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Islanders Gameday: Don't 'gesture' in D.C.

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Those are some beautiful whites no?
Those are some beautiful whites no?

I've been ranting about the absurd lack of scale or context -- not to mention explanation, which kinda helps when enforcing standards -- of Colin Campbell's office for two years, so I've about thrown up my hands on that front. Still, a little bit on that at the end of this post.

As for tonight, it's a mismatch on paper: The Capitals cleared the East field by a whopping 18 points last year, while the Islanders fell nine points short of a playoff seed. Yet somehow these two disparate teams have produced some thrilling contests the last two years. Maybe it's a credit to Bruce Boudreau and Scott Gordon's approaches -- a style that's far from "cynical" (as they say in football soccer) and should, if there were any justice, please the hockey gods and reward longtime Caps fans with a Cup at some point in the Leonsis-Ovechkin era.

Nassau-square_medium                 Was-pit-red_medium
New York Islanders @ Washington Capitals
7 p.m. | [
telephony of some sort] Center | VERSUS, WHRU 88.7, nhl audio
Following the Caps since before before it was cool:
Japers' Rink

From the Islanders' perspective of the asymmetrical standings in the NHL's "The People Demand a Winner" 2/3-point-game system, they're 1-3-4 over the last two years vs. the Capitals. Not exactly dead heat, that, but I mean come on: Four OT games!

The Capitals powerplay was poor last game, but their PK has been excellent. Worse, the Islanders' hot-thus-far powerplay has lost point cannon James Wisniewski for two games for being an exceptionally accurate pantomime. It will be interesting to see who Gordon puts out as his replacement, as no healthy member of the squad can quite replicate his heavy shot.

This Is Our Concern, Dude: in the last two seasons the Islanders PK has killed only 18 of 30 Capitals powerplays.

Thankfully for the Islanders, their best Alex Ovechkin spy Radek Martinek is back, healthy and looking like he hasn't missed a beat despite multiple joints patched together like some such Czech Robocop. Though it's a road matchup, you can bet Gordon will try to get Martinek out there when Ovi is. A year ago in an Isles OT win in D.C., Martinek was on for more than 10 of Ovi's 25 minutes, easily a team high.

Meanwhile, newcomer and former Cap Milan Jurcina is looking forward to playing his old team. He and Martinek will be joined by a new entry on defense thanks to the Wisniewski suspension. Most hope for Jack Hillen, but Bruno Gervais is also waiting.


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About the 'Gesture'

I mentioned when the Wisniewski incident happened that I couldn't wait for the sanitized vocabulary that would result. Turns out the MSM is just settling on "profane gesture" or "obscene gesture." Yawn.

You can say "throat slash" a lot easier than you can say, uh..."the give me a Wisniewski gesture" because our society is cool with violence but not so cool with sex -- a point made nicely by Chris Botta at FanHouse, noting how two games is the standard for knocking out a non-puck carrier from behind, too. Suffice to say that as with Jason Pominville, we all wish Sean Avery a speedy recovery from this crime. (I know I'm being unfair in that comparison, but so routinely is the league's disciplinarian who should have been relieved years ago.)

The one area I would be more open to an argument for significant punishment (i.e. more than a game) is an area the league won't touch even if Brian Burke will: Homophobia. Was Wisniewski's gesture -- and some of our reactions to it -- homophobic in nature? At first glance to me it was just one of those stupid throwaway grab-an-innuendo gestures, like the hand-shaking "ya wanker" motion. But I've had some private conversations since that gave me pause. It's a question worth asking. Alas, I'd bet money Campbell is such a clueless dinosaur that this concern is the furthest from his mind. Certainly if this was an issue with the league, they'd bother to bring it up in their statement rather than hide behind the release as if it was handed down from the clouds, per usual.

It's not that I object to a suspension for Wiz; players were clearly warned about, ahem, "gestures" in the preseason, so he has to control such motions even when directed at an attention-seeking league cancer like Avery. But when I consider all the meaningless two-game suspensions "Heckuva job, Collie" has handed out, it underlines just a bit too clearly how little this league really cares about deterrence. Note that Mike Cammalleri -- he of the blessed market Habs, like the media-saturated Rangers -- got a measly one game for using his stick like both sword and ax on Nino Niederreiter.

Yeah, "Heckuva job, Collie" is totally fit for duty. Thanks for giving him the vote of confidence, Gary.

I've often figured if the NHL had another work stoppage I'd give up following the league for god good (edit: unintentionally hilarious typo there) -- such an abusive institution wouldn't be worth my time. I won't be so drastic about Campbell's regime of inconsistent incompetence, but I have realized that I have to stop worrying about it or it'll drive me crazy. I'll let people like Ryan Miller carry the torch; he has slightly more clout.