Thursday, October 30, 2008

Draft Day Blunders In New York

Looking for a laugh today?

Well, here you go. Today, the Rangers traded away former first round pick Hugh Jessiman to the Nashville Predators. What do the Rangers get in return, you ask? That would be the classic "future considerations", which can be anything from a crappy overpaid player to a bucket of hockey pucks to a nice meal the next time the Rangers go down to Nashville. Apparently, Jessiman struggled with a high ankle sprain for much of his career. Now, those of us who play fantasy football know that a high ankle sprain is one of those injuries that affects you for a long, long time. That said, Jessiman was drafted five years ago, and you can only blame injuries for so long.

There will be no stones thrown from this glass house. We all know Jessiman never played an NHL game, the only first-rounder chosen in 2003 with that distinction. Of course, that same year, the Islanders passed up the obvious choice of Zach Parise in favor of Robert Nilsson, he of the nineteen career goals. While the link above makes light of the Rangers' awful first-round draft record, the Islanders don't exactly have anything to brag about. Remember the 1999 draft, when the Islanders had four first-round picks? Taylor Pyatt, Tim Connolly, Branislav Mezei, and Mike Rupp barely combine to form one above-average player, let alone the four star players the Islanders thought they drafted. Let's not forget about Raffi Torres with the #5 pick in 2000, the Jason Spezza debacle in 2001, and of course, the selling off of 2004, 2006, and 2007 first-round picks for Ryan Smyth and two playoff home games. Hell, aside from Kyle Okposo, the best player the Islanders picked in the first round was Petteri Nokelainen in 2004, and he got dumped off to Boston for Ben Walter. Walter and Jeff Tambellini, point-a-game players in the AHL but horrendous players in the NHL, will combine to provide an extremely capable scoring line for the Bridgeport Sound Tigers for many years to come.

So, having said all that, let's just agree that neither of our teams can draft well in the first round and leave it at that. Okay? Okay.

The Worst Organization in Sports...

On this blog, I have often called the Florida Panthers the worst organization in all of sports.

Well, kudos to the Panthers. Various sources are reporting that they laid off ten workers citing a bad economy. Somewhere, however, they found the money to sign Jassen Cullimore to a one-year deal.

Cullimore, for those who don't know, is the lazy player the Blackhawks and Canadiens both desperately tried to trade after realizing that his $1.9M salary was way too much to be giving away for free.

No word yet on the terms of the contract, but let's say it's atleast $650,000. Sounds like to afford that, 10 or so jobs would need to be cut. (EDIT: It's $830,000.)

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Viva Las Vegas?

I don't know much about life. But there is one thing of which I'm absolutely certain. There is no such thing as a coincidence. Everything happens for a reason. And in the sports world, everything outside of the games themselves are done for a reason.

After reporting that the Islanders were a little too aggressive in promoting their Lighthouse Project last Thursday, I just assumed it was the Islanders shoving this thing down our throats. After all, that's what they've always done. But the next day at work, additional pieces of the puzzle started to fall into place. A co-worker said that fans were chanting "Go To Vegas!" at the Islanders, with the backstory being that Hollywood producer Jerry Bruckheimer was interested in moving an NHL team to Las Vegas. Apparently, Bruckheimer's interest in Vegas has cooled, but that's a city that's dying for a pro franchise; hockey could be the sport to get it done. After hearing that, I thought back to last Thursday's episode of NHL Live. E.J. Hradek was talking about the Islanders and mentioned how the Lighthouse Project was taking forever and that Charles Wang couldn't lose money on the Islanders forever. Then, to top it all off, Mike Milbury was on Hockey Night in Canada on Sirius on Friday. While talking about the Islanders, he intimated that hockey on Long Island could be a thing of the past, not just because nobody goes to the games, but because hockey isn't a big enough of a youth sport on Long Island to sustain interest in the Islanders.

That's when I got really worried. And that's when I made a prediction for which I'll hate myself should it come true: Within the next five years, the Islanders will be playing in a different city.

Don't believe me? Scroll up to two paragraphs ago. That should be all the proof you need. Why would the Islanders suddenly start shilling the Lighthouse Project on MSG Plus unless there was a reason for it? It's not like C.J. Papa came in on Thursday and said, "You know what? I don't have much to talk about in my intermission report. Why don't I constantly bring up the Lighthouse Project?" It doesn't work that way. My theory is that Charles Wang instructed MSG Plus to prominently feature the Lighthouse Project in Thursday's broadcast in order to put pressure on the Nassau County legislators, who have done a remarkable job in delaying this thing, to finally approve the project.

And if that's not enough for you, this one should erase any doubt in your mind. Just for fun, I went to the Lighthouse's website earlier today, just to see if it said anything particularly notable - as in, anything that would validate my blackest fears. I was greeted by a cheesy rock song and a wonderful graphic of the entire project as it's currently drawn up. However, I wasn't satisfied, and so I dug deeper. And sure enough, buried in the FAQ section of the website, came this nugget...

Q: Will the approval of the Lighthouse project ensure that the Islanders will not move?
A: As part of the proposal submitted by Nassau County Legislature, the New York Islanders would extend their current lease agreement at the Coliseum until 2025. The Islanders are Long Island's only major league professional sports team.

You can interpret this question in one of two ways. You can either see it as Charles Wang and company preying on the fears of Islander fans in order to get them more involved in seeing this thing through. Or, you can see it as Wang being as bluntly honest as he's always been. And when it comes to these big companies and big PR firms, you have to look for what they're not saying. As in, by saying that the Lighthouse will ensure that the Islanders don't move, what they're really saying is that if the Lighthouse Project is rejected, the Islanders will be forced to move to another city.

Now, before you get upset with me for saying this or for Charles Wang for thinking of cutting his losses, ask yourself this question: Can you really blame him?

Look at the situation Charles Wang finds himself in. He's stuck in a bad building with a horrible lease. He's got a team that many have earmarked for the bottom of the league. He's got a fanbase that would rather stay home than come out and support what they feel is a losing product. And that last one is key. It's hard to fight the good fight and convince Charles Wang to keep the Islanders on Long Island when last Saturday, with no significant competition and a 2-for-1 ticket promotion, they drew 11,219 fans. Even the Rangers' visit to the Coliseum on Monday didn't sell the building out. At the same time, pretty much everyone on Long Island is broke; even a great team wouldn't guarantee the sellouts that are needed to pump revenue into the organization.

It's a total Catch-22. But it sort of explains a lot. It helps to explain why the Islanders have been so hesitant to embrace a youth movement, as much as the Islanders have desperately needed one. If you want to take it back a little bit, you could even make the argument that the Ryan Smyth trade was made in order to make a Cup run, which would then make this whole Lighthouse Project a lot easier to sell to the politicians. After all, it'd be a sold-out building they'd be upgrading, and that's a lot easier to stomach than one that's half-full. Now that the Islanders have committed to youth for the foreseeable future, it's very possible that this is the last chance the Islanders, as they currently exist, will have to rebuild. If this current crop of youngsters doesn't work out and the Islanders are still getting killed on their current lease, with no Lighthouse in sight and no fans in the current seats, Wang might have to move on.

It's a tough thing to think about. And I'd love to be wrong about all of this. But I definitely think there's reason to worry. I also think there's a lot that we, as Islanders fans, can do about this. We can make our voices heard. Maybe we can try to get to some more games. Maybe we can wear our Islanders gear with a little more pride. We all know that no matter how bad Ranger fans give it to us, it's nothing compared to the pain we'd feel if the Islanders went off to some other city. Especially because you know that's when they'd finally start to get good.

Let's do our part to avoid such a scenario. I don't want the Islanders to be some franchise that moves because the fans don't care enough. That would be a shame. Let's do our best to give Charles Wang a reason to stay, Lighthouse or no Lighthouse.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Rangers 4, Islanders 2: A Live Report





It's a fun tradition in my life. Every time someone buys me tickets to a sporting event for my birthday, things usually go horribly wrong. For my 25th birthday two years ago, my brother got me tickets to Game 7 of the Mets-Cardinals NLCS. A crushing ninth-inning home run ended the Mets' season. The next year, my brother got me tickets to the Mets-Marlins season finale, which was interesting for all of ten minutes before Tom Glavine secured the Mets' ticket to collapse immortality. This year, I told my brother to put the kibosh on sports tickets. But that didn't stop my friend Leslie, she of the half-season ticket plan, from offering me a game for free for my birthday. Ignoring my previous history with birthday tickets and the heartbreak that inevitably follows, I chose tonight's Islanders-Rangers game.

Whoops.

The evening started out innocently enough. Unfortunately, there wasn't time for parking lot hockey or pre-game boozing, but there was time for Checkers. We brought it to the parking lot, where we saw an obscene amount of Ranger jerseys. Uh-oh. Fortunately, a car of Islander fans pulled up next to us. They brought Coors Light, a weak choice, but I had to let it slide. Even when they drilled my car with the football they were throwing around, I was totally fine. After all, one of them had an old-school wavy jersey, just like the one I was wearing. I went with my Zigmund Palffy throwback; Leslie wore her Trent Hunter RBK Edge jersey.

We headed into the Coliseum, still aghast at the number of Ranger jerseys we saw on the way in. Immediately upon entering, we were handed a pamphlet full of Islanders propaganda along with a flyer showing the team's new third jersey, which had just been unveiled about 90 minutes prior. I got a press release in my e-mail from Corey Witt, but I ended up getting an even better view of the jersey...



Clearly, this was going to be a good night.

We decided to head down for warmups, something Zach got me into doing when we went to an Islanders-Coyotes game last year. The first goalie we saw was Yann Danis, which was a pretty clear sign that Rick DiPietro wouldn't be playing. Warmups were fun enough, but even more entertaining were the scores of bad jerseys I saw throughout the Coliseum. Particularly notable jerseys included, but were not limited to: Garth Snow, Mattias Weinhandl, Chris Simon (Islanders), and Dan Blackburn. There were some impressive ones too, including Rich Pilon, Aaron Voros, and Henrik Lundqvist's Swedish league jersey.

