Friday, March 26, 2010

Isles Work for a Win

"We worked our *** off." That was how Kyle Okposo succinctly explained the difference between the previous night's 5-0 drubbing at the hands of the New York Rangers and a 3-2 comeback win over Calgary on Thursday (3/25).

Tim Jackman, surprised that the always collected Okposo used profanity, interrupted a fun interview to chime in. "We killed [penalties]."

Ah, yes. The penalties. In another un-Okposo-like move, Kyle took three two minute penalties, including an unsportsmanlike conduct infraction. But as Jackman alluded to, the team was not harmed on the scoreboard by any of them, and afterward Kyle expressed regret that he hadn't handled each situation a bit better.

Kyle did come through with an assist, netting his 45th point of the season. That occurred on Matt Moulson's 27th goal of the year, which knotted the score at 2-2. Bruno Gervais blasted the game winner past Flames goalie Miikka Kiprusoff at 11:31 of the third period.

And that was all she wrote. For the Islanders the win didn't mean much in the standings as they still hold, albeit tenuously, 28th place overall in the league. A finish in that spot could mean a big-time player come June's entry draft. But there is no sign that any Islanders player is thinking about that, and even if they are it would never be admitted publicly.

As for the Flames, the loss was potentially crushing. They are currently fighting for their playoff lives in the 9th spot in the Western Conference, but now lose ground to idle Detroit, 4 points ahead. Calgary has 8 games left in their season to try to crash the playoff party.

On a happier note for southern Alberta hockey fans, Eric Nystrom, son of Islanders hockey legend Bob, scored his first goal on Long Island soil. The local media granted Eric the 2nd star of the game despite the outcome. Congratulations to Eric and the Nystrom family on this accomplishment.

The Islanders, meanwhile, are off to Columbus for a Saturday (3/27) night tilt. We at Okposo Net are off to Japan on Monday (3/29) morning, so we apologize for the coming lapse in coverage. We'll be back in time for the final game of the year on April 11th, but will probably be too tired to write anything coherent. See you in the off-season!

Monday, March 15, 2010

Sean Bergenheim Likes Fast Cars

And now for something completely different...

While we like to focus most of our time extolling the virtues of Kyle Okposo, when covering a professional team you often acquire some information that you're not quite sure what to do with. Such an experience happened to this author twice on Sunday while we were loitering in the players' dressing room. Rather than just keeping these tidbits to ourselves, we figured we'd share them with the world. There aren't too many human interest stories floating around the Islanders of late, so here's a little insight into the lives of two of the friendliest men on the team. We realize this might not be for everyone, so please excuse us this time for going a bit off course, if you will.

Sean Bergenheim, being of Finnish nationality, loves car racing. It's in the Finn's blood, apparently. According to television spectator figures, Formula 1 is the most popular sport in his homeland. Over 20% of the Finnish population (5+ million) watch the races on TV.

Knowing that, we asked Sean about his particular love for Formula 1 and about his F1 driving experience a few years ago.

Our chat began very simply just by asking him who he was a fan of, Kimi Raikkonen or Heikki Kovalainen. Formula 1 fans will recognize the names, but basically they are the two most prominent Finns in racing today. He stated in no uncertain terms that he was a Kimi fan but reminded me that "The Kimster" is not competing in F1 this season.

With that in mind, we asked him if he would transfer his allegiance to his other countryman, Kovalainen, this year. Apparently not, saying he would likely root for Nico Rosberg, a young German driver whom he mentioned is part Finnish. Alas, this author had overlooked the Finnish connection in Rosberg, whose father we quickly recalled was the famous former champion Keke Rosberg.

Sean went on to tell us that he did not like the direction F1 is currently going (though he didn't elaborate) and mentioned a few drivers he disliked. He also said he would root for recently unretired 7-time champion Michael Schumacher just for nostalgic reasons and the fact that he likes Team Mercedes (Schumacher's current racing team).

Asked if he had seen this weekend's race (he had not), we offered one more driver for him to consider, Sebastian Vettel. Sean believed that Vettel is an up-and-coming personality in his sport (much in the way Islanders fans consider 'Bergie'). He agreed and told me he liked Mr. Vettel very much.

Finally, we knew Sean had driven an F1 car in the past (not competitively, of course), and we erroneously thought it was Kimi Raikkonen's. It turned out to be Mika Salo's, a name this author was somewhat unfamiliar with. He told us of Salo's love for hockey, which was a further connection between the two men.

Sean's opinions were nice to hear, he was overly pleasant, and it was refreshing to have a player speak passionately on a subject completely unrelated to professional hockey.

On the same night, we also had a few minutes alone with Matt Martin. Not the similarly-named car driver, but this guy. Have a good look at that picture, because the hair is now gone. He told us he had shaved his head for St. Baldrick's Day, a terrific cause.

