Much Ado About Nothing
Islanders This Week | By Tony Stabile | Islanders Ticket Deals
When two last place teams get together, you expect it to be a sloppy game. But the Islanders, who have lost two of their top offensive players this month, seem to be getting better as time goes on. With the youth movement in full swing, the Islanders (more because of injury than want) fielded seven rookies in their lineup en route to a 4-1 win against the 30th ranked Buffalo Sabres.
The line of Kyle Okposo, Frans Nielsen, and Anders Lee scored two early goals even though the Islanders were shorthanded 3 times in the opening frame. Nielsen buried his 22nd of the season 3:31 into the game and Okposo netted a power play marker at 17:24. Okposo, missing his linemates Thomas Vanek and John Tavares, has been on fire the past four games with two goals and six assists over that span. Anders Lee (who has four multipoint games since his recall), assisted on Nielsen’s goal and continued his case for a top six spot on next year’s team. The unlikely pairing of Visnovsky and Hickey continue to play solid hockey as #11 had three assists and was a +3 on the night, as was his partner who chipped in an assist on Cal Clutterbuck’s empty netter.
Not only has the younger crowd made an impression with the fans, they have with their teammates as well. “Lee’s had a great start to his career, Stromey is a very gifted playmaker, Halmo has provided some grit and energy, and they all are contributing,” Matt Martin told me after the game. “Guys when they come back the second time around they play more composed and play more confident, and when you play relaxed and poised, that’s when you play your best hockey; he doing some really good things,” Jack Capuano said about Ryan Strome during his press conference.
The most telling comments post-game from Jack Capuano were about Kyle Okposo. Responding to a question about Kyle’s play after the loss of Vanek and Tavares, Capuano said “Here’s a guy who a few years ago, you guys weren’t talking about, who the fans were getting on and now the crowd is shouting USA, USA. He’s a great leader, a great person, and he’s working on his game.” Usually Capuano keeps his answers short and sweet, for him to expand on this question shows at least to me the father mentality he has for these guys.
I asked Matt Martin if he felt that with all that has happened this year, are all these young guys now in the room like a bit of fresh air, and I liked his answer. “Well, Yes and no. Obviously we’re not happy with the way things have gone, after last season we were ready to take that next step becoming an elite team, there are no excuses, we expect more of each other. Saying that, with these young guys coming in it’s not a matter of winning or losing, it’s that we play hard and that we look out for each other and with that we’ll have success.”
Martin is not the first player to talk about how this team was ready to take the next step this season. Travis Hamonic, John Tavares, Kyle Okposo, and Andrew MacDonald have all referred to how this team expected to take that next step this season. Now, I know people have talked about the Islanders lack of spending last summer, but the guys in the room are fully behind what the coaching staff and the front office are doing. These guys believe that they are only a piece or two away from being “that” team. Now, the argument could be made that “what are they supposed to say?” Well that’s easy….nothing. When hockey players don’t want to talk about something, you will get the same old cliché answers, I have plenty of recording of players and coaches talking about the same thing night in and out, but the players in the Islanders locker room continue to profess to us (even being in 25th place) that they are not happy with what’s happened this year and they expected MORE from themselves.
It’s my belief that a few additions this summer, along with the likes of Ryan Strome, Anders Lee, and the eventual arrival of Griffin Reinhart, will be the reinforcements needed.
- Just because I don’t want to be accused of not reporting something. Last night, there were Isles writers stationed all around the Coliseum and the Parking Lot waiting and ready to report on the big protest that was supposed to happen during the game. As of 6:20, there was no gathering in the parking lot or the halls of the Coliseum. As for the chants; from the press box, which is admittedly on the other side of the arena from where the chants were coming from, were not readily heard. As the game wore on the chants were less and less frequent. At one point the organizer clearly changed tactics since one chant seemed to be working better than others. After the game, writers again were on the lookout for anything happening; and again nothing. For all that was made about this, it seems that it was a tad overblown. Since last time I checked, protests are supposed to be about making yourselves seen and heard, if there are writers actively looking for your protest and are unable to find it, it isn’t a very good protest. The non-protesting fans seemed to have a great time watching the game. The Coliseum was pretty lively for such an angry fan base.
- The Islanders announced right before game time that they have signed former 3rd round pick Adam Pelech to a 3-year Entry Level Contract. Pelech, who is among the top defense prospects in the Isles organization, is currently playing for the Erie Otters and is 4th among defense scoring in the OHL. He will assuredly be assigned to Bridgeport following the completion of the OHL season.
- Tuesday night I will be co-hosting the new HTW Nightside radio show live from the New York Beer Company in NYC. Paul Cuthbert, Sean Cuthbert, and I will be talking NY hockey from 5:30-7. NHL.com’s Brian Compton, Pro Hockey Talk’s Joe Yerdon, and Kevin Delury from the NYR Blog will be our guests. You can stop on by, or listen live or to the archive at www.htwradio.com.
For Hockey This Week, I’m Tony Stabile