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

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Islanders Smother Flames



Yesterday, the only thing better to me than Josh Bailey, Matt Martin & John Tavares having their own Knight of Cups T-Shirt, was seeing our New York Islanders beating the Calgary Flames 4-0 at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn in front of 11,582 fans.  With the win, the Isles improve to a 6-2-1 record and a second place Metro position, just one point behind the Rangers with a game at hand.  It is the Isles 2nd best start in their post cup era since going 7-0-1-1 in 01-02.


After a closely played 1st period, the Islanders wore down the visiting Flames and simply outworked them in the game.  At the 14:01 mark of the 2nd,  Mikhail Grabovski PPG (Bailey & Boychuk) scored his second goal in two games with a shot from the top of the crease.  But it wasn’t until the 3rd period that the Islanders took control and never looked back. 


Frans Nielsen’s (Kulemin & Okposo) goal early in the period was the one that got the Isles push going after he broke in and ripped it over Ortio for a 2-0 Isles lead.  Cal Clutterbuck deposited a pass in the net from Casey Cizikas who relentlessly outworked the Flames' Russel along the boards to the side of the net and delivered it to his line mate for a 3-0 lead for New York.  Frans Nielsen (Okposo & Kulemin) would add his 2nd of the game after a Kyle Okposo shot deflected off him for the final goal in an impressive 4-0 Isles win.


On the defensive side of things, Jaro Halak is now 3-1-0 (28 saves) and was in great position all night long and completely controlled the crease the entire game.  He made several saves in the first two periods that set the pace for the methodical Isles win.  It was his 2nd shutout of the season and the 38th of his career.


Special teams was big for the home team.  The Isles were 1/3 on the PP (4th in NHL at 25%) and 3/3 on the PK (2nd in NHL at 91.18%) which has gone 21 of 21 in their last 6 games.  They outshot their opponent 35-29 in the contest.


Although Tavares’ point streak ended at 6 games, Josh Bailey has points in 5 straight, Nikolay Kulemin with 6 in his last 6 and Kyle Okposo has 9 points in his last 7.  New York is 6-1-0 when scoring at least 3 goals so far this season. (Hornick) 


Jaroslav Halak, Frans Nielsen & Kyle Okposo were named the 3 stars of the game.




Isles Notes:


Isles D, Thomas Hickey has been put on the IR with a lower body injury and is expected to miss 4 weeks.


Former Isles G, Kevin Poulin cleared waivers for the TBL, assigned to Syracuse in AHL.






Sunday, October 25, 2015

Isles Fall To Boston, Then Best St. Louis


Your New York Islanders split their weekend matchups, losing on Friday to the Boston Bruins and besting the St. Louis Blues in overtime on Saturday.


After surrendering the first goal on Friday night, the Isles improved play helped them to a 2-1 lead in the first period on goals by Josh Bailey PPG (Tavares & Strome) and Casey Cizikas (Boychuk & Martin).  Boston answered New York’s renewed efforts with some effort of their own and scored 4 unanswered goals through the next two periods, capturing a 5-2 lead.  The Isles Thomas Hickey would add another goal in the final minutes of the third, but they would lose the game 5-3. 


New York went 1 of 2 on the PP and 3/3 on the PK.  Jaro Halak (2-1-0) finished with 21 saves on 25 shots with an .840Sv%.  The Islanders 4 game winning streak ended with the loss in a game they spent trying to recapture the edge they showed in the opening period. But they were outplayed by their opponents and made mistakes for most of the game, ultimately coming up short and were disappointed in the loss.  Tavares – “We got away from our game and we tried to make too many pretty plays. We didn’t win enough battles and that’s not who we are.”


Casey Cizikas was named 3rd star of the game.




The Isles would look to get back to their winning ways the next night in St. Louis.  Kyle Okposo PPG (Leddy & Nielsen) & John Tavares (Kulemin & Bailey) got the Isles a 2-0 lead going into the third period.  The blues would tie the game at 2-2 and ultimately force O.T., but Mikhail Grabovski (Nielsen) scored at the 4:00 mark of the extra session to give New York a 3-2 win.  On the winning play, Mikhail Grabovski passed it to Frans Nielsen, who then fed the puck back to Grabovski on a beautiful cross crease pass.  Grabovski tapped it in with two St. Louis players right on top of him in the paint.  Probably one of the most exciting goals this season and it was Grabo’s first goal of the season.


