Tuesday, March 25, 2008
Scouting The Enemy
Ok, now I detailed my surroundings, let me get on to the game itself, the Isles 4-1 win over Pittsburgh. I shot all of the pictures in this post from the blog box, sorry about the quality. I also am apologizing ahead of time about the scatterbrained ramblings forthwith, some were typed during the game, others hours later but it is mostly in chronological order from the time the thoughts popped into my head. Scary ...
*How in the world does Billy Joel have a banner in the rafters both here and in the Garden?? Actually it makes more sense here, but that just isn't right. He is no Pat LaFontaine ... or even Pat Flatley for that matter. The guy doesn't play defense, he plays a piano.
*I've said it before that Richard Park is the one Islander who I can honestly appreciate and he came through for on this evening, scoring a shorthanded goal to open the scoring. The very smart and soon-to-be-tremendous-pain-in-the-ass for the Rangers Kyle Okposo set it up with a smart pass off of the boards.
*The Isles are trying to cash in on Okposo by selling player tees. This is a rookie who just made it up to the team. The odds of him keeping the number for next season are slim to none, but if people are willing to pay ... I guess they will just buy a new one then .... hmmm, maybe that is the whole point ... interesting - seems like something the money-loving Rangers would do, not that of a team desperate for fans. Although I must say that there was a good crowd for a Monday night, the day after the Isles were eliminated from the playoffs.
*Okposo clearly has skills, but some of the Islander fans were already handing him the keys to the franchise, hailing him as the second coming of Mike Bossy. Relax people, I know that there hasn't been a hot shot forward prospect like him in a while but he is just a kid who has done nothing except drop out of school, bad mouthing one of the more respected NCAA coaches along the way.
*One thing I will say, the house announcer needs work, as "Ryan Sykora" scored the first goal for the Pens. Petr, actually, made one of his classic quick wristers to find the upper corner to tie the game at one.
*Isles defenseman Matthew Spiller may prove to be someone to watch, and not in the usual car wreck kind of way. Spiller, 6'5 233, stood his ground when challenged by Georges Laraque and has the potential to be a Chara-clone. Right now it is only potential, but we shall see. In terms of the Rangers, he could prove problematic if he starts taking liberties with Shanny or Dawsie.
*While it is difficult to judge the Pens power play with Cindy sitting out, the Isles shouldn't be much of a problem for the Rangers killers. For some reason they have Miro Satan at the point and keep Bill Guerin on the half boards as triggerman. I could see it working with the veterans' positions reversed, as Guerin has lost something off his wrister, but Satan's shot is still lethal. Of course I said that well before he made a pinpoint shot off the bar to give the Isles a 2-1 second period lead.
*The Penguins defense is immensely beatable. They have Kris Letang paired with Hal Gill in the hopes that the little Letang's speed will prove to be a good match for the lumbering Gill. It also gives you a strong side and a weak side to exploit off of the rush.
*I finally caught a shirt that was shot into the crowd during the first intermission, but as it is the Isles, and I am a good person (contrary to popular belief), I handed it to a kid in the row behind me.
*The Isles publicized their new two year loyalty season ticket plan that I have to say looks phenomenal. You get the first year's cost at a discount and the price remains the same for the second year. They also give free VIP parking. After seeing my tickets go up by several hundred dollars last year and dreading the increase for the year to come, this is really an appealing thing. Too bad the Rangers would never, ever, ever put together a deal like that.
*It took until the second period for the first "If you know the Rangers suck, clap your hands" chant to come out. I am admittedly a little disappointed in that. Maybe I have just gotten used to the incessant 'Potvin Sucks' chants at the Garden. Although they play the "Hey" song after each goal and yell "You Suck" throughout so they still get the word in plenty.
*Jordan Staal is a shadow of the player he was last season. He is tentative with the puck, unsteady at the faceoff dot and doen't use his reach to break up plays the way he did last year. I hope our Staal doesn't have as painful a sophomore slump next season.
*Meanwhile, Sykora took a boarderline penalty and the Islanders capitalized on the power play. Sean Bergenheim knocked in the puck from the doorstep. Bergenheim, a NHL sophomore himself, is one of the few kids on the team who actually looks like an NHL player. Several of them clearly are a ways away if at all - Blake Comeau, Jeff Tambellini, Jeremy Colliton and Steve Regier are all Sound Tigers auditioning for a job. They make a lot of mistakes but could end up being very dangerous against us: they are all trying to avoid returning to the bus league in the fall and doing well against the Rangers is huge in this barn but I wouldn't bet on it. The one kid who will likely stick for them is defenseman Aaron Johnson, who put in a really steady, solid game.
*I mentioned it to a few people at the Garden last week but I will say it again here: Pittsburgh's Tyler Kennedy is definitely a player to watch. The kid hits, has deceptive quickness, goes to the net hard and isn't afraid to shoot. Kennedy may be a fantasy stud in the futures; I picked Phoenix's Danny Carcillo coming into this season and he has worked out ...
*It is impressive that the Pens can put Marian Hossa out on the ice regularly but without Cindy he isn't the threat he was before leaving the pressure-less confines of Atlanta. Hossa and everyone else in white appeared to just be sitting and watching Malkin, waiting for him to do something. If I was a Pittsburgh fan, I would be pretty damn upset that they dealt Colby Armstrong for him. Army's passion was tangible and translated into energetic shifts that pressed the action.
*Trent Hunter, who has been around seemingly forever, scored the Isles fourth goal of the game. Hunter is a really decent lunchpail guy who plays with heart and zero skill. Ty Conklin has been abominable of late and this game was no exception. So Hunter's hard work gets rewarded and the Penguins waddle out of Uniondale with the loss.
So what's the final verdict? The Rangers have scary good talent and should be able to beat any team in the league but, given the current state of the team, they will have some problems with the Isles. Crosby's imminent return will either turn the Pens upside down or provide the spark that will fire them into the playoffs. Either way, the team does have major flaws that a smart, energetic Ranger team can exploit. As for the Isles, even without DP, they will be tough to take on - every team with nothing to lose is - so its best that we beat the Flyers and Devils this week to settle into a playoff spot before we play that home and home in April.