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.
Watching the Masters today, we all saw 5-foot putts missed that we could have made. Bubba Watson’s 10-inch winner, a ‘gimme’ on most public links, earned him his first major and the coveted ‘Green Jacket.’ I started to think of other sports where in my prime (forty plus years ago) I could have been a difference maker or game winner.
I have little doubt that I could kick the extra point to win a Super Bowl. I would imagine you feel the same. I am also certain that I could sink the game winning free-throw in an NCAA or NBA Championship game. We see evidence of this every year when somebody wins a scholarship or cash for tossing one in from half-court. Could I score the winning run in the 7th game of baseballs World Series? Most definitely. As the designated runner coming in to score from third base after a sacrifice fly, I could probably do that today. Could I score the ‘gamer’ in the Stanley Cup Finals?
Not on your life. Scoring a goal in hockey is the most difficult accomplishment in sports.
There are just 12 hours left in the Bridgeport Sound Tigers regular season. Twelve hours where each twenty-minute period will be played with intensity. In my most recent post, I stated that I did not expect the team to return to the arena on Monday March 25th in first place, and they won’t. Did I expect them to lose each of the last five games? I did not, but it happened. Is the team out of the hunt for a divisional title? Not by a long shot.
In a late night tweet following Wednesday’s shut out loss to the Binghamton Senators, Rhett Rakhshani posted “Tough stretch for the tigers. Sometimes you learn and grow the most from the tough times. We will turn this ship around!”. While the ‘boat’ reference brings to mind Captain Ahab’s Peqoud sunk by a Connecticut Whale, the Titanic destroyed by the St. Johns Ice Caps or Captain Quint’s boat Orca devoured by a Worcester Shark in the movie ’Jaws’, I share his optimism.
The team is missing some weapons at the moment. Call-ups, injuries and a suspension will keep David Ullstrom, Casey Cizikas, Jeremy Colliton and Michael Haley from lighting the goal light for a bit longer. Led by Rakhshani and a net crashing Justin DiBenedetto (pictured/Photo by Pope Steve XXLIV) there are plenty of weapons left in the arsenal and new ones arriving almost daily.
With this edition of the prospect report I decided to update Islanders fans about some of the news that has happened recently with some Islanders prospects. Recently we have seen prospects sign amateur try out contracts with Bridgeport, one sign an entry level deal with the Islanders, and one decide that he isn’t quite done with college yet. If you are lost don’t worry I will explain it all.
I will start with the amateur try out contracts (ATO) with Bridgeport. Johan Persson, an Islander’s prospect from the 2011 NHL draft has left his junior team to play a few games in the AHL before the season is over. I have previously written about Persson in an article you can find by clicking here. He finished this season in the WHL with 58 points in 70 games. The 19 year-old has some good size so it will be interesting to see him work in the AHL over the next few games.
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.
Matt Donovan is currently in the second half of his first full season with the Bridgeport Sound Tigers. In 50 games played, the 6 foot, 202 pound defenseman has registered six goals and 25 assists for 31 points while maintaining a +11 rating.
Donovan has quickly become one of the Sound Tigers most reliable and contributing defenseman, playing with others such as Aaron Ness, Calvin de Haan and Ty Wishart. Selected 96th overall in the fourth round of the 2008 NHL Entry Draft, Donovan has been developing nicely. He had spent two seasons with the University of Denver before making his transition from college life to that of a professional hockey player. His best year with Denver came in 2011 where he scored 32 points from the blue line in 42 games.
On the depth charts, Donovan looks as if to be one of the most well polished blue liners that the Islanders organization has groomed through their farm system. If he continues his play, this could be the last time Connecticut locals will see him in a Sound Tigers jersey.
He and I talked about that possibility this afternoon over the phone.
Thomas Vanek and Tyler Myers both scored and Ryan Miller made 30 saves as the Sabres spoiled interim head coach Doug Weight’s coaching debut 2-1 on Tuesday Night.
Weight was appointed interim head coach for the game as head coach Jack Capuano dealt with a flu that has ravaged his lineup in the past three games. Evgeni Nabokov missed his third straight game dealing with the illness.
An all too similar start to the game forced the Islanders into an early 1-0 hole. Tyler Myers opened the scoring just 1:21 into the game. After a initial stop on Derek Roy, Myers found the rebound and snapped it over a prone Kevin Poulin. For the second straight game, the Islanders fell behind within the first 90 seconds.
While Kevin Poulin has been enjoying his deserved Pou-LIN-sanity awards and rewards his partner between the pipes Anders Nilsson has gone quietly about his job setting records of his own. On Saturday night he tied the Bridgeport Sound Tigers record for consecutive wins by a tender blocking 26 of the 28 shots he faced in a win over the Adirondack Phantoms. The next afternoon he broke the record previously held by Nate Lawson recording his eighth straight win. In this win over the perennial powerhouse Hershey Bears he allowed only one of the 21 shots he faced to cross the line. Not giving up a goal in overtime he went on to stop all 5 shots he faced in the shoot-out.
Yesterdays game was a rare one o’clock matinee and after playing Sat. at 7pm, Sun. at 3pm Anders picked up the first AHL shut out of his career stopping all twenty-six shots sent his way by the Albany Devils. Team record nine wins in a row for this Swedish behemoth, who looks like a transformer when fully dressed.
In a game that the Islanders needed to play extremely well and come out with a win, they just simply didn’t show up to play.
The Islanders came into the game needing a great game in order to stay in the playoff race. They started the game in the exact opposite fashion. Just 1:08 into the first period Erik Karlsson was able to sneak a shot in from behind the goal line on Kevin Poulin in order to take the lead. The goal was Karlsson 11th of the season and was unassisted. It didn’t get better for the Islanders as just under 30 seconds later Spezza was able to find the back of the net off a wrist shot from the slot. The goal was assisted by Foilgno and Neil and was the end of Kevin Poulin’s afternoon.
Al Montoya entered the game just 1:35 from the start. The period continued with the Islanders playing flat and uninspired hockey as the Senators were controlling the game. PA Parenteau had an extremely bad period as he took 2 different penalties but one unsportsmanlike conduct found him in the box for 12 minutes. The Senators weren’t able to convert on any of the penalties but just as one was ending Karlsson was able to find the back of the net for the second time in the period. At 14:03 he took a feed from the corner from Alfredsson and fired the shot in the back of the net giving Ottawa a 3-0 lead. The Senators were all over the Islanders in the first period as it ended with the Senators leading in shot 15 to 5.
Per Arthur Staple of Newsday via Twitter: "Evgeni Nabokov's agent, Don Meehan, tells Newsday that contract talks with #Isles will likely start soon."
And the Twitter feeds went wild. Nabokov, who is currently sitting due to the flu, could possibly return in an Islanders sweater for the 2013 season. Who would have thought that this would be the case a year after Nabokov was claimed off of waivers by GM Garth Snow and then failed to report?
Nabby has a 14-14-0 record with a 2.24 GAA and a .925 save percentage. His stats are pretty solid for a goalie that has been playing on a team with a fragile defense and an offense that started off terribly and currently sits as the fourth worst team in scoring in the league. With the Islanders six points out of the playoffs, his ability to steal games, much like his 45 save shutout performance against the Philadelphia Flyers, has allowed Nabokov to become the main piece between the pipes for a late season playoff push. (Photo Credit: Robert Kowal/Flickr)