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Islanders Back & Forth: The legacy of Wally Gator; Three of a Kind; Fake Tkachuk

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A weekly look at the Islanders’ most recent - and next few - games. Mostly.

Buffalo Sabres v New York Islanders
Behind you, big man.
Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images

Another game against Boston and another three game set against a team in the bottom half of the division. Big chance to sink or swim.

First, let’s look back at the (wildly successful) week that was.

Last week for the New York Islanders:

Game 22: 2-1 win over the Devils

I’m still thinking about this goal by Oliver Wahlstrom:

What was Wahlstrom thinking when he scored that goal? Food, apparently (or maybe that pass. I don’t know).

Judging by the replies from Dal Colle and others Islanders teammates to that post, Wahlstrom’s team nickname is “Walligator,” which brings to my mind a sadly forgotten cartoon icon.

Wally Gator, aka “The Swingingest Gator in the Swamp,” was a Hanna-Barbera character from the early 60’s that I don’t think most people remember these days. That’s a shame.

Wally was basically a reptilian version of Yogi Bear, my all time favorite cartoon character. They were both voiced by the same actor, the legendary Daws Butler, shopped at the same Just Hat-and-Collar store and had the same aversion to captivity and disrespect for authority figures. While Yogi was always causing trouble for Ranger Smith at Jellystone Park, Wally’s nemesis was Mr. Twiddle, the keeper of the zoo he was always trying to bust out of.

He usually succeeded. At least, for a few minutes.

While Wally Gator shorts weren’t based on a specific show like The Flintstones (i.e. “The Caveman Honeymooners”) or Top Cat (i.e. “Sgt. Bilko as an Alley Cat”), his voice was patterned off actor Ed Wynn, who you might might remember from Disney movies like Mary Poppins or That Darn Cat!

I doubt that 20-year-old professional athlete Oliver Wahlstrom is into cartoons that aired on TV 40 years before he was born. But as an old Hanna-Barbera lover and a person that’s tired of boring hockey nicknames like “Bails” or “Leesy,” I’m as excited for this development as I am for the player’s.

Game 23: 5-2 win over the Sabres

Game 24: 5-2 win over the Sabres

Game 25: 5-2 win over the Sabres

The above is not a misprint. Some observations from three different games all decided by the same exact score.

  • The best goal in Thursday’s game was clearly Matt Martin’s below-the-goal line bank shot off the side of Sabres goalie Jonas Johannson’s mask. That’s an absolutely hilarious goal that Martin will no doubt claim he saw happening all the way but in reality is the kind of thing that happens to a team in the thick of an all time suck like the Sabres are.
  • Martin’s second goal of the game was almost apologetic. I’m still not sure how it went in.
  • Anthony Beauvillier has played so well that it was mildly surprising that his mini-breakaway goal was just his second of the season. I knew he missed those three weeks but he hasn’t really skipped a beat since coming back, even if the puck hadn’t quite been falling for him.
  • THE GOAL. My god. We’ll be seeing this one for a long time. I think I stopped breathing for a second before losing my mind.
  • Barzal’s insane score completely destroyed the Sabres in a way that’s almost frightening. They never recovered. It’s a rare thing to see a team’s will to continue sapped on live TV like that. The score was just 1-1 at that point but you knew the game was over.
  • Brock Nelson and Cal Clutterbuck each took turns being the rally killer this weekend. Two of Nelson’s three total goals came after the Islanders had already broken the ice, and Clutterbuck’s essentially put two games away. That’s real teamwork.
  • I guess when you play the same team this often, talented guys are eventually going to do their thing. Taylor Hall and Jeff Skinner weren’t going to be stuck on one and zero goals all season. As much as I hoped for total perfection, these are small nitpicks in a nearly-flawless weekend.
  • The Reverse Retros were fine. If you watched a lot of Islanders games from the dark blue period, there was a feeling of time displacement. At points during Saturday’s game, I found myself asking, “Why are Peca, Lapointe and Hunter out there together?”
  • Six points is six points. Equally as important: 15 regulation wins and a +17 goal differential, both best in the division.

Record for the week: 4-0-0

Season Record: 15-6-4

Next week for the New York Islanders:

Tuesday, March 9 vs the Bruins

This is by far the hardest game on this week’s schedule, despite the recent evidence that the Islanders have finally broken their Bruins hex.

Speaking of hexes!, I of course watched the WandaVision finale on Friday (we were all up at about 6 am to watch as a family before my wife and I went to work and our daughter went to school). While I thought episode 8 was a fairly conventional Marvel CGI battle versus the bad guy(s), and a few threads feel a little too loose for my liking, I do think the miniseries stuck the landing and gave us a very worthy chapter in the MCU. It didn’t end up springing a ton of surprises on us, but the themes of grief and moving on and evolving did resonate, at least with me.

I won’t spoil any of the particulars but there are a lot of ways things can go in the future. Wherever that is, I’ll be there. Then again, I knew that even before entering Westview.

