Honest engine, I wasn't trying to forecast a "whimper" end by previewing yesterday's final home game with the T.S. Eliot reference. I was referring to the meaningless nature of the game but certainly hoping against a meaningless effort.
A doldrum team should at least come out on fire for their home fans and give them an effort that builds hope. Fan Appreciation Day and all ... so the thinking goes. The Islanders missed the memo, or the TPS Report arrived with the wrong cover. Atrocious Goaltending + Delayed Effort = Sour Season-Ending Note.
I guess we should be happy no one got hurt, a rare feat indeed this season.
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That was some seriously ugly goaltending -- by both Yann Danis, who oddly started back-to-back this weekend, as well as by Joey MacDonald, who allowed two in relief. MacDonald's knee-drop-shoulder-flail on the Bruins' final goal was high comedy. The Isles actually outshot the Bruins 34-33, but the 2-on-1 in the first minute and three weak goals past Danis put the game out of reach quickly.
But I don't want to dwell on one more meaningless loss, even if it kept the team from reaching its avowed goal of finishing over .500 at home. Scott Gordon had some interesting things to say in the post-game [video is after the jump], so I'll note some of those comments here, as well as disagree with Chris Botta's interpretation of one of them...
Scott Gordon Post-Game
Reflections on the 2nd-half performance:
"As I told the players [at the previous night's team dinner], I was on a team in Quebec that was out of the playoffs in January -- and it didn't get better after that. So I gave credit where credit was due: the players didn't just let the second half pass them; they went out and tried to get better."
The biggest need for next year:
"Health. Getting Ricky back is a huge thing. Many of the things we need to get better at are minimal compared to the first half."
Most improved player:
"No question, Kyle Okposo. ... After the first 15 games, he started to pick things up before he got injured. When he came back, he picked up right where he left off."
As a rookie coach, what has he learned most?
"I haven't thought about it yet. ... I alluded to this in January, but I was in a similar situation before with personnel, and I waited until the end of the season to make changes. And this year I did what I thought was in the best interest of our team, and that was to make those changes in January, and I was rewarded by the performance of the players to step up and make the most of their opportunities."
Asked if he saw any of the old bad habits creep in during the final 12 games (2-9-1), which followed the Islanders' strongest, 25-game (12-9-4), youth-infused stretch of the season:
"No. I've got some thoughts on it, but it's time to put the season behind us."
Chris Botta said that last response "blockered a question about any home stretch distaste souring his team’s happy second half recap," but the video shows that question was more specifically about old habits creeping in -- not about whether the team was really worse than Gordon thinks it was.
The Elephant-Sized Goaltending Question
Now, what thoughts Gordon's keeping to himself, we won't know. But I have a strong suspicion that he didn't see bad habits creeping in so much as he saw bad goaltending putting the team behind the eight-ball too many times, which deflated the team and gave them cover to respond poorly.
As disappointed as I was with how this team finished out the stretch, the common thread in good times and bad times this year was goaltending. The Islanders save percentage over those final 12 games was .876 -- an unacceptable mark. But their shots allowed over that same period was 36.2 -- also an unacceptable mark. The goaltending was bad, but the defense wasn't doing it's job either.
Still, there's a reason goaltending is the most commonly cited ingredient in hockey. We're going to hear it a lot the next two months -- about some early-round failures and about whoever raises the Cup: Goaltending, goaltending, goaltending.
I want to say, "Come back healthy, DP. Give us a fighting chance." But in Logan's Newsday recap -- a good post-season assessment overall -- he mentions the circulation of Rick DiPietro being seen on crutches recently at the Isles' rehab facility.
Whatever is going on -- and I hope but hardly expect Garth Snow to tell us -- it just underlines the need for the team to secure a legitimate 1A goaltender this summer. Judging by the last few weeks, that ain't Yann Danis. The Islanders will have cap room; perhaps throw some money at Ice Girl-loving Craig Anderson.