Last night, the Capitals were the team traveling at the end of a back-to-back. Tonight, it's the Islanders -- and Sabres -- who get that task. (By the way, every Western Conference player laughs at this loose use of the word "travel." Essentially, if you could get there by train without losing two days of your life, it's not a "road trip," it's a commuter flight.)
While the Islanders were taking what the Caps wouldn't to grab an OT win, in Buffalo Ryan Miller took everything the Leafs threw at him to steal an OT win for his team. Will the Sabres bounce back from a lethargic performance? Not likely, actually; they're sick -- literally -- and just need to play a smart road game. Will the Islanders have a let down? They better not -- this is a chance to take advantage of an ill opponent in front of home fans, turn a daunting weekend into a memorable one, and get back to quasi-.500.
Thanks to the NHL's "the people demand a winner" points-a-plenty regime, ".500" has become a misleading term. When you "win" in extra time, you didn't totally win -- you just took 66% of the points, which is a bummer if you were playing a conference rival. When you "lose" in OT or shootout, you didn't really lose (nor tie) -- you just took 33% of the points.
We say the Islanders are 3-4-5 not because that's what they are, but because we sure love our three-column standings. And 1-2-4-5 just doesn't feel right (W-OTW-L-OTL).
That said, a win tonight -- in regulation or OT -- puts the Islanders at the NHL's bastardized quasi-".500" for the first time since Oct. 16, 2008, four games into last season. (That night was an OT win over Tampa Bay, so ... in a way they were 1-1-2-0.) Know what's great about the NHL's inflationary system? The Isles can lose tonight -- in OT or shootout, mind you -- and a win Monday would still bring them back to ".500." 'Cause in the post-lockout NHL, everybody* gets a smiley face on their paper! (*More on this at the end of the post.)
Given the progress of this team and the quality of the opponent, normally I wouldn't hold demanding expectations for this one. But the Sabres really are diminished by sickness, and last night's win in Washington created the opportunity to make a double-statement tonight. All the more so if the Sabres dress La-La-La-not-worth-a-lot Lalime (I wouldn't, given how badly the team might need to lean on Ryan Miller again).
So: The Isles are at home. They're feeling good about themselves after last night. It's a Saturday night crowd. Martin Biron versus his old friends. The Isles should be chomping at the bit to make sure the Sabres wish they never got out of bed.
I want to see Okposo being a force all over the ice (Please ... you don't even have to ask for that anymore -- it just happens). I want to see Sean Bergenheim checking Sabres in the lymph nodes. I want to see powerplay magic from Mark Streit, Doug Weight and John Tavares. I want to see a bonus goal from Josh Bailey or Jeff Tambellini. And more faceoff domination, please; it's quite becoming.
In short: I want to see last night's effort and smarts continued, because this is a great chance to knock an illness-weary team around. Don't let this "streak" end yet. Don't turn back into a pumpkin before midnight.
Lately these teams often have high-scoring affairs against each other -- usually to the Islanders' detriment. It was a 6-3 loss earlier this month, but last year the Islanders actually went 2-1-1, with the only regulation loss being that ugly 7-1 bludgeoning. All time, each team is 30-29-9-1. (Each team has a loser-point OTL/SO loss.)
Links of Interest
- The NHL with another story on Tavares showing he belongs. [nhl.com]
- Eric with the stat trick from last night's game. [Forever1940]
- 7th Woman's version of last night's game.
- In a FanPost here, Chickendirt takes a look at the defense with a few assessments that might surprise you.
- Kevin Allen action: On Peter Pocklington's new
fundraising schemebook, and the NHLPA soap opera.
- Debate the latest brain-scrambling hit (Ladd on D'Agostini) over at Mirtle's From the Rink.
The Rest of the Shootout/Points Diatribe
* This is not an original thought. The phenomenon has bothered me and at least a few other curmudgeons since the shootout was introduced. But it bears mentioning from time to time because if the shootout is here to stay (and it is), I for one hope the NHL will one day take the plunge by expanding the standings and putting the breakaway contest in its place: Don't let the shootout equal half a regulation win. If the "loser point" must stay -- and it must, lest its absence really expose the absurdity of the shootout (65 minutes of level play and hard work erased by a breakaway drill?) -- then make regulation wins 3 points, OT wins 2, and OT losses 1. It makes for ugly standings (W-OTW-L-OTL) and more math, but at least then the standings would mean what they say.
And those mythical tie-allergic North Americans would still get their "winner."