Hey, what happened to those games against the Sabres? Oh. Right. We won’t see them for another little while, but there are three rematches this week that could prove challenging.
First, let’s look back at the (single game) week that was.
Last week for the New York Islanders:
Game 10: 4-3 win over Penguins
Okay, the obvious: getting the two points is huge. That said, here’s my recap of this game (just in time for the Super Bowl):
I wouldn’t call it a well-played game by either side, although the Penguins seemed to have the most dangerous chances (which is nothing new when Sidney Crosby faces the Islanders) and some lengthy pushes. Even in the few times they controlled play, the Islanders were noticeably Un-Islanders-Like.
If not for some boneheaded giveaways from the Nelson line, Evgeni Malkin might not have tied the score just before end of the second period. If not for some deft saves from Semyon Varlamov, this game might have gotten away from them much earlier. There were turnovers and odd-man rushes and breakdowns in their own zone that are definitely in no way, shape or form elements of “Islanders Hockey.”
Barry Trotz said as much in his post-game remarks. It’s a weird line for a coach to tread. You’re glad you got the points and are still in the playoff hunt, but you know they can’t continue playing that way.
If guys are going through the motions or not focusing on their defensive responsibilities, it’s an issue that Trotz should be able to fix. If it’s a problem of abilities being diminished by age or health or skill, it’s an issue Lou Lamoriello is going to have to fix and, uh, yeah, good luck with that. Let’s hope it’s Option A. It’s the least horrifying of the two.
Record for the week: 1-0
Season Record: 4-4-2
Next week for the New York Islanders:
Monday, Feb. 9 at Rangers
Oh boy. Another Long Island native who grew up a Rangers fan is living his dream, suiting up and scoring for his most favoritest team evah. Really warms the heart, doesn’t it? My heart is so warm I could just puke my pancreas straight up through my stomach and esophagus and out of my mouth, ears and eyes at the same time.
The Leafs and Rangers will always be Nos. 1 and 2 on the Collect-A-Fan leaderboards, while the Islanders and Habs will always bring up the rear (for completely different reasons). The Islanders had a chance to snag former Nassau Coliseum season ticket holder Keith Kinkaid this summer but opted for Cory Schneider instead. Kinkaid signed with... the Rangers. Because of course he did.
Thursday, Feb. 11 vs Penguins
Penguins GM Search Update: Chris Drury (Rangers) and Scott Mellanby (Canadiens) are out. Mark Hunter (remember him?), former Leafs GM John Fergusson, Jr. and Kevin Weekes (I know you remember him) are still in, as is Ron Hextall, which would just be weird as hell. A former Flyer running the Penguins would be unthinkable. Like a former Ranger running the Isl... uh, never mind.
I guess former Penguin Garth Snow never got a phone call? Snow is probably still on the Islanders payroll and would rather collect checks and play golf than deal with Pittsburgh’s roster disintegration, Geno Malkin’s mood swings and Rob Rossi pushing for them to reacquire Marc-Andre Fleury. I can’t blame him.
Still, if there was one job I thought for sure we’d hear Garth’s name attached to, I would have figured this would be it. This is why I’m not a capital-I Insider.
Saturday, Feb. 6 vs. Bruins
Pastrnak’s back? That’s whack, Jack!
Uh, yeah. I can’t see this one going the same way their last meeting did. I guess two home wins against the Bruins in the same season was just too much to ask for.
By the way, the Bruins are high up on the Collect-A-Fan list, too, and have been for the last 25 years or so. Any Boston-area native will always be on their radar.
At some point in the future, Boston might be getting a taste of its own medicine, though. Current Bruin and Long Island native Charlie McAvoy will be a UFA in about seven years and probably already has a contract with the Rangers signed and sitting in a desk drawer so he can file it with the league about two seconds after his next contract expires and join his boyhood team. Book it.
Predicted record for the week: 2-1. At this point, it really needs to be 2-1 at the very least.