Finally, it was gametime. Much of the crowd hadn't found their seats by the time Chris Drury opened up the scoring with his first goal just 56 seconds into the game. But the Islanders ended up being the better team for much of the first period, with Kyle Okposo's goal being pretty much the first thing he's done all season for the Islanders. After the first period, we headed down to Knucklehead's at Gate 20. The former Dom's Deli locations are now called Knuckleheads, serve a variety of exotic beers (including Bluepoint), and have tables and a nice atmosphere. I ended up going with a Sly Fox Pilsner, which wasn't all that great; fortunately, the pretzel twist that went with it was exquisite. I swear, there is no better arena snack in the entire world than the Nassau Coliseum pretzel twist.

We got back to our seats just in time for the second period, which was pretty uneventful. It was nice to see a fight between these two teams. Even though it wasn't the best fight, it was something to get things going. After the second, we watched the in-arena entertainment, which quite honestly sucked. The new arena interviewer asked Mike Comrie perhaps the dumbest question of all time: "What do you need to do in the third period to tie up the game?" Um, how about, SCORE A GOAL?!? The insanity didn't end there, as there's now a thing where you can text anything you want to some number and the text appears on the scoreboard. Leslie's text ("Marry Me, Hilbert!") appeared on the scoreboard; my text ("Buy a pretzel twist") didn't. You could also vote on which song the Islanders would come out to as the third period began. All three choices were pretty cliche choices, as was pretty much all the rest of the music we heard tonight. Or, at least, that music which wasn't of the emo persuasion. Ugh.

Anyway, the third period told the story of the game. It also shed some light on the significant gap between the two teams. Though they performed admirably for the first 40 minutes, the Islanders just didn't have what it takes to hang with the Rangers for a full 60 minutes. Even before taking a ton of dumb penalties, the Islanders didn't show a great deal in the third. The Islander fans in attendance, on the other hand, did show quite a bit in the third period, resulting in a number of fights in the crowd. These proved to be more entertaining than the game. Of particular note during the Islanders' denoument was the time the Islanders gave the Rangers a five-on-three, resulting in a Chris Drury goal just moments later. But to me, the moment that told the story was when Aaron Voros nearly beheaded Jack Hillen by dumping him into the boards. Bill Guerin immediately jumped all over Voros, knocking him to the ground and punching him. Honestly, Guerin probably deserved a fight instigator and game misconduct, but it never happened. What's important, though, is that nobody else bothered to defend Hillen. The game ended without incident and, thanks to Scott Gordon waiting until there were ten seconds left to pull Joey MacDonald, the Islanders never stood a real chance of coming back.

(NOTE: Zach informs me that the Islanders were trying to get MacDonald over to bench for some time, only MacDonald wasn't paying attention and only got the message when the Islanders started banging on the boards. To be honest, I'm not sure which is worse - MacDonald not paying attention, or Gordon taking way too long to pull the goalie for like the fifth game in a row. Whichever truth you believe, it's not good.)

That Guerin/Voros play was the key to the game. Here, you have your captain and a leading scorer from last year fighting the physical battles, the kind of things your enforcer should be doing. And that's the Islanders' problem. They don't have any purely physical forces to intimidate the opposition. They also don't have a sniper that changes the way opponents organize their defenses. The Islanders aren't just a young team, they're a young team with no identity. They should look at their rivals and learn some hard lessons about life in the NHL. You need to be able to play every style in order to be a successful team. The Rangers can plug in size if they need size, speed if they need speed. Tonight, the Rangers sensed that the Islanders didn't have the horses to play the physical game these teams usually play, so they threw Petr Prucha in there. Not that Prucha made the difference or anything, but it shows the difference between these two teams. One team can give a number of different looks; the other can only hope to play their "system", whatever that is.

Leaving the Coliseum, we talked about all of these things while simultaneously noting that these Islanders-Rangers games are sort of getting old. We estimated an approximate 60-40 split, with the Rangers' faithful being the dominant group. Now, most times, road team fans keep to themselves and stick to cheering for their team. Not so with Ranger fans. They stuck it to Islander fans every chance they got, which is the fan's reward for winning. Still, it's annoying to come out, support your team against their biggest rivals, and get crapped all over for doing so. This whole "Garden East" reputation isn't going anywhere until the Islanders get better, which could take a while. I guess it's just another thing us Islander fans are going to have to deal with.

After the game was over, I head to Miller Ale House to watch Monday Night Football with some friends. While at the Ale House, I saw a ton of Islanders and Rangers shirts, jerseys, and hats. Maybe hockey isn't dead after all. That sort of made me happy.

The rest of the night? Not so much. Tonight served as a sobering reminder that the Islanders are light years behind the Rangers and that Ranger fans by far outnumber Islander fans on Long Island. But hey, if you're an Islander fan, it can't get much worse. You're fifteen points behind the Rangers. They have the best record in the league; you have the worst. You've already hit rockbottom in October, so the coming months should only bring better things. And if you're a Ranger fan, you might dismiss tonight's game as "only" a victory over the Islanders. But you also went on the road and beat a team that always plays you tough. You outlasted their best efforts and not only found a way to win, but to win convincingly. That's impressive.

So Round 1 of this season's rivalry goes to the Rangers. Congratulations, Ranger fans. I guess.

On that note, I'm going to go drink some more. I leave you with this question. Suppose Joey MacDonald, after taking a slapshot off his mask, ended up with a concussion and had to miss some time. Would the Islanders still publicly proclaim his concussion as an "undisclosed injury"?

Monday, October 27, 2008

Rangers Win Rivalry Game #1...

Since Bryan was actually at the game whilst I sat on a red plush couch in my house eating cold pasta and rubbing my dog's fat belly, I'll make my notes quick.

But I would like to say congratulations to Chris Drury for finally not being awful. His first goal wasn't a great goal, but credited to his nonetheless. His second goal, however, was a great blast.

The officiating tonight was horrendous, but atleast they called bad calls on both teams. I'm all for bad refereeing, as long as it's fair. For instance, when Bruno Gervais "took down" Nigel Dawes and got 2 minutes, that was a very bad call. However, when Markus Naslund was repeatedly cross-checked from behind, no call was made. Interesting to say the least.

The Islanders didn't play bad today, regardless of the score. Injury-depleted and filled with marginal NHLers (there is a reason Thomas Pock didn't make the Rangers' squad this year or last), they put up a fight but couldn't solve Henrik Lundqvist more than twice. A few bad penalties (those simultaneous high-sticking calls were the fork in the cake) and some great saves (especially those early on against Trent Hunter) were their downfall.

Nik Zherdev had an assist, but other than that, a weak game. I noticed no real quality scoring chances (I could be wrong there but I didn't see anything) and plenty of bad giveaways, including but not limited to a behind-the-back pass to an Islander in the slot in front of Lundqvist.

The Rangers did have a power play goal, yes, but their 5-on-3 is very weak. They keep collapsing the point men so they can get close shots, but they aren't tiring out the penalty killers by doing that. If they passed from the point to down low and back again, the 3 penalty killers would be like mice in a maze and get worn down quickly, setting up for a great shot. However, there is little movement by the defending team, keeping them fresher.

That's it for me. I hand it over to Bryan. Aside from Bryan talking about $6.50 Bud Lights, parking lot hockey with a mini-net, and delicious pretzel twists, I'd also like to know the breakdown between Ranger fans and Islander fans and who was sitting on the Isles' bench as back-up goalie because I didn't notice.

The Rivalry: Game 1

So here we are - finally, the Islanders and Rangers face off.

It's been a while for these two teams. In fact, they didn't even play in the pre-season. The last time the Islanders played the Rangers, the Isles fielded an AHL-caliber team and beat the Rangers in a shootout in the Islanders' final game of the season. The night before, the Rangers and their fans made the Coliseum their own, clinching a playoff spot in enemy territory. But it's the two games that preceded the final two that are particularly noteworthy.

After Jeff Tambellini's shootout goal against Henrik Lundqvist silenced Madison Square Garden, the Islanders sat just three points back of a playoff spot. We all know what happened two nights later. Ex-coach Ted Nolan decided to play Wade Dubielewicz instead of Rick DiPietro, the Islanders got killed at home, the Islanders lost their next five games, and that was pretty much the season. The Rangers, on the other hand, proceeded to go 7-3-4 to finish out the season and made it to the second round of the playoffs.

Even with that background, it seems like a tepid buildup to tonight's game. These two rivals barely have any animosity these days. Part of that is because their respective talent levels are so far apart. Part of it is the lack of villains on either side, with both Chris Simon and Sean Avery playing for other teams. And with Rick DiPietro likely out for tonight's game (he's currently nursing a... oh wait, I forgot the Islanders don't disclose injuries anymore), it's almost like these teams have no mutual emnity.

I, for one, don't expect the Islanders to come away with a victory tonight. More than anything, I'd like for them to spice this rivalry up a bit. I don't even know if Ranger fans would consider the Islanders their biggest rivals anymore, which is a shame. The Islanders always play the Rangers tough, and they always play the Rangers physically. We could have a Mitch Fritz sighting and hopefully a fight or two. Forget the score. I just want to see some fire in this team. And the Rangers are the only team that can bring it out of the Islanders.

Enjoy the game. I'll be there, though I'm not Blog Boxing tonight. Pending sobriety, we should have more thoughts later.

Kudos to Doug Weight...

I forgot to mention this on my earlier post, and as a Ranger fan, it's tough for me to praise the Islanders. However, if life were a MySpace blog post, I would give "2 kudos" to Doug Weight for his hit on Brandon Sutter Saturday night.

Brandon, son of Devil's coach and all-around nice guy Brent (does sarcasm come out well online?), is a cheap-shot artist himself who has never seen a dirty hit he didn't like.

