Waiver survivor Jon Sim collected three assists, a Finn named Jesse got his first NHL goal, Joe Callahan got his first NHL point, Bruno Gervais scored his first goal in 160 games and Jeff Tambellini scored inside the post in a non-shootout situation. But do not panic. The end is not near. 29th place is still five points away. It's just one of those things. It's ... why they play the game?
First, though: A big thanks to our visitors from around the hockeysphere -- Islanders blogger 7th Woman and St. Louis Game Time-ers among them -- who visited the Lighthouse Hockey game thread last night. Through some bizarre Versus mishap, this 15th vs. 15th battle was the only NHL game on the schedule -- so I realize some of you hockey addicts were literally stuck without any party alternatives. But with some 280+ comments (a modest LH record), y'all helped demonstrate to other readers how the game thread thing can create a little virtual barroom banter (and photos, and discussion, and more) while you watch the game.
I'm actually not -- or wasn't -- the game threading type before discovering SBN's groovy system, but if you enjoy a little chat tomfoolery or Twitter banter during a game, these threads at any SBN site are worth a try. They've certainly threatened my marriage and employment; how can you beat an endorsement like that?
Back to the game: It was a crazy night. The snow kept some away and provided others with front-row seats -- three boys' dream. In recognition of the weather, the Islanders are offering last night's ticketholders a freebie. When Trent Hunter disappeared after warmups, those ticketholders feared Guerin II. That's just how things went with the #94 who arguably started this rebuild back in the house.
As for the night's first star: Despite a hot run of points (7 in 6 GP), we can't assume that Sim has turned a corner. His Behind the Net stats still lag -- though that's more an indication of why he's been a scratch this season, rather than how he's playing now. I will say this in his favor: Even back when he was waived, I wondered if we were still seeing the effects of a devastating knee injury to a guy who thrives on heart and hustle. Let me explain...
As I ventured back then:
I could see him eventually getting back to an effective form, even in Scott Gordon's system. But not for a while. A guy like that -- who garnered a three-year, $3-million contract based on hustle and heart -- needs to be in peak health to fit in Gordon's scheme.
That's not just veteran-stroking hooey, either. Gordon's system requires your motor to run, run run -- which is why it (and the whole league, now) favors young, pre-peak bodies. Sim is an "overachiever" guy, which ultimately means he survives by digging from a well of desire deeper than your average natural talent. But when pain and scar tissue is still blocking your body from going full bore, desire can only compensate so much. After a major surgery and rehab, even when things feel "right," it can take so, so long to break through and rediscover the way your knee worked before.
Well, it's a theory, anyway. It seems so long ago, but during the 2007-08 preseason, before Sim had last season's season-ending injury, he looked like a promising, motoring winger for Ted Nolan. If he still has that in him, maybe we're seeing it.
Whether Sim retains Gordon's trust remains to be seen. Tonight's 14:13 were his most minutes since December 8; but his two-point game last week came in only 8:10 of ice time. Whether he -- and Comrie rental Dean McAmmond, who netted another goal -- just earned some trade deadline looks from contenders looking for a blood-and-guts guy, we'll know by Wednesday night. I still see Sim as a twilighter having a late-season rebound -- but his career was built off proving doubters wrong.
|2008 - Jon Sim||49||9||6||15||-12||42||3||0||0||1||90||10.0|
Regardless, the Islanders turned in another good show for the home fans. They're 7-1-2 in their last 10 at home. Winning at home is how bad teams can keep their faithful from washing their hair instead of coming to games, so good that they keep this up. On national TV they put away a weakened opponent playing on back-to-back nights. Obligation met.
This and That
The Avalanche "power" play (as Mile High Hockey has taken to calling it) has become something awful, which is why Kyle Okposo was able to kill half of one by himself, carrying the puck into the Avs zone and probing them to see if they'd make him give it up.
Of course, on one Avs power play Ryan Smyth -- yes, him -- nabbed one of his two typical doorstep goals (Total shot distance travelled: 4 inches).
Speaking of two-inch shots, hats off to the rookie in his NHL debut: Jesse Joensuu plays in his fourth game in four nights (number five comes tomorrow with Bridgeport again) and makes it happen. The kid is big and will get goals if he goes to the net the way he did tonight.
|2008 - Bruno Gervais||50||1||9||10||-9||16||0||0||1||0||53||1.9|
Gervais, meanwhile, got his goal by pinching in on the rush the way Gordon preaches. There was a time when Gervais was seen as a Campoli B in terms of offensive potential. You know he'd like to be back in that picture (minus the trade). Will he get there? Like Campoli -- not without power play time, he won't. But if he can pot the occasional 5-on-5 contribution, he'll see more 23:33 nights like tonight.
Time will tell, and heaven's knows we've got time.