defensive Pairings:  Leddy-Boychuk, de Haan-Hamonic, Hickey-Strait.

Jaroslav Halak gets the start with Chad Johnson backing up.


In the first period, The Isles came out skating & generated several good chances, including a couple off Rangers turnovers.  Halak starting strong as well, making several key saves.  It’s been another battle of goaltenders tonight, hopefully it ends like last game against the Rangers.  Nick Leddy with a gorgeous feed to Frans Nielsen, but he can’t finish.  Isles doing a good job in their own zone on defense, blocking a lot of shots.  Mikhail Grabovski tips in a nice pass from the front of the net from Bailey & Boychuk on a play started by John Tavares.  1-0 Islanders.  Isles finish with a 17-10 shots advantage.  Great opening period by the home team.

Kreider breaks in on a scoring attempt, barreling into the net, colliding with Halak hard, pressing the scoring chance.  IMO, very suspect.  Isles to the PP at the start of the second, but fail to score.  Cizikas puts the puck on net & Matt Martin (Clutterbuck & Cizikas) gives the Islanders a 2-0 lead.  Josh Bailey has an assist tonight and has points in four straight games.  Kulemin gets called for tripping, Isles kill the penalty.  With Lundqvist down, Ryan Strome appears to put one in, but Official says it went off the crossbar.  Replay backs up the call.  Thomas Hickey continues to play a quietly effective game for the Islanders again tonight.  Cal Clutterbuck goes off for interference with :47 remaining.  Shots even at 28 each.  That was a huge period for Jaro Halak.

Isles come out with aggressive play to finish off the Rangers man advantage at the start of the third period.  Capuano calls a time out around at 14:11 of the third.  Ed Mangano is interviewed by Shannon Hogan during the game. So awkward.  Ryan Strome (Nielsen & de Haan) banks one off McDonagh, 3-0 Islanders.  Nick Leddy springs Matt Martin who just can’t gather in the puck on a breakaway.  Glass takes down Michael Grabner into the boards, Isles to the PP.  With 1:20 remaining, Nash slashes Frans Nielsen, 5 on 3.  John Tavares squeezes it past Lundqvist, 4-0 Islanders.  Isles have PP time remaining, 4 on 3.  Glass gives Matt Martin a vicious face rub while he is restrained by the Officials, Martin drops the gloves.  Glass & Martin head to the locker rooms.  Somehow, the teams are 4 on 4 for :17.   Rangers to the PP.  Haglin ruins the shutout with 8.1 seconds remaining, 4-1 Islanders.  Halak is upset.  Time expires, Isles win 4-1 and salute the fans with another center ice Yes! chant. 

Isles are 3-0 vs Rangers this year, 16-2 vs the Metro and 10-0 at the NVMC.  Rangers had a 13-10 edge in shots for the period while the Islanders finish with a 41-38 advantage.  They were 1/3 on the PP and 2/2 on the PK.  Two impressive stars included a 38-24 edge in face offs and an impressive 25-8 advantage in blocked shots.  Tavares, Halak & Martin were the three stars of the game.

Jaroslav Halak (40/41 with a .976 Sv%) was the story again for the Islanders.  For the third game against the Rangers, he outlasted and out dueled Henrik Lundqvist.  He and John Tavares took momentum from their All-Star appearances and kept them going tonight .  Mikhail Grabovski was good throughout and even got a goal to start the scoring for the Isles.  Ryan Strome had a strong effort, playing a good two way game.  The fourth line (Or, MC2 per Butch Goring) was awesome and brought some grit when it was needed most.  Matt Martin had a goal and came close a couple of other times as well.  Man, has his play gotten better towards the midpoint of the season.  Loved the jump in Michael Grabner’s game as well.  He generated some offensive chances and drew penalties.  Thomas Hickey had another great outing on the blue line along with Johnny Boychuk who was a shot blocking machine.