Am I saying that Weight's hit was dirty? Absolutely, positively not. He never left his feet. He didn't hit with an elbow. It was just a rock-hard, solid hit. It was the kind people praised Scott Stevens for when he delivered them.

I'm also saying Sutter deserved it. Now, I'm not one to root for the injury of others, and indeed, Sutter didn't have any injuries suffered. But he is a Ryan Hollweg-type player, going for the hit regardless of the situation, regardless of the safety of the other player involved. Witness him doing a Raiden-esque Torpedo (you know, from Mortal Kombat) on Alexei Cherepanov for no reason other than to injure. Maybe his revered hockey family never taught him that leaving your feet to hit someone is illegal. (Oh, wasn't dad coaching?) And injure he did, as Cherepanov didn't play in another game in the 8 game series (the hit was in Game 2).



Once again, I'm not rooting for the injury of Sutter. But I am saying that this completely legal hit was a fantastic moment on Super Saturday in the NHL. People are calling for Weight to be suspended, for the league to look into this matter because it was a head hit. Hey, if Weight was shorter, it would have been a check to his shoulders. You can't fault a man for being tall.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

The Difference...

I've probably spoken about this before, but there is a stark difference in this year's Rangers team as opposed to years past. 

Before the lockout, the Rangers were notorious for leaving points on the table. It was a few years ago, so my memory of those lean years is (thankfully) fading, but in 2002-03 and 03-04, I used to try to keep track of how many games the Rangers blew when leading 2-0 or 3-1, only to lose in regulation or overtime or tie. Points lost to weak links like Atlanta, Columbus, and Chicago would have led the team into the playoffs.

Back when Chris Simon, Matt Barnaby, Petr Nedved, Eric Lindros, and Mike Dunham wore Ranger blue, no one played as a team, and they had no chemistry. Nobody besides Leetch, Messier, and Richter cared if the team won or loss. They were there for their paychecks, and that was that. Free agency hit at 31, so they collected big money from the big bosses in NY, then rested on their laurels (does that phrase apply?).

The years after the lockout were different. The Czech Contingent played as a team, and everyone adapted to it. The 2005-06 season was a dream season. Jaromir Jagr playing like a beast, Marty Straka and Rucinsky playing great, rookies like Hollweg, Ortmeyer, and Moore playing with heart. 

In the past 2 years, the team was good, but it lost some identity. There were a lot of points left on the table as well, however, no one complained because the team reached the playoffs. 

Do you remember in 2007 when the Rangers would consistently blow 2-goal leads? As a fan, I would cringe when they would go up 2 goals. They were up 3-1 to Detroit at MSG, and the whole building was waiting for them to blow it. And they did, in regulation.

I remember one game against the Penguins, March 2007. The Rangers were up 2-0, gave up two shorthanded goals to tie the game, went up 3-2, then gave up a powerplay goal. They lost 4-3 in a shootout. At that point, the season seemed lost. However, the next game, the Rangers beat St. Louis in a shootout after being down 2-0, came back and made the playoffs.

This year, they are playing much like the did down the stretches in 2007 and 2008, like they did that night against the Blues at MSG. Yes, they have flaws. They had shaky-at-best offense against Dallas and Buffalo, including some shaky-at-best defense against Dallas. 

But they fight back. They were behind against Detroit on the second game of a back-to-back (after a flight to Michigan) and scored 2 third period goals. They were down 2-0 to Pittsburgh even though they played well for most of the game, and they didn't give up.

The difference in this team from the teams in previous seasons is that they don't let their flaws bring them down. They still find ways to win. They haven't played like Stanley Cup champions every game this season, but an 8-2-1 record after a shortened training camp and 8 preseason games is nothing to complain about.

Plus, I'm smiling like a 7-year-old on Christmas morning from watching that Nik Zherdev goal over and over again.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Islanders Notes

After watching tonight's abomination, I'm sort of at a loss for words. But being the trooper I am, I'll try to talk about what we've just seen.
  • Tonight was supposed to be my first night in the Blog Box, but I had to work late, so I couldn't do it. Turns out I picked a good night to put in some extra time. While tonight's game was all Dallas, the Stars won tonight's game as soon as the buzzer ended last night's game. After allowing five goals to the Devils, you knew the Stars would come out and destroy the Islanders. And that's exactly what they did.
  • While I couldn't make tonight's game, my brother went to his first game of this young season. His thoughts? "The game sucked, but the pretzel twists were amazing." That's exactly what I'd say if I were there.
  • The NHL tries pretty hard to keep stats that account for the intangible aspects of hockey. Plus/minus, blocked shots, and hits are among these stats. But there are a few stats that, quite frankly, need to be tallied. Chief among those stats are a stat for penalties drawn. And if penalties drawn was a stat, Sean Avery would be a star. He drew two penalties tonight that led directly to two Dallas power play goals. And maybe if stats like penalties drawn were kept, people wouldn't say stupid things like, "Avery doesn't do anything out there." He does. It's just that it doesn't show up on the stat sheet. And God forbid a player be considered elite without being elite on paper.
  • If I have to see that stupid f'ing Nissan Versa commercial one more damn time, I'm going to throw a brick through my TV.
  • So you know how the Islanders had like five enforcers in training camp? And you know how not one of them has so much as dressed for this team yet? Well, maybe they could have used one of them tonight. The Isles stunk up the joint in the first period, went down 3-0, blew four consecutive minutes of power play time (including two minutes of a 5-on-3), ended up down 4-1 midway through the second... and nobody even tried to start anything by being physical. In front of their own home crowd, the Islanders sat there and took the beating without fighting back. It doesn't take much to get the crowd going at a hockey game. In an instance like tonight's game, you're looking for a fight, but it doesn't even have to be that drastic. But then again, it's not like the Islanders have a line of big hitters they can throw out there to get the crowd back into the game. It's funny how all these other teams have room for fighters and checkers, and yet the Islanders don't. It's worth questioning.
  • I'm not sure what that C.J. Papa soapbox thing was at the end of tonight's broadcast... but I liked it. I could have done without the egregious Lighthouse propaganda like ten times in tonight's game, but Papa's trashing of Gary Bettman is always nice. See, these are the things Deb Kaufman/Placey didn't give us last year. Besides, C.J. Papa is almost as corny as Howie and Billy, and that's tough to do.
  • The next time someone trashes the NHL and their TV deal for being fan-unfriendly, point them to the events of tonight. As I write this, it's 10:10 PM, and the World Series game that "started" at 8 PM is in the fifth inning. We're looking at yet another MLB post-season game that will end after midnight. The NBA does this too, starting their Finals games at 9 PM, but nobody questions it because it's ESPN. However, the NHL begins their Finals games at 8, and all you hear is, "Nobody watches hockey anymore, who cares?". That's not fair. The triple-overtime Detroit-Pittsburgh Game 5, probably one of the five most exciting games played in any sport in 2008, ended at approximately the same time all these nine-inning baseball games are ending. Explain that one, MLB.

So that's our game. We've got the Hurricanes on Saturday. Say, when a hurricane comes to town, you're pretty scared. Now, imagine twenty of them! It's Hurricanes-Islanders, on MSG Plus! (Or C-Span 2, or wherever they decide to stick the Islanders. Because, you know, Islanders hockey can't possibly compete with re-runs of "The Game 365 With Fran Healy".)

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Who's The Best Announcing Team In New York?

Slow night tonight, with all the local teams off. In fact, the only local team playing tonight is the Knicks, who are already in mid-season form; Boston is blowing them out in a pre-season game. So what better time to discuss a very important topic... announcing.

We're pretty lucky to live in New York for one crucial reason - we have the best announcers available pretty much anywhere. Five of the six broadcasters who regularly work local games have done national broadcasts over the past few years, with only Chico Resch waiting for the call. Sam Rosen does NFL games for FOX, Joe Micheletti worked for NBC for a couple of years after the lockout, Billy Jaffe is an analyst for Versus, Howie Rose worked a MLB game for Fox this year, and Mike Emrick is the voice of both NBC and Versus. Not bad, eh? We also can't forget Al Trautwig and his yeoman work on the final episode of the first season of NBC's The Contender. Obviously, there's lots of talent here in New York.

So, then, who's the best?

That's tough to say. We're all biased towards our own teams, but most of us here are willing to call a spade a spade. Or, at least I think we are. So let's look at these broadcast teams and see what we've got.

- Mike Emrick/Chico Resch. While the Devils are an abhorrent franchise that ruined hockey, they do have a pretty good broadcast. Mike Emrick is no Gary Thorne, the greatest announcer of all time, but the Doc does a pretty good job. He obviously knows the game well. Lots of people find his voice annoying, but there are a lot of worse guys out there. Emrick is also extremely dedicated; each year, he creates a pronunciation guide which provides the correct pronunciation for the name of every player in the league and sends it to every NHL broadcaster.

(Fun Fact: Emrick not only replaced Thorne as "the voice of American hockey", but he also replaced Thorne as Devils broadcaster on SportsChannel in 1993. Emrick also does hold a doctorate in radio/television/film, hence his nickname of "Doc".)

Chico Resch is probably the most generic of the local broadcasters, but he isn't awful. I'm almost certain he wears a toupee, but we won't hold that against him. However, we WILL hold against him his rampant homerism and perpetual defense of Martin Brodeur. As if Brodeur needs the press to constantly toot his own horn.

All in all, the Devils' guys don't to a bad job... but I think we'd all like to hear our own broadcasters.

- Howie Rose/Billy Jaffe. Just minutes into the first game of the 2007-08 season, Zach sent me a text message saying, "Howie Rose is the biggest homer I've ever heard." He's probably right. But Howie Rose is one of those announcers that does an excellent job, but never gets mentioned with the top announcers in the league. God knows he's seen enough bad hockey in his day and deserves the recognition. Rose isn't a traditional hockey guy - he spends half his year calling the Mets on WFAN - but he knows the game extremely well and rarely gets in his own way.

