NHL Recap and Analysis Week 7 - Between The Pipes

Alone on an Island – The 70's and 80's were a good time to be an Islanders fan. Four Stanley Cup victories in a row and 15 straight playoff appearances. But then the 90's reared it's ugly head and doom and gloom fell upon Long Island. After their 1st round loss to the Devils in 1987-88, the Islanders have only made the playoffs in seven of the next 21 seasons. Only once in those seven playoff appearances did they advance past the 1st round. Now the 2010-11 incarnation of the Islanders is mired in a 13 game winless streak.

During the Islanders heyday Bill Torrey was the GM. His last few bigger deals included Kelly Hrudey for Mark Fitzpatrick, Pat LaFontaine for Pierre Turgeon essentially and the acquisition of Darius Kasparaitis. While they were not that bad, they weren't all that great either. Torrey left when the Islanders changed management.

Next up was Don Maloney whose deals included trading Pierre Turgeon for Kirk Muller and Ron Hextall for Tommy Soderstrom. Soderstrom never panned out as the Islanders would have liked and Hextall ended up leading the league in GAA. Kirk Muller ended up playing a whopping 27 games total in his two seasons with the Islanders before being traded in a big mess. Maloney was shortly fired.

Then came everyone's favorite GM Mike Milbury. Milbury was able to help guide the Islanders to three straight playoff appearances between 2001-2004 the first time that happened since 1985-1988. On the down side all of the appearances was they were all 1st round exits. The Islanders could have been even better if Milbury had an eye for talent. Milbury's most notable blunders include trading Roberto Luongo and Olli Jokinen for Oleg Kvasha and Mark Parrish. He also acquired Alexei Yashin for Zedno Chara, Bill Muckalt and the 2nd overall pick in the 2001 draft, which ended up being Jason Spezza. He also traded Bryan McCabe and Todd Bertuzzi for Trevor Linden. While Linden was a great player, he was definitely on the downside of his career while McCabe and Bertuzzi were just starting their careers. Personally I think a team of Chara and McCabe on defense, a line of Spezza, Bertuzzi and Jokinen, with Luongo in net wouldn't be that bad. Even with Luongo's and Jokinen's problems.

Drafting wise the Islanders haven't done any better. Bertuzzi and Brett Lindros were drafted under Maloney. Bertuzzi was of course traded before being developed and Lindros was a bust who had a career ending injury. Wade Redden was also a bust but regardless of that, he never even played for the Islanders in the first place.

Milbury didn't draft much better. His first 1st round pick of Jean-Pierre "J. P." Dumont, ended in a contract dispute that saw Dumont get traded. He followed that up with drafting Luongo and Eric Brewer. Luongo played one season with the Islanders and wasn't given time to develop and Brewer's short two year run was a disaster. Michael Rupp was picked the next year in the draft and you can guess how that went. Between 1994 to 1998 the Islanders had six draft picks in the top ten spots. Three of them never even wore an Islanders sweater during a game and the other three all played two shortened seasons or less before being traded or they had their career ended by injury. In 1999 the Islanders had four 1st round picks but rather than write about it, I'm going to let you guess how those panned out. Here's a hint, they weren't any better than the previous ones. Then there was the Rick DiPietro pick to start the century off. That actually wouldn't have been a bad pick if not for DiPietro's injury problems.

When Milbury finally left Neil Smith took over for a whopping 40 days and then was replaced with current GM Garth Snow. I actually like the last few Islanders' draft picks of Kyle Okposo, Josh Bailey and John Tavares. A good sign is that they are all still on the team. This years pick of Nino Niederreiter seems like he will develop into a great player, though still too early to tell. I also like the recent pick-ups of James Wisniewski and Michael Grabner.

The main thing the Islanders need is a GM with a good eye for talent. I think Garth Snow has that. The next step is to actually let the players develop. So while they aren't winning now, results can't be expected to happen overnight. I realize if you are an Islanders' fan, it seems like you have been waiting forever but just give it a little more time.

Goalie Spotlight

Rick DiPietro – NY Islanders

Since we are on the subject of the Islanders, I figured I would spotlight Rick DiPietro. DiPietro was born in Winthrop, MA and played just one season for Boston University. But what a season it was. He was named to the All-Rookie Team, named to the Second Team All-Hockey East and was awarded the Hockey East's Rookie of the Year. He also stopped 77 of 80 shots, just one save short of the record, in a quadruple overtime loss to St. Lawrence University during the NCAA regional final. He was also named MVP of the Beanpot tournament, which is a tournament participated in by the four major Boston area colleges. After his one stellar season the Islanders made him the 1st overall pick of the 2000 draft. Milbury's desire to draft DiPietro is what prompted him to trade Roberto Luongo.