Another great statement game by your Islanders coming out of the break.  They should have no problem staying motivated for Boston.  With a win tonight and a TBL loss, the Isles assume 1st place in the east.  And in case it wasn’t clear to you yet, they are for real and they show no signs of resting on their laurels.
Let’s see where this thing goes.  They are playing like a champion. 


Isles Notes:

Kyle Okposo (Jan. 19) and Eric Boulton (Jan. 17) have been retroactively placed on the team's IR list.

Isles stats coming into tonight:

1st Period: +7
2nd Period: +1
3rd Period: +10 (+5 excluding EN)
Overtime Goals: +3

NBCSN has added an Isles-Canadiens game on 3/14 to their schedule
The Hockey News reported that legendary Islander Gillies wants another one. “The last thing on my hockey bucket list is to drink from the Stanley Cup one more time.”

Monday, January 26, 2015

Isles Tavares & Halak Shine at NHL ASG

Your New York Islanders were represented at the NHL All-Star Game by John Tavares & Jaroslav Halak in Columbus last night.  Team Toews defeated Team Foligno by the score of 17-12, which is the highest scoring NHL ASG in history.

John Tavares scored once in the first period, twice in the second & once in the third to tie an NHL record for the most goals scored in the All Star Game.  Tavares was out there towards the end of the game, but couldn’t get his fifth.  The most recent player to score four goals in an All-Star Game was Dany Heatley in 2003, Mike Gartner in 1993, Vincent Damphousse in 1991, Mario Lemieux in 1990 & Wayne Gretzky in 1983.  Eric Hornick pointed out that John Tavares is the first player in NHL ASG history to score 4 goals and NOT win All-Star MVP. "Yeah, I'll take it," said Tavares, "[Gretzky and Lemieux] are two of the best to ever play, probably one and two, so yes, it's pretty cool."

Somehow, that honor went to local representative, Ryan Johansen of the CBJ.  When asked about the MVP award, Tavares said, "You score 4 goals you know you have a good opportunity but it's always nice to see the hometown guys do well.”  Philadelphia Flyer and former CBJ, Jakub Voracek tied Mario Lemieux’s record for points in an NHL ASG (6) & was also overlooked in MVP voting as well.

Islanders’ goalie Jaroslav Halak made some nice saves & gave up the fewest goals in the game (4 on 10 shots) during his play in the third period.  “I just tried to not give up more goals than we scored,” Halak said. “It was a fun weekend.”

The Islanders face the New York Rangers at the NVMC tomorrow at 7 p.m. It will be a much anticipated rematch since the Isles 3-0 win at MSG last Tuesday.  With a blizzard set to hit sometime today that has the potential to go into and through Tuesday, both teams will most likely spend some time at the NVMC and at the Marriott today (Staple), just across the way from the arena to beat the snow. If you are going, please be safe going to and from the game.

And here’s to an even better second half of the season.

Sunday, January 25, 2015

Isle Be There: Kevin Judge & Bleed Orange And Blue

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 & its players. This will also include current events, situations and personalities in and around the team as it relates to its fan base and community.

If you are active on Isles social media, you probably know who Kevin Judge is.  If you aren’t familiar with him, I can tell you that his fandom is boundless and he makes it his mission to be sure his followers are kept up to date on anything and everything that is New York Islanders related.  While he is opinionated, you will never catch Judge harping on the negative.  He is a good mediator who isn’t afraid to weigh in on a controversy, and if you follow Isles Twitter, you can find controversy at every turn.  Kevin runs a group called, Bleed Orange & Blue along with his group of admins.  They include; Adam Corbett, Andrew Goldchain, Brian R Stepnowski, Frank Catalano, Kenny Johnson, Lenny Rosello, Mario Gazzaneo, Michael D'Andrea, Mike Pacheco, Mike Sitler, Raymond Gartkowski, Terry Sommer & Theresa Maria.  In addition, he is a regular contributor to NYIHC, Real Islander Fans & New York Islanders Hockey Club Fans.

