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  Articles > NHL
 2013 Stanley Cup Playoff Predictions

Stanley Cup playoff predictions from two of our hockey minds!

Robert Kowal Derek Wasiak
Islanders over Penguins in 7 Penguins over Islanders in 6
Canadiens over Senators in 7 Senators over Canadiens in 6
Rangers over Capitals in 5 Capitals over Rangers in 7
Bruins over Maple Leafs in 5 Bruins over Maple Leafs in 7
Blackhawks over Wild in 4 Blackhawks over Wild in 5
Red Wings over Ducks in 7 Ducks over Red Wings in 7
Sharks over Canucks in 6 Sharks over Canucks in 6
Blues over Kings in 6 Kings over Blues in 7
Canadiens over Islanders in 6 Penguins over Senators in 7
Rangers over Boston in 7 Capitals over Bruins in 6
Blackhawks over Red Wings in 5 Blackhawks over Sharks in 7
Blues over Sharks in 6 Kings over Ducks in 6
Rangers over Canadiens in 6 Capitals over Penguins in 6
Blues over Blackhawks in 7 Kings over Blackhawks in 6
Blues over Rangers in 7 Kings over Capitals in 7

 Nash Propels Rangers in OT Win over Isles

Rangers forward Rick Nash lurks in front of the Islanders net.

UNIONDALE, NY – In a playoff atmosphere before a sold-out crowd of 16,170 last night at the Nassau Coliseum, the crunch time heroics of Rangers forward Rick Nash were on display as he led the Rangers to a 2-1 overtime victory against their cross-town rival New York Islanders. Nash tied the game 1-1 at 14:37 of the 3rd period, and later setup the game winner by Marian Gaborik at 0:42 of overtime.

Gaborik’s 8th of the season came on the power play, with Michael Grabner sent off for hooking 0:21 in to the overtime period.

Both teams came out strong, and the play was up and down the ice at a fast pace for most of the night. Islanders forward Michael Grabner opened the scoring with his 10th goal of the season, burying a shot in the top right corner on a feed from Colin McDonald behind the net at 11:51 of the first period. Grabner played a strong game, registering 4 shots on goal. In the second period, Grabner used his speed to get around Rangers defenseman Roman Hamrlik, but couldn’t find the back of the net. Hamrlik played well in his Rangers debut, seeing 18 shifts for 15:48 of ice.

The Isles had a number of chances to build on their early lead, and would regret not being able to do so.

Josh Bailey found himself all alone in the high slot in the second period, but a hurried wrist shot was turned away with the blocker by Rangers goaltender Henrik Lundqist. Matt Moulson managed 3 shots on goal, including a partial breakaway that saw him sail a backhand high over the glove of Lundqvist at 11:40 of the second period.

The Islanders did not get a chance on the power play, the first time since January 7, 1989 that the Isles did not have a power play in a game against the Rangers. The Isles weren’t very happy about it.

“Maybe we’re wrong; maybe they played a real clean game… It’s very frustrating,” said Islanders forward Matt Martin.

Still, the Islanders aggressive penalty kill generated the better chances when Casey Cizikas was sent off for holding at 11:07 and Kyle Okposo went off for tripping at 16:05 of the second period. Lundqvist came up big for the Rangers stopping Martin on a short-handed breakaway, and Grabner on a great chance in front of the net with the Isles down a man. Lundqvist stopped 28 of 29 shots against the swarming Islanders.

While the Rangers were also playing with great intensity, they were having even more trouble getting a puck past Evgeni Nabokov- who turned away 35 of 27 shots. Ryan McDonagh and  J.T. Miller were stopped on great chances in front of the net in the second period. In the third, Darroll Powe was all alone in front but couldn’t get it past the Islanders netminder. Nash made a particularly nice inside out move towards the net early in the third period, only to be turned away by Nabokov.

Nash’s persistence paid off when he finally broke through on the Nabokov with the tying goal late in the third, and later setting up the game winner in overtime. All of Nash’s 8 goals this season have come in the 3rd period.

“He’s an elite player, big and strong,” Islanders head coach Jack Capuano said after the game. “You have to have an awareness when he’s on the ice and try to contain him.”

