Hide the women and children- this one was ugly

As I drove through midtown on my trek from New Jersey to Uniondale tonight I had Bush and Sponge blaring in my car. There aren't many other places I want to be on a Saturday night than the Coliseum for an Islander game. So as I deftly avoided brave traffic crossing pedestrians (including Ranger and Leaf fans on the way to the garden in Manhattan), I was about as happy as I generally get. Little did I know that I would be equally somber about 3 hours later.

If you were fortunate enough to miss tonight's game, here's a quick recap. The Isles lost 8-3 to the Canes in a game that wasn't even that close. For those of us who were wondering, the week long delay from their last game did not work in their favor. Campoli took an unnecessary 2 minute delay of game call that led to a Cane goal in the first. DiPietro coughed up the puck behind the net which cost the Isles a goal, also in the first. The Isles were getting beat to pucks, and allowed Cane forwards to march straight up the middle of the ice, which left DP, and subsequently Dubie nearly helpless. DP got benched for Dubie, and Nolan shuffled all lines save for Vasicek's. Brind'Amor had a hat trick, and the police on hand for Law Enforcement Night were able to prevent any Islander fans from attempting to jump from the rafters.

I've always wondered what beat writers ask goalies like DP after games like this. And tonight, I found out. One beat writer (I am unsure of his identity, although I think he may have been filling in for Logan at Newsday) asked the first question of DP. "What happened?" to which Rick responded "what do you mean 'what happened'?", to which the beat writer simply stated "the game". This little exchange might have been amusing under different circumstances.

DP, Guerin, and Sillinger were presented to the press and none gave excuses, even after they were asked several times about the extensive time off between games. Guerin did indicate that they lost the game due to mental errors, not physical shortcomings, implying that a lack of rest was clearly not at fault here. Coach Nolan (and I'm paraphrasing here) stated that that a week off from hockey can either work for you, or against you, and that tonight it worked against them. He also mentioned that extended time off is never good for a goalie. Unfortunately for Rick, he got more time off during tonight's game.

The Isles are professionals after all, though, and they know better than anyone that you just have to put these games behind you and forget them. Rick is one of the elite goalies in the league, and even the elites have their nights.

Its 76 degrees out and the Isles are not playing hockey

And no, its not July.

There's an article in today's NY Times suggesting that this October may go on to be one of the warmest on record in NY. October temps typically range from the 40's though 60's and on October 22, we reached 76 degrees. Although such a meteorological anomaly is attributed to a quirk in the northern jet stream, it assuredly is a story that Al Gore will enjoy. For hockey fans however, it typically means horrendous ice conditions, which we have seen.

Myself and another fellow Islander fan co-worker treated ourselves on Monday by going to the NHL.com and examining league statistics (I recommend any Islander fan do the same as its quite enjoyable). The Isles are first in the league in PP% and second in PK%. Coach Nolan is directing much credit to assistant coaches Gerard Gallant and John Chabot for preparing the special teams so well in camp. Although its early, it is very encouraging to see so many new faces (especially on the power play) gelling so well, so quickly. Lets hope that the PP can continue to succeed in the absence of Bryan Berard (groin 2-4 weeks). I gather this will be Bergeron's opportunity to get out of Chateau Bow Bow (I have no idea if that is spelled correctly).

Greg Logan is reporting in his blog that Montreal may be offering Alexei Kovalev for Satan. Thanks, but no thanks, Habs. I think Kovalev is a little past his prime and that Satan will improve with Bergenheim on his line now. Plus, I have a suspicion that Alexei wouldn't fit here. No need to screw with the team chemistry for this trade.

Have a good week, and if you're like me, you can't wait for colder weather and Islander hockey.

Quick Notes on the Caps Game

I'm heading off to York PA this weekend so I wanted to post something before I hit the road.

Obviously much credit is to be given to Guerin, and it is well deserved. If you watched last night's skate, however, you know what an amazing game Campoli played. Four assists on offense, drawing penalties, and doing so many little things right. The local papers don't mention him today, but he is do praise. And of course, DP helped us weather the Cap onslaught and give us a chance to win.

A plea to James Dolan- can you give the Devils a shot on the TV guide channel? Admittedly, we don't have the biggest fan base in the metro area, but we don't have the smallest either. At least mix it up a little.

As I head out on my long journey tonight, I can smile thinking of the Isles performance before the Congressional Subcommittee on Line changes and Surprise 4th line forwards.

It feels nice to win in DC again.