Thursday, March 11, Saturday, March 13 and Sunday, March 14 vs the Devils

The Devils won’t be as vulnerable as the Sabres, but these are still three games the Islanders can and should win. Picking up another six points would be massive.

Devils winger Miles Wood is a guy who always seems to be in the middle of things. The son of former Islander Randy Wood, Miles isn’t without skill (107 points in 288 games) and he’s had seasons of 86, 84 and 91 penalty minutes. But I’m not feeling the true commitment it takes to be a full-on NHL heel from him. Wood comes off as a wannabe shit-stirrer, like an off-brand, direct-to-video version of one of the dreaded Tkachuk brothers, Calgary’s Matthew and Ottawa’s Brady.

For years, my mom used to give me DVDs at Christmas that she picked up at a dollar store or Marshall’s that were either shitty transfers of “real” movies (usually starring Charles Bronson for some reason) or knock off junk with generic, public domain titles like “Beauty & The Beast” or “The Little Mermaid” that are clearly not the actual Disney movies that people want to watch and are beloved the world over. There’s no telling how many well-meaning but frugal moms and grandmas have been fooled by these things.

That said, I might start calling Miles Wood “Chop Kick Panda”

Predicted record for the week: 2-2. Trying to keep my expectations low. But, man, come on.

Canadian Sportswriters Say The Darnedest Things:

There are no shortage of candidates this week but we’ll focus on the province of Alberta, where one team fired its coach and the other went into a duel for first place and got a swift kick in the groin instead.

The Oilers got pasted by the Leafs in three straight games, getting outscored 17-1. Beforehand, Edmonton thought of the series as a measuring stick. Turns out, they only needed a ruler.

Afterward, the Oilers had to deal with the slings and arrows from their own media. And I’m pretty sure they weren’t in the mood.

Leon Draisaitl was focused on later, when he gave a snarky answer to a question he didn’t care for. If you ask me, the person who asked the question got off easy. Still, this is quality sarcasm right here.

Meanwhile, the Oilers’ provincial rivals were having their own problems. The Flames routed the Senators 7-3 and felt they might finally be on the right track after an inconsistent few weeks. A few hours later, head coach Geoff Ward was fired and replaced by Darryl Sutter, the hard-edged taskmaster who coached Calgary to a Stanley Cup Final, won two Cups in LA and is now back home to kick names and take ass. Or something like that.

If this tight-knit group was best described as living in a country club atmosphere, it’s now promising to be more of a rodeo.

Buckle up indeed.

Oh no! The dreaded Country Club! That’s the true kiss of death. Good thing GM Brad Treliving acted quickly to bring in the team’s fifth (5th!) coach in the last eight seasons. Check back in another two seasons when they replaces Sutter with another “players’ coach” who’s not as tough.

The worst part of all this is that it makes the Leafs and their fans feel better about themselves, which is something we as a society should really try to put a stop to.

Alternate Programming Options:

Movies based on video games have a well-earned reputation for being terrible. The original Mortal Kombat is still considered perhaps the best of the bunch and it came out when I was a freshman in college. It took decades and dozens of failures big and small to get another movie based on a game that most people could at least admit was “pretty okay.” My daughter and I saw Detective Pikachu in 2019 and, even with barely an ounce of Pokémon knowledge between the two of us, found it very enjoyable.

A year later, my personal favorite video game-based movie came out and I was just as surprised as anyone. Sonic The Hedgehog didn’t win any awards for acting, writing or direction but for me, a longtime Sega fan, it was highly satisfying.

Maybe that’s because my expectation were so low. But I found the bits funny and the characters enjoyable, even if a little too much time was spent focusing on the humans and not the giant talking blue spiny mammal speedster that was its star. It also opened up the door for a potential Sega Cinematic Universe, which is something I have a few ideas for, let me tell you.

It’s on both Amazon Prime and Hulu now so if you’re looking for something to watch with the kids or avoided it thinking it was gonna be awful (and I wouldn’t blame you if you did), I’d recommend it.

The reasons I bring it up are A. a new Mortal Kombat movie is on the horizon and, judging by the red band trailer, it looks like it could easily take the all time Video Game Movie crown and B. I read this oral history of Street Fighter: The Movie: The Game over at our sister site Polygon and was reminded of one of the all time worst video game adaptations ever and its almost-even-more-bizarre video-game-to-movie-to-video-game translation. Geez what a mess. Raul Julia didn’t deserve that for his final movie.

Classic Islanders Clip Just For fun:

The three games this week are the closest the Islanders and Devils have come to a playoff series since 1988, the one and only time the teams met in the post season. The Devils won that series in six games on their way to a magical run to the conference final in their first trip to the playoffs. For the Islanders, it was really the last final gasp of the dynasty. Denis Potvin retired after that season leaving only really Bryan Trottier, Billy Smith and a few others from the run. A season later, they would miss the playoffs for the first time in 15 years. It’s a little crazy that they never met again, but considering the trajectories the franchises took afterwards, it makes total sense.

Anyway, here’s how the Islanders’ two wins happened.