Special teams saw the Isles go 1/3 on the PP and 5/5 on the PK.  Thomas Greiss (2-0-1 on Ssn) had another strong effort on the night, making 38 saves on 40 shots with a.950Sv%.  To me, he was the story of the game and interestingly enough, has faced 40 shots in each of his wins this season.  John Tavares has extended his scoring streak to 6 games.


Mikhail Grabovski & John Tavares were named 1st & 3rd stars of the game.




The Isles sit 3rd in the Metro at 11 pts, just behind the Rangers and Capitals with 12 points.  


They have Calgary & Carolina at home on Monday and Thursday @ 7pm and a Halloween matinee in New Jersey against the Devils @ 1pm on Saturday. 





Isles Notes:


Anthony Beauvillier agrees to terms on three-year entry level contract.



Sound Tigers Notes:


The BST have loaned Parker Milner, Loic Leduc & Carter Verhaeghe to the #MoMavs.




Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Halak & Isles Blank Columbus



Last night, your first place Metro Division New York Islanders traveled to Nationwide Arena to face the 0-6 Columbus Bluejackets.  Always a scenario that makes me a little uneasy.  The Islanders have been playing a fast paced, hard hitting game this season and were riding a 3 game winning streak.  Jaroslav Halak is back and playing well and Thomas Hickey has brought back some punch to a much improved blue line.


Nikolay Kulemin (Zidlicky & Hamonic) put the Islanders on the board (1-0) in the closing seconds of a very evenly played first period.  The Isles answered any renewed efforts by Columbus with a strong, spirited resurgence of their own that buried their opponent.  Johnny Boychuk showed some grit when he answered Scott Hartnell’s hit on Frans Nielsen with his own brand of physicality.  The fired up Islanders added three more goals late in the game inspired with a much better effort and added urgency.  Thomas Hickey had a strong game and added an unassisted goal (2-0) to start the 3rd period run.  A few minutes later, Cal Clutterbuck scored from a 2 on 1 with Brock Nelson to give the Isles a 3-0 lead.  John Tavares (Marin & Lee) added an ENG to seal the 4-0 win for New York.  Jaro Halak was huge on the PK in the third and made 37 saves for his first shutout of the season and extends the Isles winning streak to 4.  The Isles PP was 0/1 and as a team, blocked an impressive 28 shots.  New York's remains tops in the Metro with a 4-1-1 record.


Jaroslav Halak, Thomas Hickey & Nikolay Kulemin were named the three stars of the game.




Today, Todd Richards was fired as head coach of the CBJ.  John Tortorella was named his successor.  Oh, and Vancouver nets a 2nd round pick with his hire.



Isles Notes:


Prospect, Mikko Koskinen's stunning save against Ak Bars was good enough to add him to the KHL's top three of the week.  





Saturday, October 17, 2015

Isles Are Resilient At Home Vs Sharks, Preds



After the their win on Saturday night, Your New York Islanders also knocked the San Jose Sharks and Nashville Predators from the ranks of the NHL’s undefeated.  Through a tenacious and relentless tempo of play, the Isles refused to become a statistic for their opponents.  With their stars leading the way and strong efforts throughout the lineup, New York set themselves up to reach 3-1-1 on the season that included 3 straight wins at home.