I'm Christie Brinkley and I'm an Islander

Seeing as Islander hockey has disappeared for a few days, I've found myself periodically staring at the Islander 07- 08 magnetic schedule provided on opening night by the good folks at Global Real Estate Services. And what a strange schedule it is. The Isles have only 3 games on tap from the period of October 13th through the 31st. For enjoying such a relaxing October they are punished by 13 (by my count) pairs of back to back games commencing in November. If the thought of that doesn't get you exhausted consider the final 8 games of the year are against Atlantic Division rivals. Of course, the season closes with a home and home against the Rangers. These guys will need a rest at season's end, but hopefully it will be a brief one before the start of playoff hockey.

As a fan of any contact sport, you know injuries are part of the game. You grow to expect them. What you don't expect, however, is to lose your first UFA signing of the Summer for the whole season after an injury sustained on opening night. While I still do not understand the cause of the injury (there have been rumors that it had existed previously in a lesser form and that poor ice conditions may have done him in, or perhaps that he simply sustained damaging contact to his knee), it is very deflating news. He had 17 goals with Atlanta last season and many were hopeful that under Coach Nolan he could have achieved more. Plus, I thought he was a good fit with Hunter and Sillinger, who now find themselves with a familiar winger in Hilbert. Not being able to see the potential that GM Garth Snow saw in Sim will bother me this year.

I think the line combinations as they were played in Philly are about right given the players we currently have healthy and playing. Again, I like Hilbert on the third line with his old line mates while Vasicek, Satan and Bergenheim can concentrate on scoring. And speaking of this line, Miro has to start lighting the lamp soon as I just can't see the Isles excelling without a guy like him contributing offensively. A lot happened this Summer and many fans, myself included, made the argument that we made some serious headway in gaining back much of the scoring we lost on 7/1 (111 goals by Greg Logan's count in Newsday). Remember though, we made the playoffs by the slimmest of margins last year. Just getting back to last year's scoring level is not enough. I truly think we can play better defensively, that Nolan now enjoys an improved understanding of this team, and that the chemistry of the Isles is vastly improved. And that is all very encouraging. That said, however, if our goal scorers don't score, we're in for a long season.

Apologies for the misleading subject, and thanks for reading.

Why I'll never be an NHL Coach

I would have sat Bergeron and played Bootland tonight. Its that simple. Figuring on a typical restive Isle-Ranger affair I would have thought we needed Bootland's muscle against Holweg and company. After all, we were fortunate enough to interview Darryl after the loss to the Caps on Monday and he was itchin to get into this game. You can tell the guy loves to fight, and seeing as his right arm resembles my left leg in size, he seemed like a sure thing to skate tonight. Of course had I been coach, we very well may have lost this game.

I thought Berard was a little rusty in his own end but hey, he scored in his first game back against the blueshirts! And besides, we knew when we signed him we weren't getting the guy for his plus minus ratio, but rather to play Chad Pennington on our man advantage situations. I do hope he succeeds for us this year but add him to the growing list of players who will become UFA's next summer.

Did Jaromir Jagr play tonight? Tough to tell. Witt did that good of a job being all over him.

An obvious suggestion to the Rangers would be that they consider improving their their 0 for 14 season power play conversion percentage if they plan on applying for that parade permit in June.

On a final note, my DVR lost the final two minutes of the game, so if there were any ice girl incidents or goalie fights, by all means, drop me a line.

Great game Isles, great game DP.

And now, its time for a little celebratory Halo 3, followed by sleep.

The NHL from behind the Scenes

Typically, I would talk about the results of the Islander home opener and provide some analysis. However, from a fan's perspective, there is a bigger story here. As we are are the initial Islander blog box writers we were all given press passes to cover the game. The passes gave us unprecedented access to the players, Islander Management, and beat writers along with a trip to the Isles locker room immediately after the game. From the perspective of a fan, the atmosphere was intoxicating, and I want to do my best to convey the experience.

First, the seating. Upon entering the arena via the media entrance, we were directed to a large table directly behind the seats in section 201. Media guides were given to all. Tall wooden chairs were provided which were similar to bar stools. Mine was precariously placed about 2 inches away from the edge of the elevated platform upon which our table was situated. One sudden move on my part and I could have been blogging from a hospital. The view, however, from this vantage point was wonderful and vastly improved from the one I would typically be able to enjoy.

I'm going to skip immediately to the end of the game as this is where the experience really gets interesting. After the final horn cemented an Islander win, we were escorted to the Islander locker room area by a woman from the Islander staff. As thousands of fans make the slow pilgrimage out of the arena like salmon we were in the unfamiliar position of going against the tide. A line of twelve bloggers with press passes attached to their necks by strings snaked its way through a third of the coliseum to finally arrive near the locker room. Islander Media Relations VP Chris Botta directed us to the room where press conferences are held.

