Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Kyle Scores...Widespread Panic Averted!

Monday night debuted another season of Islanders-Rangers skirmishes; games both players and fans always get charged up for.

The 217th all-time meeting started with a whimper rather than a bang for the Isles, as it took the visiting Rangers just 56 seconds to bank a goal. Despite the setback, good things were in store, though, as Kyle had several excellent scoring chances in the first period and the Isles did not seem too concerned about playing down one goal. On one attempt Kyle nearly scored off of a Nikolai Zherdev turnover but came up empty.

And that's where Kyle's story would have ended most nights this season: close but no cigar. Except that with just 8 seconds remaining in the first stanza Kyle took a pass from Richard Park and fired it past Henrik Lundqvist for his first goal of the year!

Admitting in his post-game conference that he had felt "a bit snakebitten" so far this year by continuously coming up empty, he was relieved to get the first one out of the way. Coach Scott Gordon also expressed a sense of relief for Kyle after the game and extolled his contributions to the team. Not mentioned was the fact that it was Kyle's first NHL goal on home ice.

The game remained highly competitive (on the ice and scoreboard) through the first two periods but the Isles let the game slip away in the third. The atmosphere became increasingly hostile somewhere around the midpoint of the game as fisticuffs broke out both on the ice and in the stands. The final was a 4-2 Rangers win.

Apart from Kyle having an excellent (his best in the NHL?) game against his team's biggest rival (1 G on 7 shots, +1 rating), the other Islanders bright spot would have to be the play of goalie Joey MacDonald. The Rangers tested Joey Mac frequently but he was up to the task, saving 35 shots and handling the puck flawlessly. With starter Rick DiPietro out for an undisclosed period of time, Joey is quietly gaining the confidence of his teammates and the fans as a very capable netminder.

Despite stumbling out of the gate at 2-6, progress and development are the names of the game this season.

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Tavares Watch - October Edition

Because it's never too early to look forward, and because we are very much realists here at Okposo Net...

John Tavares has scored 14 goals in 13 games thus far for the Oshawa Generals of the OHL. And as of tonight, the Islanders are officially in last place in the NHL. This means that 76 games from now, if the Isles are in the same position, they will be guaranteed at least the #2 pick in the 2009 NHL Entry draft.

This has been your Tavares Watch for October. Okposo Net - always with one eye on the future.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Horror Show

The Islanders put on another home horror show for their Thursday night (10/23) fans. We would imagine the Isles will be seeing Dallas' Mike Ribeiro in their sleep tonight, who torched them for 5 points (1 G, 4 A). The scoreboard showed a 5-3 final in favor of the Stars, but the game never really felt competitive for the Isles.

Plenty of blame could be assessed after this latest misfire, and even Kyle cannot be excused. Just two minutes into the affair Okposo took a needless roughing penalty on Public Enemy #1, Sean Avery. Not only did this lead to a Dallas power play goal, but it seemed to suck the positive energy right out of the Isles. Kyle later had a chance to make amends, but sent a blast over Marty Turco's glove that missed. Dallas corralled the puck and started their own rush which led to a goal, all while the Islander defense spectated.

Before the first period was over, Dallas led 3-0 and were well on their way to Victoryland.

Though they tried with several shots that hit posts, the Isles squandered a long 5-on-3 power play in the 2nd period that was their only real opportunity to get back in the game. With that chance bypassed, things became bleaker for the slim (10,163) crowd. A Bill Guerin goal was answered by two from Dallas, and the 3rd period was reduced to a formality.

Compounding the misery was a "lower-body injury" to defenseman Brendan Witt when he went knee-to-knee with Krys Barch early on. He will be re-evaluated tomorrow. We would suggest the same for the Islanders' game plan before Saturday night's tilt against Carolina.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Florida Split

Fresh off a 4-3 overtime win over Tampa in which each team tried to underperform the other, the Isles skated Saturday night on Florida's east coast. While Rick DiPietro finally got his season moving forward, the rest of the Isles seemed to be stuck in neutral.

Unable to register a goal against the Panthers' Tomáš Vokoun, the Isles lost 2-0. Florida's Nick Boynton put one behind DP only 24 seconds in; Corey Stillman added an insurance goal in the 2nd period to complete the night's scoring.

Sadly, the Islanders have not beaten Florida since December 9th, 2006. Worse off, three of the past five encounters have resulted in an Islander shutout. Ouch.

Just as he did in Tampa, Mr. Okposo recorded four (4) shots on goal but netted no winners. From our observations, though, he is playing well with his linemates and is creating scoring chances, so it seems that we'll be reporting an Okposo goal fairly soon.

Monday, October 13, 2008

Bringin' on the Heartbreak, Part 2

Monday was Kids Day, complete with team mascots running wild in the crowd and post-game puck shoots and concerts galore.

Frankly, children should not have been allowed to watch whatever it was the Islanders were doing on the ice. Final score: Buffalo 7, Isles 1.