Jaffe replaced Joe Micheletti after the 2005-06 season and has proven to be very popular with Islander fans. Micheletti probably knew the game better, but Jaffe is more entertaining and charismatic. He also has tremendous chemistry with Rose, which is almost a blessing and a curse. It's great to hear these two go at it, but lopsided games can sometimes end up being conversations about anything and everything outside the world of hockey. It's kind of like watching Al Michaels and John Madden or Gary Cohen and Keith Hernandez do a game. They're great when the game is competitive, but when the game is out of reach, hilarity ensues. Depending on your tastes, that can be either a great thing or an awful thing.

- Sam Rosen/Joe Micheletti. When I was younger, I used to always turn on the Ranger broadcasts when the Islanders and Rangers faced off. Even though I wasn't supposed to, I always loved Sam and John Davidson. I thought they were very fair and I wanted to hear what they had to say about my team. They also knew the game better than anybody and were very passionate about their team. Now that JD is gone, Sam is the lone old-school Rangers voice, but he's still getting it done. Like Zach always says, it's annoying to turn on a Rangers broadcast and hear someone like John Giannone doing the game.

Most Islanders fans are familiar with the work of Micheletti, though some hold a grudge toward him for going to the Rangers. (Note: Stop. That's stupid. I'm almost certain he didn't have a ton of say in the decision.) He's not the most exciting color guy in the world, but he knows a ton about the game. My personal favorite memory of Micheletti comes from an Islander game he did where the Islanders beat the Sabres, 3-0. At the end of the game, Lindy Ruff sent out all his goons to start a brawl, which is exactly what happened. Micheletti absolutely flipped out and urged viewers to turn the game off. Of course, Ruff never got in trouble for it, and even did the same thing when Chris Neil cheapshotted Chris Drury two years ago.

Anyway. Micheletti and Rosen do a broadcast that's mostly straightforward, but is made fun by the addition of the trivia questions and trivia stats, which none of the other teams keep. Rose and Jaffe keep things loose and fun (and corny), but they clearly know their stuff. And the Devils have a good crew, but we all hate the Devils and nobody watches their games, so F them. We added a poll on this topic, so feel free to voice your opinions.

Notes From the Garden, 10/20/08...

A few notes from the Garden after a stinker that saw the Rangers play two spirited minutes and 58 boring ones.

1) First of all, kudos to the people who still wear the Charlestown Chiefs jerseys, 31 years after the movie Slap Shot was released. 

2) I don't think the guy in the Fedor Tyutin jersey liked me joking that "My Christian Backman jersey is at home."

3) Sean Avery gets crap from the fans when he wanted to remain a Ranger but they didn't return the favor. If Eric Lindros returns, will he get the same treatment for his mediocre play that Avery got for his inspired play over 2 seasons? Fact is, Avery and Henrik Lundqvist were the reasons this team made the playoffs in 2006-07 and 2007-08.

4) I think the girl who I drunkedly called "a dirty wh**e" on Saturday attacked me more than the Rangers attacked the Dallas Stars tonight. The scoreboard said 27 shots for the Rangers. How many of those were actual good shots? There was the Markus Naslund goal, the Brandon Dubinsky play where he toe-dragged then took a shot, and maybe one or two others that I don't remember. 

The games the Rangers won were good. The Detroit OT loss was acceptable because they gave a strong effort after a game the night before and a long plane flight. But the two losses - Buffalo and tonight - were utterly atrocious. The only bright spot is that they have exposed holes that Tom Renney can fix.

5) Chris Drury once again made his case to be captain of the Hartford Wolf Pack. Sixteen minutes of ice time, one shot, one shot that missed the net, one blocked shot, no takeaways, no hits. What exactly did he do when he was on the ice?

6) The only players who played well today were Lundqvist, Dubinsky, Dan Girardi, and Paul Mara. Both Mara and Girardi crushed Avery with checks. Naslund's goal was a good goal, but can you tell me he played good the rest of the game? He had 4 other shots, but once again, those were bad shots and not scoring chances.

7) I was told today by someone very high up in the Rangers organization that Petr Prucha is being actively shopped and the reason he is not in the lineup is so he doesn't get injured or lessen his value with a poor performance. The source is extremely credible, you would know his name if I said it, and it depresses me that he is the one to be moved because of the plethora of forwards on the team.

* * * 

Not to beat a dead horse, but a note on Bryan's Rick DiPietro post below: If DP is somehow a relevant starting goalie until the end of his career, then $4.75M will look like a steal 9 or 10 years down the line. However, with every head injury or skills competition injury, that looks less and less likely.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Just Throwing It Out There...

We all know the double standard that the media has when it comes to the Islanders. Just about everything the Islanders do is roundly bashed by the media. I know, I know, a lot of teams get bashed by the media. But when it comes to the Islanders, it's almost done with contempt. Like the Islanders can't just do something wrong without being called the laughingstock of the NHL, an organization in disarray, or whatever clever nicknames are out there. For example, when the Blackhawks fired Denis Savard last week, people were surprised, but nobody went out of their way to bash the organization the way they did when Ted Nolan was fired. Just the same, the Canucks named Roberto Luongo as their captain and people sort of shrugged their shoulders. Had that been Rick DiPietro, we'd never hear the end of it.

It's another controversial issue with DiPietro that I've been thinking about. Of course, that'd be his fifteen-year contract. Now, I've defended it for the most part, mainly because I think it's a good idea to lock up a player at below-market value for the prime of his career. But the other day, I heard a viewpoint I'd never considered.

Those of us who have Sirius Satellite Radio have access to a show called Hockey Night in Canada. It's not quite NHL Live, but it's good. They always have players and hockey personalities on the air. So last week, they had Craig Simpson on the show. Simpson, of course, is a former Oiler, the host of Hockey Academy on the NHL Network, and is also the color commentator for Hockey Night in Canada on CBC. The topic of the Islanders came up, and Simpson brought up perhaps the best point yet on the DiPietro contract issue.

This is what he said. Rick DiPietro has proven himself to be, at least on some level, injury prone. He's going to need a capable backup in case of injury. However, if you're a young goalie in the Islanders organization, what's your motivation to go to the next level? With DiPietro's contract, you have no chance of ever starting over him. In other words, if you're Joey MacDonald, what's your motivation to prove your worth to the Islanders? And if you're the Islanders, do you really want to bring in twelve backup goalies over the next twelve years?

I know it's not really relevant at this point. But it certainly intrigued me. And from either perspective, when looked at in this way, the deal is hard to defend.

Discuss.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

New Banner, Same Old Islanders

Our friend Kristine came through once again with a new banner. This time, we didn't even have to ask for it. The old banner, which prominently featured Sean Avery, unfortunately became outdated on July 2nd. Not only is this one current, but it also looks even better than the old one did. We would like to publicly thank her for her efforts, as well as for putting up with hours of hockey talk she probably couldn't care less about.

As for the Islanders. Last night, I told Zach he could bet on the Islanders with confidence. After all, they were playing a horrible team in Florida. Rick DiPietro returned. What could possibly go wrong?

Quite a bit, apparently.

I know the statsheet says that the Islanders lost by only two goals and were outshot by only five. But that was quite the egg they laid last night. It didn't seem like they were ever a threat to an awful Panthers team who let up six goals to the Minnesota Wild on Thursday night. You could say that the Panthers were "up" for the Islanders, but that doesn't tell the whole story. Despite being down by two goals, the Islanders managed just six shots in the third period. It's also worth noting that Florida only had seven. Now, some might say that's good, because it meant the Panthers weren't scoring again. But to me, it shows a stubborn refusal to open the game up when it needs to be opened up. That one's on the coaches.

If you're looking for positives, there were a few to be had. DiPietro seemed pretty solid in net and recovered well from letting up a goal in the first minute of the game. That's hard to do. Also, for those of us who worried about the young players not getting any playing time, everyone's playing for this team. With the exception of Nate Thompson, every player played between 11 and 21 minutes. Not bad. But when these are the things you try to reassure yourself with, that's a bad sign.

Still, look at it like this. Five games, four points. Most of us would have taken that before the season started. And even more of us would have taken that if they knew DiPietro would miss the first four games of the season. The truth is, this is the first game the Islanders have lost against a team that's on their level. You can take the losses against New Jersey and Buffalo because those are better teams. It's the games against Florida that you have to win. These are the games where you learn what you're all about so that when the Devils and Sabres come back to town, you can show you've improved. That's what this 2008-09 Islanders season is all about. It's not about winning the Stanley Cup or getting 92 points. It's about learning and about consistent improvement. This is a game where I thought we'd see more than we did. It happens.

Now, the Islanders get a nice five-day break between games to figure out what went wrong. They also get a wonderful test inthe Dallas Stars, a team that many have earmarked for great things this year. Let's hope they learn something in these next four days. This could be the first game I do from the Blog Box, and I'm not really sure what that means, but we should have something fun in store if things go as planned.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

What Kind of Reward System is This?...

Tonight against the Red Wings, Dan Fritsche is not playing in favor of Lauri Korpikoski, a move that doesn't make much sense to me. 

Fritsche, while not scoring last night, certainly played a strong game. In under 10 minutes of ice time, he took 4 shots, 3 of which were good. For those who don't remember, the Rangers had less than a dozen shots that were quality, the rest being low-angle shots that were easily covered or repelled.

Yes, I think Korpikoski deserves playing time. However, not as a 3rd line winger in New York. Backed by a goal in last year's elimination game versus the Penguins and a strong pre-season, Korpikoski made a point for himself to be on the team this year. So far, he hasn't delivered. Six games, 1 shot on goal, and a -1 in roughly the same amount of ice time per game that Fritsche has been given.

It's not like Korpikoski would be benched for a veteran so everyone could gang up on the organization for holding back it's talent. Fritsche is twelve and a half months older, still young, fresh, and hungry for a chance in New York. He certainly proved it last night. 

