[Updated with a ticket offer for the Tuesday rematch from our partners TiqIQ. See the offer at the bottom of this post; act by 7 p.m. EST tonight.]
Additional notes for this looming home-and-home not reflected in the morning thread: The lineup is the same for the Islanders (Dylan Reese still in, Evgeni Nabokov still starting), while the Maple Leafs will start Jonas Gustavsson. This does not make Leafs fans unanimously happy.
Nabokov, by the way, got a Third Star of the Week nod from the NHL.
The Leafs, of course, have their targets trained on John Tavares since he has driven the Islanders offense for the last month. Both the Globe and Mail and Sun have gameday pieces on that, with Nazem Kadri saying the obvious: "I don't think Johnny likes getting hit too much." I'm betting that's why he's gotten better at eluding checks.
Additional Isles/Leafs Notes
Staple at Newsday takes on the Tavares critics. [$5 please]
Kevin at IPB formally joins the chorus of Re-Sign Nielsen and Parenteau Or Else. My intuitive side says this is a no-brainer and there's no way the Isles let either go for mere rental pricing. They simply can't afford to let talent like this walk -- to their credit, they haven't let such talent walk yet -- because, as Kevin notes, they have not shown the ability to acquire such players who would replace them. (And, I'd add, all prospects represent future hope, not present readiness.)
From the Isles game notes: A great snapshot of the difference between varied talent, roles and usage: "Frans Nielsen is two assists shy of 100 in his NHL career. John Tavares is three assists shy of his 100th. Josh Bailey scored the 100th point of his NHL career Thursday in Philadelphia."
Also, a special teams note worth considering trom the Gustavsson post at Pension Plan Puppets above:
Then 2012 came about and the Maple Leafs became a team full of Lady Byngs. Their PK per game rate has fallen by over 50% to just 1.8 shorthanded situations a game, and has operated to perfection killing off all 16 PKs they've faced. Is this due to a new system? Possibly as this comes after noted heated PK related arguments at Leafs practice between players and coaches. Is it just due to luck and a regression to the mean? Yeah, a fair bit I would say.
So the Leafs PK is hot lately. Have they finally made a fix? (Regardless, staying out of the box is huge.) It'll be fun to watch over the next two nights. The Islanders don't take many penalties, so special teams could become insignificant -- or pivotal, depending on which trends hold.
Other Sources of Hockey Amusement
Lee Stempniak's brother will defend him high and low on the innernetz. It's funny, because Stempniak's hat trick was a little fortuitous (though any hat trick often is): One great shot and a couple Khabibulin should want back. I noticed because Blake Comeau picked up some points that night, including a nice shot of his own.
A New York Times piece quotes both Gabe Desjardins (stats guru and founder of Behind the Net) and the gang that published that study that sort of claimed fights change "momentum" bot not necessarily for one team or the other. Everyone asked said essentially, statistically speaking, "Fighting has no effect on winning." Quotes from Scotty Bowman loom large, as he ran four Cup winners in the last two decades that were among the bottom of the league in fighting majors: "That was always my theory. You have to stand up to the other team, but if you have a guy that just specializes in fighting, it’s a handicap."
I doubt anyone on either side in this oft-misconstrued debate could differ with that last quote. The ideal workaround is to have good players who can also fight. Alas, there aren't enough Milan Lucic's to go around. The melodrama comes in when people disagree over how good that player has to be, or how able their favorite fighter is.
Speaking of Desjardins, his notes from attending a game in Phoenix jibe with my own impressions upon a road trip there last season: "I don't think hockey is destined to fail in Phoenix by any stretch of the imagination. But it is certainly destined to fail in Glendale." Don't think I'd prefer a Hard Rock to a Margaritaville though, all told.
Finally, I found Eric Duhatschek's description of Gary Bettman right on and reflective of his public persona:
Bettman also took time to exchange pleasantries with reporters before the start of the game - and occasionally in the past, in that sort of setting, would stray slightly off message. Not on this night though. No matter what the topic - Phoenix’s future, collective bargaining, outdoor game, supplementary discipline, player safety issues - Bettman kept his cards close to the vest. He really is a fascinating man to banter with - careful, cautious, always wary about where there might be a trap in the line of questioning. This was a masterful performance, in many ways, as he girds up for the first round of negotiations on the next collective bargaining agreement with the players association.
If you add this to the reality of Bettman's job both pleasing and guiding his many disagreeing bosses, you have the context you need to parse any Bettman move or public statement.
Again, I don't find Bettman's style appealing, but I do find it fascinating as an indicator of all the forces behind the scenes, for which he is the public face.
Ticket Offer for Tuesday Night's Rematch
This is a late-breaking, act-fast offer from our ticket partners at TiqIQ. Take a look, and let me know how it works if you give it a try:
Isles fans: Here's a special alert on tickets for tomorrow night's game against the Maple Leafs: Through our ticket partner TiqIQ, you can "make an offer" and essentially pick your price on tickets from Score Big: For a "1 star seat" that would usually cost you close to $40 after all the fees, you can get in for an offer of around $20, with no additional shipping or handling. But you need to move fast, as this deal expires at 7 p.m. Eastern tonight (Monday!). So make an offer now: http://tiqiq.us/6~9.
If this kind of thing is helpful, we'll definitely do it more often.