Tuesday, December 22, 2009
The Breaking Point On Long Island?
Lately, the Islanders have been in a funk. Ever since their win at MSG which drew John Tortorella's ire on the other side of the intense rivalry, they haven't won a game. In fact, Scott Gordon's club has been outscored 12-4 in three straight losses (all on home ice) to the Rangers, Canadiens and the Lightning, who got the last three in a 4-2 win yesterday. If you exclude the Isles' 2-1 Garden triumph, they've dropped the other four by a combined 19-5 with Florida routing them 7-1 eight days ago.
Since returning home where they'll be until New Year's Eve, the Islanders haven't given their fans much to cheer about. Not when you drop four of five and are outscored 20-7, hurting your playoff aspirations in a mediocre bottom half of the East where a couple of wins can leapfrog you over others. At 13-17-7- the low water mark on the Meadowbrook, the Isles suddenly find themselves in 13th with their 33 points only ahead of the dismal Flyers who lost again and the lower than low Candy Canes, who the Rangers beat in Raleigh. Due to the poor stretch, the Islanders trail eighth Florida by six points.
The good news is they have one game at hand. The bad is that there are four other teams in front of them. That doesn't include the Bruins, Thrashers and Senators, who all are separated by one total point from fifth to seventh with the Cats lurking behind. Yep. The Devils, Capitals, Sabres and Penguins should feel pretty good about themselves. All have proven to be good teams who have to be taken seriously. Though we expect Buffalo to get challenged by the B's. If those five make the cut, that leaves 6-8 for the other clubs to scramble for including the Islanders, who must get back on the winning track against the Leafs tomorrow before visiting 33rd and 7th the day after Christmas on Saturday.
Win and it's not all bad. However, you'd have to be locked in a cave to not notice all those Hab fans who turned Nassau Coliseum into their own arena during Saturday's 3-0 shutout of the Isles. A reported 3,000 bused from Montreal to cheer their Canadiens on Blizzard Day. While there was a valid reason for Islander fans not to turn out, it was pretty disturbing to see all the Montreal supporters having their way at a place their team has owned. Only the names were different from Koivu, Kovalev and Higgins with even Scott Gomez joining the fray on a night All-Star defenseman Andrei Markov returned in fine fashion tallying twice. On a night Jaroslav Halak stopped all 40 Islander shots in their tracks, the traditional "Ole, Ole, Ole" chants could be heard along with even "Na Na Na, Na Na Na, Hey Hey, Good---bye" ringing as the final minutes wound down.
How would you feel if you were Charles Wang? Embarrassing stuff. Especially for a franchise that while uncertain off the ice, is on the rise on it featuring wiz kid John Tavares, who paces all rookies in goals (15) and points (27). Four better than Devil Nicklas Bergfors and No.3 overall pick Matt Duchene. When you include the Rangers' Mike Del Zotto, Philly's James Van Riemsdyk and Buffalo's Tyler Myers, there's plenty of local flavor in the Calder discussion. Lots to get excited for.
If only the Islanders had stronger support. Who could blame a fanbase that continues to pay up the nose due to the faulty SMG arrangement in which the organization gets nothing from concessions, helping explain the cost. Still, it doesn't bode well. Especially for Wang's Lighthouse vision. What if he and Nassau County could actually try something called negotiating to reach something that would work for both parties, keeping a team rich in tradition where they belong? On Long Island! While the league continues to be in the Isles' corner, you have to wonder what might happen if something doesn't get done. A scary thought for this Ranger blogger, who enjoys one of the best rivalries in sports. Rangers-Islanders are fun on the ice and in the stands where you can feel the energy and electricity flowing. Whether it's on Broadway or off the Southern State, the games always take on an extra meaning.
I've said it before. I can't imagine life without the classic Battle Of New York. We need the Islanders.