It's still a long shot, but the Islanders have pulled themselves back into playoff conversations with a 1-0 win yesterday over the New Jersey Devils that has put them within five points of the last spot in the Eastern Conference. But even so, there are plenty of questions that surround the New York Islanders hockey club, ranging from the uncertain future of the arena to whether or not Tim Horton's will ever return to the concession stands. The most important questions, the ones that impact the immediate future, are the ones that need to be answered first; GM Garth Snow has to figure out where certain players will fit on his roster as the rebuild pushes forward.
I've already talked about the possibility of Evgeni Nabokov re-signing with the Islanders, as well as teammate P.A. Parenteau returning in an orange and blue sweater. But Snow will have to take a long look at some of his current regulars and decide where they fit with the team long term as some young, fresh faces are pushing for NHL jobs.
It is still a long shot, but the Islanders have once again pulled themselves into playoff conversation with a 1-0 win over the New Jersey Devils. Kyle Okposo scored the lone goal for the Isles while Anders Nilsson earned his first NHL win with a 24-save shutout performance that earned him first star honors on the night.
"Today I think all the guys out there put up a great job for me," said Nilsson. "The first two periods, I only had 12 shots and they blocked a lot of shots and when they got a shot through it was from the boards. They made it real easy for me to play out there today. They helped me out a lot."
Okposo concurred with Nilsson's belief that the Islanders played one of their best defensive games of the year, rivaling their previous defensive win over the Boston Bruins the night before.
Rick Nash won't be donning an Islanders jersey tomorrow night; the Islanders didn't get a first round pick for Evgeni Nabokov and/or P.A. Parenteau; Al Montoya will still be on the bench to back up the Islanders number one goaltender; and the defensive play of Mark Eaton, Milan Jurcina and Steve Staios will still be seen for the rest of the season.
Staios, despite popular reports from a fake twitter account, was not dealt to the Vancouver Canucks for a 6th round draft pick.
BUT Garth Snow did manage to rid himself of the putrid play of Brian Rolston and the defensive relapses of Mike Mottau. Both were sent packing to the Boston Bruins for a couple of prospects; Yanick Riendeau and Marc Cantin.
The Bridgeport Sound Tigers have just completed their worst weekend of the year. Playing the second of two consecutive three (games) in three (nights) series, they were only able to capture 5 of the 6 points available. The one point missed occurred on Friday night in a game won by the Springfield Falcons in the 7th round of a shoot-out.
The team returned home to the Webster Bank Arena on Saturday for the 2nd game of the 3 in 3 weekend and through 15 minutes of the second period looked nothing like themselves. Poulin in goal was not having his best night. Snipers Ullstrom and Cizikas were playing in the National League and Rhett Rakhshani was still out injured. Tomas Marcinko was also unavailable serving the 2nd game of his 3 game suspension and the team was losing 0-3 with five minutes left in the second period. But there are four lines in hockey and winning teams get production from all four.
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 went from potential playoff contenders to looking towards next season within 48 hours earlier this week.
Having the best team in the Eastern Conference coming into your building after being shutout in their last game, isn’t what the doctor ordered.
After two terrible performances against Ottawa and Buffalo on Monday and Tuesday, the Islanders welcome in their cross-river rivals the New York Rangers on Friday Night.
The Rangers are leading the Eastern Conference with 81 points, 7 points ahead of both New Jersey and Boston. They travel to Long Island after being blanked by the Pittsburgh Penguins 2-0 on Tuesday night. Henrik Lundqvist continued his stellar play making 29 saves in the losing effort. After an 8-1-1 stretch, the Rangers have lost two of their last three games.
With all the good things that I, John Madonia and others have written about the Bridgeport Sound Tigers you might think that post season play is a given. Nothing could be further from the truth. While Bridgeport’s outlook might be better than our parent club the Islanders it is only marginally better.
A goalie of the month award to Kevin Poulin, a player of the month award to Casey Cizikas and a 13-1-1 record since I replaced Miss December with Miss January and still no guarantees. While writing this post, Edwin Starr’s rock classic ‘WAR’ starts playing and I start singing ‘One-Month . . . What is it good for? Absolutely Nothing.’
No team in professional hockey (NHL or AHL) has a better record in 2012 than the Bridgeport Sound Tigers. Eleven games played, 22 points available and 21 points taken. While all players have contributed, Casey Cizikas numbers are awe-inspiring. The Sound Tigers lone representative at this years AHL All- Star Classic has 8 goals, 10 assists for 18 points in calendar year 2012. For a full season in the AHL those numbers project to 56 goals, 70 assists and 126 points. Decent digits for a 20-year-old 4th round Islanders draft pick. Nice job Garth!
It is difficult to explain how after a loss I was so upbeat leaving the arena. The Bridgeport Sound Tigers needed a win to match the franchise record 9 game win streak set in February 2002 and matched in November 2003. We lost. It was not because we had taken a very good St. Johns Icecaps team (with a ridiculous 15-2-2-1 road record) to a shoot out. We lost. It was not because we had played 60 minutes of solid hockey, because we didn’t. And we lost. It was all about the fan experience at The Webster Bank Arena.