There are 15 games and 30 teams on the NHL schedule today, so you'll be lucky (or unlucky?) if you see any coverage of New York Islanders vs. Columbus Blue Jackets beyond those obligated to fulfill contractual duties. (Newsday has understandably farmed out the job.)
Unaccounted for in tonight's unheard forest: P.A. Parenteau and Mark Eaton, both of whom may have already played their last games in Islanders uniforms, aren't on the trip. (With Parenteau out, the Isles will just run with the seven D and 11 forwards they have.) Similarly, healthy Milan Jurcina and Steve Staios and struggling Al Montoya may be dressing in blue and orange for the final time.
Oh, and on the other side, some Rick Nash guy, who will apparently have to play through injury just to wave a presumed goodbye to the fans. His coach, ex-Wild coach Todd Richards, also may be gone as part of a number of offseason questions the team will have to evaluate.
As for the Islanders: They still haven't won a regulation game in Columbus. Given the lottery stakes, I'm betting many of you hope that doesn't change tonight.
If you're a tanker with a guilty conscience -- as in, you want a high draft slot but you don't want to root against your favorite team, here's what you should be rooting for:
- The Ducks to get at least a point in Calgary
- The Wild to get at least a point home to Phoenix, who can win the division title
- The Maple Leafs to get at least a point vs. Montreal
If those three scenarios happen, you can root for an Islanders win and satisfy your tanking needs.
Today has a whiff of April 11, 1997, when the Hartford Whalers played their final road game in a sparsely populated Nassau Coliseum. ("Tree falling" theme recognized there, but I swear I was already going there!) Hopefully neither team is moving in this case, but the Islanders have their own backdrop of disappointment as this season ends, and the Columbus Blue Jackets have been in despair all year -- despair that needs bold corrections over the summer.
It started with a poor James Wisniewski in-game decision -- we've seen that before -- that got one of the first Shanaban hammers dropped on the high-priced summer acquisition. That meant an 8-game suspension, the other big summer get Jeff Carter was hurt early, and the Blue Jackets started 0-7-1 and 2-12-2. They never recovered -- and just as importantly -- they stuck with today's starter Steve Mason far too long.
They've actually played better in the final weeks, winning four of their last five including victories over three playoff-bound opponents. I've always said to finish in 30th you have to be both bad and terribly unlucky, and the Blue Jackets have certainly been both this year.
Like the Islanders, Columbus' four division-mates are playoff and 100-point bound. Even with improvements over the summer, next season will be a challenge.
Butch and The Little Guys; DiPietro Humble and Hopeful
Pretty cool scene in the Blue Jackets dressing room, as former NHL star Butch Goring -- 1,107 games, 375 goals, 888 points with Los Angeles, Boston and the New York Islanders -- sought out Jackets rookie winger Cam Atkinson. Goring is 5-10, 165 pounds. He admires guys like Atkinson, who not only survive but thrive in a league where almost every other player has a significant size advantage. "It wasn't as big a deal when I played," Goring said. "The average size then was 5-9, 5-10. The guys now are huge. I haven't seen a lot of (Atkinson), but I saw his game the other night. He's got some stuff.
The New York Times covers the Islanders (!):
Nevertheless, DiPietro is determined to return, and he said one of the reasons is to prove the Islanders’ faith in him in signing him to a contract that now looks like an enormous albatross.
Snow said in his office Thursday that the team’s goal for DiPietro is simply for him to be healthy.
"But history dictates that he’s had some trouble on the injury front," Snow said. Referring to the other goaltenders, he added, "The plus side of that is that we have insurance."
"All of those little things you take for granted when you’re playing every day and everything’s going great, you truly cherish now," DiPietro said.
People already discussing that in this FanShot. Heh, enjoy summer!
Speaking of which...
A Valediction Forbidding Leaving
As well-meant seasons pass mildly away,
And whisper to their players to go,
Whilst some sad Isles fans do say,
"Now this rebuild ends," and some say, "No."
So let us melt, and make no noise,
No tear-floods, nor short-sighted move ;
'Twere profanation of our joys
To tell the Burnsides our love.
Movement of th' standings brings angst and fears ;
Men reckon what it did, and meant ;
But recollection of the bygone years,
With Cups and crowns, is innocent.
Dull baseball lovers' love
—Whose soul is routine —cannot admit
Of absence, 'cause it doth remove
The thing which elemented it.
But hockey's a love so much refined,
That ourselves know not what it is,
Inter-assurèd of the mind,
Care less, Tavares, Ice Girls and Butchisms to miss.
Our two souls therefore, which are one,
Though season's end, endure not yet
A breach, but an expansion,
Like gold to airy thinness beat.
(An abortion of A Valediction Forbidding Mourning. Cliff Notes: Games are over, but we'll be alright. There's plenty of Isles news and discussion to be had through the playoffs, lottery, draft and more this summer.)
Seriously, we know most of you stick around during summer -- and we'll have plenty each day including the NHL playoffs -- but if you head for outdoor games when the ice melts, thanks for your readership and participation this season.
Oh, and speaking of summer: Scratch another free agent defenseman off your list.
Bridgeport won again last night, and it was made possible because Kevin Poulin "was ridiculous" -- particularly on an early PK after Ty Wishart stuck up for Trevor Frischmon after Patrick Maroon ran him.