The afterglow of the trade deadline has faded, and with one swing of the Simon stick, the Isles now find themselves with one point against the Rangers out of a possible four. Worse yet, Simon will probably be banned for the rest of the season after today's league hearing and faces possible criminal charges as well. My take on this is that Simon deserves at least 10 games, but Hollweg should have gotten a penalty for boarding. No excuses for Simon's behavior, but day in and day out, Hollweg is a dirtier player than Simon, this latest slash to the face aside.
So now the playoff race thickens, the Rangers are in the hunt, the Isles are minus one enforcer, and full details of Ryan Smyth's condition are unknown other than he is expected to play tonight against the Caps. He certainly did not look good after getting checked from behind by Malik. We now understand how the Rangers plan on proceeding with this season - they are going to goon their way to the playoffs. I know that after the Simon hit, you are saying which team has the more dirty players? The answer in terms of goonery as a style of play is the Rangers. Between Orr, Hollweg, Ortmeyer, and Avery, you can't play the game without looking over your shoulder for a cheap shot. Well that may get them to the playoffs, but they will be bounced in short order.
So back to the Isles. Is it possible that the addition of Smyth to the team has actually disrupted the chemistry of the team? Not because Smyth is not a team guy, of course he is, and the other guys are happy to have him. But the adjustment period may be 10-15 games and the Isles really don't have time for such an acclimation. Add to that the new addition of Zednik, Bergeron, and the return of Yashin, and we are talking about a major infusion of new talent into a lineup that was established and functioning like a well oiled machine. Tonight's game against the Caps is more important than anyone imagines. The Islanders need to cycle the puck, keep a firm forecheck going, and methodically take the Caps apart tonight. A victory is an absolute must. If the Isles lose tonight, they will be a psychological mess; and when they are messed up mentally as they were in December, a seven game losing streak was in order.
Some questions to be answered this week:
How hurt is Smyth?
Will Yashin be the scoring Yashin or the lazy do nothing Yashin?
Will other teams try to manhandle the Isles with Simon gone or will Witt and Asham be able to protect them?
Will they recover mentally from the Rangers home and home?
I knew coming into this series with the Rangers that the Rags were going to play cheap hockey and I was wondering how the Isles would handle it. Well we got our answer. On several occasions, Witt and Simon lost their composure giving the Rangers key power plays. I don't know how many years need to go by before the Islanders learn how to play against that team. It was clear at the trade deadline that the Rangers realized that they were lacking in talent and didn't have the assets to pick up any star players, so they took the rough road picking up Avery and figuring that they could simply goon their way to the promised land. And it just may work.
And the league would like nothing better than to bring the Rags back to the playoffs, which is why the refs failed to call several penalties against the Rags. Avery should have been called for at least two additional infractions, and Hollweg on the boarding of Simon. And let's not forget the video review judges in Toronto who must be 85 years old without glasses (or told by Bettman to get the Rangers into the playoffs at any cost). The Islanders disallowed goal of course really was a goal as the replay clearly showed. It was clear on the TV replay and is crystal clear in this still shot:
Even Dave Maloney said it should have been a goal. But playoff TV ratings are at stake here, so get the Rangers in the playoffs - it's a mandate.