Wednesday, October 31, 2007

OkposoNose Knows Spooky

Happy Halloween! As I watch the Former Islanders around the league rock the net, I cannot help but feel excitement for the pending arrival of some of our big prospect names. First, Islanders fan need not worry about the standings. No team has played fewer games than the Isles (9) who are above .500 at 5-4-0. This season is going okay thusfar. Now to the future:

* I know for fact that fans are dying to seeing Jeff Tambellini back on Isles ice. Tamby! Tamby!

* Frans Nielsen is burning it up in Bridgeport with 6 points in 7 games.

* Rhett Rakhshani a native of Orange, CA (represent), is helping burn it up for #7 University of Denver Pioneers hockey with 4 assists in 4 games.

* Kyle might be struggling a little bit but our boy Okposo will turn it out soon enough. He has 1 goal and 2 assists in 6 games for #8 University of Minnesota Golden Gophers.

* Jesse Joensuu is trying to help his struggling hometown team Assat (Pori) of the Finnish league with 7 points (5 goals, 2 assists) in 18 games.

* Blake Comeau is trying to shake off some early season rust and overcome his slow start to energize the Sound Tigers. He has only 2 points so far this season.

Why all the rambling, you ask? My point is that these prospects will find their way to Islanders center stage and for many fans we hope sooner rather than later. Chris Campoli should be the icon for current Isles prospects. Drafted 227th overall in 2004, Campoli is third on the team in points with 9 in as many games and he is a defenseman! All good things come in time. So keep plugging away Kyle, Rhett, Blake, Frans and Jesse. And, oh yeah, let us get Tamby back up to the NHL where he belongs. Please.

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Okposo, Where Art Thou?

Checking the fresh Minnesota hockey news this week, we found that those lovable Gophers had moved up to 8th (previously 10th) in this week's NCAA men's hockey rankings. This is the 96th straight week that UM has placed in the top 15 of the poll. While that's good, there is a somewhat disconcerting item hanging over the team right now. Two members of Minnesota's top line are just not scoring.

Admittedly, it's *very* early to call someone out about their play, but one has to notice that Kyle has been completely absent from the scoring sheet since Opening Night (6 games). Even coach Don Lucia has voiced concern, recently saying his Minnesota squad "can’t be the type of team we want to be without [sophomore forward] Jay [Barriball] and Kyle scoring."

Maybe we're getting too worked up about nothing. Kyle could be be distracted by some off-ice issue. Maybe he has just been unlucky. Perhaps his scoring touch is just in a bit of a down cycle? Whatever it is, we want Kyle and his fans to know that we are rooting for him, and we're hoping he breaks out in a big way this weekend against conference foe Denver. Minnesota will host Friday night and Sunday afternoon games at Mariucci Arena so as to thoughtfully not interfere with Saturday's Al Arbour Night on Long Island. Thanks, guys!

Check back often for Isles/Gophers/Kyle news as it happens this weekend, and good luck to all three.

Sunday, October 28, 2007

Well, that sucked

The return of hockey to the Island after a long layoff was a disaster as Carolina and old friend Peter Laviolette crushed the Isles 8-3, and it wasn't that close. Obviously, the layoff put some rust on the Isles (and seriously, who came up with this ridiculous scheduling?) and they really didn't start showing life until the third period when they peppered John Grahame with shots in the early portion of the period. The problem is that after starting to get some life back in the third, the Isles now have another 4 day layoff before playing Tampa Bay. The less said about the game, the better, although I'm sure Ken will have some more reaction from the carnage later on.

About the only good thing one can say is that with these repeated long layoffs, Bryan Berard will only end up missing about 3 games.

In other hockey news, the Flyers injured yet another player - this time, Boston's Patrice Bergeron suffered a broken nose and concussion after being boarded by Randy Jones. I'd imagine a suspension is on the way (although almost certainly not the 20-25 games the previous 2 Flyers incidents received). Stay classy, Philadelphia.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

I Wish Someone Would Play

If you've known me for any length of time, you'll know that March and April are my favorite months of the year. I mean, you've got spring training baseball, March Madness, my birthday, NHL teams jockeying for playoff positioning, flowers blooming, robins chirping, etc., etc.

Conversely, if that's 'the most wonderful time of the year,' it stands to reason that we're currently in the worst. We're left with a World Series involving teams I have no particular affinity toward, a just-completed Formula 1 season where the hero choked away his dream (for my overseas fans), and the impending onset of winter's icy grip.

To top it all off, I can't find my Islanders, who normally act like a piping hot mug of cocoa to fend off winter's chill. No, someone decided that they needed to play their games in bunches this season and then have entire weeks of downtime for (presumably) PlayStation 3 gaming.

