Who doesn't love Grabs' big cheesy smile?
Following the Islanders 9-3 destruction of the Penguins Feb. 11, somehow the national media didn't see it like Isles fans. Instead of seeing it as turning the corner on a tough season with a rout of a division rival (well before the fights started), or even an oft-beat-up team finally standing up for each other after absorbing "liberties" from opponents, the prevailing narrative had the suddenly goonish Islanders deciding to jump the poor innocent Penguins for no good reason. The team that everyone felt sorry for was now the poster boy for Slap Shot hockey.
It was hardly mentioned how the Penguins twice sent Islanders on breakaways crashing into Brent Johnson and the net. It was only by dumb luck that Kyle Okposo or Michael Grabner -- not to mention Johnson himself -- weren't seriously injured. Also not mentioned was Jack Hillen's concussion, which was partially caused by Eric Tangradi's shot on him moments before the big melee in the third ignited by Trevor Gillies.
On the season the Islanders have gotten the short end of the stick time and time again. Even with Gillies and Zenon Konopka, teams have taken physical advantage of the mostly younger smaller Islanders. It seems as though people forgot there was a time when the Penguins traded for former Isles player and current staffer Eric Cairns in order to protect Sidney Crosby. In his 450 game career Cairns had nearly 1200 PIM to go along with 42 points. Viewing that night as a one-sided assault ignore the reality of the current Penguins, who led the NHL in PIM at the time* of the Friday Fight Fest, who make use of Matt Cooke, and have goon Eric Godard along with tough guys Deryk Engelland and Michael Rupp.
Following the jump, a video rundown of teams abusing Islander players this season, which juuust might hint at why Islanders players don't rely on Colin Campbell's office to discipline their assailants anymore.
*Currently the Penguins are now second in PIM behind the Islanders, largely thanks to the Islanders somehow accumulating nine more 10-minute misconducts (26) than the next team (Edmonton, which has 17).
It Started in the Preseason
After trying to check Nino Niederreiter and failing, Mike Cammalleri decided to teach the rookie a lesson and slashed him. The first slash to Nino's face wasn't enough for him though, as he proceeded to go chasing after him and give him another slash to the ankle. Cammalleri was suspended, for all of one game.
It Gets Ridiculous 9 Days Later
Going after a promising youngster and slashing him multiple times is worthy of a one game suspension. But somehow making an "obscene gesture" at Sean Avery is twice as worse. At least according to the NHL Wheel Of Justice, which spins rather randomly.
4 Days Later and 3 Cooke runs on Rick DiPietro
Maybe it's a legitimate strategy, given that DiPietro was coming off two seasons in which he played 13 total NHL games. But somehow Matt Cooke found himself crashing (or sending Isles crashing) into DiPietro three different times in one game. No Suspension.
Briere Takes Out the Goon Nielsen
Danny Briere stands up and flat out cross checks Frans Nielsen off the faceoff in the final minute of a game that was already over. Briere would later claim that Frans said something he didn't like. Even more amazing was that Frans was given a major and tossed from the game -- add another to the misconduct tally -- along with Briere. Briere was given all of a 2 game suspension for this play.
Gervais Stops White's Fist With His Face
Colin White nails PA Parenteau from behind sending him face first into the boards. You can see on the video Bruno Gervais raising his hand to question the ref why nothing was called. When nothing is called, Bruno probably makes one of his worst decisions of the year to take matters into his own hands.
Talbot Concusses Comeau
One of the two big events in the game before the big brawl for the Islanders and Penguins. The hit might be borderline, but considering that Blake Comeau had released the puck and turned toward his own zone when Talbot blindsided him, causing a concussion that would keep him out of the lineup for 10 days, you can see why the Islanders were upset.
Cooke Buzzes DP Again, Pens Have A Laugh
The other big event leading up to the big brawl, Cooke again runs DP. Johnson takes exception to it and leaves the crease -- again, contrary to the popular narrative that DP invited it all, Johnson was quoted after the game saying he'd looked forward to a reason to fight -- leading to a fight between him and DP. After beating DP, Johnson -- tossed from the game for leaving the crease -- is shown laughing it up with Marc Andre Fleury and other Penguins on the way out.
The Brawl Game
Amazingly ignored following this game was that Brooks Oprik sent two different Islanders barreling into Johnson and the net and only dumb luck kept everyone from getting hurt. I'm amazed at the Penguins announcer, who claims that Okposo's momentum took him into Johnson. Anyone with eyes can tell that Okposo was trying to stop for a few steps and only continued forward due to the friendly push of the Pen player. I also couldn't find any video of the Tangradi hit on Hillen unfortunately.
Clutterbuck Nails DiBenedetto from Behind, But Gillies Does the Time
Justin DiBenedetto playing in his second NHL game and standing at a whole 6' 195 pounds is nailed in a dangerous hit by Cal Clutterbuck. The ensuing hit by Gillies who was coming off his suspension made all the headlines, and the mob came out with pitchforks after him. Thankfully there were some national media out there willing to point out that the Clutterbuck hit was just as dangerous. In the end Gillies gets another suspension and Clutterbuck gets off scott free.
Gaborik Nails Nielsen
Marian Gaborik nails Frans Nielsen from behind into the boards. The concussion Nielsen suffers finishes off his season. Amazingly (or not, if you've read to this point) Gaborik does not get a suspension.
There's other hits too, but it's tough to find them unless they lead to a fight. But the idea that the Islanders are this great big team full of nothing but goons is wrong. I think Mike did an excellent job of summing up the problem with the NHL. The uneven enforcement of the rules by the NHL is what leads to these reactions. Why trust the league will take care of things instead of handling things yourself?
The NHL has handed out a total of 13 games worth of suspensions for Islanders Opponents. Of that 13, 10 was part of Eric Godard's automatic for leaving the bench. But even an automatic isn't automatic for Isles opponents. Leaving the bench is supposed to include a fine for the team and a 2 game suspension for the coach. Both of these penalties were waived while the Islanders were fined 100K for being unable to control their players in the same game.