Sunday, February 24, 2013

What More Can I Say?

In the six seasons that I have covered this team, I feel as if have written this post over and over. Nothing ever changes.

Whether it was Ted Nolan, Scott Gordon, or current Head Coach Jack Capuano, we fans and media were led to believe that the New York Islanders have the talent to win, it just needs to come together.

The fact of the matter is that the Islanders have some talent, but they have almost no depth, and are the only team I know of that have only two, maybe three (if you count Michael Grabner), dependable scorers.

Folks, John Tavares and Matt Moulson aren't going to do it alone. Something needs to change.

The record is skipping, and nobody is willing to pick up the needle.

The Islanders are funny. They tease you. They play well on the road; they are lost at home. How can you expect your fans to come out, support you, and create an atmosphere of formidability if you never provide anything to attract them with?

This year's team is 2-7 on home ice. Both Capuano and Tavares told me tonight they can't figure out why. Just over 10,000 fans trekked through the turnstiles on a Sunday night to see this product. No members of the Blog Box besides myself bothered to suffer through another blown lead (4-2 to Carolina).

I don't know what is going to change this cycle that the Islanders are perpetually stuck in. A new head coach? General Manager? Team owner? The move to Brooklyn?

I can't put all the blame on Capuano. However he did tell us after the game that his squad was "lazy" and there were "passengers." But he has been trotting out this line for weeks. Why hasn't it been corrected?

It is inexplicable how players like Kyle Okposo, Mark Streit, Keith Aucoin (recently), Marty Reasoner, and so on can just disappear for stretches of games. Even worse, they're out of the locker room before the media even gets inside.

At least face the music, guys.

Something is going to change, I can tell you that much. It will probably be Jack Capuano's head that gets the proverbial axe. Doug Weight will most likely take over in an interim basis, perhaps eventually permanently. He's a fiery guy, from what we've seen, but honestly, I'm not sure Scotty Bowman could get these guys going right now.

Twenty minute stretches of quality hockey don't win games. They certainly don't get teams into the playoffs. And right now, in their current state, the Islanders aren't doing either.

News and Notes:

- John Tavares scored his league-leading 13th goal in the opening period. Linemate Matt Moulson netted his tenth of the season.

- Kevin Poulin made his season debut for the Islanders, performing ably in the loss. He made some terrific saves throughout, stopping 24 Hurricane shots.

- Trenton, New Jersey native Bobby Sanguinetti scored his first National Hockey League goal at 10:17 of the third period. It proved to be the game winner.

- Kyle Okposo played 13:13 and recorded three shots on goal. He has one lone goal in 19 games this season.

Thursday, February 14, 2013

It's Gotta Be The...Hair?

The Islanders came back from a two goal deficit to win in Madison Square Garden on Thursday (2/14) night 4-3 (SO). John Tavares scored the game tying goal, but more importantly sealed the victory with his shootout winner.

Now some of you will be looking for hard hitting analysis or biting commentary, but hey, this is a blog. And while they may drive us all crazy, if we're not having fun with this team, then we're doing something wrong.

So just as Mars Blackmon suggested it was the shoes for Michael Jordan (see below) back in the ''s gotta be the hair, right?

Tavares = winner. (Special thanks to Alan Hahn (@alanhahn) for the screencap).

P.S. For you non-kids out there...remember when? (The Isles were good back then too).

Monday, February 11, 2013

The Song Remains The Same

The New York Islanders' season is one quarter over, and after another loss, this time to Carolina on Monday (2/11) night, the song remains the same.

The Islanders scored four power play goals and they still lost, 6-4. Rick DiPietro started in place of the workman-like Evegeni Nabokov, but the change didn't alter the team's woeful luck. They have lost five games in a row, and the seat is getting hotter for Head Coach Jack Capuano.

Kyle Okopso has had scoring chance after scoring chance but can't seem to find the net. He's stuck on four points for the season.

Despite the addition of Lubomir Visnovsky, who scored his first goal as an Islander against Carolina goalie Cam Ward, the defense is thin. Probably more than thin, in fact. I'd call them weak.

John Tavares netted another goal, but he and Matt Moulson can't be the entire offense. On most nights, sadly, they have been.

The Islanders are following the path they seem to take every season: come out of the gate hot, get the fans excited, and suddenly go into a tailspin.

The talk of the playoffs has been muted now that the Islanders have fallen very near the bottom of the Eastern Conference standings. Unfortunately for me, this is the sixth time I've written this sentiment since I began my stint in the Blog Box.