Unfortunately, almost everyone has had a family member touched by cancer, and we urge you to take a look at their website to see if you can join in their fight. This is the site, and we thanked Matt for his effort. We wished the 20 year-old the best of luck and success in the future.

Saturday, March 6, 2010

Season Slipping Away

The title of the post is misleading. The season, at least with respect to making the playoffs, has probably already slipped away. The Isles dropped another game on Saturday afternoon, this time 3-2 to the Boston Bruins. The team's record stands at 26-31-8, fourth from the league's bottom.

What's worse, players who had been scoring at regular intervals have suddenly found themselves unable to put anything past opposing goaltenders. We don't know if it's fatigue, inexperience, or some unknown influence, but John Tavares hasn't lit the lamp in 18 games. Kyle Okposo, the team leader in points, has a single goal in his last twelve. Matt Moulson, who netted a puck on Saturday, had been held to just a solitary goal in his prior seven contests. A similar statement could be said for Josh Bailey in his last nine.

Compound that with this team's injuries on defense and an unsettled goaltending situation, and it spells unhappiness. That was palpable from both losing goalie Dwayne Roloson and the coach, Scott Gordon, after the game. Both men opined that the team is not where it should be considering the style of successful hockey they had been playing earlier this calendar year.

Gordon blamed mental mistakes and said he had addressed his concerns to the team. But after banking a power play goal earlier in the game, the team failed to score on a 5 minute major triggered by a check from behind on Blake Comeau. Failing to capitalize on breaks and not creating chances have spelled doom for the Isles all season long.

While the record indicates a better record than last season, it still feels as if this team is on a never-ending tape loop of last season's "highlights." Let's hope that something changes for the positive soon.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Isles Scalp Blackhawks As Season Resumes

Tuesday (3/2) night was kind of a coming out party for Blake Comeau. He had been warming up as the Isles went into the Olympic break, with 3 goals in a two game span, but now really made his presence felt in a 5-3 win over Chicago.

The game started off in typical fashion, as the Blackhawks star-laden squad outworked and out shot the Isles by a 22-9 margin and a 2-1 goal difference. Comeau netted his first goal of the night at 12:16 to briefly tie the game, but nobody felt as if the Isles would be able to stay with Chicago, if judging by the first 20 minutes alone.

In the second frame it all changed. While Dwayne Roloson, the subject of trade rumors, made some nifty saves against Chicago's skilled forwards, scrappers like Comeau, Richard Park, and Jon Sim decided to go to work. Comeau once again supplied an equalizer at 2:27, then Jon Sim banked one past Antti Niemi 25 seconds later to put New York ahead.

Niemi was pulled after the Sim goal in favor of Cristobal Huet, but the barrage continued. Richard Park blasted a puck past Huet to put the Isles up 4-2, and Comeau sent the crowd into a frenzy with his hat trick goal at 19:42.

Instead of hats flying on the ice, hundreds of stuffed toys rained down on the Nassau Coliseum ice and delayed the game a bit. Apparently, it was a promotional giveaway evening, so while crews scrambled to clear the playing surface it gave Blake a little more time to soak the moment in.

"It's the best I've felt in a while," said Comeau, speaking of his hat trick after the game. "It felt awesome."

The four goal period felt great for the fans too, as they saw the Islanders lead 5-2 after two periods.

Chicago netted a mostly insignificant goal in the third period to complete the scoring, and the Isles skated away with a 5-3 win.

While Tuesday's win was important, Wednesday may prove to be an even bigger day for the Islanders. As most of you know, the NHL trading deadline occurs at 3 PM Eastern time, and it remains to be seen how General Manager Garth Snow will possibly reshape his team.

We at Okposo Net will be monitoring TSN's TradeCentre all day, and if any Isles-related news breaks we will post it immediately. We'll spare you the rumor-mongering that other sites dabble in and bring you the facts. So please make us part of your daily reading tomorrow afternoon and evening. Thank you as always.

Traded: Andy Sutton

Word has come in that soon-to-be 35 year old defenseman Andy Sutton has been traded. The Islanders will receive a second round draft pick in the 2010 NHL Entry Draft. While Sutton goes to the Ottawa Senators and a likely appearance in the playoffs, the Islanders will get a pick that had previously belonged to San Jose.

Dustin Kohn has been recalled from Bridgeport to replace Sutton on the blueline tonight.

And We're Back!

Hockey returns to the New York metropolitan area tonight as the Isles take on the Second City's Blackhawks. We're also just a day away from the trading deadline (3/3 at 3 PM), with rumors circulating around several current members of the Isles.

We also haven't forgotten about our promise to being you our own analysis of how the Isles need to be shaped (or re-shaped) going into the offseason. We just figured it would be a more prudent move to deliver that *after* Wednesday's trading deadline moves have been completed.

We're glad to be back, we thoroughly enjoyed the Winter Olympics hockey and pagentry, and now we're hoping the Isles will finish strong. Without further distractions, Let's Go Islanders!