The room may have been a converted locker room facility. Countless blue and black wires likely used by TV and media personnel lay unused in a corner of the room, and many of us joked about the fire hazard this possibly presented. There was a podium, where Ted was to speak, and behind it hung a blue curtain with the Islander crest and the Allstate symbol placed symmetrically across it. The curtain was taped to a wall with black electrical tape and was almost imperceptibly uneven.

Chris Botta brought in Chris Campoli for us to interview. He stood, facing 12 bloggers while wearing blue sweats, a blue long sleeved athletic shirt, and porous black moccasins. After overcoming initial reticence, we began asking him questions about the seemingly continuous poor treatment of the team from referees, his perspective on the new jerseys, his thoughts about the uncertainty of Berard hanging over a seemingly cohesive team, and his confidence looking ahead to the rest of the season after already contributing so much offensively in the first 2 games.

In short, he said he likes the new jerseys and thus far has not needed to change during games, that Berard is still unsigned and in any event he simply gets paid to play the game and that was what he was going to continue to do, and he deftly avoiding getting himself into any trouble with the league by stating "not every call is going to go your way, and tonight none went our way. That's just the way it works". He further added that the Isles took some undisciplined penalties and frankly have to play smarter in the future. As far as his outlook toward the rest of the season (considering his great offensive showing thus far) he indicated that he wants to continue to create odd man rushes and get involved in the offense without putting his defensive responsibilities at risk. Over all, Chris was affable, and accommodating.

Although we did not have an opportunity to interview Ted Nolan, we were allowed to sit in on his press conference. (The whole conference can be viewed on IslanderTV). The tone and volume of the words spoken between Ted Nolan and the Isle beat writers are similar to that which can be heard at a funeral. The grave air that pervades these conferences cannot be appreciated by watching them on television.

Its hard to convey everything that was going on around us during this time near the locker room. Islander players walking towards the showers wearing only a towel and joking "there's no women in there, right?", Rick DiPietro working on an exercise bike only 6 feet from us as equipment men from both squads carried out heavy bags of sticks, forcing us to stand virtually flat against the wall. We saw Vasicek, Dubielewicz, MAB, Sutton, Martinek, and Comrie all dressed impeccably in pinstripe suits and sport jackets as they left the dressing room. Perhaps the most memorable, however, was seeing Bredan Witt carrying his daughter while leaving the arena with his family. How effortlessly he made the transition from NHL tough man to father.

As we were getting ready to leave, Chris Botta introduced us to Islander correspondent Deb Kaufman, who was extremely gracious. She greeted us like an aunt who you only see on Christmas; she somehow conveyed that familiarity to all of us.

We received unprecedented access tonight to an NHL game from behind the scenes. It was an experience that every hockey fan should be fortunate to have. That being said, its now time to get back to the task at hand of giving the readers of our blogs an inside look into the happenings of our team.

Season Opener- Isles win in a Barnburner

Well, if you were looking for a little old school NJ Devil type trap hockey, this was not the game for you.

My thoughts:

Play of the Game- for me, it's DP's highlight reel save in the first few minutes of period 1 stealing a goal from Vanek and additional momentum from the Sabres. Had Vanek scored there, who knows if we come back and win that game. Its often taken for granted, but we are very lucky to have 39 in our crease.

Ten Points for our number one line! Loved Comrie's play and two goals, especially the breakaway in the second. He played with a strong determination to find the net. As for his line mates, Tank was outstanding with a goal and 2 assists and Guerin with 3 assists. Did Nolan not feed these guys for a week? It gives us a lot to be excited about when our top line produces so well so early.

Sutton made some mistakes tonight, getting beat to pucks, being out of position and going to the box with about 3 minutes left in the 3rd. Its our first night, and I'm sure he'll get where he has to be. Plus he did deliver a couple strong hits.

Brendan Witt- what can you say about his guy except that he earns his paycheck. He is continuing where he left off last year by blocking shots, while agitating many he encounters. Our best D-man tonight.

Liked the play of Vasicek's line, although I feel as if it would have been much more of an offensive threat with Tambellini in there. I know Nolan wants Hilbert's defensive abilities but I felt the lack of a stronger scoring threat from left wing hurt the line.

Power play- I'm just postulating here, so bear with me, but if the Isles continue this 75% power play percentage I think we may just surprise some people this year. All kidding aside, I am thoroughly taken aback that this power play performed so well in the first night of the season.
Power play chemistry takes time, and constant re-working. Credit is due to the coaching staff and the players for having the special teams at the level they were at tonight.

Final thoughts- as a fan you have to be very happy that so many of our new faces got involved in a big team win tonight. There already seems to be notable chemistry and grit for a team that came back on the road and beat the Sabres in front of a raucous opening night crowd. Its very early, but if last night was any indication of this season, we just may surprise again.

And for words I've been waiting to say all year, I'll see you at the opener tonight!