I am not typically an avid Tank for [insert wildly hyped 18-year-old with uncertain future] campaigner, but I do like my gallows humor, and there is absolutely no way I can look at a meaningless late-season matchup between two teams separated by two points at the bottom of the standings and not think, "Gee ... if a ref wanted to outright hose us, tonight would be the ideal night. In regulation, please." Or some such cognitive somersault.
I can't help it. It's part of the fun that softens the blow this time of year for followers of The Left Behind -- part of the fun the NHL intended when creating the lottery. But since this very fan-centric topic is not on the players' minds, games like tonight can turn into wild shinny affairs, what with players loose and playing for jobs next year or bunnies next hour. You know, instead of tanking for June -- which is really tanking for three years from now, to be honest.
Before we get to more on the Blue Jackets and the Islanders' hanging-by-Bruno's-groin defense, some updates:
- Bridgeport's no-regulation-loss string ended with a 4-1 defeat in Manchester.
- Rhett Rakhshani and Matt Donovan were upset in the NCAA tourney by RIT. Blake Kessel's UNH upset Cornell and play RIT tonight for a trip to the Frozen Four. Kessel's teammate Bobby Butler displayed his heralded shot for the several NHL teams reported to be pursuing him.
- Casey Cizikas and Jyri Niemi joined fellow Isles prospect Travis Hamonic in sweeping their way to the second round of CHL playoffs, but Jared Spurgeon has to wait: His Spokane team is tied 2-2 with Portland.
- The annual NYPD vs. NYFD hockey game is this afternoon at the Coliseum. No future Islanders in that one, unless Garth spots a defenseman.
CBJ House of Horrors?
Tonight we'll get the usual, "The Islanders have never won in Columbus" narrative -- which is fairly trivial when you're talking about a Western Conference foe that the Isles visit less often than Jeff Tambellini dresses for consecutive games. A more amusing note was Eric's line that the Islanders "haven't won in Ohio" since the '70s. (The Oakland Seals begat the California (Golden) Seals, who moved to Cleveland to become the Barons, who folded and "merged" with the North Stars in an arrangement that could only happen in the NHL.
Speaking of reaching for small sample sizes: Mathieu Garon gets the start for the Blue Jackets but I wouldn't say it's because of this minutia:
Garon also is 2-0 lifetime against the Islanders with a 0.43 GAA and .986 save percentage.
Helluva lifetime, that. That update also includes this Beavis and Butthead-worthy note: "Grant Clitsome has been solid..." I'm ... I'm sorry, teach', but I just can't keep a straight face when I hear that name. You understand.
The Blue Jackets are having an awful year of shattered expectations: Ken Hitchcock reached his expiration date at least a season or two before he was supposed to; now, like Atlanta they're in that unfortunate mode where their only playoff franchise appearance didn't even provide the satisfaction of a single win. But there is hope there, and part of it is thanks to the development of Jakub Voracek and last year's brilliant trade deadline acquisition, Antoine Vermette, who has one more point than Rick Nash.
Who's on Defense?
I'll say this: If you left a game with a groin strain, prudence dictates you're not ready to play two nights and one flight later. As of last night, it was unannounced what the Islanders were doing to deal with Bruno Gervais' groin injury. Listed as day-to-day, I hope they don't force Bruno out there.
The Bridgeport options are limited and/or undesirable, so for tonight's tanktastic match I'd even hear arguments for going with five D, like Darryl Sutter in the middle of salary cap problems. (What the hell, Peter Laviolette practically went with four during his best days as Islanders coach.) I wouldn't run Dustin Kohn out there either, even if his concussion was of the mildest variety (and really, no brain injury is mild). If you see an update, put it in comments.
But this is all a lot of thought for a late-March game between two 14th-place clubs.
Prediction: The NHL, which schedules two meetings between the Isles and BJ's this season to fill the holes in the schedule created by premium matchups for other (i.e. Canadian) teams, ends up discovering this was the game of the night. Really!