He played in only 20 games is rookie year and manged just three wins and a .878 SV%. He was subsequently sent down to the Chicago Wolves of the IHL and then the Bridgeport Sound Tigers of the AHL. He didn't fare any better with the Wolves but the next two seasons with the Sound Tigers he progressively improved. He also saw 10 games of action with the Islanders in 2002-03 in which he was slightly better than his last NHL go around. He was called up for good the next season and posted a 2.36 GAA with a .911 SV%.The next three seasons he played 60+ games. The 2006-07 season was his best season and he recorded a career high five shutouts. In March of 2007 DiPietro suffered a concussion which him caused him to miss a few games but he was able to play most of the playoff games that season.

In the summer of 2007 he underwent hip surgery to repair a torn labrum but the next season during the All-Star Game competition in 2008 he injured his hip again. He played most of the rest of the season with his injury. The next two seasons the played a combined total of 13 games mostly due to knee related injuries, swelling and surgeries. This season he is back and presumed to be 100%. He has so far split the goaltending duties with Dwayne Roloson. He has not played well this season. In fact he only played well during a win against Tampa Bay and a loss against the Thrashers. Otherwise he has been mediocre at best. His current numbers are a 3.93 GAA and .870 SV%. DiPietro is still only 29 and has a good chance to play a decade or so if he can stay healthy. It's important for the Islanders organization that he bounces back this year after all that time and money has been invested in him.

Fights of the Week

Special thanks to hockeyfights.com for making this section a little easier to do.

Darcy Hordichuk vs. Shawn Thornton

Decent fight between these two, advantage Thornton.

Krys Barch vs. Colton Orr

A nice long fight that Orr clearly domaintes.

Kevin Westgarth vs. Chris Neil

Decent scrap despite Westgarth's balancing issues.

Goats of the Week

Jaroslav Halak – St. Louis Blues

Even great goalies like Halak can make bad judgments from time to time, though if he wouldn't have hit it accidentally for the 2nd time it never would have went in. Mostly players are chosen as goats because their blunder cost their team the game. In this case, the Red Wings won by so much it didn't really matter but I thought it deserved a mention anyway.

Corey Perry – Anaheim Ducks

Perry tries to center the puck in the closing seconds of the game with the goalie pulled but ends up scoring a goal... into his own net, a good 200 feet away.

Things I like

1.Loved the high scoring affair that was Tampa Bay vs. Philadelphia. I think we need to have games like that more often. It really showcases the awesomeness and excitement of the NHL. I'm not saying a defensive goalie duel isn't exciting, it is, but this adds a different level of excitement. Too many games like that would be bad, as the fans would expect them too much.

2. Jerome Iginla has struggled mightily with the Flames so far this season. However since management has told him he wouldn't have to wave his no trade clause, he has been on fire. I'm not sure why that would make a difference but I guess it has psychologically. Though if he and the Flames had started better, I don't think the idea of trading him would have ever crossed their mind in the first place. Iginila has six goal in his last three games.

3. The 34 year old Milan Hejduk is on pace to have his best year since 2002-03. He is an integral part of the Avalanche’s offense and power play and brings much needed experience to the young Avalanche forwards.

4. Anytime you shutout the high scoring Capitals, except if your name is Jaroslav Halak, I think you deserve a special mention. So congratulations on making 30 saves goes to Johan Hedberg, a mostly career journeyman and the owner of a just below career .900 SV%.

Things I don’t

1. After the Blackhawks shed a few people off their roster, most notably Dustin Byfuglien, you would think the Canucks would have an easier time with the Hawks. But that is certainly not the case. After losing 2-1 in overtime to the Hawks earlier this year, Vancouver followed it up with an atrocious 7-1 loss at home. The Canucks were dominated in ever facet of the game except at the face-off circle. Not a good sign for the Canucks, especially if they have to meet the Blackhawks in the playoffs again.

2. Teams on the West Coast. The Canucks have lost their last four, the Kings have lost four of their last five, the Sharks have lost their last three and the Ducks have lost their last five. Maybe it's something in the Pacific Ocean. I will admit the Kings received a couple of questionable calls against Ottawa.

3. After Ryan Smyth's no goal because he was called for high sticking, I think it's necessary the NHL invests in additional cameras so they can show more angles. I also think the NHL should grant each coach one challenge during the game. The idea was brought up during the GM meetings but was shot down. I think it's time we had it. This challenge could be used for goals or penalty calls.