The thing that irks me is that the Islanders have a bit of early momentum going, too. They currently stand 2nd in the league in power play percentage and 3rd in the league in penalty kill percentage. That's right, I said league. As in NHL. When's the last time we could say that?

So no Islanders, and to top it off the Gophers dropped both games of their weekend fixture with Colorado College. Mr. Okposo recorded a whopping 0 points in either contest.

So that's where we are. No Islanders. No Gophers. No self-respecting Islanders fan would watch the Rangers right now. I guess I'll flip around the dial and look for the Daily Show. Oh, they're currently showing re-runs? I should have guessed.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Good Things Come in Threes

The Islanders came into tonight's game versus the Caps in desperate need of a win. After getting blown out in Toronto 8-1 and dropping their next match to Philly, it was their last chance to take something positive away from the road trip.

Lucky for us Isles fans, they did.

With all three metro area teams in action tonight, the search was on for which channel would feature the Long Island squad. Not surprisingly, it was again channel 14 (Cablevision spillover). If this doesn't tell you that the Isles are the red-headed stepchild of NY-area sports, I don't know what does. But I digress.

Up 2-0 (Bergenheim followed by Guerin) after two periods, the Islanders soon faced a real gut-check. Ruslan Fedotenko had a goal disallowed (which I thought Howie Rose and Billy Jaffe made too much out of in the booth) and the Caps soon leveled the scoring at 2. Ovechkin first put a laser past DiPietro; Tomas Fleischmann then chipped one in and the game had turned decidedly against the visitors.

However, this team did not lay down like those in years past might have. Washington's Chris Clark was called for a trip in his offensive zone, and the Isles got their power play unit up and running. Brian Berard gave the Islanders a 3-2 lead that they would only add to. The final was 5-2 when it was all said and done. New captain Bill Guerin netted the first Isles hat trick of the season, the aforementioned Berard contributed 3 points (1G, 2A), and on the night the Islanders struck for three power play goals (on 5 chances).

Chris Campoli ruined the theme by helping out with 4 assists, but other than that we have no complaints. He has been playing great.

Lastly, about those other metro area teams...the Devils were blanked in Philly and the Rangers were stung by a previously winless Atlanta squad. The Isles may not get respect, but for at least tonight the trifecta was complete.

Saturday, October 13, 2007

Time to Shine!

University of Minnesota hockey is back!

The Gophers took on Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (RPI) in the second game of the IceBreaker Invitational last night. It was UM's first game of the season, and was played in front of a heavily partisan crowd at the XCel Energy Center in St. Paul.

The RPI Engineers went up 3-0 with under 5:00 to play in the second, and it wasn't looking good for the Gophers. The Gophers were being outhustled and outplayed, until Kyle decided he had seen enough loafing.

Minnesota netted their first goal of the night at 16:44 of the second period; Okposo assisted on linemate Ryan Stoa's power play goal, and Kyle had his first point of the season.

Blake Wheeler scored for UM 4:32 into the 3rd period to make it 3-2 in favor of RPI, but there was still plenty of time for heroics. Another power play, and another assist for Kyle, this time to Evan Kauffman, and the game was suddenly tied at 3. With over 9 minutes left to play, Minnesota still had time to set up the visitors for the kill. And who better to deliver the death blow than our man, Kyle Okposo?

With 1:11 left in the final period, KO delivered the knockout punch to the Engineers, taking a pass from Jay Barriball and knocking it past goalie Mathias Lange for the winner!

With that, all that was left to do was run the final minute or so off the clock, and the swift and sudden comeback was complete. It was engineered, if you will, by the 3-point effort of Okposo, who of course won first star of the game.

Humble as always, he gave full credit to his teammates. Not a bad opening night, if you ask me. Tomorrow UM plays 9th-ranked Michigan, a decidedly harder mark. Spare us the excitement and go up early on the Wolverines, no?

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Wrapping up the Rangers

T minus one day until Kyle hockey!

A few thoughts on last night's Rangers game. I won't go through the entire game recap; you can surely visit, ESPN, or one of my fellow BLOG BOXers for that. In fact, Tom Liodice of The Tiger Track was again liveblogging from the game. Here are a few random thoughts:

- The Isles were outshot 37-30, but they were not outworked. This morning I read that the Isles blocked or deflected an additional 19 shots that never reached DiPietro. Great hustle and dedication. Way to keep them wrapped up, boys!

- There was more fighting in the stands than on the ice. While people anticipated a brawl-filled game, there was barely any of that. Meanwhile, I witnessed at least two dustups in the seats which were quickly snuffed out by Coliseum security. The participants were tossed and missed a great 3rd period. Too bad for them.