Your New York Islanders saw #1 goaltender, Jaroslav Halak and ironman D, Thomas Hickey make their season debut to face the San Jose Sharks at the Barclays Center.  After Mikhail Grabovski would miss on a penalty shot, the Sharks took a 1-0 lead into the first intermission, but 5 goals (3 by NY) would be scored in the 2nd period, resulting in the Isles tying the score 3 times.  Johnny Boychuk (Strome & Tavares) tied it at 1-1, then Anders Lee PPG (Strome & Tavares) knoted it at 2-2, then Josh Bailey (Nielsen & Okposo) tied it at 3-3.  The third period saw Kyle Okposo (Bailey), Brock Nelson and Frans Nielsen ENG (Okposo) stretch the Isles lead to a 6-3 final after 3 unanswered tallies.  Nielsen reached the 100th goal and 200th assist of his career in tonight’s game.  Jaro Halak got his first win of the season after going 22/25 with an .880Sv%.  The Isles were 1/3 on the PP and 2/2 on the PK.  Shots were 34-25 in favor of New York.  Line mates, Kyle Okposo, Frans Nielsen & Josh Bailey were named the top 3 stars of the game.  Seeing Sharks G, Stalock deliberately knocking his mask off to try and negate an eventual Isles goal had to be the low-light for San Jose in tonight’s game.



On Thursday, the undefeated Nashville Predators got off to a 2-0 lead, your New York Islanders fought back and scored 4 goals in the next 2 periods to take the lead and prove resilient throughout the game.  Anders Lee (Tavares & Strome) opened the scoring for the Isles and Kyle Okposo (Grabovski) tied the game in the second period with a determined snipe on Rinne.  Nikolay Kulemin (Nelson & Grabovski) scored his 100th career goal and John Tavares (Lee & Hamonic) helped give New York a 4-2 lead mid-way through the 3rd period.  The Preds would score again to close within 1, but the Islanders would hold on for an impressive, physical & hard fought 4-3 win.  Thomas Greiss kept his team in it, fighting off a strong Nashville attack and finished the night making 44 saves with a .936Sv% on 47 shots.  New York was 0/2 on the PP and 2/2 on the PK while Mikhail Grabovski & Kyle Okposo were named 2nd and 3rd stars of the game.  




The Isles are at Columbus on Tuesday @ 7pm, face Boston @ 7:30pm home on Friday & away in St. Louis @ 8pm on Saturday.




Isles Notes:



Eric Boulton is on IR with a lower body injury.


Per Arthur Staple, “Isles Midweek October home attendance last season: 10/16 vs. SJ, 11,248; 10/21 vs. TOR, 11,408; 10/28 vs. WPG, 11, 508.  So last two games at Barclays Center in line with last year at Coliseum.  Isles haven't been Oct. home draw in a long while.”



Louis Leblanc (NYI) on unconditional waivers.  Apparently going to KHL.


Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Isles Finding Their Way In Brooklyn



On Friday, Your New York Islanders opened the Brooklyn era with a 3-2 OT loss (Kane) to the defending Stanley Cups Champion, Chicago Blackhawks.  The Isles were aggressive and came out hard & physical in a closely contested game 1.  John Tavares (Boychuk & Cizikas) tied the it in the 2nd period and Marek Zidlicky (Nelson & Kulemin) scored late to force the extra session, but Thomas Greiss (32/35 with a .914Sv%) and the Isles could only muster a point in their Barclays debut.  New York was 0/2 on the PP and 2/3 on the PK and edged the Hawks in shots, 36-35.  John Tavares was named the 2nd star.


Game 2 on Saturday in Chicago would be a different story.  The Islanders were out played for much of the night while Jean-Francois Berube finished with 30 saves on 34 shots (.882Sv%).  Chicago had a commanding 4-0 lead into the final minutes of the game before Cal Clutterbuck scored a SHG to spoil the shut out for Crawford with a 4-1 score.  The Isles had only 29 shots in the game and were 0/2 on the PP.  Their PK played well, killing 6 of 7 advantages for Chicago.  New York was physical again, but were playing catch up from the box for much of the night.  Even frustrated Captain, John Tavares was given a game misconduct at the 13;55 mark of the 3rd after arguing with officials about calls against his team.


