Sunday, February 10, 2013

The Morning After: Observations From Heartbreaking Loss to Sabres

Most people will tell you that last night's 3-2 defeat at the hands of the Buffalo Sabres was only typical, as  they say around here in Islander Country.

But if you stop and think about it for a moment, it was anything but typical.

After all, the Isles out-shot the Sabres 43-15 and, if not for a razor-sharp goaltending performance by Ryan Miller, could have easily scored two or even three more goals.

If not for John Tavares hitting the post twice, that might have been another two goals.

The Islanders are on a four-game losing streak, and that's certainly not a good thing by any stretch of the imagination.

However, unlike the other three losses during that span, this team showed us something different last night. They showed us that there is indeed a light at the end of the tunnel.

Perhaps some of those 43 shots could have packed some more wallop or been better-placed. I won't disagree with you there.

That being said, you don't accumulate 43 shots in a single hockey game by accident. You don't dominate the opposition in scoring chances or time of possession without showing up for battle.

Don't get me wrong; there's plenty of blame to go around for this catastrophe.

You can blame Travis Hamonic and Andrew MacDonald for allowing Thomas Vanek to have 600 chances to whack that loose puck into the net on Buffalo's first goal.

Never mind the fact that Vanek's the hottest player in the league right now and that common sense would suggest that you should probably pay more attention to him.

Both Hamonic and MacDonald let him slip away and gather rebound after rebound, and by the time either defenseman realized they should probably get to the front of the net, where they should've been all along, it was of course far too late.

In fact, the defensive coverage was so poor, that Michael Grabner and Frans Nielsen had to abandon their positions and leave their men wide open in a desperate attempt to stop Vanek.

David Ullstrom let Christian Ehrhoff glide right past him and Cody Hodgson, a fine young passer in his own right, didn't think twice before feeding Ehrhoff that puck. Evgeni Nabokov had no chance whatsoever of preventing that goal.

The same cannot be said for the third Buffalo tally, a slap shot from Alexander Sulzer that went off the shoulder of Nabokov and then into the net. He's gotta stop that one; there's no two ways about it.

Still, the Isles certainly had their chances to tie the hockey game and you can't put the entire loss on Nabby's shoulders, even though Sulzer's goal literally was.

As much as we hate to think about it, maybe it's time to give Nabokov a rest and let Rick DiPietro start the next game. He does appear to be exhausted.

The Islanders lost this game for the same reasons they've lost other ones: Defense, defense, defense (or a complete lack thereof).

When given the opportunity to skate with the puck, the Islanders were much more confident and productive than they'd been in the past three skirmishes.

Unfortunately, in the few instances when they had to get back on defense, they failed to do so and it ending up costing them. You simply cannot take opposing teams for granted on any night, even when you're nearly out-shooting them by a 3-to-1 margin.

All the Isles needed to do to skate away with a victory last night was clamp down a bit in their own zone, a place Sabres rarely even visited during this contest.

The Islander defense could not handle the task. It was one of the more pathetic showings I've ever seen from them, and that holds true for virtually everyone on that blue line, including Travis Hamonic.

Brian Strait was the only exception. He had four hits, blocked a shot, made a few nice defensive plays and was a plus-2 on the night.

Like I said before though, you don't get 43 shots by accident. There were some positives in this hockey game.

Josh Bailey's season debut was a good one. Seven of those 43 shots were fired off the blade of his stick, and I liked his aggressiveness and confidence. Bailey logged 12:48 of ice time and did not take a single one of those minutes off.

If Lubomir Visnovsky hasn't played any hockey over the last month, it sure didn't appear that way. There was instant chemistry between him and his teammates, at least on the ice.

Visnovsky wasn't afraid to join the rush, took three shots and, for what it's worth, was a plus-2. He made smart decisions with the puck in terms of when to pass and when to shoot. I think he's really going to help the power play.

A healthy scratch Thursday night at Madison Square Garden, Casey Cizikas returned to action and made  a significant impact. He competed on every shift, with or without the puck and was directly responsible for Colin McDonald's game-tying goal in the second period.

Not only did Cizikas do all the hard work to maintain possession of the puck behind the Buffalo net but he also made a gorgeous pass to McDonald. Cizikas has shown glimpses of the two-way stud he can become and the Islanders are a better, grittier hockey club with him in the lineup.

I'm also encouraged by Thomas Hickey's performance. He got involved in the offensive zone and moved the puck well. Something that perhaps has gone a bit unnoticed is the fact that he's an excellent skater. Not only is he an excellent skater, but he's the smoothest-skating defenseman on this team.

