I am going to start off by saying that this is not another Rick DiPietro blog. We all know the story; he will continue to be part of the New York Islanders' plans as long as he is physically able to wear goalie pads and the organization will continue to support him to the very end of this long, exhausting road to recovery. However, there are two goaltending prospects that are going to be competing hard for the back-up position behind Evgeni Nabokov, who is the clear cut starter for the 2013 season.
Kevin Poulin and Anders Nilsson were sharing time with the Bridgeport Sound Tigers of the AHL for most of the 2012 year with the exception of some short-lived NHL time with the Isles. In 49 games played, Poulin went 26-18-4 with a 2.79 GAA with a .912 save percentage. His partner Nilsson was 15-8-2 in 25 games played and sported a 2.42 GAA with a .921 save percentage. Nilsson, who is a padded giant at 6'5, is still getting adjusted to the professional game and learning how to play on a smaller rink after being more accustomed to the Swedish Elite League. Poulin has now spent close to two full years developing with the Islanders and looks like he might be the most ready to make it to the NHL.
As hockey fans gear up for the Western and Eastern Conference Finals, a few common themes among the remaining teams resonates: trap style play, tight checking, and a reliance on elite goaltending. Every year after the Stanley Cup is lifted, the champs are analyzed as to why they won, and other teams then spend time scouting youngsters and spend cap space on UFAs that resemble the Cup winning roster. The NHL is definitely a copy cat league. For the past five years, teams have been trying to mimic the style of play of the Red Wings, Penguins, and Blackhawks. After all, why wouldn't want you to copy what wins? But take a look at the puck possession-like teams that are eliminated: Detroit, Chicago, San Jose, Vancouver, Pittsburgh. Both Conference Finals will send shock waves through the NHL, and the Red Wings better be paying attention.
After Mike Babcock's puck possession team lost to the Oilers in '06, their style of play didn't change at the root, however; they were told me be more physical and work harder in the dirty areas. That paid off the next three years by making to the Conference Finals in '07, Winning it all in '08, and coming within 1 goal at a chance to win it all again in '09. Now, it sure seems Red Wing hockey needs to be re-evaluated. Ken Holland and Mike Babcock should be watching every game of the playoffs from here on out. The Western Finals have been settled, and it will feature the Phoenix Coyotes and the LA Kings. These two teams skate hard, trap, are defensively responsible, and heavily rely on their goaltenders to steal games. (By the way, is it not a coincidence that the year Phoenix lets Bryzgalov go they make it this far? He's never been a proven playoff goalie, and probably never will be.) The same goes in the East; The Devils (who are the definition of the trap) are waiting to face either the New York Rangers or the Washington Capitals. The Rangers have consistently been a defensively disciplined team with a couple of decent scoring lines, but overall block tons of shots and make things easy for their world class goalie Henrik Lundquist. The Capitals on the other hand, were born a puck possession team when they inherited forwards Ovechkin, Backstrom, and Semin. Since Dale Hunter took over as head coach, he has somehow got them to play a style of hockey whereby no all-stars are praised, but an entire team can reap rewards from teamwork. Players like Jay Beagle, Matt Hendricks, and Joel Ward are laying their bodies on the line for their coach, and Ovechkin is learning a valuable lesson.
With this edition of the prospect report I will continue my count down of the top 15 prospects in the Islanders system from this past season. If haven’t read the first part of the countdown then click here and catch yourself up.
#10 Mikko Koskinen – Goalie, KalPa (Swedish Elite) 6’-6” 202lbs
Mikko is the first and only goaltender to make this list as Kevin Poulin and Andres Nilsson played their season in the AHL. Koskinen spent his season in the Swedish Elite league in order to avoid a three headed goalie monster at Bridgeport. Playing for KalPa this season, Mikko appeared in 25 games posting a GAA of 2.30 and a save percentage of .916. Koskinen also played in 6 games during the opening round of the playoffs in which KalPa was eliminated.
The NHL's current collective bargaining agreement might look a bit different heading into the 2013 season. After the lockout in 2005, the NHL implemented a salary cap after forfeiting an entire season - it appears that both the players and the owners have learned from their past foolish mistakes and won't let that happen again, but there are matter that might not be settled so easily.