We don't even feel like recapping the game. Providing details of that effort would just be wasting your time. Just know that the themes repeated in the post-game conferences were a) the execution from just about every Islander was poor, b) the final score was not all goalie Joey MacDonald's fault, and c) the Isles took a lot of meaningless, bad penalties but d) stuck up for their teammates in the fight-filled middle period.

Rick DiPietro was on the bench; his true condition is anyone's guess. Anyone with sense is not really buying the story of him being fit to play after today's debacle, despite Coach Scott Gordon's insistence that he's not a believer in pulling goalies.

Every positive lesson learned from Saturday's performance was thrown right out the window by Monday's. That and the fact that Buffalo makes opponents pay for their mistakes in areas that the weaker St. Louis team does not. Monday made it clear that while the Islanders can handle the lesser teams in the league they have a long road ahead of them before they can compete with the stronger outfits.

Compounding the bad feelings of the day was news that New York Rangers prospect Alexei Cherepanov collapsed and died while playing in Russia. The Rangers are our on-ice rivals, but everyone dreads hearing a story like this. Our condolences go out to Alexei's family and all who knew him. He was only 19 years of age.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Bringin' on the Heartbreak

Some whimsy for you fellow NHL fans, no f-f-f-foolin' (sorry).

Apparently earlier this week, Def Leppard took part in the NHL Faceoff festivities in Detroit. Now, it's bad enough that the NHL found a band whose last good album was 21 years ago (don't talk to me about Adrenalize, that album sucked and was the beginning of their downfall - their first four albums ranged from good to great). I realize music mostly sucks right now, but I'm sure there has to be a good and relevant rock band out there that the NHL could have found. I digress.

In any case, here is the Youtube highlight of this concert. What's wrong with this picture?

Nice Win On Home Opening Night

Saturday night (10/11) featured everything good the franchise can offer: a sold-out arena, an excited crowd, a complete effort on offense, great goaltending, and a win.

The pregame festivities featured band Seven Mary Three (named in honor of the 1970's show CHiPs) playing on a levitating stage above the ice. When the Isles hit that same ice, their spirits and energy were elevated. Four first period goals gave the Isles a somewhat comfortable lead. Netminder (and first star) Joey MacDonald did the rest as the Isles sailed to a 5-2 win over St. Louis.

The winning effort included contributions from five (5) different goal scorers (Comrie, Hunter, Bergenheim, Hilbert, and Guerin) and some splendid saves from the aforementioned MacDonald. He saved 24 shots, several in spectacular fashion, as the Isles treated their fans to a really nice early-season win.

Kyle assisted on Comrie's goal for his first point of the season.

Afterward, coach Scott Gordon received the "game puck" from captain Bill Guerin after banking his first NHL win. If it were possible, nearly every Islander deserved one.

They'll try to keep the good vibes flowing on Monday afternoon against Buffalo. Okposo Net will be there; please stay right here for details shortly following that game.

Friday, October 10, 2008

Hit The Lights!

A new season of Islanders hockey dawned tonight (10/10) as the Isles opened their regular season schedule in New Jersey. The New York area version of Friday Night Lights featured all three area teams in action, but of course we only care about how the Islanders fared. And while there were bright points, we can't say the opener was a rousing success, especially since they lost 2-1.

Coming in, we figured scoring would be at a premium against the legendary Martin Brodeur, and we were right. Without being too verbose, we'll just highlight the important points of the game.

First off, the surprise of the night was seeing Joey MacDonald starting in goal in place of Rick DiPietro. Apparently coach Scott Gordon wanted to give "The Rick" some more time on his road back from injury, and it's unclear if MacDonald will start again tomorrow night. We're sure that decision will be revealed by any number of outlets soon after it is made. Nevertheless, MacDonald performed nicely between the pipes, saving 27 shots while allowing 2 goals.

It should be noted that the Islanders had about as many scoring chances as the Devils, so that was a positive sign. Also, new addition Doug Weight gave the Isles an early lead on a deflected shot, so congratulations to him on his first goal as an Islander.

For us, however, the most exciting moment came in the first period when Kyle was hauled down from behind in the act of driving to the net and was awarded a penalty shot. Astute fans will remember Kyle's first goal NHL goal came against Brodeur, and he now had a chance for a second. It was not to be, though, as Okposo went high glove side on Brodeur and was stymied.

Despite the loss, the Isles were competitive throughout the contest and had a fine chance to salvage a point near the end of regulation, but failed to convert. We'll see how they respond tomorrow night when they open at the Coliseum.

Hope you'll be there!

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Roster News

The final tune up in Florida didn't quite go as planned; the Isles lost 6-0. However, coach Scott Gordon apparently saw the things he needed to see from several players, namely Josh Bailey, and the roster has been pared.

Our friend Michael Schuerlein of Islesblogger.com has done all the legwork on who is staying and going, and sampled some other bloggers' opinions while he was at it.