As a kid from Brentwood, Kevin remembers going to Isles games with his Dad to see Mike Bossy and his native team battle the rest of the NHL.  But some of his favorite team memories are from a less successful time in Isles history.  Like me, Kevin can relate to the Islanders of the mid 90’s very well.  “I was a kid when they won their cups, so I have some good memories from the 90’s as well.”  Steve Thomas was the player he followed then and Kevin remembers a particular game of the 93 playoffs in which a very likeable Isles team upset and dethroned the two time Stanley Cup Champion, Pittsburgh Penguins, in the second round in an amazing game 7 O.T. performance.  He can also recall another Islanders team and a particular penalty shot goal by Shawn Bates during the 2002 playoffs against Toronto.

When he spoke about this year’s team, Kevin called the Isles performance incredible.  “They have a nice run going.  They will make the playoffs and who knows how far they can go from there,” Judge said.  “The conference finals are definitely a possibility.  They may even contend for the cup.”  While John Tavares & Frans Nielsen are his favorites on the present team, he finds it very easy to cheer for everybody. “I can’t wait until the Islanders get into the playoffs with Cal Clutterbuck this season.  He plays hard, can draw penalties and score goals along with Martin & Cizikas.”  When I asked him about what prospects he has an eye on, he mentioned guys like Pulock & Dal Colle, but stressed how interested he is on seeing Scott Mayfield get his chance with the Islanders.  “Living away from the area, I don’t get to see the Sound Tigers that much.  Mayfield is a guy I am excited about.”  I would have to agree.  Another large defensemen who can move the puck and clear the crease is always a good thing.

So in closing, you should definitely check out Bleed Orange & Blue on Facebook and get to know the members of the group.  They are insightful, passionate and love to talk Islanders hockey.  And next time you are on Twitter, give Kevin Judge (@Judge_Kevin) a shout. 

You will be glad you did.

NHL Notes:

The 2016 Winter Classic will be played at Gillette Stadium between the Boston Bruins & Montreal Canadiens.  The first of the Stadium Series games will be played at TCF Bank Stadium between the Minnesota Wild & Chicago Blackhawks while the second will be played at Coors Field between the Colorado Avalanche & Detroit Red Wings.

See the full release on The 2016 World Cup of Hockey here.

Saturday, January 24, 2015

The Nikolay Kulemin Advantage

There have been several notable stories on the success of your 2014-15 New York Islanders.  Whether it’s the additions of Boychuk & Leddy, Jaroslav Halak, the play of the 4th line or the maturation of Lee, Nelson or Strome, there are several improvements that you could say are major contributors to the Isles success in the first half of the season.  For me, the most underrated element is the play of LW, Nikolay Kulemin.

When Garth Snow added Nikolay Kulemin as a free agent on July 2nd, many thought that he was simply a depth piece that came as a sort-of cooperative package deal with Mikhail Grabovski.  While Grabovski has been an asset for the Islanders, he hasn’t exactly taken the league by storm with just 6 & 8 for 14 pts in 38 games so far this season. Nikolay Kulemin, on the other hand, has been a huge multi purpose asset for the Islanders.  His contributions as a solid two-way forward have come 5 on 5 and on special teams, especially on the PK.

Is there anything to the stat that says the Isles are 14-1-0 when Nikolay Kulemin records a point?  Well, in 46 games played, Kulemin has 11 & 9 for 20 points at a +1.  Pretty good numbers for a “depth player” on the third line for the first place Islanders, but Kulemin’s contributions go beyond the stat sheet.  When you watch Kulemin on the ice, he rarely makes a mistake.  He also is the kind of player who never stops working, even when he has been beaten on a play or is coming off a shift.  His relentless tracking of the puck and strong defensive game has allowed him to lead the Isles with 3 SHG (tied for 2nd in NHL/Nash, Frolik - behind Toffoli with 4), who are tops in the NHL with 8 as a team.  It is evident that aside from helping his team, Nikolay Kulemin is on pace for helping himself to another career year.  Per Eric Hornick, “Kulemin, who now has 95 career goals, has scored five goals in the last five games and has his highest goal total since scoring 30 times for Toronto in 2010-11.”