Honestly, I don't know what to change. It seems that something different fails in each loss, whether it's the defense, the power play, or (rarely this season) the goaltending.

You're all familiar with the old adage "You can't fire the players." In his post game press conference, Capuano said some players looked "soft" to him. He continues to say he needs all 20 guys to work hard each night in order to win.

Hopefully Jack can figure out how to right the ship. He has tried line changes without much productivity. If he can't unfortunately it will be Jack who pays the price with his job.

Thursday, February 7, 2013

Litmus Test

On Thursday (2/7) night we'll learn a little more about the New York Islanders, as they take on the New York Rangers for the first time this season.

The game will be played in Madison Square Garden, which hasn't exactly been kind to them in recent times. The Blue and Orange have lost eight in a row in that building.

The Rangers, who were picked by many before the season began as favorites to win the Eastern Conference, find themselves in the somewhat surprising position of looking up at the Islanders in the standings. The Blueshirts have opened their campaign with a 4-5-0 record, notching one fewer point than the team from Uniondale.

Both teams have been slumping offensively as of late. The Rangers are averaging a meager 2.2 goals per game so far this season. The Islanders haven't converted a power play chance in 14 tries, dropping their two most recent games.

I would expect the starting goalies to be Henrik Lundqvist and Evgeni Nabokov.

Of note, Kyle Okposo is four points shy of 100 for his career. Rangers star Marian Gaborik has lit up the Isles for 28 points over their last 18 meetings. Lastly, defenseman Lubomir Visnovsky should arrive and begin skating with the Islanders, who should benefit from his presence when he's ready to join the action.

The game should give fans a fair accounting of where the Islanders stand going forward, and a look at how much (or not) they have really progressed.

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Introducing: Casey Cizikas

One of the noticeable differences from last season's Islanders to this current one is the energy they have brought to the rink on most nights.  Leading the way has been young center Casey Cizikas, who I was fortunate enough to have seen drafted in person (2009).

I had a few moments after Tuesday (2/5) night's 4-2 loss to Pittsburgh to chat with Casey. I appreciate him providing me some post-game time, and we touched on a few aspects of his young career.

Having scored his first goal exactly one week earlier (1/29) against the same Pittsburgh team, he stressed several times how fortunate he felt to be playing in the National Hockey at this point in his career.

Cizikas defined his role, other than being a ball of energy on the ice, as one not of finesse but rather physical strength, hard work, and going hard to the net at every chance. He stressed that he needed to take the body, keep moving on the ice, and finish his checks. "That's my role here," he summarized fairly confidently.

He wished to emphasize the faith and commitment that the Islanders have shown in him throughout his career, from draft day until now. He mentioned many coaches and mentors specifically, including his former minor hockey coach, Ontario Hockey League coach, (former Islander) Eric Cairns, Bridgeport head coach Matt Bertani, and of course Islanders head coach Jack Capuano.

Casey added, "I'm lucky to be here. I'm not going to take anything for granted." He continued, "There are a lot of guys in Bridgeport (the Islanders' American Hockey League affiliate) that could be in the position I'm in right now."

Though he was drafted 91 spots below John Tavares in Montreal, he said the organization that gave him his chance to become an NHLer means everything to him.

"They stuck by me my whole career," he said. "I've got to go out and battle every night. They gave me a opportunity."

Getting back to that first goal, he said it was something kids dream about. He'll remember it along with his first NHL game for the rest of his life, as anyone would expect.

Unfortunately, he doesn't have that first goal puck in his possession and doesn't know where it is. He said he's not worried about it, but come on, whoever has the puck needs to get it to him ASAP!

"It may have taken me twenty games to get it but it was definitely an exciting moment," coolly describing his accomplishment.

Let's hope it doesn't take twenty more games to get that disc back in the hands of the Toronto native.

As for closing thoughts, I can only say that he so far has lived up to the things he told me. He's hard hitting, high energy, with a nose for the puck. Nobody is going to confuse him with Matt Moulson or John Tavares on the score sheet, but I can see him playing a vital role on this year's team and into the future. He's a humble kid with a handshake like a bear. He's only 21 but wears several scars on his face from his rugged style of play.

"I'm going to try make it hard on the [Islanders] coaching staff to take me out [of the lineup]."

If he continues at his current pace, it won't even be an issue.

You can follow Casey Cizikas on Twitter at @zeeker11 and the author at @RealKenDick.