The Rangers take their 4-game winning streak back to Madison Square Garden to face-off against the Senators tonight, while the Islanders prepare to host the Capitals tomorrow afternoon.

Link to Photo Gallery

 Rangers, Islanders Look to Keep Streaks Alive

Rangers vs Islanders © by Robert Kowal

The Islanders will be playing their sixth game of a seven-game home stand tonight when they host their cross town rival New York Rangers at the Nassau Coliseum this evening at 7:00pm.

The teams split a pair of games in New York in February, with the Islanders rallying for a shootout victory on Valentine’s Day in the teams’ last meeting. The Rangers have out-scored the Islanders 7-4 in those games, including a 4-0 advantage in the first period. While the adrenaline should fuel a fast pace early in the game, the Islanders must stay focused against a Rangers team that seems to be hitting their stride.

“We’ll be ready. Everyone follows through on their checks a bit more when we play them,” said the Islanders Matt Martin this morning, who leads the NHL with 110 hits this season.

Although the Islanders have had their troubles at home this season, the team is 3-1-0 against the Rangers in their last four contests at the Coliseum. Still, it will be key for the Islanders to play a smart, consistent game- particularly in the defensive end early and throughout the game.

Both teams have played well of late.

The Rangers come in to the game on a three-game winning streak, matching the club’s longest of the year. After a slow start on the power play, the team has scored with the man advantage in six of their last nine games (7/31, 22.6%). Forward Rick Nash leads the team with 7 goals (all in 3rd periods), and the team is 10-2-1 in the last 13 games he has played.

Meanwhile the Islanders have won their last two games, recording their fifth two-game winning streak this season with their 6-3 victory over the Canadiens on Tuesday. While Nash has lead the way for the Rangers, the Islanders John Tavares has lit the lamp 14 times this season (third most in the league), and is arguably New York’s best player right now.

Brad Richards was not on the ice for this morning’s skate, and according to the NY Daily News Pat Leonard he will likely not play in tonight’s game .

Rangers head coach John Tortorella will likely replace him in the lineup with former Islander Micheal Haley. Looking to add some toughness to his lineup, Islanders head coach Jack Capuano will dress Eric Boulton in place of David Ullstrom. I wonder what lines will start the game… it should be an entertaining contest tonight!

 Isles Fall to Leafs 5-4 in Overtime

Islanders scramble in front of the Maple Leafs net. © by Robert Kowal

UNIONDALE, NY – The Islanders got off to a strong start last night, scoring on their first shot of the game when Kyle Okposo setup Josh Bailey on a pretty pass in front of the net at 3:34 of the first period.

“It was a heck of a play by Okie,” Bailey said after the game.

Unfortunately for the Islanders, Nazem Kadri’s first career hat-trick proved to much to overcome, as the team lost to the Maple Leafs 5-4 in overtime. The Islanders continue to struggle at the Nassau Coliseum early in this shortened season losing their fourth straight at home, leaving the team with a home record of 2-8-1.

“We’ve been inconsistent, obviously,” said Isles Coach Jack Capuano.

Lubomir Visnovsky scored his first goal of the season at 6:22 of the second period, but inconsistent play on defense and between the pipes put the Islanders down 4-2 through two periods.

To their credit, the Islanders came out strong to start the third period, and Andrew MacDonald brought the team within a goal of tying the score with his first goal of the season on shot from the point at 5:31. Okposo then scored his second of the season at 10:08 to tie the game at 4-4.

Michael Grabner, who missed on a penalty shot in the first period, nearly won it for the Isles early in overtime before Dion Phaneuf secured the victory for the Leafs at 1:11 of overtime for a 5-4 final score.

The Islanders continue their home stand when they take on the Ottawa Senators this Sunday at 3:00pm.

Link to Photo Gallery

 Islanders Bolt the Barn for Brooklyn

Bobby Nystrom scores the the winning goal in double overtime back in 1980 against the Philadelphia Flyers to secure their first of four straight Stanley Cups.

It was a tough day for Islanders fans yesterday, as the team announced it will be leaving the Nassau Coliseum (the only home the franchise has known since they entered the NHL in 1972), for the Barclays Center in Brooklyn starting in the 2015-16 season.  At least they will not be headed to Quebec or Kansas City.

