Some not-Luongo guy beats Luongo in shootout

Before I get to the constant reminder -- eight years later -- that Roberto Luongo once played for the Islanders, let me say this: I hate the shootout.

Or: I hate that after 65 minutes of hard work, 33% of the points on offer can be determined by a breakaway contest in which a puck carrier can slam on the breaks, or travel the perimeter of the zone, through maneuvers that have no analogous in-game situation save for when the other 10 players are simultaneously shot by Claudine Longet without Kerry Fraser whistling play dead.

If 60-minute wins in the standings are worth two points, these shootout tie breakers shouldn't be worth half that. (How about half-points? That's still bad, but a nice compromise.)

Anyway, that said, I understand the whole "fans love it!" value. And last night's shootout was fun because the Islanders won it, and it was justice. Not justice because the Islanders played so well they absolutely deserved to win -- either team could've won, particularly in the wild OT -- but because grumpy Vancouver reporters apparently gave them no chance. Even afterward, said scribes still declare the Isles had no chance.

I'd read rumblings about this before the weekend -- that the hockey press in Ottawa and Vancouver hit these road trips and ply their trade in gratuitous potshots rather than actual newspaper sports reporting -- but it was still funny to see first-hand, in the face of evidence to undermine their "He Hate Me" nature, that all those Canucks turnovers were apparently created in a vacuum.

Beside righting media slights, last night was simply an entertaining game, especially for a 1-1 result. Powerplays were not cheaply handed out (at least not in volume), yet scoring chances came fairly regularly. The Isles had an awful first minute and got steadily better through the rest of the game. A cohesive forecheck forced turnovers and, amusingly, panic plays by the Canucks defense. The Isles Frans Nielsen and Bill Guerin worked a powerplay well before Doug Weight tied it up on a deflected shot from the point.

And some guy named Joey MacDonald, who is fast working on a case for NHL contract offers this summer, matched some guy named Roberto Luongo save for save. Until the shootout, that is, when Frans Nielsen fired the first volley on a glorious backhand move that clanged in with a lovely puck-meets-iron sound for good measure.

MacDonald made his required three stops, including stopping the loping Pavol Demitra after he travelled half the circumference of the zone and nearly took out the linesman at the blueline.

Even the Islanders' local press will mention three times in three days that, "oh, did you know the Islanders once had Luongo?" (Yeah, did you know the Leafs once had his draft pick?). If Luongo had pulled off his sixth shutout, I'm certain it would have been mentioned again today (and who knows -- it's not press time yet -- maybe it still will). But somehow, on this night, I imagine Joey MacDonald doesn't care.

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