Is this how Tom Renney rewards him? Besides, wouldn't Renney want an experienced player in against the defending champs? Fritsche has 4 goals and 1 assist in 19 games against Detroit. What does Korpikoski offer? He hasn't shown anything yet this season.

Friday, October 17, 2008

A Scoreless Tie...

If tonight's Rangers vs. Maple Leafs game had occured during the 2003-04 season, it would have been a scoreless tie, and the fans would have been angry. However, it was a very exciting game besides the final tally, and the third period was especially fun to watch. 

Personally, I have been in attendance for one game that went 0-0 through regulation, and it was horribly boring. NHL.com doesn't let me search for all games after the lockout like they used to anymore (hmm... am I missing something?) so I'll guess on the day. I believe it was January 2, 2006, the first season back. Rangers vs. Tampa Bay, at MSG. It was an awful, boring, horrible game. Both teams played with a complete lack of passion and I believe Vaclav Prospal scored the game winner quickly into overtime. Awful game.

Tonight's atleast was interesting. While the Rangers did have 32 shots, most of them were bad, low-angle shots that didn't test Vesa Toskala. However, the 8 or 9 good shots they did have that tested the Toronto netminder were turned away, and Toskala did indeed have a very good game. 

Likewise, Steven Valiquette also played good. He wasn't tested tremendously, but when he was called to action, he responded very well. A great showing by the backup, and that is very good news. As good as a team player Kevin Weekes was in his tenure as Henrik Lundqvist's backup, it was always a scary moment when he was announced as starter. Anyone remember 1/11/07, his last game as a Ranger, when he gave up 4 goals on 8 shots against Ottawa and was pulled?

Some other notes...

1) The Rangers should start declining penalties like they do in football. I mean, technically, when they negated two power plays by taking penalties themselves, they almost did that. However, on one power play they stunk it up, and as soon as the Toronto offender left the box, the Rangers played great 5-on-5 thanks to Marc Staal and Aaron Voros. 

2) Chris Drury should either a) play on the fourth line with Colton Orr and Blair Betts or b) be sent to Hartford for a conditioning stint to regain some scoring touch. 

No, I don't think he should be sent to Hartford. I know how the waiver wire works. I do, however, think his playing time should be reduced or he should watch a game in the best suit $7M can buy. Never has a player making so much money whiffed on the puck so many times since Eric Lindros played on the Rangers. 

3) I'm not saying I'm a psychic or anything, but I do watch enough hockey to correctly predict events. How many times today did Sam Rosen or Joe Micheletti tell us that Michal Rozsival shot the puck... and missed the net? Three? Four? Five? 

I'll give it to him, though. At least he was shooting. His overtime shot probably would've gone in on a goalie who wasn't as hot as Toskala.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Ooh

The Islanders are playing right now. But this can't wait.

Our first road game of the season is being broadcast in, as Jim Nantz would say, "stunning high definition". Not exactly what I expected, to be honest. But I guess that's the way things are going these days. Both the Mets and Yankees do road games in HD, but they also get huge TV ratings. The Islanders? Not so much. But I think we'll all take it.

I hereby take back everything bad I've ever said about MSG Plus including, but not limited to, its lack of pre-season coverage, the lack of pre-game show before the Islanders' home opener, the fact that the network shows a total of five different commercials, the fact that they never talk about the Islanders on Hockey Night Live!, and about fifty other things. I'd also like to thank Panasonic ("Ideas For Life"), not only for their Viera line of TVs that sponsor every HD broadcast, but for their copious Digital Replays (drink!). I wish I could have put a couple of Panasonic Digital Replays into my wedding video.

Anyway, it's a good thing we get tonight's game in HD. Because Barry Melrose is wearing the nicest suit a coach has ever worn. That thing needs to be appreciated. I always hoped a coach would go all black like Wolf "The Dentist" Stansson in The Mighty Ducks 2. Melrose could be the guy to do it.

To Hammer Home a Point / The Paul Mara & Colton Orr Story...

Last night, the Philadelphia Phillies won the National League pennant. For all of you who are immeasurably bored by the sport of baseball (like I am), that means they are going to play in the World Series. (Technically speaking, shouldn't it be called the North American Series? Or the American and One Canadian Team Series?)

Of course, they whipped out the bubbly, and soaked everyone in the locker room with the best champagne that expensive tickets paid for.

For that reason alone, I hope they lose the World Series. Although, to be honest, Tampa Bay or Boston will do the same celebration when they clinch the American League pennant.

As Bryan said a few weeks ago, you shouldn't celebrate until you've won it all. You don't celebrate the right to play for a championship. You celebrate the championship itself. The Penguins, for as much as I was against them in the playoffs last year, didn't celebrate beeating the Flyers with Moet & Chandon and plastic-coated locker rooms. The Red Wings beat Dallas and knew they had more hill to climb before they could enjoy a celebration.

Remember when the Mets clinched the division title and came out on the field with a cigar in his mouth like he just had a newborn baby? He also held a sign gloriously above his head saying "2006 NL East Champs" with the zero's in 2006 replaced by Mets' symbols? How dumb do you think he felt when the Mets blew it in Game 7 of the NLCS?

I really don't have a point other than baseball is a self-serving, boring, overrated sport with a bunch of overgrown, overpaid children wearing tights. I really think the only reason people like it is because it's slow enough to watch. As a girl I know told me a few weeks ago, "It goes slow. I can follow it. Hockey is too fast."

* * * 

Paul Mara took an awful five-minute major last night. While I applaud his passion and his right to stand up for himself, I think the timing was off. Yes, this guy has now jumped up on him on two separate checks, one resulting in time on the IR. And yes, the guy is a punk trying to make a name for himself by injuring people. (Did anyone really know Darcy Tucker before he took out Michael Peca's knees in 2002?) However, it gave Buffalo two points.

However, that's the reason there are enforcers. As much as Sam and Joe and Dave Maloney tell us that his skating and stickhandling have improved tenfold, that's why Colton Orr is sitting on the bench. He shouldn't be fighting the other teams enforcer 3 minutes into the game. But when someone asks Mara "How's your face?" and then leaves his feet on a check, Mara should let it go, check him hard into the boards, then have Colton Orr destroy him on the next shift.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Blog Box

So I guess we can talk about this now...


We here at The Rivalry are proud to be among the newest members of the NYI Blog Box. There are a lot of good blogs out there for just about every team; the Islanders were just the team that gave those bloggers the chance to be recognized as, in a sense, team-sanctioned. It's a pretty big thrill for both of us to even be on this level. We started this blog almost eight months ago, not really knowing what we were doing. To come from that to actually being credentialed media? Pretty cool.

I don't really know what happens from here on out. I know I'll get to go to games (unfortunately, we only get one credential) and watch the games from a really good seat. I'll get to meet a lot of the other bloggers who made this thing a success to begin with. I'll get the chance to be in the locker room and even ask questions, though I doubt I'll actually do so. But one thing is for sure - we're not going to go soft or anything. Unless, of course, the Blog Box offers free unlimited pretzel twists. Then we might have a bit of a problem.

Anyway, it's a pretty exciting time here at The Rivalry. The Rangers are 5-0, and while the Islanders might have a tough go of things this year, it'll be interesting to watch them find themselves. And thanks to the Blog Box, we'll get to do so with access we've never had before.

Monday, October 13, 2008

On Voros, Renney, Being Undefeated, and Cherepanov...

1) When the Rangers didn't re-sign Sean Avery, I never imagined that his replacement would be Aaron Voros. His celebrating the goal right in front of Colin White was awesome. By the way, Voros had 3 points in only 13 minutes of ice time.

2) This Dubinsky-Zherdev-Voros line (the "PlayStation" line) is pretty good. Based on prior seasons, the over-under on how many games until coach Tom Renney breaks them apart is 6 games. Dawes-Callahan-Prucha, anyone?

3) Being undefeated is nice, but it's still early. Last year, the Rangers were down 2-1 after the 2nd period of the opening game of the season against Florida. They scored 4 goals in the 3rd, won the first game of 2007-08 by a score of 5-2, and fans chanted "We Want the Cup". A nice touch, but too early. And much like Marek Malik's 3 assist performance in that first game, this streak will come to an end. But it's a good 10 points to have when fighting for a playoff spot in March.

4) It's very sad about Alexei Cherepanov. He was going to be a great talent in Ranger blue, I believe. I had been salivating at the thought of him and Artem Anisimov on the same line. The Rangers basically stole him at the 2007 Entry Draft. The rumors were that Washington was going to take him with the 5th selection so he could one day play with Alex Ovechkin and Nicklas Backstrom. The Rangers then tried to move up to 3rd in a trade with Phoenix so they could take him there. The price was too high, Phoenix took Kyle Turris, Washington grabbed Karl Alzner, and Cherepanov fell to 17th because teams were afraid he was never going to come to America to play. Turns out they were sadly correct, although he was planning on coming over after his 2-year deal was up in Russia. 

I won't bore anyone with lessons on life. I'm sure everyone reading this already knows life is fragile and I hope everyone is happy with their life.


Cherepanov

Thanks to the Internet, we're sure everyone's heard about Alexei Cherepanov by now. And personally, I don't know what else to say except that it sucks. Zach will probably have more to say about this later. But for now, just count your blessings, no matter how few they might be...

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Random Musings

Random musings while watching the Jets score three touchdowns in a six-play span, with only one of them counting...

- I was talking with my buddy Rich at work last week about the Islanders' new goal song. He said something like, "I'm sure it's wonderful. Too bad we won't hear it until their third home game."

Well, then.

Last night's first period would have to rank up there with any period of hockey this team played last season. They just did everything right. The four goals were wonderful, but that only tells part of the story. The players just played. They didn't spend two minutes on the power play looking for the perfect shot. They reacted to the situations that presented themselves, didn't think too much, and simply tried to do their best to keep things going. It worked. Nobody tried to do too much. Every hit was finished. Opporunities were cashed in, the Coliseum was rocking, and everybody was happy.