You certainly can’t blame the team for leaving, as they didn’t have much of a choice at this point. Brooklyn may be a tough market to attract new fans, although I’m sure some will come aboard. At least Brooklyn and their new arena should be more attractive to free agents.

Don’t blame the residents of Nassau county for voting down the referendum to use taxpayer money to build a new arena, despite the loss of jobs and tax revenue the county will see as a result. It’s tough to ask residents to fund a privately owned business. Even though as a fan I supported the referendum- there is still something fundamentally wrong with the concept. For Nassau residents- hopefully the county (the Town of Hempstead) will be able to help some builder to construct something worthwhile on the land soon.

The failure of Nassau county politicians to help facilitate Islanders owner Charles Wang in building not only a new arena, but the land surrounding the Coliseum has been most disappointing- to say the least. If I were to place the blame anywhere, it would be on politics. What else is new?

For Islanders fans, commuting to Brooklyn via the LIRR will not be very attractive to many middle-aged fans with families. No longer a 15-20 minute drive away, time and cost will be prohibitive. Younger fans may actually prefer it- no more desigated drivers needed!

All in all, life (and hockey) goes on. It’s just another example of how nothing is forever. The Islanders heyday in Nassau county will now be nothing but memories, with no hope of greatness again in that old barn in Uniondale.

 NJ Devils Keys to a Game 6 Victory

Well, now that the NJ Devils have made it a series….

What are the keys for the Devils to win game 6 in LA?

  1. Improve the offensive attack. SOG and scoring chances in game 5 were dreadful. We scored on a bad mistake by Quick and a lucky bounce for Sal. We generated way more scoring chances in games 1-3 and did not score. While Marty has worked hard all series, Quick took a rest game 5.
  2. Forecheck. It did not exists in game 5 and the Kings brokeout and rushed up the ice into our zone way too easily. Are we too tired to forecheck? If that is the case we need to figure something else out. TRAP ANYONE?
  3. Score on the Power-Play.  Calling Zach Parise… I told everyone before game 5 that in order to win Zach needed to score and we needed to score on the PP. And there ya go. Devils will win the series if they can score on the PP. Kings are very strong 5-5 and we have lost our advantage there that we have had on every other team this year.
  4. Don’t lose Williams and Carter. Richards looks tried so we need to focus and never lose Williams and Carter on the ice. They are getting way too many chances.
  5. To over use the overused phrase, “Our best players need to be our best players.” Travis Zajac, Zach Parise and Ilya Kovalchuck (excused for injury), we need you guys to get some points. The Devils magical 4th line isn’t going to with this one for the Devils.
  6. Coach Deboer, it maybe time to put some fresh legs in. Watching a slower-every-game Volchenkov get skated around is going to burn us. How about Harrold? he played so well and has speed. Fayne has struggled this series too. What about Josephson? Anyone think sitting an injured Kovy for Josefson might be a bold but worth-it move?
  7. Play 2 defenseman at the points on the Power-Play. It saved us game 5 from getting scored upon short-handed. Kovy is not well enough to play the point and the Kings pressure so well. We have trouble keeping the puck in the zone so why not? We have yet to score a controlled PP goal. This seems like a no-brainer.
  8. We need to have the greatest goaltender to ever play, to be in net for us. Oh wait, we do. Yes, Marty needs to continue to be marvelous.

DeBoer will probably do none of this and the Devils will win. That’s why I watch games from the stands and not the bench.
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 Lin-sanity Stealing Headlines From The King and his Men
  Rangers and netminder Henrik Lundqvist Dominance Being Overshadowed

There is nothing “under the radar” about being in first place in the conference, having the inside track on the best record in the league and doing it with one of your sport’s leading candidates for MVP. Except, apparently, when the city in which you play is swept up in a basketball craze centered around the most unsung of heroes. These days, in New York, Lin-sanity trumps all.

But there’s a trend sweeping the hockey world that deserves more of this city’s attention: Lund-sanity, and the meteoric rise of the New York Rangers. The first-place, Eastern-Conference-leading, President’s-Trophy-chasing New York Rangers, led by netminder Henrik Lundqvist’s MVP-caliber year. Alright, maybe “Lund-sanity” doesn’t have the same ring. And sure, hockey isn’t at the top of everyone’s list in a city where the Yankees are king, the Knicks are in second and the football Giants are probably a close third. But it shouldn’t be about which sport is king. It should all be about The King – King Henrik Lundqvist, and his men.