I still think that Brad Boyes is a better fit on the second line, while a motivated Kyle Okposo (he'll be the focus of my next article, so stay tuned) is better-off playing with Tavares and Matt Moulson.

Neither line moved the puck well or seemed to have any chemistry whatsoever until last night, so perhaps it was just a matter of getting used to one-another. In light of their performance against the Sabres, I'll wait a few more games before making a final prognosis.

After the game ended, I was disappointed but somewhat reassured, because if the Islanders can exhibit that same kind of puck control in their next game, I doubt they'll loose.

It's one thing to lose because you didn't show up or compete hard enough, it's another when you do play well but lose.

Could they have been better on defense last night? Absolutely. But can you honestly say that, overall, the New York Islanders didn't have a good game, didn't bring it?

Folks, it's a four-game losing streak. It sucks, but it has happened before. There are still 37 more to go, the season's not over.

Last night, this team showed me they're serious about turning things around. They showed that aggression and  passion I felt was missing in their previous three games.

This was definitely a heart-breaker, but it was also something the Isles can build off of and learn from.

Comments are welcome. 

Thursday, February 7, 2013

Tim Thomas? An Islander?

Most of you are probably scratching your heads right now.

Considering I was doing the same just ten minutes ago, I'm not gonna blame you. But, having thought a bit more about the situation, I think I can perhaps make some sense of this Tim Thomas fiasco.

My take on the move? It's a win-win for Garth Snow.

The Isles only fork over that second round draft pick if Tim Thomas plays for them this season, which he's not going to do. So essentially, they got Thomas for free.

Now yes, this was a salary cap-related move. Thomas's contract puts the Islanders over the cap floor this year, which is something they needed to do.

What makes this a smart move is not simply the fact that Snow won't even have to give Boston anything. It's that he now has the rest of the year to open up negotiations with Thomas to try and re-sign him for next season.

Given that Thomas is 38-years-old and, therefore, isn't going to command as much attention in free agency, there's a pretty solid chance the Isles could pull it off.

Were they to sign Thomas, whether or not Evgeni Nabokov returns for another go-around, they'd be able to shore up their goaltending for 2013-14.

It would also spell the end of the Rick DiPietro era, though that's very much a possibility to occur this summer, regardless of who signs and who doesn't. 

Best of all, even if Thomas re-signs next year, Snow still keeps that second round pick, because that part of the deal was contingent on Thomas reporting to the Isles this year.

Now, you might be asking why the Islanders wouldn't trade for an impact player who can put 'em over the cap floor and will play this year.

The truth is, you're not getting an impact player for a conditional second rounder, or for anything worth giving up right now.

Anaheim's not giving up Bobby Ryan for Marty Reasoner and Joe Finley, you know.

I think there might be more to this that isn't public knowledge right now. There is also a possibility the Islanders might toll his contract, so that it's effective next season. I don't think they'll go that route, but he is currently suspended by the Bruins, so it's an option.

Still, at any rate, I think Garth Snow made a solid move here, whether or not Tim Thomas reports.

But that's just my opinion; feel free to have your own.

Comments are welcome.

Monday, February 4, 2013

No Shortage of Critics in Islander Country

The New York Islanders appear to be turning over a new leaf, but you'd never know it by listening to their fans.

I can appreciate the kind of passion and devotion Islander fans have for this team and this sport. I grew up with it, I'm part of it.

But I've gotta be honest; the overwhelming response to yesterday's 3-0 loss at Nassau Coliseum was absolute overkill. In fact, it makes me sick to my stomach.

It just seems no matter what the Isles do, everyone complains. 

They come away with two very tough road victories against Pittsburgh and New Jersey and everything's great. But one bad game 72 hours later and everyone's up in arms.

Even after going 0-for-7 yesterday, they still have the fifth best power play in the NHL right now. But one bad game and, suddenly, that's not good enough for anyone here. One bad game and it's time to tear down the sandcastle.

Mark Streit's tied for sixth among NHL defensemen in points this season, but to us, he's "overrated," "hasn't been great all year" and "needs to be traded." 

Give me a break.

Also, as I've pointed out several times, Streit's never been particularly sharp in his own zone, but that doesn't mean the Isles don't need him or that he doesn't contribute in other ways. 

If you think this team's power play is going anywhere without Mark Streit directing traffic, think again.