The other two periods weren't like this, and I'll attribute that to the three-goal lead. You can't help but change the way you play when you've got a considerable lead, even if going more conservative isn't the best idea. But that's a good problem to have. So, heading into tomorrow's game, the challenge is to keep up the intensity we saw during the first 20 minutes last night. This time, though, let's hope it stays around for the duration of the game.

As for the actual goal song itself... it works. Not saying I'm going to download the MP3 or anything, but they could have done worse. It just reminds me too much of the Rangers' goal song - and that's not good.

- Lots of good stuff coming out of last night's broadcast, but the best part was the coverage of the Rick DiPietro injury and the TSN story about swelling around his injured knee. Both Howie and Billy insinuated that the report was false, stating that if DP wasn't healthy enough to be a backup, he wouldn't have dressed for the game. They also went on to slam the league's new injury policy, which lets teams choose how they want to disclose player injuries. Howie suggested that these not-so-reliable reports will become the norm now that there will be so much speculation about injuries. And he's right.

This new policy isn't really going to solve much. One one hand, you're not going to hear stupid things like "upper body injury" and "general body soreness" anymore. But on the other, teams are going to keep as much in-house as they possibly can, and now that they aren't required to disclose anything, they're not going to. How many teams are going to volunteer that their players are banged-up if they don't have to?

There's no real right answer for how to handle injury information. But I don't think this is any better than the old way. If anything, it's worse.

- Last night's entertainment was the band Seven Mary Three. Which would have been great if this was 1995. Hey, if we could get Bill Guerin and Doug Weight back to 1995, that would be really great. We can only hope they played "Cumbersome", their one big hit. Still, I guess they were a better choice than the crappy cover bands that used to play at every game a couple of years ago. The same can't be said for Kevin Connelly at the opening faceoff. Now, I don't watch "Entourage" or anything, but I'm sick of seeing the same people over and over again. Speaking of ubiquitous celebrity fans, Christie Brinkley sure disappeared quickly, didn't she?

- Is it just me, or is scoring way up around the league this year? I know it's way too early to tell, but I think the modifications made to the goalie equipment are having an impact. Saves that used to be easy ones are now a little trickier, and even the shots goalies stop are finding their way into the net. Time will tell if this is just a temporary thing or if goalies will adjust as the season progresses, but it's been enjoyable so far. On the topic of the season's first weekend, I've watched a fair amount of hockey, but I have yet to see my first fight of the season.

- Tomorrow is Columbus Day, which means you may or may not be stuck at work tomorrow. If you are, check out NHL GameCenter, which is free until the 15th. The game broadcast will almost certainly be blacked out because it's a local game, but you can at least follow along. If NHL.com is blocked at work, you should be able to find a game tracker on CBS Sportsline. Feel free to post any other sites that will let you follow the game. And if these options fail you, do the right thing - call in sick.

EDIT: I forgot a couple of things. First, MSG Plus dropped the ball yet again last night with the lack of pre-game show. So we miss an entire period of play on Friday and we don't even get a pre-game show before our home opener. That's nice. Secondly, I think my daughter has a crush on Martin Brodeur. She kept smiling while his interview with Stan Fischler on NHL On The Fly. I'm officially worried. I'd sooner her have a crush on The Hockey Maven himself.

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Your Notes from the Garden...

A few notes follow from the home opener at Madison Square Garden. It was the 3rd straight home opener I have attended (the previous two also being season openers) and the first in which a Czech player did not score a goal in under 30 seconds.

First off, I think either Aaron Voros or Brandon Dubinsky will hurt themselves this season if they keep celebrating goals like they do, although I love the enthusiasm (and I love that line with them and Nik Zherdev). Voros had an Ovechkin-like glass pound, and Dubinsky slid, fell, raised up, and got tackled by Voros.

Secondly, the worst item for sale that I saw was not the $5 16 ounce bottle of water (a 32 oz. soda is cheaper... go figure), but rather the $28 mini-bobble-head set. My friend Dan said it was on sale for $20, but that is an unsubstantiated rumor. The three players: Petr Prucha, Henrik Lundqvist, and Fedor Tyutin. That's a suit-and-tie wearing healthy scratch, a badly modeled replica of the best goaltender in the metropolitan area, and a Columbus Blue Jackets defenseman. 

Christian Backman mini-bobble-head sold separately. 

Thirdly, I keep winning money betting on hockey online. Relax, I'm not immoral. I bet between $5-$10 per game. I mostly bet parlays for hockey, where you pick two events to occur on the same night and you odds go up atleast 50%. For instance, I bet the Bruins would beat Colorado yesterday and San Jose would beat Anaheim. Since both occurred, I won. Last week, I bet on the Rangers and Pittsburgh and won. Today, I bet on the Rangers over Chicago and Columbus over Dallas. Thanks to Rick Nash's overtime heroics, I am a (slightly) richer man today.

And finally, I really like that the Rangers are excited this year. Everyone wants to be here, to win, not just for the paycheck. Paul Mara took a discount. Aaron Voros and Markus Naslund both wanted to sign here. Scott Gomez plays hard every shift. Chris Drury was a Ranger fan growing up and is now the captain of the team. Zherdev feels good and is in a real market now. Dubinsky and Ryan Callahan love being Rangers. Prucha missed school the next day to watch the Rangers win the Cup in 1994. Lundqvist loves the city and the spotlight. And for all I will beat on Wade Redden this year, he chose to come here when other cities offered him the same (bloated) contract as Glen Sather did.

Wanting to win is the difference-maker in close games. A few years ago, the Rangers left so many points on the table that they should have had just because they had no will to succeed. 

Here's hoping this year is different.

* * * 

And one non-Ranger note.

I am on record as saying I don't like listening to Doc Emerick when he does games I am watching. His voice irritates me, he's pretentious, and a know-it-all.

However, I would rather listen to him read the phonebook than ever listen to Chico Resch do color commentary. Actually, calling it color commentary is an insult to color men like Joe Micheletti and John Davidson. Is yelling "Whoo!" after a Martin Brodeur save something that enhances the game for the fans at home?

I guess it doesn't matter if no one is watching the Devils, to be honest. (They once had 736 people tune in for a game against the Panthers.)

Friday, October 10, 2008

Live Blog: New York Islanders vs. New Jersey Devils

Finally, we get to see the Islanders play.

It's about time.

After a pre-season in which not one second of gameplay was aired on MSG or MSG Plus, we finally get Islanders hockey. We've been waiting a long time for this season; believe it or not, the Islanders last played an official game six months ago. We deserve this. So let's have some fun.

I'm here with my wife (she hates hockey), my friend Leslie (a die-hard Islander fan), and little Kylie. Here's your gratuitous cute baby picture...



Aww.

Drinking game rules ARE in effect tonight, at least where I am. Follow along at your own pace. Tonight's wild card - every time you see the "hole in the throat" voice-box guy, drink. If he concludes his commercial with a line drenched in self-pity (i.e. "I am always afraid of bad news", "I used to love swimming"), chug. Again, sucks for that guy, but these ads are a bit much for my tastes. We don't need to see these five times a game.

Enough about that guy, though. We've got live hockey coming up tonight! Islanders and Devils! Let's get started with some random notes...

- I wore my Mike Comrie shirt to work today. Part of my motivation was for tonight's game, but there's something more. It was also to commemorate what was approximately my 10,000th viewing of his MVK NYC commercial. Let's make every ticket count! On a serious note, that's a pretty good cause Comrie has aligned himself with. If people would donate their tickets instead of bolstering the considerable profits of StubHub every time they couldn't make a game, maybe the game could grow a little more.

- As you watch the Devils tonight, keep this tidbit in mind, because it absolutely blew me away. Apparently, the Devils have a policy on their uniform numbers. Players only get to choose from numbers one through forty, with the only exceptions being marquee players. I found this out from, of all places, Kevin Weekes' Wikipedia page. Initially, I dismissed it as just another bogus Wikipedia fact. But then I thought about it, and I couldn't remember a Devils player ever wearing a number higher than 40 aside from Alexander Mogilny. Curious, I e-mailed noted Devils fan Greg Wyshynski. His response? "Absolutely true." He also pointed out that Doug Gilmour was another player who got to wear a high number because of his stature as an elite player. How about that?

- We're not entirely sure what to expect from tonight's broadcast, with one notable exception. Deb Kaufman/Placey is out as sideline reporter. Her replacement is the infamous C.J. Papa, formerly of the "C.J. Papa Intermission Report" which aired between periods at the Coliseum. It usually consisted of an awkward interview and some barely audible insight into the previous 20 minutes of play. Anyway, if you want a sneak preview of what to expect, check out this blog written by someone who claims to be C.J. Papa. We can only hope it's an impostor. Anyway, Deb is headed off to the greener pastures of MSG, NY, following in the hard-to-fill footsteps of Jonathan Coachman.

- Wonderful news, Islander fans! Since the Rangers are playing on MSG and the Devils' broadcast will be on MSG Plus, the Islanders' broadcast will be on the true home of hockey. That, of course, would be C-Span 2. Check your local listings to see if you even have this channel.

- Your former Islanders count for tonight is at a robust three - Michael Rupp, Kevin Weekes, and Brent Sutter. Drink one for Sutter, who was a total d-bag throughout the Isles' 2006 search for a head coach, swore he'd never leave Red Deer, then left for the Devils' job within a year.

- MSG is showing the Rangers' pre-game. MSG Plus is showing the Devils' pre-game. MSG Plus 2, as C-Span 2 is affectionately being called tonight, is showing speeches from the U.S Senate. From Thursday. Oy.

- As long as we're dumping on Sutter, let's point out this tidbit - the Devils, for all of their "run and gun" talk last year, actually scored fewer goals than they did in the 2003-04 season.