Lin-sanity is incredible, inspirational and impressive. Lund-sanity is all that and more.

Nothing should be taken away from Jeremy Lin’s remarkable stretch, which has captivated a city and a country yearning for a Cinderella story in a sport where the rich get richer and those who fail to catch up are left in the wake. The sudden star has saved his coach’s job and a season headed in the wrong direction. But the Knicks, six-game winning streak and all, are still one game under .500 and in eighth place in the Eastern Conference. They are nine games behind the conference-leading Chicago Bulls.

The Rangers are tops in their conference, one point behind the league leading Detroit Red Wings and playing their best hockey of the season – maybe even their best hockey since June of 1994. While the Knicks needed a last-second three-point bucket to come from behind and defeat a cellar-dwelling team with a 9-21 record, the Rangers were on the road shutting out the defending Stanley Cup champions. The Knicks are barely hanging on to the final playoff spot. The Rangers – nine points ahead of second place in the conference – have a firm hold on the top one. It’s time for the sporting world, or at the very least the back pages, to take notice. The New York Rangers are without question, at the moment, the best team in this city. They might be the best team in their sport.

It’s starting to look like they might be the last one standing, too. And that success starts with Lundqvist. The Swedish netminder is playing at a level that has him at the forefront of the Vezina Trophy discussion. It’s earning him serious consideration for the Hart Trophy, too. Lundqvist is second in goals against average, first in save percentage and fourth in wins. Last night, he made 42 saves in the Rangers’ 3-0 win over the Boston Bruins, earning his league-leading seventh shutout. On a nightly basis, he is a rock in net, a steadying force for a team that has at times had trouble scoring goals, but almost never loses because the goaltender wasn’t on his game. He’s playing at a level previously unseen at the world’s most famous arena since Mike Richter donned the No. 35 jersey and played between the pipes for the Blueshirts.

King Henrik has been criticized in recent years for supposedly poor playoff performance. But that is due, in large part, to the fact that the Rangers have, for years, lacked the chemistry and continuity to be taken seriously in title discussions. Now, they have the pieces in front of him to make a run at the Stanley Cup.

So while Lundqvist is anchoring one of hockey’s best teams, the city is transfixed on the remarkable rise of a point guard trying to lead his team into the playoff picture. Sooner or later, New York needs to take notice of the Knicks’ Garden co-tenants. The ones that lead their league, the ones with one of their league’s best players. The spotlight deserves to shine on the ice, too.

 Rangers Defeat the Flyers in the Winter Classic
  Controversial Ending Adds to the Drama

Henrik Lundqvist stops Daniel Briere on a penalty shot.

In a thrilling game yesterday at Citizens Bank Park in Philadelphia, the New York Rangers defeated the Philadelphia Flyers for the third time in as many meetings this season by a final score of 3-2 in the fifth annual Winter Classic. The Rangers went down 2-0, before two goals by Mike Rupp tied it up. Then late in the third period, off-season free agent signee Brad Brad Richards scored what turned out to be the game winning goal to secure the Rangers victory.

What made the game so exciting was the controversial ending. A controversy that despite a Rangers win, led Rangers head coach John Tortorella to yap after the game.

“I’m not sure if NBC got together with the refs and wanted to turn this into an overtime game,” Tortorella said after the game.

Here are my thoughts on the wild ending to the game:

  • The Delay of Game penalty on McDonaugh was one of the worst I’ve seen in the history of the NHL. I don’t know how the referee could have possibly missed that.
  • Even though with 4 seconds left on that powerplay, the referee blew the whistle when play CLEARLY should have continued; in a sense it evened things out because the Flyers didn’t deserve to be on that power play in the first place.
  • Shortly after that Rangers forward Marian Gaborik broke in on Philadelphia net-minder Sergei Bobrovsky. Flyers’ defeseman Kimmo Timonen should have been called for hooking. Granted, I’m not a big fan of the hooking rule now-a-days, and I wish what Timonen did was ALWAYS legal, but based on what I’ve seen watching hockey (and I watch a lot), the referees should have absolutely called that a hooking. It was a textbook hook. I’ve seen much less called before.