Canadian Sportswriters Say The Darnedest Things:
New section! Here’s senior NHL columnist at The Athletic and actual capital-Everything INSIDER Pierre LeBrun to remind us just how little he and his Canada-based colleagues care about our little US-based shinny teams:
Really surreal how the Canadian division is casting an imposing shadow over the rest of the NHL as far as attention and limelight. Every night feels like the playoffs in the North Division. No way it would work past this year. But it’s fun now.— Pierre LeBrun (@PierreVLeBrun) February 7, 2021
If you were thinking that a noticeable echo chamber could be created by having an All-Canadian division, in which Canadian media people can finally give their full and undivided attention to the teams playing in their own backyards without having to waste their time and energy pretending to care about three quarters of the lowly American clubs, then congrats! You were correct.
Gee, I wonder why it feels like an “imposing shadow” is being cast by the North Division. Could it be because its seven teams are subject to 24/7 coverage to the point where every game feels like a big one even when at least three clubs are straight up awful so far this season? Would a Saturday night game between the Leafs and Panthers in a normal season feel as big as this week’s breathlessly previewed game between the Leafs and a Vancouver team that can’t buy a save these days? I’m gonna go ahead and guess, “No.”
LeBrun was widely dunked on for this myopic tweet (including by yours truly) but one of his colleagues at The Athletic took a much more tactful approach. Dallas-based Sean Shapiro is now an NHL media reporter but he previously covered the Stars, so you know he knows what it’s like to follow a team that doesn’t get a lot of attention from up north, even when they’re pretty good.
I feel like whatever division you are geographically closest to casts a shadow on the others this season. Just depends on where you are located in my opinion.— Sean Shapiro (@seanshapiro) February 7, 2021
Then there’s the other side of the coin. When two of the best players in the league (Connor McDavid and Auston Matthews, specifically), won’t be seen in any US-based arena this year, it threatens to push a backburner sport even further into the background.
In Canada I’m sure it’s like the NHL is only a 7-team league this season, which makes sense with schedule. But I would also argue best player in the world will never be more ignored in his NHL career in states since he doesn’t play one game here in regular season— Sean Shapiro (@seanshapiro) February 7, 2021
But hey, at least a bunch of people can pretend games against the Senators are a big deal for one season.
Update: Someone please take Pierre’s Twitter account away from him.
A lot of pressure on the Toronto/Tampa Raptors! https://t.co/XoNQZlFEtS— Pierre LeBrun (@PierreVLeBrun) February 8, 2021
Alternate Programming Options:
Every year, my video gaming time dwindles a little more. I’m hesitant to call myself a gamer these days because that sounds like I’m doing more gaming than I actually am.
When I do get a chance and I find a game that grabs me, it’s usually an older game. Sometimes, it’s a current generation title that came out just a few years ago that I’m late on. But a lot of times, it’s an old console game that I either I had growing up or always wanted to have. I have a number of consoles that can still play old Sega Genesis or NES cartridges and they’re still my favorites to fire up and play for a little bit.
Last year, I played a game that’s both new and old, and is one I find myself revisiting from time to time just to keep the fun times going.
Streets of Rage 4 wasn’t made by Sega, as the first three were back in the early 90’s, but it’s a loving tribute to those games with some insanely detailed modern graphics and other bells and whistles.
Like those and other beat-em-ups of the era, it’s a simple game to pick up a play (punch with one button, jump with another, special attacks with another), but there’s a ton of depth as well, too. After a few stages, you’ll be able to string together attacks and advanced moves so that the game resembles a Jackie Chan movie without ever tying your thumbs into knots. There’s also a lot of destructible and interactive environments that lend a lot of layers to the action. Finishing the main story can be done pretty quickly, but you can spend hours unlocking extra characters from the first three Streets of Rage games, all depicted in their 16-bit glory.
The music also kicks a ton of ass, which is a hallmark of the series. SoR 4 actually has two soundtracks you can choose from while you play, one retro styled and one modern. Each one is spectacular.
If you’re a fan of “old” games and want a “new” one to play (either for yourself or maybe with your gaming kids), I can’t recommend Streets of Rage 4 enough. It’s a blast. And it’s available for download on every console out right now for about $25.
Classic Islanders Clip Just For fun:
Shout out to Islanders History Today (@IslesHistorical on Twitter) who posts videos and pictures of cool Islanders stuff basically every day, including goofball stuff like this which is both nothing and everything at the same time.
The random game clips in the SportsChannel opening are nothing compared to list of sponsors. Men’s World! Eastern Airlines! Manufacturer’s Hanover Trust! Man...