My first hockey hero was the ‘Rocket’. Young and driven by numbers, it was always the most goals, most home runs, or the most of just about anything that would gain my interest. That all changed in the mid to late sixties, when a defenseman from Parry Sound, Ontario changed the game of hockey. While Doug Harvey of the Montreal Canadians was responsible for adding the phrase ‘offensive defenseman’ to the hockey lexicon, it would be ten years later that a young Bobby Orr not only defined the phrase and gave it flesh, he also changed the way I watched the game. I became a fan of the men working the blue line.
A lot has been written recently about shot blocking in the NHL. This is nothing new to the game, as Rob McGowan points out in his latest offering, ‘The Value of Andrew MacDonald’, but I still have trouble understanding what would posses a person to do it. How can the brain that tells a body when to inhale and exhale to support life tell that same body to position itself in front of a shot and endanger it? Then I remember when I was fifteen years old, positioning myself in in the line of fire of skeet shooters to make a day of fishing more fun.
Andrew MacDonald might be considered a player that flew under the radar for many teams. After all, he was drafted in the sixth round of the 2006 NHL Entry draft primarily because Ted Nolan was currently the head coach and had worked with him previously with the Moncton Wild Cats of the QMJHL. Had MacDonald been without a connection to the New York Islanders organization, the team very well might not have drafted him.
Since joining the Islanders organization, A-Mac has become one of the top-four blue liners on this young team for a number of reasons. Although he would like to improve his offensive input from the back end, something he did very well while with the Wild Cats (he score 58 points in 2007), his shot blocking has been an invaluable asset.
When it rains, it pours; that has been the mantra of the New York Islanders this weekend. Yesterday the Isles let up six goals in a loss to the Boston Bruins that mathematically eliminated themselves from playoff contention. Today, they continued their struggling ways in a 5-1 loss to the Ottawa Senators, who were without both Jason Spezza and Daniel Alfredsson.
"It was pretty horrible on our part. They were missing two of their top players and we couldn't take advantage of it. The way we played, we didn't deserve to win, that's for sure," said Islanders captain Mark Streit after the game. He would be the only Islander to be credited with a goal tonight with a John Tavares pass going off of his skate and behind Senators net-minder Craig Anderson.
Another late game collapse brings heart break to many Islanders fan. The Islanders held a 3 goal lead with just over a period left in the game and still managed to lose in the game in a shoot out. (Photo Credit Flickr/ Clydeorama)
The Islanders gave up a late two goal lead and lose to the Capitals in overtime. The game was mostly back and forth but in the end the Islanders didn’t finish the game the way they needed to in order to win.
The new lines seemed to be working out as the Islanders were first to strike in the first period when Josh Bailey made a few great moves to get to the net and bury a shot. The goal was Bailey’s 7th of the season and was assisted by Frans Nielsen and Andrew MacDonald. This gave the Islanders an early lead and the hope that they could take the Capitals off their game early. A sore spot of the Islanders coming into this game was their penalty kill, which was only 12-20 in their last six games. It was tested twice in the first period when Kyle Okposo took two-minutes for high sticking at 5:21 and not too much later at 10:23 Steve Staios got two-minutes for hooking. The Islanders were able to withstand the pressure from the Capitals and kill off both penalties. The first period was largely dominated by the Capitals as they outshot the Islanders 13-3.
The stage was set for an emotional carry over into Saturday morning regardless of the outcome of Friday night's Islanders/Rangers game; a win for the Isles against their biggest rival and top team in the Eastern Conference would keep their playoff hopes alive, but a loss to their number one foe would have been a crushing blow to their confidence and chances.
Fortunately, the orange and blue would come on top with a 4-3 shootout victory with Matt Moulson netting the finally tally in the fourth round.
Tensions were high at the start of the game and Matt Martin decided to ease things up a bit by fighting Stu Bickel just over two minutes into the game. Both got their licks in before Martin swung and missed, falling to the ice to end the fight early. A fair draw would set the tone for how evenly the game would be played.
The New York Islanders future has always been uncertain when it's come to whether or not they will remain in Nassau County when the lease expires in 2015. Christian Arnold of Islanders Hockey Blog wrote an excellent piece since he was able to attend a public meeting at the Nassau County Legislature as a group of developers met to discuss the possibility of developing the hub in 2015, with or without the New York Islanders.
The Republicans have done their part to thwart owner Charles Wangs' efforts to get a new arena and the Democrats have thrown road blocks of their own, putting the Islanders in a position where Vince Polimeni of ABLI (A Better Long Island) has the upper hand in developing that giant parking lot into a place that doesn't contain an NHL hockey team. And Polimeni isn't the only one that has come to this realization; other developers have been drawing up their own proposals (Read Arnold's blog for more in-depth coverage).
2015 may be three years away, but it will be here a lot quicker than most may realize, regardless of your position on the topic. But 2013 is a lot closer, and the future of the Islanders success may get worse. (Photo Credit: clyedorama/Flickr)
The New York Islanders went into today's game looking to complete a back-to-back sweep on the weekend, taking a total of four points to increase their hopes of a playoff berth for the first time in a long time. But the Isles would end up losing 4-1 to the Florida Panthers, putting a dent into their never ending climb up the standings.
The loss keeps them eight points out of the playoffs; not an impossible number to climb, but one that seems to grow larger with every loss, especially against opponents like the Panthers who are looking to accomplish the same goal.
Frans Nielsen would get things started with an early goal assisted by P.A. Parenteau and Andrew MacDonald. Nielsen wisely cut across the neutral zone to be met by a perfect pass from Parenteau. He would then walk in and snipe one over Jose Theodore's glove to give his team the early lead. Despite the early goal, the Panthers would establish plenty of pressure in the Isles end of the ice and answer back towards the end of the period. (Photo Credit: Cassie Madonia/Flickr)
The New York Islanders have 34 games remaining on the season, having surpassed the mid-point of the season a few games ago. They currently sit 13th in the Eastern Conference and ten points out of the last and final playoff spot, trailing the Tampa Bay Lightning, Montreal Canadiens, Winnipeg Jets, Toronto Maple Leafs and New Jersey Devils.
With the second half of the year already seven games in, the Isles find themselves in a tight spot. There is still hope that they can compete for a late season rush, hoping to charge their way into the playoffs. However, losing both games to the Leafs this week, only earning one out of possible four points, has hurt their chances drastically. But if the Islanders commit to another second half-season in which they suddenly play their best hockey in the final stages of the year, they might just meet my prediction of falling just short of the post-season between the 9th and 11th spots.
Earlier this week I took a look at the team's forwards and how they have produced so far while considering where they might fit in the team's future.
Well if there is one thing that can be taken away from the Islanders home-and-home series with the Toronto Maple Leafs, it's that the Leafs' entire roster should be considered as finalists for the Lady Byng Trophy that is handed out to the most disciplined player at this year's NHL Awards Ceremony.
Although the whistle was blown against the Leafs after a scuffle in their end erupted after a tussle between Travis Hamonic and Phil Kessel, not once did the Islanders earn a power play tonight to total 120 minutes of hockey without an Islanders man-advantage going back to last night. The Leafs managed to beat the Islanders 4-3 in over time to complete the two-game sweep.