When New York forward Ryan Callahan was taken down, the fact that they called a diving on Callahan as well was absurd for two reasons:

  • Callahan had a hockey stick wrapped around his neck. I don’t care who you are as a human being (Chuck Norris, Jesus Christ, etc.), when someone wraps a stick around your neck and you are skating at full speed, it is going to bring you down to the ice every time.
  • On the play earlier on the Flyers power play, when the ref blew the play dead, I don’t know if anyone noticed, but the ref actually stumbled on the ice which at that point was becoming horrific to play on. If the referee is falling down and he is untouched, then how can you blame Callahan for embellishing when he had a stick wrapped around his throat?

It was hard to tell if McDonagh put the hand over the puck in the crease. It wasn’t conclusive from any camera angles. I would be surprised if the ref was able to see clearly that the puck was covered.

Although it could be argued that Tortorella shouldn’t complain after a win, if he complained after a loss it would be looked at as “just another excuse.” Coaches should express complaints (especially if they are valid) win or lose.

Overall it was a very exciting game, and surely the bulk of fans are looking forward to the final installment of 24/7- which should be most enjoyable for the Rangers as well.

 Was Episode One of 24/7 Missing Something?

Anyone who watched HBO’s 24/7 special with the Rangers and the Flyers on Wednesday night was most likely very happy. HBO does a great job with these specials and they did a great job yet again.

Flyers fans love Hartnell in the hot tub, and they sure loved Ilya Bryzgalov. I was planning on killing a tiger in China during my winter break from Penn State, but the Philadelphia netminder informed me that, that would be a poor decision on my part. Even watching the Broadstreet Bullies breakout to Mac Miller was fun to see as well. (Fun Fact: The song sampled in that song is Linda Scott’s, “I’ve Told Every Little Star.” — A great song in my opinion and the reason it makes “Knock Knock” so catchy).

There were plenty of great moments from the Blueshirts as well whether it be the way the team decides who pays for dinner, or Ryan Callahan’s delightfully hilarious 95 year old grandmother.

You also have to love how non-American born players say English phrases. For example, Marion Gaborik who claimed that head coach John Tortorella doesn’t “go around bushes. He tells you how it is.”

Did anyone else love the look Sean Avery gave Artem Anisimov when Anisimov was sitting in the locker room all by his lonesome?

And obviously hearing the on ice and off ice conversation between coaches, players, trainers etc is a great inside look that everyone wishes they can see and hear during every game.

But I feel as though there was one thing missing. On November 26th of this year, the Rangers hosted the Flyers at Madison Square Garden. The show started with some clips from that game, including the fight that erupted just four seconds after the puck dropped. The narrator just spoke over the highlights, not mentioning that game in particular at all but more so just introducing the audience to what they were about to see: A behind the scenes look of the Flyers and the Rangers.

We saw some great on and off ice material as I mentioned above. But what happened during the Rangers/Flyers game? I feel that for a show centered around these two teams, the show should feature games between the two teams. What was being said on the ice during the Rangers/Flyers match-up? What was being said in-between periods in the locker room? Did HBO get any footage of the pre-game for that game? Why did a fight break out after just four seconds?

If I were to give the first episode a grade, it would be an A. I loved every minute of it. It was a fantastically produced special by HBO. The only thing keeping it from an A+ is the lack of detail between the Rangers/Flyers match-up that took place the Saturday after Thanksgiving. That seems like an important game to leave out.

 Rangers Finish Off November Strong

Photo by Robert Kowal

The New York Rangers beat the Pittsburgh Penguins 4-3 on Tuesday night, clearly placing themselves in a division battle with the 2 teams from Pennsylvania after 20+ games. They followed up back to back losses on the road with wins against Washington, Philadelphia and Pittsburgh. Limiting the output of 3 teams more gifted in the offense department is a strong statement from this defensive minded team.

