Despite last night's turn of events for Carolina (duh, winning!) and the Rangers (somehow shutout by Jhonas Enroth), I think the Rangers are in this postseason, no sweat. Even, pray tell, if the Smurfs were to lose in regulation to the Isles tonight, they'd keep "We control our destiny" status by virtue of a three-point lead with only one extra game in the Hurricanes' hand. (And while the NHL's "The People Demand a Winner" regime dictates that some games are worth two points while circus games are worth three, you still can't claim all three for one team.)
Short Island Smurfs (41-31-5, 8th) @ Long Island Islanders (29-36-12, 14th)
Nassau [gloriously unsponsored] Veterans Mem. Coliseum
7 p.m. EDT | MSG, MSG+ | audio - WRHU 88.7
Guardedly nervous but totally calm: Blueshirt Banter
So that's my view, but I'm all about interesting hockey this time of year, and an Islanders regulation win would certainly create both the usual rivalry satisfaction as well as the entertainment bonus of watching the East's playoff race linger on. I still remember getting ready for Game 1 in 2007 when my always-late print copy of The Hockey News arrived in my mailbox with a "Playoff Preview" that included 10 teams in the East ... none of which were the eighth-seed Isles. This time of year, Dubie things can happen.A big problem for the Rangers right now is they can't score, even against Enroth (whose name always makes me think he's Jabba the Hut's brother or something). Their rational fans -- it's crazy I know, but they exist! -- feel like nothing's coming easy right now. They've managed a whopping three goals in their last four games, yet gone 2-1-1 in that time thanks to some goalie they got over there.
And just before this offensive slump? Merely 17 goals in three big wins including an outright thumping of the Islanders. So who knows which version of Dolan's Team shows up tonight. I hope it's the bad Smurfs, obviously. I'd love for John Tortorella to bust out the ol' Terry Murray "choking situation" line. That would make Friday more fun.
Where Things Stand
- Eric Hornick pointed out that the Islanders, though tied with Florida on points and GP and non-shootout wins, are 14th thanks to Florida owning the season series.
- Also from Hornick: Zenon Konopka's 255 PIMs are the most by an Islander since Richard Pilon and 10 PIM short of Konopka's career high.
- Despite yesterday's ankle scare, Konopka sounds like he'll give it a go tonight, according to Katie Strang. She also reports that Michael Grabner is still doubtful after selfishly attending the birth of his firstborn.
- Meanwhile, all you need to know about why goaltending "wins" aren't all that meaningful (sorry, Marty) can be seen by the note that both Al Montoya and Rick DiPietro share the team lead in that category at eight apiece. Montoya's save % (also a finicky stat due to small samples and variance from PK situations, but much better than W's) is .923. DiPietro's is .887.
- Speaking of Montoya...regretfully Evgeni Nabokov will not be in the lineup tonight (illiteracy, career vertigo, 2-4 years). UPDATE: Excerpts of a recent interview with Nabokov indicates he has, in fact, become aware of basic tenets of the CBA.
- From the Twitter action: Montoya gets the start (no surprise) while on the other side Mats Zuccarello returns after a couple of games as a healthy scratch.
- Bottom Line: In five meetings the Islanders have only one win from this series, and that was an opening week win under Scott Gordon. This is unacceptable, full stop.
I've mostly ignored this because rumored 5-, 10- or 15-team chases don't really whet my whistle, but Larry Brooks says both of tonight's teams are "in the mix" but not favorites for Merrimack's Stephane Da Costa. Wake me up when he signs with Ottawa.
These undrafted chases are good for media fodder but they rarely are worth the hype. So my bigger interest there is that adding a Frenchman to the Islanders' mix of Stars From Forgotten European Hockey Nations would be cool. We've got Austria, Switzerland and Denmark -- why not France? But yeah, it ain't happening.
- From Voice of the Islanders Fans, a "state of the franchise" update that seems to jibe with a lot of fan views you'll see: Things are progressing well, now sign Konopka. I appreciate what Zeke has done and would worry about his absence "in the room" (and more importantly, "at the dot"), but I suppose I'm in the minority in not thinking this is a must-sign. I want depth, and I want upgrades; the risk there is if an upgrade cannot be signed. Plus, I mean Hoppy's future is on the line here, too.
- Some audio talk on this game at SportsRadioNY via 7th Woman.
Some more talk on this one between former
figure skating star Scott HamiltonNHL goalie Darren Pang and Chris Botta.
- Still more audio: Jack Capuano on Montoya and such, via the Islanders.
This is not the place for your FIG (First Islanders Goal) picks. This FanShot is. Meanwhile, I think we'll create a separate thread next week for "Last Islanders Goal" (of the season) picks. We have to think about how to do the tiebreakers on that one though.