NHL Game Center is a nice product if you need it, and one of its offshoots is "NHL Vault," an archive of old and generally noteworthy NHL games. For the Islanders there's quite a collection, ranging from the Cup clinchers you'll see on NHL Network each summer to games of little import other than the historical significance that emerges many years later.
One such game is Nov. 28, 1999, when the New York Islanders visited the Boston Bruins at Boston's [It's a bank! It's a different bank! It's a different bank still! It's a Fleet enema!] Garden Center Place. It was the NHL debut of some goalie -- you may have heard of him -- who was then the highest-drafted goaltender in NHL history. Seven months after his debut, Roberto Luongo would be gone.
I rewatched that game recently through NHL Vault. My running impressions -- a retro live blog, if you will -- are below.
Before we get started, this product shows you the full running play, but it's pretty short on replays -- even on goals -- and cuts out all commercials. For anyone who's dug through old broadcast-to-VHS tapes that last part's a great thing, you would think, except that you miss out on vintage commercials about who beats the Wiz.
Alright, on to the program...
New York Islanders vs. Boston Bruins: Nov. 28, 1999
Roberto Luongo's first NHL game
(Note: The times posted below are roughly the elapsed time in each period. The broadcast was the Islanders feed on Fox Sports.)
0:45 Holy cow, Kenny Jonsson's nameplate says "K. JONSSON." That's right, this was when his brother was here. This will matter in about 90 seconds.
1:00 Howie: "Luongo makes his first NHL save. ... not that I particularly care."
(I made up that last part.)
1:05 Joe Micheletti circles "very competitive" with the telestrator, telling us "this is one thing Butch Goring noticed in practice. Luongo is very competitive in practice." Already, this broadcast is going to be awesome.
1:30 Jamie Heward makes a nice pl-- Jamie Heward?!? down the right wing boards to set up Jorgen Jonsson for the tap-in. 1-0 Isles.
Islanders 1, Bruins 0
3:00 Dave Andreychuk, who would end up playing for 37 teams, is stopped by Luongo on a shot from the right wing boards.
3:30 Micheletti: "One thing Luongo has worked on since last year, is he was getting beat high too easily." Future Canucks fans quietly nod in their crib.
4:00 I just realized Byron Dafoe is in net for the Bruins. That is all.
4:30 Gino Odjick gets a shot behind Dafoe, raises his arms, but alas, no goal. I was going to make a crack about how that would've increased Odjick's total by X percent, but it turns out he had 64 goals in his career. Sixty-four! Not bad for an enforcer.
5:00 Micheletti tells us: "Byron Dafoe is a tremendous competitor." He doesn't circle this point on the telestrator though, so who can know if he means it?
We are reminded that Dafoe signed after a lengthy contract dispute with Harry Sinden. That makes him, officially, a Boston Bruin.
6:00 Anson Carter is a Bruin. This was the year the Sedins were drafted; little did they know how lucky they would one day be to have Carter alongside them collecting second assists.
6:45 K. JONSSON just took one paw and threw a Bruin off the puck behind the net. It looked like a bear tossing a trash can aside to get to the good stuff in the cooler. The dude was not soft -- he was just a silky elusive skater with some concussion problems. (P.S. F#$% Gary Roberts.)
7:00 Brad Isbister was an Islander at this time. *sigh*
7:30 The Bruins have a guy named "Prpic." God love the Slavs and their horrific vowel famine.
8:00 Goring is rocking the indoor "transition" glasses that are supposed to not be sunglasses inside, but they always hang on to a bit of that tint to make you look like you're a pimp or a character in "Smokey and the Bandit."
(For the record, Goring looks like a bit of both.)
(For the record, Goring was probably an extra in "Smokey and the Bandit.")
9:00 Isbister fails to skate, misses an outlet pass, and an Islanders icing results. I have never been so grateful for COZOs as I am today.
10:00 Luongo makes a nice save on Carter. I know it's just his first game, but I think this kid sucks. Milbury should probably trade him and draft someone else.
10:30 Pat Burns, for whom news of his death was greatly exaggerated many times before his day came, is Bruins coach. I would say "Hall of Famer Pat Burns," but the Hall has kind of botched that one.
13:00 Jamie Rivers was an Islander at this time. If you think that's crazy, he actually played six more NHL seasons after this -- including one with Detroit (and with Boston, too).
