Operation Spoiler has begun. The Islanders can't make much of an impact on their own ranking the rest of the way, but they can put dents into the hopes of Gary's little underachievers. Underachievers such as the Penguins, who are one more game and one less point away from where they need to be. (On that topic, gauge Pens fan reaction at Pensburgh.)
As pondered in the pre-game, to deprive the Penguins of another crucial point down the stretch is to cast serious doubt on whether the Pens can crawl back into the playoff picture. Pity Dan Bylsma's fix. This really makes me wonder, again: Why Ray Shero didn't make a coaching move sooner? Billy Jaffe described the Pens as "flat-footed ... caught between systems," as they played for a coach who took over less than 24 hours ago. If you're making a big move, why wait this long -- and why make it in that time crunch?
I only caught audio of this matinee, but thanks to Twitter and blogger friends, I got a picture of the Islanders youngsters really putting in a strong effort despite being dominated in faceoffs, 41-21 (Young Josh Bailey, however, was 7 for 14 in the dot).
I liked the names I heard in OT (Kyle Okposo defending Sidney Crosby -- twice), which sounded like a back-and-forth cardiac test. I liked Frans Nielsen picking up two points and a big shootout goal. And what's this? Even Jeff Tambellini converting in the shootout? Is there new faith in him from Gordon, or is he just using an asset for its chief purpose?
But Nielsen and Tambellini's efforts don't matter without Joey MacDonald, who denied Evgeni Malkin and out-waited Crosby in the shootout. For the Pens, that's who you want taking the shot in a moment like this -- your two big stars. That they came up empty must feel like a bad omen.
Not so for the Islanders fans, who took in an exciting holiday game during Kids' Day at the Coliseum. In a season like this, take joy in the little spoils.
(Speaking of kids, Blake Comeau's post-game Facebook chat should start in a few...)
And speaking of new media: Any new friends and visitors via Twitter are welcome to chime in on these: We don't bite! An SBN account is easy and free to set up -- and mostly allows you to interact with a bunch of sports fans (check the team lists to the left) without the troll-ish headaches. My only warning: It can be addictive.