Last season, the questions and comments regarding Michael Grabner's finishing abilities (or apparent lack thereof) were valid. This year, they are not.

After all, Grabner's only on pace to score 24 goals in a 48-game season. No biggie.

He also happens to be a phenomenal penalty killer and produces more offense on his own than half the league does. It's clear he's not only learned how to finish; he's improved in other areas as well.

Evgeni Nabokov has a record of 4-2-1 this season and, more often than not, has stood on his head. And yet whenever a puck does get past him, he's criticized for not being everywhere at once.

There have been a few goals that were his fault, no question. But around here, EVERY goal is Evgeni Nabokov's fault. It doesn't matter if he's screened on the shot or the puck changes direction. It doesn't matter if the defense hangs him out to dry and can't clear the zone.

In Islander Country, the expectations are both astronomical and delusional.

If you're not Denis Potvin, you're not a real defenseman. If you're not Billy Smith, you're not a quality goaltender and if you're not Mike Bossy, you're not a talented goal-scorer.

It's a sad, but vivid reality and it's downright ridiculous.

We often complain about how rough the rest of the hockey world is on our Islanders, but it just seems that, no matter what the Isles do and even when things go right, the ones who are roughest on them are their own fans. 

The Islanders are within three points of first place in the division (with a game in hand) and they can't even catch a break. It's unbelievable.

Get real, folks. 

For once, be proud of the Islanders for what they've done so far instead of whining about what they haven't, or what you think they haven't.

Comments are welcome

Thursday, January 31, 2013

Young Isles Growing Up Right Before Our Eyes

I know what you're thinking. "We've seen this before."

Trust me, you haven't. Even if you think you have, you haven't.

Since the rebuild began, there have been five previous editions of the New York Islanders. This year's squad represents the sixth, and they're easily the best one yet.

In fact, it's not even close.

Not that the Isles haven't made strides over the past few years, because they absolutely have. Young stars John Tavares, Michael Grabner, Kyle Okposo and Travis Hamonic have continued to mature. With Ryan Strome, Nino Niederreiter, Griffin Reinhart and Kevin Poulin in the wings, more young help is on the way.

Matt Moulson has gone from a career-AHLer to a consistent 30-goal scorer. Matt Martin, David Ullstrom and Casey Cizikas are developing into excellent role players.

Despite all that, the Isles found themselves drafting anywhere between first and fifth overall each of those years.

But this season is different.

Why? Because the Islanders are doing something that, for the entire duration of this rebuild, they never could: They're overcoming the adversity that's been thrown their way.

Think about it.

The Isles nearly blow a 4-0 lead, surrendering three third period goals to red-hot Tampa Bay,  but head coach Jack Capuano (who, by the way, just seems like a smarter, more well-versed hockey coach right now) calls a timeout and they find a way to hold the fort.

In the very next game at Toronto, they fell behind 3-1 early, only to storm back with a vengeance and beat the Leafs, 7-4.

On the road, they darted out ahead 2-1 against a very tough Bruins team, only to lose 4-2. Two nights later, they saw their 4-2 third period lead evaporate in Winnipeg and ended up falling to the Jets in overtime.

So of course, they buckled down, swiftly and soundly defeating the Penguins 4-1 on national television, in a city where they'd lost 13 of their previous 14 games heading into that one.

(Wait did he just say "of course?")

To me, that's what stood out more than the win itself. It's the fact that they were able to shake off a disappointing loss and bounce back against the PENGUINS...IN PITTSBURGH.

This bouncebackability, this resiliency is precisely the type of thing that signifies a maturing hockey team. 

Yes, the offense has flourished. I'd always maintained it would, even when half of you called me insane, the other half of you suggesting I make an appointment with an optometrist.

The defense still needs needs to get better, I'm not going to deny that. Maybe the arrival of Lubomir Visnovsky will help. Maybe.

I will just point out that having Evgeni Nabokov between the pipes has been a major benefit as well. It seems as though, even on some of his less-than-outstanding nights, he always gives his team a chance to stay in the game.

B.D. Gallof wrote an outstanding piece this morning that goes along the same positive lines as this one, and has a more comprehensive breakdown of the Islanders in terms of personnel.

I'm not writing this to compete with Gallof, I'm writing this because you could churn out ten of these articles and it still wouldn't be enough to accentuate what's happened here.

As Gallof correctly states, "there will be bumps in the road." But perhaps that road's gotten just a bit smoother.

Comments are welcome.

