Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Halak Looms Large in Isles 3rd Straight Win Over Rangers

photo by zimbio

Tonight, our Islanders defeated the rival Rangers for the third time this season.  They were victorious by a score of 4-1 in this contest.  Here are some of my notes from the game:

-Although it is very frustrating to not get the shutout, Halak had an excellent game tonight.  He really held the team in the game, especially in the second period.

-Unbelievable skill showed by the team on the first goal, it was truly a treat to watch.

-Another solid game from Josh Bailey who seems like he didn't lose a step during the all-star break.

-While it wasn't a perfect perfromance by any stretch, Brian Strait actually had a decent game.

-The penalty kill fared well tonight, coming up with a few key kills.

You couldn't ask for a much better performance coming out of the break against a division rival than the Islanders gave you tonight.  While they struggled in the second period at times, in the first and third period they were excellent and controlled the play pretty effectively.

Next Game; Thursday @ home vs Boston

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Isles Place Boulton, Okposo on IR

According to reports, the Islanders have placed Kyle Okposo on IR.  This shouldn't come as a surprise as it was announced yesterday that Okposo would miss 6-8 weeks with an upper body injury.  The unexpected news came with Eric Boulton joining Okposo on IR.

It isn't unexpected with Boulton not because he has been such an impact player this season, just that he really hasn't played at all.  This is reminiscent of how Radek Martinek used to get injured.

Boulton has 0 points and just two penalty minutes in 4 games this season.

Pre Game: Rangers @ Islanders

Tonight, our Islanders welcome the rival Rangers to the Coliseum for the first of three meetings in the second half.

The goalie match up tonight features Henrik Lundqvist for the Rangers.  Meanwhile, Jaroslav Halak will be between the pipes for the Islanders.

The Islanders lineup will welcome back two players from injury as Lubomir Visnovsky and Mikhail Grabovski will be in the lineup tonight.  As was announced yesterday Kyle Okposo will miss 6-8 weeks with an upper body injury.  With Visnovsky returning, expect Brian Strait to return to the press box.

If you are going to attempt to attend tonights contest, make sure you are careful.  Especially those of you coming from Suffolk, the conditions are more and more dangerous the further east you go.

Islanders Depth to Be Tested with Okposo Injured

The Islanders were dealt a pretty big blow yesterday with the announcement that Kyle Okposo would miss 6-8 weeks with an upper body injury.  The team has shown great depth this year and this injury will really test that.  Who needs to step up in Okposo's absence?

Mikhail Grabovski

Perhaps the biggest candidate for this role is Mikhail Grabovski.  While his season has been marred somewhat by injuries, his time on the ice has still been a disappointment.  To this point in the season, Grabovski has 14 points in 38 games.  This puts Grabovski on pace for 27 points which is far below his career average.  When he signed with the Islanders on July 2nd, Grabovski seemed like more of a safe bet with his contract versus that of Nikolay Kulemin.  However, thus far this season it has been the other way around with Kulemin impressing and Grabovski being a disappointment.  If Grabovski is able to play like the player the Islanders expected him to be when they signed him to a 4 year deal worth 20 million dollars on July 2nd, that will go a long way in holding down the fort until Okposo gets healthy.

Ryan Strome

Playing Ryan Strome on the first line has been something that has been talked about since before he even arrived in the NHL.  Matter of fact, Craig Button, in Stromes draft year suggested the Islanders move Tavares to wing to make Strome the first line center.  While that won't happen, the idea of Strome on the first line has to interest the coaching staff tremendously now especially with Strome stepping up his play in the last month or so.  Strome's vision on the ice and his ability to create plays from nothing could prove to be a lethal combo alongside Tavares.  Strome and Tavares are already familiar with each other as well as not only do they often play with one another in 4 on 4 situations but they also train with each other during the summer.