Stat Line of the Week

11/18/10 Tampa Bay 8 vs. Philadelphia 7

Skater

TOI

G

A

+/-

SOG

PIM

S. Stamkos

21.49

3

2

2

3

2

I suppose I could have picked a player form another game but I took the easy way out. Stamkos converted all three of his shots into goals for his 3rd career hat trick. All of his goals were setup by nice passing by his Tampa Bay teammates. Stamkos is almost averaging a goal a game.

Did You Know?

In 1964-65, Red Wings' Roger Crozier was the last goaltender to appear in all of his team's games for an entire season. Crozier ended up playing in all but 33 minutes of the Red Wings 70 games that year. A feat that will surely never be done again in this day and age. Of course now they play 12 more games a season. Brodeur came pretty close a few years ago, having played in 78 games.

Numbers, Numbers

0 – Minus games for Toni Lydman thus far this season

0 – Regulation losses for the Blues at home

7.5 – The power play percentage of the Florida Panthers, dead last in the NHL

.945 - SV% of the Blues at Home, tied for 1st in the NHL

.872 – SV% of the Blues on the Road, last in the NHL

4 – Shutouts by Cary Price in 20 games, the same number of shutouts he had the previous 3 seasons or 134 games

Quotes of the Week

“I don't know what they were looking for.”

- LW Chris Kunitz, on word he received from officials on what the Toronto crew was looking for when they reviewed his goal in the third period Friday against Carolina.

“It always seems when I make a mistake, we pay for it somehow. I just can't make those.”

- Sabres goalie Patrick Lalime on his costly turnover that led to Tampa Bay's winning goal. “If we talk about that I'll break down.”

Seeing as how you are the goalie, mistakes would be costly.

“I don't want anyone feeling sorry for me. I've had a great life. I've been around a great sport. I didn't want to be a celebrity, I just want to be myself.”

- Pat Burns, in the days before his death from terminal cancer.

You will be missed Pat Buns.

“What have you guys been doing for 10 years?”

- Blue Jackets coach Scott Arniel, when told by a staffer that Saturday's win in San Jose was the franchise's first regulation win in HP Pavilion.

This Week in Hockey History

Special thanks to the Hockey Hall of Fame site for making this section a little easier to do.

November 18, 1979 Vancouver Canucks earned their first ever home victory over Montreal, 5-2. The win snapped a streak of 21 home games (0-15-6) without a win versus the Habs. Glen Hanlon stopped 34 of 36 shots for the win, the 4th straight for Vancouver.

November 19, 1998 Mike Keenan became just the sixth coach to record 500 career NHL victories, and Garth Snow recorded his 5th career shutout as Vancouver won 5-0 at Colorado, to end a 15-game winless streak against the Avalanche, (0-12-3 since December 1995).

November 20, 1988 Blackhawks retired the jerseys of goaltenders Glenn Hall (#1) and Tony Esposito (#35) in a pregame ceremony at Chicago Stadium. Hall had played 15 years in Chicago, and Esposito 10 years. Blackhawks lost 7-4 to the Canucks.

November 21, 1987 King Olav V of Norway watched from behind the Montreal bench, as the Canadiens beat the Devils 2-1 at the Forum. Bobby Smith and Chris Chelios each scored a goal and added an assist in the second period for Montreal.

November 22, 1983 Brian Sutter had five assists to set a new club record for assists in a game, as the Blues won 7-4 over the visiting Toronto Maple Leafs, to end a 6 game winless streak (0-4-2).

November 23, 1974 Goaltenders Rogie Vachon and Gary Inness traded shutouts as the Kings and the Penguins played to a 0-0 scoreless tie, at the Civic Arena in Pittsburgh. It was the 25th shutout of Vachon's NHL career.

Rankings

The rankings are based on how the teams are currently playing.

Top 5

1. Detroit

2. Phoenix

3. Columbus

4. Philadelphia

5. Colorado

Bottom 5

30. N.Y Islanders

29. Edmonton

28. Calgary

27. Anaheim

26. Carolina

2 Comments

George Prax's picture

Really liked the feature on the Isles... it's really a shame what's become of them, they deserve better, especially with a GM like Snow who's really made due with what he's had. Lots of underrated players on that team, they just got hit with the injury bug unfortunately.

Alex Mueller's picture

I agree, hopefully they will gel eventually. I always find it funny that every sport has two or three teams that are bad for like a decade or so. For whatever reason they consistently can't put it all together.