The Isles came back to the Barclays Center for a Columbus Day matinee before 11,183 fans to face the undefeated Winnipeg Jets.  They were much more focused to start the game and tallied a 3-0 lead off goals from Ryan Strome PPG (Okposo & Tavares), Brock Nelson (Tavares & Boychuk) and John Tavares PPG (Lee & Zidlicky).  Winnipeg would score late in the second and midway through the third to close the Isles lead to 1 before Josh Bailey (Nielsen & Okposo) scored the ENG to seal the deal for New York and give them their first regular season franchise win (4-2) at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn.  It is interesting to know that the Isles first regular season win at the Barclays Center came exactly 43 years after their first win at Nassau.  John Tavares was stopped on a slow motion penalty shot opportunity by Pavelec late in the third period.  The Isles put 44 shots on net (24 for WPG) and got 2 PPG’s on 6 attempts to help them hold on to overcome a very physical (some would say dirty) and aggressive game by the Jets.  Thomas Greiss (22/24 with a .917Sv%) had another solid effort in the win and got his 1st as an Islander.  John Tavares & Brock Nelson were named 1st & 2nd stars of the game.


After Mondays win, the Isles sit at 1-1-1 with 3 points, 2nd in the Metro (Rangers 6 pts) and are 6th in the East.  They have shown flashes of some solid hockey, but have also been shaky at holding leads and are still struggling badly on the man advantage, ranked 18th in the league at 20%.  While their PK has been good, it still ranks 16th with a 76.9% rate of success.  Improvement on special teams must happen for the Isles to contend in the east and it needs to start sooner rather than later.


I know it has been a small sample size, but Greiss has been as advertised for New York. In my opinion, he is a solid back up with a calming veteran presence who is capable of making some big time plays. Just the kind of measure that Snow anticipated when they signed him to back up Jaro Halak who still remains out with an upper body injury.  “Greiss on Isles crowd ‘Was fun to play (here) especially coming from Pittsburgh, its pretty dead there." Per @IslesInsight





In other news, Locker room guy and part time enforcer, Eric Boulton, 39, agreed to terms ($575K) with the Islanders on a one year, one way contract today.  Boulton scored 2 goals in 10 games with the Isles last season and is usually inserted into the lineup when the team feels his physical presence is beneficial to the game in question.  Boulton’s name is always mentioned when asked about who has the biggest and most popular presence in the room, so his worth to management seems to be worth more than just his grit.




Isles Notes:


Ryan Pulock was loaned to Bridgeport today and should get some regular, big minutes with the Sound Tigers.

Per Arthur Staple on 10/12, “… believe Thomas Hickey (fractured thumb) had protective cast removed late last week. Midway through his 4-week recovery period.”

Former Isles D, Matt Donovan was put on waivers today by the Buffalo Sabers.



ECHL Notes:


The ECHL is painting its goal posts blue this season as part of an advertising deal.  A sign of things to come in pro hockey?





Tuesday, October 6, 2015

2015 KoC New York Islanders Season Preview


After breaking the 100 point mark (101pts, 47-28-7) last season, your New York Islanders are certainly on the NHL’s collective radar.  They boasted an offense that scored 245 goals against the opposition.  Only the TBL (259), Dallas Stars (257) & NYR (248) scored more than the Isles at 245 goals on the season.  Jaroslav Halak broke a franchise record (Smith 32) with an impressive 38 wins on an All-Star season that included a team best 11 consecutive victories.  The defense had a solid season helping the team to a much improved record.  The Isles fought their way into the playoffs and pushed a very good Washington Capitals team to seven games before being eliminated.


This preseason, the Isles went 2-6-0, but never played a full team roster.  It was audition for individuals and lines as well as a “stress test,” as B.D. Gallof put it.  One might say it was a proving ground for aging vets, prospects or rostered players to test how they would react in unfavorable scenarios.  Several of the games were split squad or comprised of a mostly AHL defensive line up.  While I would have liked to see a little more from New York, I am not too concerned with their play.  This year’s team is comprised of mostly the same line up with a few tweaks.  For those scoring at home, the Isles were 4-2-1 last year in pre-season. 


The Metro may be the best division in the NHL this year.  It will certainly have some of the most difficult teams in which to play.  The improved Islanders should finish 2nd or 3rd in their division and be seated in the top half of the conference for play off positioning.