Friday, January 25, 2013

NYI 7, TOR 4: Facing Adversity, Early Deficit, Moulson and Co. Battle Back in Toronto

There's something to be said about coping with adversity, and that this young Islander team has now done that twice in a row is both impressive and reassuring.

So many times over the last few years, we've seen the Isles start slow or surrender the lead, then either not do anything about it or wake up too late.

But in their last two games, they've played to a different tune.

On Monday, it was a four-goal cushion that quickly evaporated, the Lightning cutting New York's lead to 4-3 in a matter of six minutes. The Isles had been playing very well defensively for most of that game but decided to get lazy with a 4-0 edge.

Jack Capuano called a timeout, and the Islanders hunkered down and were able to stop the bleeding. To me, he just looks like a smarter, more well-versed hockey coach than he was before.

Last night, they got off to a horrendous start defensively, letting Toronto jump ahead 3-1 on goals by Carl Gunnarsson, Nazem Kadri and Mikhail Grabovski.

Evgeni Nabokov looked a bit shaky in the first period as well, but other than Gunnarson's weak slap shot from the point that sneaked past him and into the net, I don't think there was much he could've done about the other two Leaf scores, nor the fourth that'd come late in the third period.

You cannot stand around and do nothing on defense, then blame the goaltender for not being everywhere at once. That's not hockey.

A bit of a disappointment coming into this skirmish, we all knew it was just a matter of time until Matt Moulson finally broke loose, and he did so with a two-goal performance.

His team down 1-0, Moulson opted for his trademark style, going hard to the net and picking up a loose puck in front of Leafs' goaltender Ben Scrivens, firing it home to tie the game at one-apiece. The goal was Matt's first of the season and was undoubtedly a welcome sight for Islander fans.

John Tavares picked up his first of two assists on the night and now has four on the year.

Trailing by a 3-1 margin after 20 minutes of hockey, the Islanders needed to settle things down and, quite frankly, to wake the heck up after what had been an extremely uninspiring first period.

Last season, you could forget about this one, hoping that the Isles would at least make it respectable or try and build some momentum for their next game.

But this Islanders squad is a better, more polished, more experienced and more confident one, and I absolutely loved their response. They kept their cool and didn't crack; that's the sign of a maturing hockey team.

Challenge accepted? You bet. Manhandled in the first period, New York really took it to the Maple Leafs from the moment they stepped back out onto the ice at Air Canada Centre.

Mark Streit and Brad Boyes scored their first goals of the season just 1:26 apart.

Streit, converging in the Leafs' zone with Boyes and Tavares (both of whom recorded assists on the play), fired a wrister from close range to beat Scrivens and cut Toronto's lead to 3-2.

Then it was Boyes, fresh off that assist, tipping Frans Nielsen's shot past Scrivens to even things up, 3-3.

It was bound to happen for Boyes, who despite having not scored until last night, has been on a hot pursuit for loose pucks and scoring chances on just about every shift thus far. Boyes finished with a goal and two helpers, and was named the game's second star.

Michael Grabner, who's quietly been on a tear, reminiscent of the one he went on this time of year during his rookie season, was at it again last night. Grabner flung a wrist shot at the bottom right corner of the net that eluded Scrivens to put New York ahead 4-3, just 3:23 into the third period.

1:12 later, ex-Toronto Marlie (Leafs' AHL affiliate) Keith Aucoin took a wrister that beat Scrivens low and right through the five-hole to extend the Isles' lead to 5-3. David Ullstrom, who now has two points (one goal, one assist), and Colin McDonald assisted on Aucoin's goal.

Head coach Randy Carlyle had seen more than enough and, unceremoniously, yanked Ben Scrivens from the net. Replacing him was Toronto's other "sure-fire" Vezina candidate, James Reimer. Visibly frustrated, Scrivens slammed his stick down after retiring to the Leafs' bench.

A while later, Dion Phaneuf hit John Tavares from behind and into the boards. Surprisingly, there was no call against Phaneuf, and Tavares was slow to get back up, but like the Islanders in this game, he'd be okay.

The referees wouldn't penalize Phaneuf, but the Isles took things into their own hands.

Matt Moulson capitalized on a Leafs turnover right after that controversial hit, zipping a shot past Reimer to make it 6-3, Islanders. Moulson now has 12 multi-goal games in his career. He also played in his 248th-consecutive tilt last night.

As soon as that puck crossed the goal line, Matt Carkner went right after Phaneuf in Tavares's defense. He keeps that up, and I have no doubt he will, he'll be a fan-favorite on Long Island in no time.

