The Toronto Maple Leafs are one of those teams who -- if Islanders dreams of playoff chasing are to be taken seriously -- must be passed. Sure, they do not stand between the Isles and 8th (the Leafs sit loftily, but hardly comfortably, in 6th place today). But Toronto is in that bubble of flawed teams between 6th and 11th place in the East with winning records (by NHL definition) but negative goal differentials.
To manage the task which they claim as their charge, the Islanders need to perform better than they have thus far and, honestly, better than this 6-4-2 stretch. That means beating teams like the Leafs more regularly, and in regulation.
Islanders (11-15-6, 14th/E) vs. Maple Leafs (17-13-4, 6th/E)
7 p.m. | MSG+2 (twice the plus, half the signal!) | Audio: NHL - WRHU
Nassau [gloriously unsponsored] Veterans Mem. Coliseum
Can't help it, born there: Pension Plan Puppets
The Leafs bring with them the herd of Toronto media crawling atop one another to ask John Tavares why he no sign with Toronto, CBA be damned.
In the search for bizarre meaning amid randomness, you may turn to the wire story that notes the Leafs have won only five of their last 20 Friday night games. Mind you, those few capsule sentences paint the picture of the Leafs overwhelmed by this burden and searching to fix it, when in reality they probably know nothing about this "trend."
Rather, it's more likely what copy staffers come up with when stuck tossing together game previews right before the holidays, as everyone with seniority happily flees the office to join lines of stressed shoppers at the chocolate store. We laugh because we pity.
The traditional, "boy this article will look funny if the Leafs lose this game" piece comes from the Star, which paints the scene from failed referendum to bad first quarter to December's mini-revival. No true Toronto piece would be complete without also jabbing the home team (from their end) as well: "Let’s not forget the Islanders have been to the playoffs one more time than the Maple Leafs in the last six years."
Capuano Last Night
Jack Capuano focused on the blown faceoff last night where Artem Anisimov and Marian Gaborik pulled off their set play and scored. Mistakes were made.
This Filler is Such Meta-Filler
The search for pre-holiday filler from Toronto media is my way of saying ... this preview post is pre-holiday filler. It's busy. The team is on a back-to-back. (So are the Leafs; they ended a three-game skid by beating the Sabres 3-2 last night in Toronto.) And the lineup is exactly the same as last night, including Evgeni Nabokov as your starter.
That means Nino Niederreiter plays in his 10th game of the season tonight, which means (it was a formality, but still) that while he can still be returned to juniors (not happening), his ELC's first full year officially triggers. He has much to learn, and we are watching that now.
Phil Kessel has 20 goals. Matt Moulson has 16. Nabokov is 2-6 but has a .914 save percentage -- he and Al Montoya (.917) are the only two of five Islanders goalies to be above .900. So hockey will be played and then last-minute shopping and traveling and food and drink will be exercised.
- It's not a mystery, but: The mystery of the missing 100-point scorer - NHL - Yahoo! Sports
- Yet another scribe who focused on Islanders mistakes rather than the measurable lack of "passion" and "effort" that was eloquently described by the Twitter masses: Rangers Capitalize on Islanders’ Mistakes - NYTimes.com
- Hey look, we have a Trade Frans Nielsen thread.
- More fun: An SI piece from 1976 with Al Arbour calling out his team.
- What about coaches? Communication separates NHL refs from those in the minors | Backhand Shelf
- Miller has Al's back: NYISkinny: Eric Hornick's Blog: Ryan Miller still unhappy: cites Montoya/Kane collision
Why Kesler always so grumpy?
Gone Phaneufin': That last link goes into another Niklas Kronwall hit, which is fun because last night Kronwall threw one of his Phaneuf Specials: He pinches to make the big hit ... and the opponent goes down the ice and scores on the odd-man rush. Special bonus that it was Blake Comeau who scored. I love those "message sending" hits that say, "Hey, if you pass it by me as I leave position to take you out, your team might score. But I'll be the one on YouTube."
- On the 'Goon' movie: ‘Goon’ Green-Band Trailer and Clip – In Canada, They Even Beat the Crap Out of Each Other Politely | /Film
- The 7 hockey toy commercials to brighten your holidays - Puck Daddy
- Puck Daddy’s 10 worst hockey bloopers of 2011 - Puck Daddy
FIG Picks and Leaders
Put your First Islanders Goal picks for tonight's game here.
Here's an update from Mike on our leaderboard, which saw some changes as Francesca nailed a four-point night and Captdallas charged up the standings with a three-point night:
Francesca is the big mover, with four points including closest time. Captdallas continues an impressive run with three more points, and takes the overall lead! And IslesFanInNJ nets two.
18 - Captdallas
16 - Pretty Good Idiot
14 - Bryville19
14 - mike in mi
13 - skeeterman
12 - BaltimoreIslander
Come on, Islanders. Make it a merry Christmas.