This year’s squad looks like this:


Forwards:

Josh Bailey
Steve Bernier
Casey Cizikas
Cal Clutterbuck
Mikhail Grabovski
Nikolay Kulemin
Anders Lee
Matt Martin
Brock Nelson
Frans Nielsen
Kyle Okposo
Ryan Strome
John Tavares

Defensemen:

Johnny Boychuk
Calvin de Haan
Travis Hamonic
Nick Leddy
Ryan Pulock
Brian Strait
Marek Zidlicky


Goaltenders:

Jean-Francois Berube
Thomas Greiss
Jaroslav Halak




The often maligned Josh Bailey was a quietly competent 41 point producer in 70 games last season and is due to start benefiting for an improved roster in Brooklyn.

Steve Bernier is said to be another Casey Cizikas type player and had a career high 16 & 16 for 32 points in 67 GP with the NJ Devils last season.

"The" Casey Cizikas produced 18 points, but his intangibles along with Matt Martin (14 pts) and Cal Clutterbuck (16 pts) go far beyond the stat sheet.  From instigators or game changing plays, the best 4th liners in hockey should have plenty of changes to make an even bigger impact his season.

Mikhail Grabovski suffered a concussion that seemed to derail his first season with the Isles.  He scored only 19 pts in 51 games, so he should be eager to reignite his scoring touch.  The question is can he do so playing a more cautious style of game?

Nikolay Kulemin scored 31 pts and was lethal on both sides of the puck for the Isles last year.  He played a solid defensive game that also resulted in 3 SHG.

Brock Nelson started the year on fire, but cooled off in the second half.  Nelson still managed 42 points on the season and has a bright future as a key part of the team.

Frans Nielsen had a solid 43 point season and the Isles veteran can do anything they ask of him.  Nielsen lost some of his dangerous shoot out touch, but with 3 on 3 OT this season, shoot out specialists’ wont factor into the end result as much.

Kyle Okposo is a gritty scorer who plays hard every night.  Despite only playing 60 games, Okposo still managed 51 points and will have incentive to make an impression with the Isles or anyone else who may want to bid for his services in the off season.  I for one will be cheering for him to do just that.

John Tavares (86 pts in 14-15) will most likely break 100 points this season and a full year with impressive young teammates, Anders Lee (41 pts) and Ryan Strome (50 pts and +23) may be just what fans have been waiting for.



The acquisition of veteran D, Johnny Boychuk (26 pts & +15) & Nick Leddy (37 pts & +18) may have been the greatest trades by any General Manager last season.  Garth Snow was rewarded when Boychuk & Leddy helped stabilize the Isles blue line, making them much harder to play against.


Calvin de Haan had 12 pts in 65 games and had his share of struggles last season, but showed some maturation in big minutes for New York.  He should improve behind a more veteran core of Isles defenders this season.

What more can be said about Travis Hamonic?  The guy has unassailable character and is an impact defensemen who shuts down top players around the NHL.  Hamonic finished with 33 pts and a +15 rating in the regular season, but was sidelined with an injury that kept him out of the post season.  His absence may have been the greatest factor in the Isles 7 game series loss to Washington.


Ryan Pulock has been high on the list of prospects Isles fans have really wanted to see on the pro level.  Pulock led all NYI AHL D-Men with 17 goals (16 assists) despite missing 22 games to injury.  If he can stay healthy, he should be as advertised.

Brian Strait has had his ups and downs with the Isles, but I am in the camp that sees him as a last Defenseman on the depth chart.  Hopefully his action will be limited and not take opportunity from prospects like Scott Mayfield.

The addition of an aging, but competent Marek Zidlicky should help with veteran depth of defense and improve a lack luster PP unit.



Jaroslav Halak was awesome last season as I stated in the opening paragraph.  But he has been hampered throughout his career and through this year’s preseason with an upper body injury.  Although Halak practiced today, Isles management decided they need to play it safe and claimed a good AHL level goalie from the waiver wire.

The Isles claimed Jean-Francois Berube off waivers from the Los Angeles Kings.  Berube went 37-9-4 with a 2.18 gaa and .913 save percentage in 52 games last season with the AHL Manchester Monarchs.


Thomas Greiss posted a 9-6-3 record in 20 games with a 9.08 Sv% and 2.59 gaa and has shown he is a solid NHL backup goaltender.  Preseason wasn’t a fair audition for Greiss, so he should be very eager to show his stuff in the regular season.