It wasn't over yet, though. The Islanders were far better on defense for most of the next 40 minutes, but a late miscue cut their lead to 6-4.

Andrew MacDonald left Matt Frattin all alone in front of Nabokov, and off a nice feed from Nazem Kadri, who was stationed behind the net, Frattin just picked his spot and deposited the puck into the top corner.

Frattin had been called up in place of Joffrey Lupul, who's fresh off a new contract extension but will miss the next 4-6 weeks with an injury.

The Leafs attempted to climb back into this game, and because MacDonald and Aucoin committed ill-advised penalties within the final two minutes of the contest, they had a solid chance to do so.

Unfazed, the Islanders stood their ground on the penalty-kill.

Grabner sealed it with a shorthanded empty-netter, but not before having to elude one defender and spin around another. He now has five points (three goals, two assists) in three games.

That marker gave New York a 7-4 advantage with 1:10 remaining and, needless to say, they were able to hold on for the win.

It was the Isles' most goals in a road opener since 1972-73 (also seven), and the most they'd scored on the road since a 7-6 victory over the Buffalo Sabres back on February 13, 2011.

Credit to Evgeni Nabokov, who rebounded quite nicely after an unconvincing first period and finished the game with 39 saves. I felt his composure in net really allowed his teammates to follow suit.

He deserves a break and will get one tonight, when the Isles take on the Boston Bruins with Rick DiPietro between the pipes.

It's also worth noting that, even without P.A. Parenteau, the first line hasn't skipped a beat. Kyle Okposo looks pretty darn comfortable riding shotgun with Tavares and Moulson, and it's hard to argue with the on-ice results so far. It'll be interesting to see if the trio can sustain this throughout the season.

Overall, this was a game that could've gotten ugly and out of hand but, instead, became a positive one for the New York Islanders. They've won two and a row, have something to build on and, even more importantly, have something they can be proud of.

Comments are welcome. 

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Trouble Across the Bridge: Nino Niederreiter Unhappy, Seeks Trade

I'll take "things that came out of left field" for 100, Alex.

ESPN New York's Katie Strang is reporting this afternoon that Nino Niederreiter (Isles' fifth-overall pick in 2010) is disappointed with his current situation. Nino's agent (Andy Rufener) is requesting a trade from the Islanders, so that his client can get a fresh start. 

Personally, I think you can count the list of teams that'd put Niederreiter in their lineup on one hand.  His camp obviously has a different take on the matter. 

Now, I'm not going to say the Isles aren't completely at fault here. What transpired last season was nothing short of a disaster, and head coach Jack Capuano deserves most (if not all) of the blame for keeping Nino on the fourth line with Marty Reasoner and Jay Pandolfo, virtually from start to finish. 

Capuano didn't even use him on the power play, where he could've at least made somewhat of a difference. 

But that was last season, and this time around, the Islanders made the right call. Not to say that giving him fourth-line minutes was a good idea, but regardless, Nino Niederreiter simply was not ready for the NHL.

He always looked out of place, was never able to establish himself as a power forward, never felt comfortable playing his brand of hockey. A full year in the AHL with Bridgeport was just what the doctor ordered and I give GM Garth Snow and the coaching staff credit for reacting accordingly.

I will say that Nino's absence in training camp was surprising. 

Then again, El Nino was on a roll in the minors, racking up 36 points in 38 contests. The Isles felt that any interference might have a negative impact on his development, so being that things were going well, they maintained the status quo. I see absolutely nothing wrong with that approach.

When you consider things from Nino's perspective, I suppose it all adds up; stuck on the fourth line of a young team without a ton depth at his position, then after making waves in the AHL, he doesn't even get invited to Isles' camp when the lockout ends. 

Granted, he's taking it the wrong way. But that's how he sees it, apparently. 

My thoughts on this are of pure disgust; his actions are downright obnoxious, to say the least. 

Nino Niederreiter is a 20-year-old kid with a very bright future ahead of him. But right now, in his position and status, he needs to shut up and get back to work. 

Niederreiter comes off as a spoiled brat from Never Never Land; one who should be grateful to the organization that drafted him into the NHL but, instead, is now doing just the opposite.

The Islanders aren't holding Nino hostage or anything, and they would undoubtedly give him his shot at stardom, provided that the time is right. And so, because the time isn't yet right and he's already 20-years-of-age, his patience has run out. 

It makes total sense, doesn't it?