Head Coach, Jack Capuano had this to say on Nikolay Kulemin, "When you play as hard as he plays, you're going to get results.  He's a guy that away from the puck, plays exceptionally well defensively. We can use him in some crucial situations, not just the penalty kill, but five-on-five."  As Kulemin continues to play well for the Isles, he will continue to earn more responsibility in key situations with the game on the line. 

If Kulemin continues his surge, he could very well be another one of Garth Snow’s best kept, not-so-secret, secrets in the NHL.


Isles Notes:

John Tavares & Jaroslav Halak have been added to Team Toews for the NHL All-Star Game & Skills Competition.  JT is set to compete in the Accuracy Shot Challenge, Skills Challenge Relay and Shootout tonight.  Halak will compete in the Skills Challenge Relay and Shootout events.

The Isles are an impressive 31-14-1, good enough to put them 4th in points (63) in first 46 games.  That is the most wins in their first 46 games as a franchise.  Eric Hornick mentioned the Isles did not record their 31st win until they defeated Ottawa, 2-1 on April 2nd (31-35-10) last season.




Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Isle Be There: Craig Richardson & New York Islanders Hardcore

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 & its players. This will also include current events, situations and personalities in and around the team as it relates to its fan base and community.

As an Islanders fan since 1976, Craig Richardson lives his life representing the orange & blue.  Back in the day, he was exposed to the local hockey team by his parents and attended games regularly with his mother while his father worked long hours as a police officer.  Little Craig was a fan of Mike Bossy & Billy Smith.  Now it’s Cal Clutterbuck, due to his in your face style, grinding & physical style of play.  Like most fans, Craig is pleased with this season’s effort thus far and feels the coach, team and management has exceeded expectations.  Like most of us, while he isn't thrilled the team will be moving to Brooklyn, he understands why the move needed to be made and plans to support his team from his future seat in the Barclay’s Center.
When I asked Craig about this year’s squad, he summed it up well.  “We have seen the team grow up together and become a contender that will be around for a long time to come.”  Of all the recent quality additions, he feels Johnny Boychuk has made the biggest impact.  “He has brought cup winning leadership to the Islanders and should be around here for a while.”  Let’s hope Craig is right with that prediction.  I agree that Boychuk has been huge for New York and that he is really coming into his own on the Island.  “He was underutilized in Boston,” Craig said.  As strange as that sounds, I think Boston really didn't know what they had with Boychuk.  That is evident by how much more of a complete player he has become with the Islanders.  From the blue line to the PP, Johnny Rocket is the real deal and belongs here.  Let’s hope all those rumors of him wanting to sign long term are true.

Two years ago, Craig (@Chicklets91 on Twitter) started a Facebook group called New York Islanders Hardcore (@NYIslesHardcore on Twitter) in the image of other fan groups that he respected like Section329.  His goal was to create a community where Isles fans could come together, support the team and make friends.  NYIHC has grown to over 1,400 members and shows no signs of stopping.  With the help of guys like Victor Grappone, Andrew Goldchain, Lenny Rosello, Mike Sitler, Kevin Judge and his girlfriend Sharon, Craig organizes gatherings, stadium invasions, charity fundraisers and righteous tailgates at home games.  On April 4th, Hardcore will be mobilizing another outing to see the Islanders take on Buffalo with plans to organize gatherings to future away games with the Capitals & Devils.