14:00 One of the Sweeneys was still a Bruin at this time. I feel old. Turns out this one was Don, born in New Brunswick, not Bob, born in Concord, Mass. So that's why Milbury never acquired the former.
14:30 On a replay, Micheletti does one of his, "That's a great example for kids watching the game" routines.
15:30 Luongo just made a fantastic glove save on a hard shot that deflected up just seven feet before it got to the crease. I know it's just his first game, but I think this kid sucks, Milbury should probably trade him and draft someone else.
16:30 Zdeno Chara, who just single-handedly killed a penalty, was an Islander at this time. Today he is captain of the reigning Stanley Cup champion. Someone shoot me.
18:00 Haven't noticed him too much in this game, but Ray Bourque is a Bruin at this time. I don't know about you, but Bourque just strikes me as a guy who should play his whole career in one place, then get traded at the end to a place where the city and ESPN conspire to make the entire Stanley Cup playoffs -- the most storied trophy in TEAM sports, mind you -- entirely about him. Then that team should probably retire his number after a single season. But no team would ever do that, right?
END OF FIRST
1:00 The Bruins begin the period on the powerplay, and Jorgen Jonsson is all over the place killing it like he was in the first, breaking up Bourque passes at the point. Man I wish he'd stuck around.
1:30 Jason Allison is a leader with the Bruins here. He was never fast. But Mike Milbury famously considered acquiring him instead of Alexei Yashin a couple of summers later when Allison -- being a Bruin -- was in a contract dispute with Harry Sinden.
2:00 Whatever They Called It Then Garden is so quiet, it sounds like Nassau Coliseum sounded last November. This summer, that building was thundrous as the Bruins wiped up visitors on their way to the Cup. Things change, no?
(By the way, the Bruins finished third in the Northeast that year with 91 non-bonus-point-era points. They beat Carolina in the playoffs but fell to Buffalo in six games.)
3:00 Darren Van Impe is in this game, as a Bruin. He would be an Islander for 14 games a few seasons later. This is all I can remember about Darren Van Impe. But man, that was an awesome name.
5:30 Crazy scramble in front of the Islanders net. A deflected shot never gets to the goal, but Luongo is swimming on his belly searching for it. He does well to survive the situation, but the swimming is very familiar, something I believe he worked on before the 2010-11 season. So I know it's just his first game, but I think this kid sucks; Milbury should probably trade him and draft someone else.
6:00 Allison goes behind the net and one-hands a feed to someone, who scores from the doorstep past Luongo far side. (I can't tell who it was because the clip happens so fast and the Vault skips any replay.)
Islanders 1, Bruins 1
8:00 With the exception of the goal, we've just witnessed about five minutes of classic -- wait, that's not the right word ... five minutes of prototypical '90s obstruction era hockey. It shouldn't have taken the lockout to fix this, but if it took the lockout to fix this then it was well worth it. Today's game is quite superior.
8:30 Micheletti breaks down a 2-on-1 with Tim Connolly and Isbister. Isbister flubs the shot but runs into Dafoe. Great pass by Connolly, who has always had sweet hands. Isbister, not so much.
11:00 Three consecutive powerplays for the Bruins and Luongo's called on to make several solid saves. A close-up of Luongo's mask reveals some sort of cartoon viking-like figure.
12:00 Here's what I mean: Isbister was just tackled along the boards and hogtied to the slot after he dumped the puck in along the boards. Today Sweeney would've gotten one, if not two obstruction calls on that bit of silliness -- one for the hold, one for insulting the game. Sweeney then holds his arms out in that "Whoa, whoa, that wasn't me. He *wanted* to skate 35 feet away from the puck like that" motion.
14:00 Luongo smothers the puck for a whistle. The linesmen skate in. Kevin Collins' tan is definitely in November form. Somebody needs a road trip through Florida.
14:15 Sergei Samsonov appears for a moment with some flashy moves. I forgot about this version of Samsonov, back when people had really high hopes and expectations for him. I have yet to notice Joe Thornton out there.
15:00 Claude LaPointe, baby! Killing the fourth consecutive Bruins powerplay like a dynamo out there. Meanwhile, Zdeno Chara just skated the puck behind the Bruins net while on the PK!