- Breaking news from the Devils' pre-game - Rick DiPietro is OUT for tonight. Joey MacDonald gets the start. Gulp.

- Interesting highlight package from the Devils' crew. They did a package of their returning players, highlighted by a Bobby Holik package in which he scored on Eric Fichaud and the fishermen-clad Islanders.

- 7:00 rolls around... and we still have political talk on C-Span 2. Yuck. Thankfully, we've already started drinking.

- The Devils introduce their lineup to an absolutely dead crowd. Seriously. You can't even hear a pindrop. Judging by the look of the crowd, there are plenty of great seats available, as always.

- The puck drops and the action is fast and fairly furious. Richard Park, wearing the "A" in the absence of Mike "The Pigeon" Sillinger, rings one off the iron. Or, as Doc Emrick says, "the pipe". By the way, C-Span 2 is still showing highlights of the Vice Presidential debate.

- Elias gets a sweet pass in the slot and almost beats MacDonald. We go to our first commercial break and, in the shocker of the century, we still have no Islanders telecast. I bet Howie Rose doesn't have these problems when he calls Mets games on WFAN.

- Panasonic Digital Replay! That's a drink for those of you playing along.

- Here's something I heard last night on Versus that we haven't heard about yet. They aren't going to be cutting to commercial breaks after icing calls anymore. Apparently, coaches figured out the TV timeout schedule and knew they'd be getting a minute to rest if they iced the puck at the right time.

- "It's a power play goal!" Oh wait, wrong home-team announcer. Mark Streit and Doug Weight get their first points as Islanders, as Weight puts one in front of the net, Bill Guerin whiffs on the deflection, but the puck goes off Paul Martin's skate and into the net. 1-0 Islanders! You can bet Martin Brodeur will be whining about this one later on.

- Ten minutes in... and no Howie and Billy yet. Ugh.

- Paul Martin gets his revenge! His slapshot from the point ends up on the stick of Zach Parise, who backhands it in for a goal. We're all tied up. Bah. At least both goals were on the power play.

- Kyle Okposo gets a breakaway chance, but gets held up... PENALTY SHOT!

- Okposo's penalty shot results in a glove save. This results in Chico Resch orgasming, shouting about how nobody should ever go glove side on Martin Brodeur ever again. Whatever. By the way, I'm convinced Chico is wearing a toupee.

- We end the first period with a 1-1 tie. The score is identical over at the Garden. We get an intermission report. I get to feed the baby. She's a lot more cooperative than C-Span 2 has been. STILL no Islander game over there.

- Just by chance checking in on C-Span 2, we have hockey! Our first sighting of Howie Rose and Billy Jaffe, and not a moment too soon. We gladly trade in our HD picture for the dulcet tones of our home team.

- The Devils score! Blast. Patrik Elias practically bowls over Joey MacDonald and shoves the Isles' goalie into the net; the puck goes in with it. The Devils play "Rock & Roll II". That's not our goal song anymore. Thank God.

- The Isles desperately need a fight. Bill Guerin and David Clarkson were jawing before, but they probably won't go. The Isles never got the enforcer they needed. What a surprise. If Mike Comrie leads the team in fight majors again, I might become a Rangers fan.

- Howie and Billy makes us realize how much we missed them. Billy says something about Howie being up for 21 straight hours. Howie's response: "That's 21 hours of sunshine, baby!" We drink to that one. Gotta love Howie Rose.

- Speaking of drinking, we're on our third beers of the night. The drinking game hasn't gone that well because of the lack of Howie, Billy, and DP, but as Leslie says, "This is the kind of game that will make you drink no matter what."

- The Isles hit the post twice on the same shift. Ugh.

- Jeff Tambellini takes a penalty. Tambellini needs to impress, and soon. He's dangerously close to getting typecast as a career minor leaguer. Or maybe it's just a coincidence that he's well over a point-a-game player in the minors, yet has had seventeen points in 79 NHL games.

- Andy Hilbert blows an odd-man rush by whiffing on a nice pass. That never happens.

- Seems like we've been seeing a lot of minor penalties tonight. Maybe the officials are cracking down on obstruction again. Speaking of things that are different, the goalie pads do seem like they're thinner across the board. Thank goodness. As much as I enjoy people referring to goalies as "Michelin Men", smaller pads can only do good things. It'll separate the good goalies from the bad; plus, we'll see more goals.

- Tambellini takes a great chance in front of the net and blows it. Jaffe calls him out on it. Good.

- Not a lot going on in this second period. Just a bunch of failed power plays for both teams. The best part of the second half of this period would have to be a nice shot of Brent Sutter aggressively picking his ear. Leslie wonders aloud if there's buried treasure in there.

- End of the second. We cut to the C.J. Papa Intermission Report... oh wait! We're back to C-Span! Damn.

- Bouncing around the free Center Ice preview during the intermission... Carolina is beating Florida 4-3. Columbus and Dallas just started. No score in Buffalo. Atlanta is beating Washington 4-2... wow. A ton of games are on intermission. Figures.

- The third period ends... and the Islanders are on the power play. I actually laughed out loud when they said that. Of course, two seconds later, Joey MacDonald decides to wail the puck down the ice and over the glass. And two seconds after that, Mike Mottau takes a penalty. 4-on-3 hockey. Maybe now would be a good time to use that speed we heard about all summer.

- The Isles pass the puck around on their 4-on-3, just like we knew they would. We're actually seeing some pretty good up-and-down hockey when the teams are at even strength. The power plays almost seem to be a detriment to the Islanders, because it forces them to play in a specialized way as opposed to open play, when they can do anything they want.

- We're starting to see who's playing really well tonight. I'd include Jon Sim on that list. He deserves the accolades. Also up there are McDonald, Freddy Meyer, and Richard Park.

- Jaffe regales us with about Brendan Witt stepping on a stingray in Nicaragua. This is the same person who told us that he likes pain because it lets him know he's alive. If he can fend off a stingray, he can surely do the same with the Brian Giontas of the world.

- Jaffe, on a roll, mentions the new icing rule. I'm sure that would have come earlier had they, you know, aired the Isles' feed in the first period. Howie is on board with the rule change. So am I. So is Leslie. Apparently, so is Gary Bettman. Crap.

- If this live blog seemed like it lost steam towards the end, don't blame me. Blame the Devils, for completely ruining the offensive flow of the game. The Isles couldn't get MacDonald to the bench in time and they couldn't get any decent shots on Brodeur. Devils win, 2-1. And now, the Rangers are six points ahead of the Islanders.

- The Islanders didn't play awfully tonight, they just didn't play as well as the Devils. It happens. At least the Isles play a winnable game tomorrow night against St. Louis. Now, if they lose that one, it's still not time to worry - they're implementing a new system, and that sort of thing takes time. Hopefully, we see DP tomorrow night, we get a W, and all is well with the world.

Good night!

Thursday, October 9, 2008

New York Islanders 2008-09 Preview

The Islanders' season starts tomorrow, and yet everybody is convinced that it's already over. Are they right?

Sort of.

I've gotten a fair amount of crap from people for being too hard on my own team. Hey, it's a defense mechanism. You root for teams like the Islanders, the Jets, the Mets, and Newcastle United and you start to accept losing. You don't want to get your hopes up because you know you'll just hurt that much more when the other shoe drops. I don't think any Islander fan ever expects to see a winning team, just that they really, really want one.

So, as the NHL Network would say, is this the year? In terms of scoring points, no. In terms of cracking the top eight, no. In terms of being a pushover? Absolutely not. These Islanders do have a few things going for them... and here they are.

- Nobody knows them yet. Scott Gordon is new to the NHL, and most opposing coaches are not sure what to expect. We've all heard about the Isles rebuilding themselves as a "speed" team, but with so many veterans in the lineup, who really knows for sure how they'll look? Even if it's out of necessity, that the Islanders can give opponents a number of different looks does work in their favor.

- They never quit. One thing you have to say about the Islanders is that they don't give up, even when they're playing for nothing and they're down four goals. Just because Ted Nolan's gone doesn't mean the team is going to go soft. Gordon might not be the disciplinarian Nolan was, but word is that Gordon's a very vocal coach, meaning he's not going to tolerate lazy play.

- They'll have support. People love to dump on the Islanders and their fanbase. Some of the criticism is justified, but a lot of it isn't. Hockey fans on Long Island are dying for a team they can be proud of. They might not have that yet, but with the Islanders' aggressive marketing and ticket promotions, they'll be looking at crowds of at least 12,000 on the worst of nights. Compared with where we've been, that's not bad.

- The young players will only get better. Josh Bailey is likely to play nine games in an Islander uniform this year. That's a great head start for an 18-year-old. But the other young players who just signed one-way contracts, like Frans Nielsen and Bruno Gervais, will have a full season to not only get acclimated to the NHL, but start to get extremely comfortable. There's a decent chance this team gels by March or so and starts to play a pretty good spoiler role. Even if it doesn't happen, at least next year's team will have a full year of NHL experience.

Now, those of us who have followed the Islanders for a long time can pretty much tell how this season is going to play out. They know because the same thing happens pretty much every year. The Islanders are going to start out doing well, ending October in the East's top eight. Over November and December, they're going to have ups and downs, but will steady out and remain in the top ten. They'll crap out on the West Coast, like they always do, and come home and get those points back. At the All-Star Break, they'll be within six points of a playoff spot. Sounds familiar? It should.

The key to any Islanders season is mid February through early March. This is where the team has to figure out if it's a buyer or a seller. It's been hard to tell lately. In 2005-06, they waived the white flag and dumped off Mark Parrish and Brent Sopel. In 2006-07, they sold the farm to get Ryan Smyth. Last year, they did nothing and collapsed in March. This year? Although they'll be situated fairly well in the standings, Garth Snow will see the opportunity to improve his team over the long haul by dumping off some veterans. And unlike last year, he'll take advantage of the opportunity. As the veterans leave and the not-quite-ready Sound Tigers fill in the gaps, the Islanders will slip. They'll play well, but will lose lots of close games after which the other team will say things like, "They've got a lot of energy," and "They've got a lot of good young talent over there."