I've found the group is filled with a lot of passionate Islanders fans who really enjoy meeting up at games, talking on line and coming together as an extended family to throw tons of support behind their team.  Each holiday season, Hardcore has a huge toys for tots fundraiser and makes a big difference in the community.  And If you live on or around the Island, you have probably heard of them.  NYIHC’s t-shirts, stickers & magnets can be seen all over Long Island and are one of the most recognizable logos among the fan base.  And let’s just say that John Tavares, Ryan Strome, Matt Martin, Cal Clutterbuck, Kyle Okposo, Josh Bailey, Casey Cizikas, Matt Donovan, Travis Hamonic and even Mike Bossy have been spotted from time to time sporting the Hardcore logos. 

Are you Hardcore?  Join the ranks today. 


Please help Alex Shudler. Hes a huge Islanders fan and a great Kid.

Monday, January 19, 2015

Holiday Lookback: Philadelphia

This afternoon, the Isles faced the Philadelphia Flyers for a Marin Luther King Jr. Day matinee.  The Islanders needed to bring it against a Flyers team that was desperate for a win, and they did.  Well, mostly anyway.  Six different players scored for the Islanders in a game that saw lots of big offense, but not so much defense. 

Forwards:  Bailey-Tavares-Okposo, Lee-Nielsen-Strome, Grabner-Nelson-Kulemin, Martin-Cizikas-Clutterbuck.

Defensive Pairings:  de Haan-Hamonic, Leddy-Boychuk, Hickey-Strait.

Jaroslav Halak is in net again with Chad Johnson backing up.


While Michael Grabner (Kulemin & Boychuk) opened the scoring with an impressive snipe against Zepp on a partial break-away, leading the way was Nikolay Kulemin who scored the 2nd (Boychuk & Grabner) & 3rd (unassisted SHG) goals of the game. Kulemin has impressed me all season long as a diverse player who can fill most any role asked of him by the coaching staff.  With a 3-0 lead, the Isles started to fade going into the second period, really having trouble playing a consistent defensive game.

Their defensive struggles continued in the second period after Streit & Del Zotto would trade goals with Josh Bailey (Leddy & Strome) & John Tavares (Nielsen) for a 5-2 score after two periods of play. The Flyers rookie goaltender, Rob Zepp, was pulled after allowing 4 goals on 20 shots.  Ray Emery would make some good saves in relief, but couldn’t help his mates from Philadelphia stop the tide of offense brought by New York.  Tavares roofed a nasty backhand goal behind Emery and the NVMC went nuts.  The energy was infectious to me as I listened to the game from work, Yes,Yes,Yes!  Peter Botte remarked, “Understand not everyone out there is a hockey fan, but watch Tavares regularly. He will make you one.”

Halak wandered from his crease at the start of the third and turned the puck over to Giroux who made it a 5-3 game with one of the easiest goals he would ever score.  Nick Leddy would add another tally through a Kyle Okposo screen to increase the Isles lead to 3 at 6-3.  VandeVelde added another goal for the Flyers for a 6-4 score with a few minutes remaining.  Philadelphia would pull Emery for the extra man.  Anders Lee would add an ENG to close the scoring and give the Islanders a 7-4 win.

I had a few impressions from the game today.  The Isles continue to pour on shots against opposing net minders and have gotten a well-balanced contribution from several players.  They outshot Philly by a 41-29 margin today and never stopped applying pressure in the offensive zone.  Jaroslav Halak (25/29 & .862Sv%) got the win for the Isles, but didn’t look polished in the game despite being 22-4 in his last 26 starts.  Let’s hope extra play at the All-Star game doesn’t do more harm than good.  The Isles need to get dialed in defensively and on special teams.  Their PP was 1/4 while their PK was 2/3.  They gave up too many goals today and need to be better in their own zone.  “It’s a win, but we have to play better defensively still,” Nikolay Kulemin said. “We gave up four goals. That’s not the type of game you’re supposed to play.”  They threw the body with 59 hits and were physical in the game.  You can't hide from our 4th line. They can smell your blood and sense your beating heart.  Martin, Cizikas & Clutterbuck were relentless as usual.  Kulemin, Leddy & Grabner were the 3 stars of the game.