One of them is an amnesty clause. Basically, an amnesty clause would allow any team to eliminate a bad player contract under certain conditions. The NBA elected to put this clause into their CBA back in 2005, but it came with a twist. If an organization chose to use the amnesty clause, the player still received a paycheck that counted against the cap, but they did not have to pay a luxury tax on these waived salaries.
Whether or not the NHL and its players will be able to come to terms on something similar, or entirely different, will remain to be seen until the talks are officially underway.
After allowing seven goals in an onslaught of a hockey game, the final buzzer at the Nationwide Arena would not only sound the ending of a massacre, but also signify the end of what was a disappointing season for the New York Islanders.
It was a disappointing year for many reasons. With the rebuild entering its fourth season, many expected this team's fortunes to change. For plenty, that meant making the playoffs instead of falling into the draft lottery. For yours truly, that meant climbing out of the cellar but not high enough to reach 8th place. I am sad to say that we were both wrong. The Islanders finished the year out of the playoffs and 27th overall in the league, giving them the fourth overall pick going into Tuesday night's draft lottery for the second year in a row.
On paper you can call the 2012 season just the same as any other. At 14th place in the Eastern Conference, the Isles finished the season with a 34-37-11 record with 79 points. That's only a six point improvement over last season and the SAME exact record as the year before that in 2010. It would almost appear that the rebuild has established a trend of not going up or down, but rather staying put.
Yesterday the New York Islanders announced that goaltender Evgeni Nabokov will remain an Islander through the 2013 season after signing a one-year contract extension. According to TSN, the contract is worth $2.75 million, a more than reasonable price for his services.
The Islanders continue their north of the border road trip with a stop in Toronto tonight to visit the struggling Maple Leafs. The Islander will look to build off of at victory Saturday night in Montreal.
With the playoffs out of reach for the Islanders they will look to finish out the season strong and give themselves and the fan a positive outlook for next season. This will be the final meeting of the season between these two teams. The Maple Leafs currently hold the lead in the season series winning all three pervious match ups. The previous meeting between these two teams ended with an overtime victory for the Leafs after PA Parenteau scored in the final 13 seconds to tie it. Toronto will be looking to rebound from an embarrassing lost last night in Boston, where they were handled 8-0.
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)
For the 3rd time in the past 6 days the Islanders will play the Devils for an Atlantic division match up. The two teams split the first two games in the series so with baseball season approaching I will consider this the rubber match with the winner of this game winning the series. The Islanders will look to rebound from Thursday night’s embarrassing lose to the Devils and get back to some winning ways.
The Islanders come into the game still only seven points out of a playoff spot with 15 games left to play. This doesn’t leave any room for bad play if the Islanders want to be serious about making the playoffs. The lines may change slightly from Thursday’s game as Matt Martin is questionable. He left Thursday’s game early and wasn’t allowed to travel back to Long Island with the team due to a sickness. I have not heard a report yet this morning about his condition and whether or not he will play tonight. If he doesn’t play then Grabner will be placed back in the lineup. Grabner I feel was missed in the last game with the Devils (healthy scratch) because to beat the Devils defense you need speed and to have our fastest skater in the press box doesn’t help the situation.
The New York Islanders earned two points against the Boston Bruins at the TD Garden before starting a three game series with the New Jersey Devils. Josh Bailey, Matt Moulson, and John Tavares all scored for the Islanders who picked up their first win since last Friday's 4-3 shootout victory against the New York Rangers. With the victory, the Isles moved within 7 points of the East's eighth playoff spot, but the standings are subject to change since New York played an early afternoon contest.
While the New York Islanders must be content with the effort that they put forth against the Bruins, the team knows they have a tough challenge to face when they play their first of three games against the Devils in less than 24 hours. Evgeni Nabokov might get the nod for his second start in two days as he did not look too tired during the post-game conference and was very sharp against a Bruins team that put up 34 shots on goal. Even though Nabokov came under siege at times, he was equal to the task and made some brilliant saves at key points of the contest.