Had he been four of five years removed from draft day, I'd certainly understand him being frustrated. Not here though, this is just plain selfish. 

As for whether or not the Islanders will trade Nino, I don't expect them to. If the right deal presents itself, then so be it. But I don't see them forcing anything right now, nor do I think they're in any rush. 

Good for them, because they shouldn't have to be. There's no need to give special treatment to a 20-year-old kid who's more spoiled than expired milk. 

Comments are welcome. 

Monday, January 21, 2013

NYI 4, TBL 3: Isles Survive Late Scare, Bolt Past Tampa Bay

Nothing like a bounce-back win to give you a boost in confidence and the standings.

Don't let the scoreboard fool you; the Islanders absolutely dominated for about 98% of this game (or 55 minutes out of 60, however you want to look at it).

From the get-go, the Isles looked poised and very much in control. They were always attacking, constantly applying pressure and their transition game was about as good as it's ever been since this rebuild began.

Twice, an Islander forward was on the receiving end of a spectacular long pass and, on both occasions, the play resulted in a goal.

Mark Streit found Michael Grabner, begging for the puck at the blueline, and the speedster darted in on Lightning goaltender Anders Lindback. Grabner faked to his right then back to his left, tucking the biscuit past Lindback for a power play goal of the highlight-reel variety. Grabner's tally put the Islanders ahead, 1-0.

If his performance last season suggested that Grabner didn't know how to finish, his start to this one would suggest he's fixed that problem.

Speaking of Grabner, he was strong on the penalty-kill as well, continuing to prove his worth as a guy who can play in multiple situations.

A little under 20 minutes later, John Tavares sent a long lead pass to Matt Martin, who had just exited the penalty box, and Martin fired a wrister up and over Lindback, giving the Isles a 2-0 advantage.

Tavares would notch a second assist, connecting with Kyle Okposo on a 2-on-1. That goal extended New York's lead to 3-0. JT's two-point outing earned him the first star of the game, and was undoubtedly a welcome development.

Despite the fact that he scored, Okposo had a bit of a disappointing game, in my opinion. I felt at times he tried to do too much with the puck, and instead of passing it or shooting, opted for the fancy route. Those decisions were poor ones.

Just 1:31 into the third period, David Ullstrom powered towards the net, taking a wrist shot that screamed past Lindback to make it 4-0, Isles.

Ullstrom had a real strong day, showing a lot of swagger and launching five shots in Lindback's direction. He's impressed through 120 minutes of hockey thus far.

All seemed to be going well. That is, until these young Islanders decided to get far too comfortable with that big lead they'd jumped out to. I wouldn't even say the defense was entirely at fault here; EVERYONE was. The whole team let up, at the worst possible time and against a very capable opponent.

In a matter of six minutes, this game got awfully exciting, with Martin St. Louis, Benoit Pouliot and Steven Stamkos scoring for Tampa Bay. Each was the result of an Islander turnover in the defensive zone.

The Isles snapped out of it after head coach Jack Capuano called a timeout, and from the very next shift on, looked noticeably more alert on defense than they had been during that brief, but costly lapse.

Otherwise, the defense was excellent today. Travis Hamonic had another good outing; he was physical, made some key defensive stops and even recorded an assist (two points on the season). I thought Andrew MacDonald had a nice game, too.

Evgeni Nabokov didn't see an awful lot of rubber, but he was sharp when he needed to be. Don't blame him for any of Tampa Bay's goals; those were 100% on Nabby's teammates in front of him and their decision to lay back with a 4-0 cushion.

When all was said and done, the Isles had outshot the Lightning, 45-26. Not bad for a team that's supposedly horrid in the offensive zone.

Perhaps it's time everyone woke up and realized that, of all the issues surrounding this Islander squad, offense is not one of them. There's plenty of talent already here and plenty more on the way.

Relax, folks.

Though they did nearly tear down their own sandcastle this afternoon, the New York Islanders buckled down and did what all good teams must: They found a way to stop the bleeding and, more importantly, they found a way to win.

A young, inexperienced team will tend to let their guard down more often, and that's precisely what transpired in this game. But they plugged up all the holes, were able to draw Nate Thompson and Brian Lee into taking late penalties and kept the Bolts in check, right 'till the very end.

This victory represents another glimpse of the kind of success this team is capable of, and that's pretty darn exciting, if you ask me.

Like I prefaced with, don't let that scoreboard fool you. But if you're the Islanders, let it teach you a lesson anyway. It might just come in handy.

Comments are welcome.