Islanders fall to Kings 4-2 in K.C.; Roloson hurt

Trent Hunter attends to Dwayne Roloson after tagging him with a high shot in warmups. Imagined sources indicate Hunter feel shame. || Photo courtesy of Dominik's camera.

This one will be a quick-and-dirty post about the game itself; tomorrow will have more photos and hilarity from the [telco of some sort] Center experience in Kansas City, where the Islanders fell to the Los Angeles Kings 4-2 thanks to one awful 2nd period.

After touring the building, I heard the teams come out for warmups and settled down in a seat right by the Islanders bench (FYI: Hockey equipment officially smells the same whether it's a mite league or the NHL.) My first thought -- other than "Man, it's nice to see the Islanders in person again" -- was, "My god, could we be ANY MORE cursed?!"

During an innocent warmup drill, Trent Hunter took a pass in the high slot, spun around and took a shot that went a little high. And tagged Dwayne Roloson in the neck. Hunter immediately felt the guilt you'd expect, but it's not like he's a hot shot blasting headshots in warmups. This one just took off on him ... and knocked our goalie out of the game. [Update: Just a flesh wound.]

Enter Nathan Lawson. If this were another team, it would end there. But no. Then I get back to the hotel to find out Hunter disappeared later in the game because of a pectoral injury. If this is all part of the price a franchise pays for four Stanley Cups, when oh when is the debt finally erased? And when do the Red Wings get their turn in the karma toilet?

 

Honestly, this was your typical preseason game: Several fights (Brett Westgarth and Raitis Ivanans tangled twice in the first -- the P.A. epically botched Ivanans' name both times), and several signs that certain players are true NHLers who have adjusted to the speed at this level and exert a sense of calm, while others are clearly nervous rookies. In that former group I'd include Josh Bailey, Jon Sim, the Islanders' veteran blueliners, plus the Kings' Drew Doughty and Wayne Simmonds. My god, is Doughty good. The teams traded goals in the first, with an excellent Tambellini-to-Hunter combo setting Andy Sutton up at the doorstep. Yes, Andy Sutton scoring from the doorstep.

The first and third periods were exciting and physical; the second was an absolute dud and special teams disaster for the Islanders. After The Other Westgarth picked up 4 minutes trying to goad an unwilling Micheal Haley into a fight, the Islanders promptly: 1) Gave up a shorthanded goal; 2) took a penalty to even it up; 3) took another penalty to give the Kings a 5-on-3, which Doughty converted on a pretty backdoor goal.

I honestly don't know if the Islanders penalty kill was that truly awful, or if the Kings power play is that amazing. But the Kings controlled the puck the entire time when they were on the power play. It was constant tape-to-tape...to tape...to tape passing. It was as if they were Harlem Globetrotters just screwing around in the preseason, curious about what looks they could get.

The Islanders had penalty killers like Nate Thompson, Tim Jackman and Jon Sim out there, so it was a little alarming.

Nevertheless, Sean O'Donnell did one of those things O'Donnell does and attacked Matt Martin late in the second. Apparently, O'Donnell thought Martin highsticked the Golden Child (Doughty), so he punched him, jumped him, and kept punching him from behind while Martin was down on the ice. He didn't really stop when the refs got in there, either, so either O'Donnell wanted to teach a spry young thing a lesson, or he just wanted an early shower: O'Donnell received a match penalty. Five-minute power for the Isles bridging the 2nd and 3rd periods.

In keeping with the theme of the night, every time the refs penalized the Kings for doing something violent, they quickly penalized the Isles for a slash or hook or a we-should-call-something. So the five-minute powerplay was interrupted, too, but Josh Bailey eventually converted with a delicate, bad-angle touch after the best power play puck movement the Islanders had shown all night.

After that, more fights -- Simmonds fought Martin -- and a continued comeback effort, ended by a Simmonds empty-net goal.

Typically, I won't do such literal game recaps. But I figured since this game was apparently untelevised and you could use some Lighthouse project hearing relief, you might appreciate a birds-eye view of what happened. Like I said: more stuff tomorrow. I've got some stories and pics that are worth a laugh.

*  *  *

P.S. A Word about Attendance:

I've heard Jim Baumbach reported a crowd of 3,000 (maybe that was during warmups? I don't know. His story reports attendance at 9,792) and Chris Botta -- perhaps going off that shaky information -- said "Kansas City failed miserably." In a word, no. Objectively false. I have no bone in the K.C. NHL effort (other than another road trip each NHL season), but this meme is flat-out wrong. The lower bowl was nearly full, and attendees in the suites and upper deck (Baumbach misreported that "every upper-deck section was blocked off by huge black curtains," when in fact one side was most certainly not) would have likely filled the gaps. How many people is that? If it's a typical arena, I'd say in the 10,000 range, but that's an educated guess.

Regardless, I think we should be past the point of making litmus tests out of meaningless preseason games involving coastal teams on weekday nights for a Middle America city that is clearly, overtly, explicitly being used as a pawn in another club's municipal fight. Franchises today are about the right building (check), the right owner and Bettman and the Board of Governors' will to go along. I've simply lived through too many of these "oh, show us attendance for an exhibition game" charades in pro sports to believe that this little exercise should have anything to do with anything.

That goes for K.C. hockey promoter #1, Phil Anschutz's man Tim Leiweke, who said: "There will be a lot of interest to see how many people come. I'm interested to see how many people turn out," with the implication that it was another "test" of earnest for K.C. hockey fans. Please.

Again, I've no campaign for K.C. in my blood. But we should debate its candidacy on the actual merits, not the Show-Me State city's willingness to participate as pawns in a billionaire's game for the original asking price of $50 - $150 per seat.

(I should add, though, that in terms of making K.C. look like a big symbolic threat to wield over the Town of Hempstead, then sure, tonight was not a success. But that's a separate issue.)

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