17:00 Howie and Joe are talking about how Sinden left hockey after the 1970 Cup win because the Bruins owner wouldn't give him a raise. (He came back for the 1972 Summit Series.) They laugh for roughly 20 seconds about the irony of Sinden being on the "pay me more!" side of a contract dispute.
19:00 Chara takes the puck behind the Bruins net again! This time he does a wraparound roofer and scores. Islanders up 2-1.
Islanders 2, Bruins 1
19:40 Howie: "Isbister is given the assist, even though he gave Chara the puck about a half hour before he scored."
1:00 Hal Gill is playing as a Bruin here, a 23-year-old towering pup.
1:30 Dave Andreychuk is playing as a grizzled veteran, five years before he would captain the Lightning to his first ever Cup as a very grizzled veteran, which was two years before he played one more (post-lockout) season before retiring at midseason. Andreychuck's career began in 1982-83 at age 19.
3:00 Joe with the spin: "I don't think the shots on goal are very indicative of the way the game has gone. 33 shots for the Bruins, 19 for the Islanders, but the Islanders have had the better scoring chances."
4:00 We have a Joe Thornton sighting! Nice rush down the ice, holds the puck, has no one to pass to. He would score 60 points at age 20 this season, his third in the NHL.
4:30 Ken Baumgartner is a Bruins assistant coach!
4:31 Seriously, he is! He's standing right there beside Pat Burns!
5:30 We've discussed preferred Islanders uni colors lately for obvious reasons. A lot of people liked this navy blue era, myself included to some extent. But I never liked how they would appear almost black on TV. I didn't like them appearing black on TV. My Islanders ... in black ... did not sit well.
7:00 Joe: "Claude LaPointe never gets tired." Ahh, memories.
8:00 The Bruins are on their umpteenth powerplay of the night, but the Jonssons, LaPointe and Chara make a pretty fine PK unit. The B's get only one shot.
8:50 Oy, now Olli Jokinen is on the PK, wearing #62. Ack, memories.
10:00 The FSN sports ticker shows football scores. The Rams have slaughtered the Saints 40-something to 20-something. I bet that team wins the Super Bowl.
12:00 Two back-to-back saves by Luongo in tight, possibly his best sequence so far. I'm going to sound like Micheletti, but Luongo actually hasn't been tested as much as the shot count indicates. I think this kid sucks; Milbury should probably trade him and draft someone else.
13:30 Ye gods, the Islanders have a four-minute powerplay (Axelsson double-minor) and yet they give up a 3-on-1. Who breaks it up? Kenny Jonsson, of course. Who hustled back the length of the ice to be the second man? Mariusz Czerkawski...ah-HA, weren't expecting that, were you?
14:00 Mike Milbury sighting. The screen graphic shows him as "New York Islanders General Manager."
(Sorry, I just had a seizure there.)
15:00 For the record, Joe is impressed with Luongo's stick, rebound control, and competitiveness.
15:30 Mathieu BIron is on the powerplay point. Yep.
16:00 Joe: "This is a learning experience for Biron. That's the second time he's been caught up the ice."
In Biron's defense, he did just wipe out Allison. So there's that.
17:00 Howie: "Josh Green misses the net." That guy has scored 98 goals in 335 AHL games. Just 35 in the NHL though, in 334 games.
17:30 WIth a one-goal lead late in the third, Gino Odjick is checking Joe Thornton. Yep.
19:00 The Bruins have pulled the goalie. Roberto Luongo is a minute away from his first NHL win in his first NHL game. Milbury's upstairs fielding trade offers.
19:50 Big scramble in front of the net and Luongo does the desperate snow-angel in his crease, even though the puck is nowhere near him, and eventually squibbles by to the end boards. Holy cow that was close! Rookie mistake, but it doesn't cost him and the buzzer sounds after 42 saves. He jumps to his feet, arms in the air for a well-deserved first NHL win.
He would get six more as an Islander.
Final: Islanders 2, Bruins 1
* * *
This was pretty fun (for me ... sorry if it was a waste of time for you) to watch, despite the obstruction-era hockey. I never had much affinity for Luongo since he wasn't with the team long enough (that's quite separate from my feelings about the moves that made him a Panther). But man, watching this game has me missing Jonsson (both of them), Chara and LaPointe. Those dudes were sweet Islanders.