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Flames 5, Isles 2: Tanking by default

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As Islanders Outsider said last night: "Goals from Tambellini and Smith: Already feels like a victory!"

That's about right: The effort was there; the skill and ability to match the Flames' constant scoring chances was not. So we try to take solace in the good fortune of the youngsters -- in this case, surprisingly, goals by two can-miss prospects.

Game Summary | Event Summary | nhl.com Recap

Even the Flames broadcasters -- including former THN columnist Mike Brophy in studio -- were making excuses for the Isles, in some form of Western Canadian hospitality that echoed my native Midwest. ("Such a nice team you have. Care for fresh-baked apple pie?") The Islanders made it interesting briefly -- tying it at 2-2 late in the 2nd -- then immediately gave up the winning goal and never looked back.

These are the dog days of the rebuild: The Islanders are necessarily ripping off a hundred bandaids which patched over the Milbury Era and squeaked them into 8th seeds on pure blood, sweat and hustle. It will get better, but we're gonna take lumps and watch the youngsters get their reps in first.

Seriously, Trevor Smith has looked good since coming up. He has jump. He made Tim Jackman look dangerous. One could see where the undrafted 23-year-old Smith could find a role. Late bloomer? Let's hope.

Speaking of tardy blooming, Jeff Tambellini's goal was sniper-like in the fashion that earned him stardom in the AHL. For someone who never gets to see AHL Bridgeport play, it was nice to visually confirm that Tambellini actually has that in him. Although many of us are prone to writing him off, his one-way contract means he has this year and next to find "it" consistently. So ... there's that.

But oy, Brendan Witt. On for four goals against, not looking swell on any. Reluctantly, I want the club to trade him -- not for us, but for him. He deserves better. He and Trent Hunter are my favorite Islanders of this era -- I was close to slapping #32 on a replica this summer -- but Witt just doesn't fit this system.

Witt did the lean years in Washington, then his version of escape-to-"contender" was ... Nashville. So if a strong team wants him, let him spend the homestretch of his career playing games that matter. If despite these troubles he wants to stick it out in all his Witt-ian determination ... I'm not sure that can work.

Despite our epic injury list, we can't even take solace in the lottery yet: There's competition brewing, with Tampa Bay losing, Atlanta trying to -- and even goalie-less Toronto climbing back into the act now that Brian "Operation Descend Rapidly" Burke is around.

I've already written my affirmation on why these trying times can be fun nonetheless. And Botta will cover DiPietro in his Friday post. So tonight, we're just closing with a dash of self-pity: Woe is freaking us.

[Update: Botta's promised DiPietro post is here, encouraging fans to cool it on ripping the franchise goalie for events beyond his control. I'm stunned that this is even necessary. Maybe I unconsciously skip over raving DiPietro "haters" without noticing them, because I didn't think that many fans were truly faulting DiPietro for what is ultimately a journey of educated-guess communication between his doctors, his joints, and his neurons. But this is the Internet, where the most irrational voices often steal a megaphone.]