March 18th, 2008: The day when conjecture was finally swept aside. Islanders fans now have their prodigy in clear sight, and if the debut game was any indication, they'll likely be back for a few more looks.
Playing on a line with Richard Park and Blake Comeau, Kyle seemed to meld well with his teammates. After witnessing his clear nervousness following Monday's practice, he admitted on Tuesday that he remained jittery, and did not know what to expect from the debut.
Once on the ice, however, he seemed to work through any apprehension, logging nearly 15 minutes of play and registering 2 shots. One, a wraparound chance behind netminder Vesa Toskala, had a very good chance of netting him his first NHL goal. Alas, that will have to wait. KO seemed to have a heightened sense of playmaking skill, one that we're frankly unaccustomed to on most nights at the Coliseum. We saw #21 powering into the corners in the offensive zone, shoveling passes to his mates, and planting himself once or twice firmly in front of the crease. In fact, coach Ted Nolan rewarded Kyle with time on the power play in the third period. It was a solid, if not quite spectacular, debut.
Furthermore, one can see that despite his youth and inexperience, the room for growth is clearly there. He seems to hunger for the puck, rather than just loping aimlessly around the ice hoping he'll be in the right place at the right moment. Coach Nolan made a point of mentioning that Kyle is a skilled, albeit raw, talent. The trick is to now nurture that talent into something special.
Oh yeah, about the game...
The Isles went out to a 1-0 lead on Toronto at the 13:48 mark of the first period. It was a 200 foot shorthanded goal by Rob Davison. Don't adjust your monitors, I'll retype it. A 200 footer, by a defenseman with no previous goals this year, on the penalty kill.
The goal looked as you might imagine such a thing would. On a clearing attempt, Davison slapped a long knuckler from his own goal line, Toskala squared up for it like a shortstop fielding a routine ground ball, and it hopped right past him and in.
Buoyed by the early lead, the Isles didn't use their great fortune to do something stupid like win. Three 3rd period Maple Leaf goals sealed the Isles' fate, another loss, their 6th in a row. Which brings us to this:
Coupled with St. Louis' shootout win, the Isles fall into a tie for 27th in the league, tightening their grasp on a top 5 draft pick.
As Howard Jones once sang, "things can only get better." Tuesday was a step, perhaps one of many, in that direction.
Update (11:59 PM)
Rick DiPietro to have hip surgery, ending his season. Read it here in Newsday. Maybe Jones was wrong?