Coach John Tortorella has his troops-in-blue playing to their strength, which is goaltending. Henrik Lundqvist is playing extremely well in net and continues to add to his regular season career totals. He added his 37th shutout as a Ranger with a 2-0 win over the Flyers last Saturday. That leaves him just 12 behind Eddie Giacomin’s team record of 49. Martin Biron has provided excellent relief as Hank’s backup posting a 3-1 record with a 1.68 GAA and a shutout of his own.

The defensive unit has made the biggest impact on this Ranger squad. Dan Girardi is continuing with the strong play he provided on the backline last year. He is attracting all-star consideration because of it, as evidenced by the amount of write-in votes he has received. Mike Sauer has got opponents taking notice of his stay-at-home, defense-first approach. Meanwhile, Michael Del Zotto’s defense and skating have improved as he has gotten back to playing the type of defense that made him an NHL all-rookie selection in 2010. D-Z, more importantly, has provided some key setups on the power play. The power play for the Rangers is a unit which, despite scoring goals in the last 3 games, has been a constant weak spot for the Blueshirts since the lockout of 2004-05. The X factor here, is the play of Ryan McDonagh. He has been more than anyone could have expected, making clutch plays every game. Ryan has been especially valuable in providing offense at even strength, with 8 of his 10 pts coming with equal manpower on the ice for both teams. This is also one of the reasons he leads the team in plus/minus at +11.

The Rangers are getting decent offensive production from Marian Gaborik and Brad Richards, each with 19 pts. They are getting the usual hard-working, lead-by-example play from their captain, Ryan Callahan. He has 16pts and 63 hits. The GAS line of Gaborik, Artem Anisimov and Derek Stepan might just stick together, as the trio has performed well with each member having 12+ pts at the 21 game mark.

The focus, however, has to be on the team defensive accomplishments as there are no individual scorers amongst the top 30 in the NHL. The Rangers are 13-5-3 heading into tonights road matchup with Carolina, because they have yielded an NHL low 44 goals in 21 games and are in the top 3 in goals allowed per game, with a 2.06 GAA.

After starting the season with 21 games during the first 2 months, they play 15 games in December, starting tonight with the Hurricanes. The goal should be to get through it with a 10-5 record. I wrote before the season that the Rangers needed to be dominant at home, that top level teams win on home ice. You have read in other spots how the Rangers are 7-1-1 at home for the first time since the 1992-93 season. That is a great way to start. What others have not told you and I will, is that 92-93 squad lost its last 7 home games and last 7 games overall and finshed in last place in the division. Its a long season and every game counts. They started strong, which is important for a young team. Now lets see how they work through the next 3 months before we focus on finishing strong.

They are not a fast team and get muscled off the puck too much at times, but they block shots, take the body and play good defense. Even more important, they play as a team.
That is a great start.

 Who’s to Blame for Islanders Current Mess?

Photo by Robert Kowal

While no one expected the Islanders to have a shot at the Stanley Cup this season, many were hopeful the team would make a legitimate run at a playoff spot. The teams’ strong finish to last season gave management and fans alike something to look forward to. Key defenseman Mark Streit was returning to the lineup, in addition to a healthy Kyle Okposo. Assistant captain John Tavares had a full season under his belt, and a young core that included Josh Bailey and Blake Comeau also had another year of experience. Throw in some veteran leadership with the likes of Brian Rolston, Jay Pandolfo and Marty Reasoner- and the Islanders seemed ready to take that next step heading into the season, and no longer be a doormat for opposing teams.

What the hell happened?

Just 18 games into the season, the Islanders find themselves in yet another free fall similar to last season. The Islanders are now in the midst of a 2-12-0 tailspin in which they have been outscored 65-24. The team has been outscored 12-0 in their last 7 periods of play, and were embarrassed in front of a national audience last night in Pittsburgh when Sidney Crosby returned to action. Needless to say, the Islanders have been downright dreadful.

Who’s to blame? Management? The coaching staff? The players? Truth is, all have some responsibility for the team’s performance thus far. More importantly, what needs to be done to fix this mess? Trading some draft picks for Alex Ovechkin would be nice, but unfortunately Washington Capitals GM George McPhee will not likely go for that. So the question then becomes: What can be done? Remaining positive is not going to be enough. Many believe heads need to roll.