Monday, October 6, 2008

Final Tune Up

Monday night's (10/6) tilt versus Florida will be the final preseason game for the '08-'09 Islanders. While the game may be a last chance for some borderline Islanders to make good impressions on the coaching staff before the roster is set, you know, we know, and Kyle himself knows that he'll be with the big club come next week. For him the game is virtually meaningless. In fact, we can assure everyone that Kyle went directly to bed right after the team plane landed in Fort Lauderdale around 10 PM on Sunday (the computers in the Okposo Net underground lair can track up to 60 simultaneous Islander player movements, FYI). Kyle certainly has no interest in cavorting around South Beach, especially since he's still shy of the legal drinking age. We kid, of course, but Kyle really does seem like a good citizen of the NHL, and we wouldn't want to suggest otherwise...

He hasn't played in every preseason game, but unless we've missed something he has tallied only one assist so far. A goal tonight would put a nice capstone on his first full NHL camp. The game is of note for another reason too, it's been widely reported that this guy is going to play.

Good luck to all involved, and we'll know the final product by Wednesday.

Thursday, October 2, 2008

Joshua Bailey Signed

The 9th pick in the 2008 NHL Entry Draft, center Joshua Bailey signed a 3 year entry level contract with the Isles on Thursday. Coincidentally enough today is Bailey's 19th birthday. We wish Joshua the best as he makes the leap from amateur player to pro now.

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Too Much Thinking?

We're back from Nassau Coliseum for what was the first (and last) preseason game of the year in that building. The Islanders took on their other area rivals, the New Jersey Devils. After lots of talk about good team chemistry, "overspeed," new systems, and general love, peace, and harmony, we were eager to see the product hit the home ice. Well, you know we don't pull our punches here at Okposo Net, and by the end of the game our hand-written notes contained three bold letters scribbled on the bottom: SOI. Same Old Islanders.

Speaking of punches, they were certainly flying early. The sparse crowd of 9,701 (most dressed as seats) witnessed more fights in the first period than they did all of last season. Okay, perhaps we exaggerate a bit, but the pugilism enthusiasts amongst them were treated to three (3) separate bouts of flying fists. The Devils' Bryce Salvador tangled with bruiser Brandon Sugden, soon followed by a Tim Jackman/Sheldon Brookbank tilt. The fight card continued after New Jersey winger Mike Rupp dumped our man Kyle near the benches, but found out that every action has an equal and opposite (and quite possibly painful) reaction courtesy of big Mitch Fritz. Somewhat lost in this was a horrendous communication breakdown between defenseman Jack Hillen and goalie Joey MacDonald in their own end which led to an unassisted, shorthanded Zach Parise goal that gave NJ a 1-0 lead. Had Vice Presidential candidate Joe Biden been there to see the own-end shenanigans he would have surely commented, "That's not change, that's more of the same."

Fast forwarding, when the dust settled the final result was 3-0 Devils. To be fair, though, the scene wasn't all bleak, it just felt that way. Despite only generating 16 shots on Marty Brodeur, the Islanders limited the opponents to 22. Right from the start we noticed that this Isles squad was more readily giving up their bodies on defense than last year's version, and on offense they were moving their feet better. Unfortunately, the problem of not creating traffic and screens in front of the opposing crease has not been rectified. And once again the power play was powerless, netting nothing in four tries. These areas are going to need major amounts of work if the Isles hope to improve last year's dreadful offensive numbers.

Coach Scott Gordon had a few things to say after the whitewashing, explaining that the team is still in a learning phase, but he praised the work of his defense. He felt the team played tentatively in the Devils' zone, and feels that his playmakers, Kyle especially, need to shoot more.

Kyle acknowledged this point when we finally met up with him in the locker room, saying that he made some poor decisions with the puck and needs to think less and just shoot. Linemate Mike Comrie echoed this sentiment as well, stating that Kyle is quick, big, and strong and thinks that it'll just take some more repetition before the goals start flowing.

Their next chance will come on Friday (10/3), this time on the road against New Jersey.

Bettman: Lighthouse Progressing

As we wait for the start of the real hockey season, Gary Bettman spent a few minutes earlier this morning talking with Boomer Esiason and Craig Carton on WFAN. I know, I'm as shocked as you that there was actual hockey talk on the FAN.

In any case, Boomer asked Bettman about the current situation of the Isles. Bettman praised Charles Wang's ownership and noted that fans shouldn't worry about the team as long as the Lighthouse project is approved, and he mentioned that the town and the team are progressing well. But he made sure to mention that the Isles very much need a new or renovated arena soon.

Now, what Bettman said is probably no surprise to most Isles fans, but it underscores what needs to happen to keep the Islanders on Long Island. With the Atlantic Yards facility in Brooklyn looking very unlikely right now, the Lighthouse project would appear to be the last opportunity for the Isles. Should the town of Hempstead kill the project (and assuming the rumor of Pilgrim State in Suffolk as an alternate site is merely a rumor), the great likelihood would be that the Islanders would move into a lame duck format until out-of-town ownership purchases the team and moves it off the Island.

The Lighthouse project and the progression of the youth will be the two main storylines as the Isles open up their 2008-09 season next week. While no one expects the Isles to contend for a playoff spot, many fans will be content if new coach Scott Gordon can turn the young Islanders into a potent force by the end of the season. And if the Isles can get the Lighthouse approved, then in spite of what is almost sure to be a terrible record, it will be a productive year for the Islanders franchise.