- After our postgame debrief session, I lingered a bit to try to get some Islanders photos. Sean Bergenheim was nice enough to stop and let me snap him, but here's the interesting thing. On my way to the exits, I popped back into the arena and another game was being played! The Assassins were taking on the Villains. Who are these guys? Is there a clandestine hockey league playing late-night contests on the sacred Islander ice? If so, how do I get involved?

- Has anyone tried the Nassau Coliseum sushi yet? As a sushiphile myself (Hai, watashi wa Nihongo-ga scoshi wakarimasu), I am a bit wary. If you have tried it and are still living, drop us a line in the comments section.

- Since the Isles are in Toronto tonight, what better time to debut a few of the photos I took at the Hockey Hall of Fame this summer? Enjoy!

The entrance to the Hall of Fame

Dr. Hook and Okposo Island with the Cup

The last time it happened. It's been too long.

Trophies everywhere

Sweater of Lokomotiv Yaroslavl. Bergenheim's team last year, Y****n's this year.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Strong Win

Now that the Yankees are gone (and words on them can probably take up at least 10 blog posts), it's time to enjoy our New York Islanders. And what perfect timing, as the Isles get a great win against the Rangers -- the "preordained" Atlantic Division champs.

Some quick thoughts from the third period (I imagine Ken will be in later with some thoughts on the full game and reaction from the Coliseum):

-- Strong penalty killing on the Rangers 5 on 3, thought it really took the Rangers out of the game for much of the period.

-- Terrible stoppage by the ref on Guerin's post shot, the puck was obviously still in play.

-- Maybe it was just my TV, but the sound quality made it seem like the Coliseum wasn't as rocking as it normally was for an Isles-Rangers game. I'm sure Ken can provide more details about the crowd, but this was an issue last year with Versus in terms of broadcast quality.

-- While you don't want to necessarily go down 6 on 4 at the end of the game, good penalty by Andy Sutton to help prevent a potential game-tying goal (and it doesn't hurt to have icing waved off for the last 20 seconds).

-- As long as DiPietro plays like this, the Isles will be playoff contenders -- several excellent saves considering the Rangers were starting to apply some serious pressure in the third.

Overall, a good night for the Isles and this team is looking strong (hey, as of this writing, they're in first place by 4 points!). Ken should be back later.

In the meantime, enjoy this link to a fun story about the Philadelphia Flyers. Question: what would Bobby Clarke, Bill Barber and Dave Schultz think about this? PG replies only, please.

Monday, October 8, 2007

A Day of Firsts

Hello everyone,

Well, we're just back from Isles vs. Capitals, a holiday afternoon affair. It was certainly a day of firsts; some exciting, some disappointing.

Today we witnessed the Islanders' first loss of the season (2-1). It was the first time that the team looked at times noticeably flat. The first period got off to a great start, and the Isles led 1-0 after 20:00 (Richard Park, 1st of season). However, the team didn't quite have the jump they began with and allowed the Caps to tie the score at 1 about 8 minutes into the 2nd period. The home squad let a golden opportunity slip by when they were awarded a 5 on 3 advantage for a whopping 1:35, but failed to score. One of the telling signs in the period was the Islanders out shooting Washington 16-3 in the frame, but never putting one past Kolzig.

The play picked up decidedly in the final period, when the Isles themselves killed off a 5 on 3, but DiPietro allowed a rebound with just over 12 minutes left to play and Brooks Laich didn't miss his chance.

Continuing the theme, today we heard the first smattering (not a chorus, mind you) of boos directed toward the home squad. Many fans felt that this was a game where the Isles should have come away with at least a point, and failed to do so.

On a strictly personal level, this blog (and the NYI BLOG BOX crew!) had their first-ever story published in a major sports publication. Kudos to Richard Deitsch of Sports Illustrated for shedding some light on this very fun project we're all partaking in. He even worked in a quote from yours truly (Ken Dick) and while it isn't the first time my blogging work has been featured in a sports mag, it is the first for Okposo Net. You can view his piece here.

Today's game also featured Darryl Bootland's first NHL point since 2003, and after the game we got to speak with the Toronto native. He didn't make excuses for the loss after the game, gave full credit to an outstanding opposing goalie (Kolzig), and didn't think that playing 3 games in 4 days (more like 3 1/2 days) had much effect on the team. He assured us that he will have absolutely NO problem getting up for the Rangers on Wednesday night, and we're hoping to see him scrap it up a bit against the hated Blueshirts.

As a reminder, we're also eagerly awaiting the return of University of Minnesota hockey on Friday (10/12) night, which means the return of fresh news on the play of Kyle Okposo!

Until then, thanks for reading.

Sunday, October 7, 2007

Who stole my Islanders?

A packed Nassau Coliseum, a penalty kill unit that works hard, skaters who crash the net, and a team that toils in unison up and down the ice for 60 minutes. Who are these guys?