With the win, your New York Islanders secured 1st place in the metropolitan division and tops in the eastern conference with an NHL best at 31 wins & are 9-0 in the metro at home.
The Islanders return to action next Tuesday as they welcome the New York Rangers to the Coliseum.


Isles Notes:


The Isles reached the 8 SHG mark in the game, which is tops in the NHL.

Johnny Boychuk, Nick Leddy & Ryan Strome are an impressive +15, +15 & +16 on the season after today’s game.

Kyle Okposo has been named third NHL star of the week.

Rick DiPietro took part in the pregame with Shannon Hogan and made himself available to the packed house in and around the concourse.  On Twitter, DP had a message to the Isles fans.  Today was another reminder of how truly blessed I am to have been an Islander. THANK YOU!!!!” 

Saturday, January 17, 2015

Isles Make Mistakes In Montreal

Tonight, your New York Islanders are in Montreal to face the Canadiens.  Kyle Okposo is coming off his stellar 4 goal game & his 30 win Isles will be looking to ride that wave to another win tonight.  Carey Price is day-to-day, so Tokarski will be in net to face Jaro Halak for his return to Montreal.  The Isles have outshot their opponents in their last 15 games, so Tokarski better be ready. 

Forwards:  Bailey-Tavares-Okposo, Lee-Nielsen-Strome, Grabner-Nelson-Kulemin, Martin-Cizikas-Clutterbuck.

Defensive Pairings:  de Haan-Hamonic, Leddy-Boychuk, Hickey-Strait.
Jaro Halak is in net with Chad Johnson backing up.

Ryan Strome gets called for tripping Beaulieu less than a minute in to the first period.  Halak is pushed into the net as the whistle is blown, no goal.  But a short time later, Subban gets the one timer past a screened Halak to make it 1-0 Montreal less than two minutes in.  Matt Martin tangles with Prust right off the draw to set the tone early.  Tokarski with a big save on Tavares in front of the net.  Grabner & Nelson getting their chances, but fail to score. Isles getting pressure deep into the Canadien’s zone, but Montreal seems to fire right back.  Halak has been good, making a few big saves in the first half of the period to keep the Isles in this game.  Brock Nelson draws an elbowing penalty from Beaulieu, Isles to their first PP.  New York has trouble generating much and the penalty expires without a goal.  Josh Bailey is still playing very well, especially on the first line. He has to be shocking a lot of people.  Nikolay Kulemin does so much. There are tons of small things that he does each & every night that really make difference in the Isles overall game.  New York with a 7-6 advantage in shots and they escape the period only down by one thanks to the play of Jaro Halak.  The Isles can’t continue to play this kind of loose, sloppy game and expect a win tonight.  They have to be better.  Arthur Staple reports, “Isles have more wins (6-4-0) when trailing after 1 period than Habs do when leading after one (5-1-1).”

Weise puts the Habs up 2-0 just 10 seconds in to the second period.  Bailey missed it on the defensive play that time.  Capuano shuffling lines agin to try and make things happen.  Nielsen is out with Lee and Kulemin after the Montreal goal.   Nelson with Grabner & Kulemin soon after that while Strome sits.  Isles are definitely on their heels in the first five minutes of the second period & having a lot of trouble in their own zone.  They look tired.  Hamonic with a weak call for hooking on Gallagher, Isles go to the PK and kill the penalty.  Kyle Okposo (Tavares & Bailey) puts the Islanders on the board off a Bailey rebound, 2-1 Montreal.  Eller high sticks Bailey, Isles back to the PP.  Nothing doing for New York on the man advantage and they even come close to giving up a shortie.  Hickey goes off for tripping, Isles back to the kill.  Isles PK continues to struggle as Plekanec makes it 3-1 Montreal.  Brock Nelson draws two defenders & Nikolay Kulemin (Nelson & Bailey) dazzles with his stick work, now just 3-2 Canadiens.  That was a big goal for the Islanders who look very tired tonight.  Halak with a big save on Weise.  Michael Grabner makes a huge defensive play after Boychuk breaks his stick.  Timeout Montreal to settle things down with 25.9 seconds remaining, face off in the Habs zone.  Time expires with shots tied at 22 each.