While GM Garth Snow didn’t exactly have a great off-season, I wouldn’t hold my breath waiting for the ax to fall on him. Garth has had a tough job attracting free agents, and probably relied a bit to much on the development of his young players heading into the season. Still, when was the last time Snow has made a deal of significance to impact the team?

Do the Islanders fire their head coach again? Current head coach Jack Capuano seemed to have the team turned around last year after taking over for Scott Gordon, particularly late in the season. The players responded well to Capuano’s approach behind the bench, which was much different than Gordon’s. Has the team now tuned him out as well? Under the circumstances, I think Jack has done a fine job and deserves to stay. Who do you replace him with anyway?

The leaders in the locker room must start taking responsibility for the teams recent lackluster play- and take action to correct it.  Tavares can’t do it all by himself. The veteran leaders on this team that contribute much less on the ice need to start showing their worth, or be shown the door.

The Islanders young core of players were supposed to take the next step in their development this season. Many are not doing their part. The most maligned culprits include Kyle Okposo, Blake Comeau and Josh Bailey. Between the three of them, they have played in 48 games and have only a single goal and 5 assists to show for it. Most nights they’ve been practically invisible on the ice. It wasn’t supposed to be this way.

What’s been most disturbing has been the Islanders recent uninspired play. The team has lost some spirit and toughness with the departures of Zenon Konopka to Ottawa, and the demotions of both Michael Haley and Trevor Gillies to Bridgeport. While no one is making them out to be world beaters, the Islanders do seem to be missing some of the intangibles these guys brought to the table.

Some scoring help wouldn’t hurt either. I guess you could say that for most teams, but 35 goals in 18 games (last in the league) is just not going to cut it. Okposo, Comeau and Bailey were being counted on in a big way to fill the net this season, and have been the biggest disappointments on the ice for the team. I like all of these guys, and think they possess a lot of talent. I honestly don’t know why they have been unable to produce. Nevertheless, the time has come to shake up this Islanders roster, and a change of scenery for some might be best.

The time is now for Garth to earn his paycheck. It’s still early, but the clock is already ticking on the Islanders season.

 Ryan McDonagh Continues to Impress
  Rangers defenseman has been steady

Photo by Robert Kowal

When Rangers GM Glen Sather sent Scott Gomez to the Montreal Canadiens back in 2009, many though he did well in receiving Christopher Higgins in return. The complete deal saw the Rangers send Gomez, along with Tom Pyatt and Mike Busto to Montreal for Higgins, Doug Janik, Pavel Valentenko- and Ryan McDonagh. I wouldn’t imagine to many people saw McDonagh as anything more than a throw in at the time. Give credit to Sather for having done his homework.

Drafted by the Canadiens in the 1st round (12th overall) in 2007, McDonagh was a highly touted offensive defenseman with an ability to rush the puck at Wisconsin, where he was a teammate of Derek Stepan. Prior to that, he was given the Minnesota “Mr. Hockey” award in 2007- an award given each year to the top senior high school hockey player in the state. Many kids have talent at the high school and college level. However, it doesn’t always pan out at the NHL level. Even Hobey Baker award winners (given to the top National Collegiate Athletic Association men’s ice hockey player each year) don’t always make it to the NHL- let alone become a star at that level.

Now, I don’t want to get carried away here- I’m not saying McDonagh is the next coming of Chris Chelios- one of Ryan’s favorite players growing up. Still, McDonagh has been all the Rangers could have hoped for this season.

At the start of last year, Ryan began the year in Hartford with the WolfPack before being promoted in January. He finished the season with a goal and 8 assists in 40 games. His lone goal coming on the last day of the regular season against the Devils, scoring the game winning goal to clinch the 8th and final playoff spot for the Rangers.

This season, with Rangers defenseman Marc Staal out of the lineup with a concussion, McDonagh has seized the opportunity. Averaging over 25 minutes a game, he is second on the team only to Dan Girardi. This from a guy that less than 2 years ago was playing college hockey. Making that jump to the NHL (especially as a defenseman) is not an easy thing to do, just ask Matt Gilroy.

McDonagh has typically relied on his speed and skating ability, which can often make up for any defensive lapses. While he still has a ways to go, McDonagh continues to show improvement and could emerge as one of the best young defenseman in the league.




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