Joking aside, as I search for something to be critical of in this new season, these Islanders are not allowing me that indulgence. Last night, in what can only be described as an amazing night for myself and fellow Isles bloggers, the Islanders defeated Buffalo again, this time 3-2.

While it's only 2 games, Mike Comrie has been a spark that this team has sorely missed in past seasons. Fueling the fire has been the the play of new captain Bill Guerin, and the scrappy play of Ruslan Fedotenko. While those guys are getting the glory and the share of the headlines, kudos to Chris Campoli for not only netting his second goal of the year, but for taking the time to speak with us after the game.

You see, last night was the first-ever behind-the-scenes tour for New York Islanders Blog Box members. Being that this blog is a charter member of that new and innovative program, we and our fellow bloggers were led on an all-access tour of the bowels of the Coliseum. We visited the lockerroom (smaller than expected), spoke with on-air personality Deb Kaufman (shorter than expected), and were granted access to Chris Campoli and Ted Nolan for unrestricted questioning (cooler than expected). In all it was a great night and many thanks go to Deb, Chris, and Isles execs Chris Botta and Corey Witt for having the foresight to make this happen.

My fellow bloggers-in-arms also seem very cool to a man (and one woman) and I look forward to enjoying games with them in the future and reading their takes on this special night.

Saturday, October 6, 2007

The New Islanders

Opening Night versus Buffalo was a success, with the Islanders recording a 6-4 victory at HSBC Arena. While I would have preferred a little more defense in the effort, it is hard to find fault with their performance.

The game recaps are emphasizing how well the squad played together on opening night, especially the newly-minted top line of Comrie, Guerin, and Fedotenko. Let's not forget about Josef Vasicek either, who netted the first Islander tally after the Orange and Blue quickly fell down 1-0. Honorable mention also goes to "The Rick," who saved 22 of 26 shots, but made some dazzling stops to keep this contest in hand and let The New Islanders go to work.

Game 2 of 82 is tomorrow night. Same teams, different venue (our place), hopefully the same outcome!

Wednesday, October 3, 2007

UM is getting ready. Are you?

Fans, the University of Minnesota's regular season begins October 12th with the IceBreaker Invitational (Xcel Energy Center, St. Paul, MN). And while we can't get up there to see that tournament, we are making plans to see Okposo in person sometime this season, with a trip to the Twin Cities.

While we are pretty much the only independent site for Kyle Okposo info on the web, we are limited in what we can bring you. But soon that is about to change. Thanks to a generous offer from the NYI organization, we'll have the chance to ask some things we want to know about Kyle and their future plans for him. But, we'd also like to know what YOU want to know about Kyle. If you read and enjoy this blog, have a relevant question, or even if you hate this site and just want to let us know, please feel free at any time use the comment button located beneath each entry. We'll answer you promptly or relay your question to the Isles if we can't answer it ourselves.

Now, to give you a taste of what a special talent we think Kyle is, have a look at this goal from last season. The clip runs about 1 minute.

Monday, October 1, 2007

Let the 2007-08 Season Begin

For Yankees fans like me, it'll hopefully take until the end of October to get fully involved with the Islanders, but for Mets fans, welcome to the 2007-08 NHL season!

Hi, I'm Dr. Hook. You might remember me from such blogs as ... well, none actually. I did work on sports webpages about 10 years ago where I wrote some semi-regular editorial copy (sort of a forerunner of blogs), but this is my first true blog post. First off, thanks to Ken for the opportunity to join this blog - it should be a fun ride this season, and I look forward to Ken's eventual postings from the Isles' new Blog Box, where I hope he is able to break several exclusives, such as which show does Ted Nolan watch -- Grey's Anatomy, CSI or The Office? Inquiring minds want to know.

By way of quick background, I've been an Isles fan for about 25 years - first watching the Isles during the Stanley Cup dynasty, following them through the Easter Epic, going crazy in Bayville after Volek's goal, cringing through 1995-2000, and finally glad to see playoff hockey back making more regular appearances on the Island. The Isles still have some work to do (and a new building wouldn't hurt either - I love the Coliseum, but as we've learned in recent months, free agents do not), but at least one thing seems guaranteed: with Ted Nolan at the helm, these guys will play their asses off.

So once again this year, the Isles are expected by the "experts" to finish out of the playoffs. Personally, with the additions of Bill Guerin, Mike Comrie, Ruslan Fedotenko and Andy Sutton, and the return of Sean Bergenheim, I believe the Isles could surprise once again this season. And if they show as much fight during the season as they did during that preseason brawl with the Rangers (poor Al Montoya never stood a chance), it should make for a very fun season.

I'll be checking in every so often with various thoughts on the Isles, the Coliseum, the Atlantic Division, etc. -- but until then, I'm looking forward to October 5 at a much weaker Buffalo.