Will it be enough to land in the draft lottery? Islander fans don't want to admit it, but they sure hope so. But be careful what you wish for, Islander Country. As Scotty Hockey ominously predicted, the NHL could very well decide to screw the Islanders to ensure John Tavares goes to Toronto. Could you script a worse ending? Ugh.

So let's forget that scenario. Let's not look at this season as an investment into our future. Let's enjoy it for what it is - the chance to watch our boys play hard for 82 games. If they do great, that's great. If they're awful, so be it. Me, I'm just thankful hockey is back.

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

De-Bunking the Shanahan Return...

It's flowing everywhere today - Brendan Shanahan is going to be a Ranger. Well, atleast if you believe the hype. To be honest, the Rangers can't sign him yet. There would have to be some tinkering with the line-up. With under a quarter of a million dollars in Cap space available, salary would have to be moved.

I personally think Shanahan won't become a Ranger. If he does sign with the team, I will be the first to sauté my words with a little garlic and oil and eat them. However, for the following reasons, I don't see it happening...

1) They already have 15 NHL-caliber forwards. Yes, I called Colton Orr "NHL-caliber."

2) He doesn't fit with "the new Rangers." Meaning, he isn't a speedy young gun like they are trying to become. 

3) Shanahan missed all of training camp. At his age, it will take a while for him to get into game shape. He will need at least 10 or so games to get to the point where he was at the beginning of last season. Why do that when you already have 15 forwards who are healthy, in shape, and ready to play? Why waste the time? Especially when the Rangers have harped on the fact that they need a fast start, unlike the past 2 years when they only made the playoffs because of a) Sean Avery and b) a late-season rally.

4) They won 4 points in 2 games. The Lightning lost both games, got thoroughly outplayed, and traded immediately for an upgrade at defense. The Rangers won both games, and while they didn't light the scoreboard up, there were no glaring holes needing to be filled by an over-the-hill, injured, former superstar.

5) He had nothing left at the end of last year. Yes, he had hip and knee problems, but did those heal up? From mid-January on, he had nothing in the tank, save for Game One against the Devils in the playoffs. Freddy Sjostrom, Petr Prucha, Patrick Rissmiller, and Dan Fritsche will give you the same effort in May as they will in the home opener against Chicago. The same can't be said for Shanahan.

6) He offers nothing they don't already have. Ten years ago, twelve years ago, the thought of having Shanahan around for 70 regular season games would cause me to kiss ugly babies. Now? Not so much. He was never very fast, he was just smart and a gritty power forward with a great wrist shot. Naslund, Dawes, and Zherdev have that great wrist shot. Drury, Callahan, Prucha, and others have that "never quit" attitude. Sjostrom, Voros, and Rissmiller throw the body around. Dawes is positioning himself in front of the net on the power play. And all of those players are younger and fresher than him and won't crap out after the all-star break.

Listen, I love him. I think he was a great Ranger for two years, and he is a first-ballot Hall of Famer. I just think making room for him when the season has already started would be a grave mistake.

A Few Things

1) As per TSN.ca, Josh Bailey is going to start the season on the Islanders' roster. The Islanders have to make a decision on Bailey's future before he plays his tenth game; either he'll stay on the big club all year or he'll return to Windsor and captain the Spitfires, his OHL team. I see him returning to juniors, but it doesn't hurt to get him some exposure early on. One writer - I can't remember who - suggested keeping Bailey on the Island to start the season would be tantamount to a publicity stunt; after all, seven of the eight players picked ahead of Bailey are beginning the season in the NHL. I'm not sure that writer isn't onto something. But for now, we have to take this for what it is and see how Bailey develops.

2) It hasn't been heavily advertised, but NHL Center Ice is doing a free preview until the 17th. So while all your buddies watch baseball tomorrow, remember that you can watch every NHL game for free as long as your cable provider offers Center Ice. I'm still on the fence about ordering this year, but I probably will.

3) For the first time in this blog's history, we're actually advertising a live blog! We're doing the Isles-Devils game on Friday night (or, at least I am). Should be a rollicking good time, so feel free to drop on by if you'd like.

Monday, October 6, 2008

Tampa Bay Rays

So I was watching TBS a little while ago (sorry, Frank TV wasn't on) and watched the Tampa Bay Rays finish off the Chicago White Sox to win the American League Division Series. After recording the final out, the Rays rushed out of the dugout and started doing that thing where everybody jumps up and down and smacks each other on the head. After that, they retreated to the clubhouse for a champagne celebration.

Now, I'm happy for the Rays and all; seriously, who wouldn't be? This is a team that never even won 75 games in a season before this one, and yet they're now just four games from the World Series. They were left for dead while the arrogant fans of the Yankees and Red Sox proclaimed their overpriced teams as the best. And yet, Tampa Bay has had the last laugh; they'll be playing yet another $100 million payroll team in the ALCS despite having a payroll that roughly matches the combined annual wages of Alex Rodriguez and Derek Jeter.

Here's where I'm going with this. The Rays did a big celebration when they clinched a playoff spot. They did the same thing after clinching the AL East. Tonight, they did yet another celebration. That's three pileups on the mound. That's three champagne-soaked celebrations. And all the Tampa Bay Rays have done is win three lousy playoff games against a team that didn't even have a playoff spot until two days after the season ended.

Could you even imagine a hockey team acting like this? Let's pretend hockey players acted like baseball players. Let's rewind to last year's playoffs. The Montreal Canadiens have just defeated the Boston Bruins in the first round of the playoffs. It went seven games, but the top-seeded Habs came out victorious, almost in spite of themselves. Instead of congratulating their goalie and forming the traditional handshake line, they rush over to their goalie and mob him, jumping all over him in the crease. They skip the handshakes, then rush off to celebrate with their booze in the locker room, even though they've got a tough series against Philadelphia in two days. Never mind that the Canadiens had ten more points than Boston and probably should have beaten them in five games at the absolute max. They've got to have a party! After all, we need Fox Sports Montreal to be able to air their own post-game show in the contrived party so their quirky sideline reporter can be doused in champagne every two seconds.

Of course, the champagne-soaked spectacle is what TV wants. The handshake line, while extremely classy, doesn't get covered. Wait till the Red Sox win their series and ESPN jizzes all over themselves. You're going to see that damn celebration 8000 times over the next few days. Meanwhile, when a hockey team wins the right to play for the Stanley Cup and doesn't even crack a smile? Good luck finding highlights of that one.

Sunday, October 5, 2008

Islanders DVD News?!?

Today is a Rangers day, no question about it. Two out of two in Prague is pretty impressive. Even if you hate the Rangers - and even if you saw how terrible the Lightning were this weekend - you have to give the Rangers credit for winning four straight games in Europe, away from everything familiar to them.

Anyway.

You may recall over the summer, Zach and I created our own dream DVD sets for our respective teams. The Rangers one is here, the Islanders one is here. I always felt bad for people who searched "Islanders DVD" on Google, found our blog, and thought it was real. Sadly, it was just something to do over the summer when nothing else was going on.

Or was it?

Looking at the Islanders' website today, I couldn't help but notice the rather interesting poll on the right-hand side of the page. If you're too lazy to look, it asks which game fans would most like to see on an Islanders DVD box set. The current leader is Game 4 of the 1983 Cup Final, which wasn't all that great of a game. As Wayne Gretzky said in his autobiography, "They scored three goals in two minutes and we spent the rest of the night wondering what our consolation speech would sound like." Of course, if you've heard the story about Gretzky and Kevin Lowe passing by the Islanders' locker room after that game, you know the Oilers' dynasty begun that night. So it's natural to include the Dynasty's final moment of glory on the DVD.

But that's not the point.

This is the point. You don't see polls like this on an official website for no reason. Something tells me the Islanders actually are making a DVD of their history and want some fan input regarding which games to include. To be honest, if they didn't go ahead with this thing after teasing the fans with this poll, I'd be pretty pissed. Let's face it, there's not going to be much good coming out of Islander Country this year. We may as well have some vestiges of the past to enjoy.

In other words: the sooner, the better. Maybe I can finally delete the 1993 Islanders-Penguins Classic Series show from my DVR.

Phrases...

I am one Ranger fan who really likes Joe Micheletti's color commentary. He's no John Davidson, but he knows his stuff, loves the game, doesn't play favorites, and is generally interesting enough to hold my attention even during a Devil's game.

And of course, I love Sam Rosen. I think he's one of the best announcers in the game, and I hate when we get John Giannone or some other guy because Sam is doing a football game.

That said, here are a bunch of phrases I'm sure Ranger fans will be sick of come February...

SAM: Mara SHOOTS! And it's wide.

JOE: Redden was caught pinching on that play, which leads to the Penguins' scoring chance here.

SAM: Parise, gets around Kalinin, and SCORES! The Devils take a 2-1 lead.

JOE: What happened here was Zherdev just trying to do too much with the puck and he winds up giving it away.

SAM: SAVE BY LUNDQVIST! And another! Another save! An outstanding performance by Henrik Lundqvist!

JOE: Colton Orr has really been working on his skating and play with the puck. No goals yet, but his skating is much crisper.

SAM: Chance for Drury up front! And he fans on the shot.

JOE: Naslund almost stuffs the puck in the net, but Biron closes the hole and we have a faceoff.

SAM: It's a power play goal! How about that, Brandon Dubinsky with a great wrist shot.

JOE: Rozsival with the shot, and he misses the net. You notice Michal Rozsival shooting a lot more now that he doesn't have Jaromir Jagr to rely on. 

* * * 

And in case you missed my 08-09 predictions, the Dallas Stars will win the Stanley Cup this year.