Looking in:


Former KHL’er, Kirill Petrov had a strong preseason and should be among the first forwards called up from the farm in Bridgeport.

Michael Dal Colle, Mathew Barzal & Anthony Beauvillier should continue to work hard to take the next step.



The biggest factors for success this season will be special teams and staying healthy.

On special teams, the Isles PP was ranked 23rd and went 0-14 vs the Caps last season which almost assured their 1st round elimination in the playoffs.  In a very tough metro, PP goals will be crucial and Doug Weight and the Isles coaching staff will need to figure out a more consistent way to score goals.

The Isles PK was very good at times, but was ranked 26th in the NHL.  With a better defensive game and stronger goal tending, the Isles were still held back by their subpar PK.  It simply needs to improve to keep them in close games.

The first season in Brooklyn should be one to behold.  I am looking forward to being reminded what the next level looks like.  Let’s hope we all get to see it next summer.  It all starts this Friday against the defending champs from Chicago.  Isles legend, Jiggs McDonald has the call!





Isles Notes:


Isles have loaned Kirill Petrov to the BST, sent Mathew Barzal to the Seattle Thunderbirds of the WHL and placed Louis Leblanc on waivers.  Thomas Hickey remains on IR.


Barclays Center has launched the New YorkIslanders Radio Network that includes WNYE 91.5 FM, WRHU 88.7 FM, and WRCN 103.9 FM. The three stations will broadcast every game in the team’s inaugural season in Brooklyn with Chris King doing the broadcasts.    


Alexa Ray Joel will sing the National Anthem on Opening Night for the New York Islanders on Friday, Oct. 9, at the team’s inaugural game in its new home at Barclays Center.  


Isles departures from last season:  C Tyler Kennedy; RW Colin McDonald; D Griffin Reinhart; D Matt Donovan; G Michael Neuvirth.



NHL Notes:


Per Renaud Lavoie, “NHL and NHLPA agreed not to change the division and conference until a final decision is made on the expansion. No changes for 16-17 season.”


Thursday, October 1, 2015

Islanders Off-Season 2015: The Sound Of Victory


After Brett Yormark mentioned that Islanders fans had an influence on preserving the teams traditional color scheme for the 2015-16 jerseys in Brooklyn, they were even more than vocal about the new Brooklyn influenced goal horn. After Kirill Petrov scored the lone NY goal in the 3-1 loss to Washington, the new goal horn sounded to the dismay of many.  It was reminiscent of a New York subway horn and fans let the Barclays Center, the Islanders and Yormark know they were displeased.  An on line petition & several rants went across social media to let everyone know that the fans were very unhappy about another change.


So this evening, Brett Yormark tweeted a message to Islanders fans, “We heard the fans. We're bringing their goal horn back for opening night in Brooklyn.”  It seems that Barclays Marketing has heard and responded to the Isles fan base yet again.  It is good to know that they have been receptive to some of the recent fan concerns with the move to Brooklyn. 


It must also be noted though, that fans should reserve these kind of crusades for things that really concern them.  Eventually, the drama will become common place and the pleas will start to fall on deaf ears.  There must also must be a tradeoff of sorts now that the team has a new home.


Michael Kay of the Yes Network quoted Brett Yormark as saying, “I need Islander fans to understand there must be a balance" on preserving the history but also including Brooklyn.”  To me, this is a statement that was said to start a precedent to Isles fans everywhere.  Some change will be coming and there won’t be any room to negotiate by fans or anyone else.


Real concerns are fine to stand up for, but just make sure it’s a cause worth fighting for.  Eventually, a bigger concern may come along, but we may have used up any room to save those other “traditions” with lesser battles that were won.





Isles Notes:


In other news, Thomas Hickey is out four weeks with an upper body injury, Steve Bernier will be out 1-2 weeks & Jaro Halak is day to day (upper body).

9/29:  Anthony Beauvillier was returned to Shawinigan (QMJHL) and Michael Dal Colle was reassigned to Oshawa (OHL).

Mike Halmo, Scott Mayfield and Adam Pelech were returned on loan the Bridgeport Sound Tigers.