Isles are 4-8-0 when trailing after two.  Montreal scores again early in the period off a Galchenyuk tally, 4-2 Montreal.  The Isles continue to struggle for much of the period and can’t seem to find a rhythm.  Desharnais’ slap shot makes it 5-2 Montreal.  More missed plays in the defensive game gives Plekanec his second of the night for a 6-2 Canadiens lead with 6:17 to play.  Chad Johnson comes in to relieve Halak.  Anders Lee (Strome) makes it 6-3 Montreal from a sheer will to score.  Isles to the PP from a Malholtra hook on Nielsen.  John Tavares (Nielsen) puts in a puck from along the Montreal goal line.  It’s the sixth time JT has reached the 20 goal mark in a season.  Score is now 6-4 and the Islanders are trying to make things happen late in the game.  Chad Johnson goes to the bench as the Isles call a time out with 2:17 remaining trying to and engineer a miracle.  Isles negate the man advantage (Nielsen) shortly after by taking another penalty and time expires.  Montreal holds on to win 6-4.  Too many mistakes by the Isles.  They are outshot 35-31, go 1/3 on the PP and 2/4 on the PK.  Montreal had a 37-30 edge in face offs and led 6-2 on takeaways.  Chad Johnson was 2/2 in relief for Halak.

You can say the Isles had a letdown tonight after two big wins against the Rangers & Penguins or that they are a tired team who has played too many games without sufficient time off.  You could be right.  But they have been winning regularly and had plenty of chances to put something together tonight, but couldn't get it done.  They were outshot for the first time in 16 games (Dec.11) and looked out of sync.  You can also say that the Isles struggled at the start each period, they struggled to stay out of the box, they struggled defensively & struggled on the PK.  It’s hard to surrender a goal at the start of each period and expect to be able to recover each time.  When they make these kinds of mistakes against good teams, even they will be hard pressed to keep going to the well & pull out wins.  Their defensive game needs to be intact to help their goaltending, which in turn helps their offense fire on all cylinders.   When they struggle to get the puck out their own zone or move it well, especially on the PP, they won’t find too much success in their game. 
So, the Isles made mistakes tonight and it cost them.  Montreal got the win in the first meeting of the season and they did it again tonight.  To make things worse, the Isles move to 2nd in the east with a TBL win tonight.  But we all know that they can't win every game and are bound for an occasional let down like the one we witnessed tonight.  Not the end of the world.


I liked most of what Jaroslav Halak (27/33 with an .818Sv%) brought tonight and he didn't get too much help from the Isles defensive game before being pulled late.  I also thought Bailey had a pretty good game except for the bad defensive play that cost the Isles a goal at the start of the second period.  Don't forget that JT is back on a point per game pace since playing with Josh Bailey, so there’s that.  Kyle Okposo scored again, Nikolay Kulemin and the 2nd line was good as well.  It seems like if the Isles can get past an inferior Flyers team on Monday, the timing for the week off from the All-Star break will do them some good.  And some big timing for John Tavares & Jaro Halak should be a positive thing for them as well, as the represent New York in the game.

I don’t have the day off from work, so I’ll see you for a Lookback on Monday night to recap the Flyers game.


Isles Notes

Okposo in the 12th Islander to register 4 goals in a game.  Prior to Okposo, the last player to do it was Matt Moulson in Dallas, Steve Thomas was the last Isles player to do so at the NVMC.