Josh Bailey

Prior to the break, Bailey had been doing something that he hadn't done often in his career, produce in the middle of the season.  Normally, Bailey would produce early in the season and late in the season but not do much in the middle.  His play of late has led to fans wondering if they had finally found a solution for the first line left-wing spot.  Bailey had 6 points in the final 3 games leading into the all-star break, including 3 assists in Kyle Okposo's 4 goal game against the Penguins on January 16.  With the injury to Okposo, Bailey can't fall back into his old ways of obscurity.  He needs to continue to build on the play that he had prior to the all-star break.  Much like Mikhail Grabovski, if Bailey is able to do this, that will go a long way to holding down the fort until Kyle Okposo recovers.

Who Should Take his Spot on Line 1?

From the moment it was announced that Okposo was injured, after the initial panic, fans wondered who would take Okposo's spot alongside John Tavares.  If practice yesterday was any indication, Mikhail Grabovski will be the first person to get an opportunity in that spot.  While in the grand scheme Grabovskis success or lack thereof while on that line won't have a great impact with him signed for another 3 seasons.  It will have an impact on the rest of the season as sooner or later the team will have to start looking at playoff seeding.  With that, if Grabovski isn't producing his ice-time will reflect that.  Ultimately, I can see Ryan Strome fitting in nicely in Okposo's spot until he returns.

Islanders vs Rangers: A Rivalry Renewed

On January 13, the Islanders and Rangers met for the second time this season.  The Islanders came out of the game with a 3-0 victory, shutting the Rangers out at MSG for the first time since 1975.  With the Islanders in first place and the Rangers playing well, the rivalry has gained juice that it hasn't had in a long time.

Kids Coming of Age

The Islanders have really seen the fruits of their rebuild this season as Brock Nelson, Ryan Strome and Anders Lee have all become key members of the team.  Nelson came on strong out of the gate, but has cooled down a bit in recent games.  He is second on the team in goals with 15 behind just John Tavares and fourth on the team in points behind Tavares, Okposo and Ryan Strome.  Meanwhile, Strome who had a slower start to the season than Nelson has really come on of late.  His hot play has propelled him to third on the team in points with 33 in 46 games.  His skills were seen in the Islanders game on January 10th on his assist on Matt Martins goal.  From just inside the offensive zone, with Martin breaking down the middle, Strome sent a beautiful pass in Martins direction and Martin stuck his stick out and got the Islanders second goal of the night.  While Anders Lee hasn't put up the stats of Strome or Nelson, he has come up with many game winning goals this season.  One attribute to his game that he has really fine tuned that others haven't is tipping in front of the net.  Lee is excellent at that and it has really come in handy for him.  These kids will be a key part of the Islander vs Ranger rivalry this season and for many seasons to come.  

Islanders Rangers Rivalry

People outside New York may not realize this, but Islander vs Ranger games can get just as intense as any other huge rivalry game in the NHL like the Battle of Ontario or Montreal vs Boston.  With hockey being the fourth sport in New York, the rivalry doesn't get the coverage it should which causes it to get overlooked on the more national scene.  The rivalry has lost some luster on the ice in recent years due to the Islanders lackluster play.  However, it didn't lose anything among fans who still created a great atmosphere at most games.  This year though, it is different from years past as the Islanders sit in first place in the division with 63 points and the Rangers sit five points behind them.  For the first time in a long time, an Islander Ranger game will be on the mind of a typical New Yorker today, not just the hockey fans.

Monday, January 26, 2015

Okposo to Miss 6-8 Weeks With Upper Body Injury

According to multiple reports, today at practice Islanders coach Jack Capuano announced that forward Kyle Okposo would miss 6-8 weeks with an upper body injury.  It is being rumored that his ailment is an eye injury but that has yet to be confirmed and likely won't be.

This is a big loss for the Islanders with Okposo being second on the team in points and will really test the teams depth until he returns.

Sunday, January 25, 2015

Coliseum Conversation at Molloy College

Earlier tonight, it was announced that on February 25th fans would have the opportunity to attend an event where former Islanders Mike Bossy, Bob Nystrom, Clark Gillies, and Pat LaFontaine will discuss their successes, careers, thoughts on the Coliseum, and the move to Brooklyn.  These former players will be joined by current Islanders Jaroslav Halak, Kyle Okposo, Anders Lee, Matt Martin and Casey Cizikas.

For more information including ticket prices, click here.