Islanders-Flyers: The Young and the Hopeless

Mike SalernoCorrespondent IMarch 8, 2008

Since Wednesday, I've had the head cold to end all head colds. I haven't gone anywhere outside my house with the exception of two classes Friday afternoon. My Xbox conveniently broke Tuesday night, on the eve of the release of MLB 2K8. I'm miserable. Now that I'm completely up to date with episodes of The Office, I've turned to any hockey I can find to amuse me enough to pass the time.

With all the different storylines produced from the Rangers' 4-1 spanking of the Islanders Thursday, I realized that was a perfect game to do a running diary. Unfortunately, I realized this after the game.

I wanted badly to do one for the pivotal Rangers-Bruins game tomorrow, but I'll be at work tomorrow for the 3 p.m. start. I can't even blame NBC for the latest in the Blueshirts' weekend afternoon affairs, because they're too busy with Sidney vs. Ovechkin to worry about a game that could more than likely decide the sixth and seventh seeds in the Eastern Conference. In fact, I was originally happy to hear the Penguins-Capitals game was on NBC, because I figured the Rangers would be on at 7, like they should be. I was wrong.

So instead, I turned to another game that would go a long way in shaping the Eastern conference playoff picture, tonight's game between the Islanders and Flyers. With that loss to the Rangers, the Isles fell five points behind Philly, and a loss tonight would all but end any playoff hopes the Islanders still had.

So with this in mind, I sat down right before the puck was dropped at 7:05. Though my head felt ready to explode, surely a matchup between my two most hated teams in the NHL couldn't hurt. Right?

6:56 p.m. - The opening montage is filled with highlights of the two teams' last meeting one week ago. The Flyers won 4-1 on the strength of some "dirty goals" according to Howie Rose. But don't fret Isles fans, he brings good news: Rick DiPietro is back in goal after missing the previous three games. Uhh Howie, wasn't he in goal last week too?

7:03 p.m - Ted Nolan claims "Ricky is ready." Mmm, I'm pretty sure he was ready on Thursday, Ted.

7:06 p.m. - Wow, Deb Kaufman is hot. I wish she still covered the Rangers. I'd trade John Giannonne for her in a second.

7:07 p.m. - Butch Goring just called Mike Comrie a scorer. I just laughed out loud for the first time. I'm going to keep tabs on how many times I laugh at this team tonight.

7:10 p.m. - DP is 26-24-7... So that really means he's 26-31 for those of you scoring at home.

7:12 p.m - Rose describes Brendan Witt like a hero for playing through a knee injury. I'll keep track of this, too. I hate Brendan Witt. Actually, I think he's a great defenseman. But he tries to talk smack to every player, ever. He literally tries to be Sean Avery and it just doesn't work. Just shut up and block shots.

7:13 p.m. - Okay, Blake Comeau does not have that much of an upside. Islanders fans are in love with him. I can't figure out why. Jeff Tambellini, on the other hand, is a budding star. Of course he is, that's a Michigan boy they're talking about. I point this out to my little brother watching with me, as I do pretty much every time I see a Michigan player.

7:14 p.m. - My little brother speaks up, "What about Comrie?" Shut up, you little twerp. Yes it's true, Mike Comrie also went to Michigan. He is one of two people on this earth that I hate, despite the fact that they went to college in Ann Arbor.

7:20 p.m. - The Guinness Proposition 3-17 commercial airs for the first time in the game. I love this one. "I HAVE FLOATS! I'M A BIG DEAL!" I agree wholeheartedly that St. Patrick's Day should be a National holiday. If we ever see this in our lifetime, expect it to officially surpass the Super Bowl and New Year's Eve as the best drinking day of the year.

7:23 p.m. - Flyers coach John Stevens looks like either an evil genius or the nerd that shoots up the whole school. Wow, it really sucks that this is a relevant reference thanks to all the crazies pumping others with lead on campuses across America lately.

7:25 p.m. - Comrie gets a face full of glove from Kimmo Timonen. After a bit of wrestling, the officials jump in to prevent anything further. Color commentator Billy Jaffe claims "Comrie would've been happy to drop the gloves." I'm not so sure.
Jaffe is the other Michigan alum I loathe. He was actually captain of Red Berenson's crew in 1992. Gross. Anyways, both parties got two minutes for roughing.

7:30 p.m. - I keep trying to decide who I want to win. If the Flyers win, the Isles' season is pretty much over since then they'd be seven points behind Philly. But the Flyers would be only one point behind the Rangers again. Hm, still deciding.

7:34 p.m. - If you took Sloth from The Goonies, styled and parted his hair, shrunk him about two feet and put a scarf around his neck, you'd get Danny Briere.

7:38 p.m. - Ryan Hollweg's asthma commercial airs. I've more or less memorized it by now. I'm not necessarily proud of that.

7:40 p.m. - Nice save by Martin Biron on Sean Bergenheim. Bergenheim's been the Isles' only decent player this week. I just laughed again. Two. He had a goal in each game against the Rangers, and the only one on Thursday (though he had to bank it off two defensemen to even get it past Lundqvist).

7:41 p.m. - Ms. Kaufman will be talking in between periods. That gives me something to look forward to other than 20 more minutes of bad hockey.

7:42 p.m. - Camera focuses on Mike Comrie during a stoppage of play. He always looks so pissed off. It pisses me off. If I were in charge of the arena music, I would play a steady dose of Good Charlotte at whistles just for him.

7:44 p.m. - 0-0 after the first. Shots are 10-6 Islanders, though the play has been relatively even. Jaffe calls it "a good road period." I agree. Nothing impressive, but nothing bad either.

7:45 p.m. - Oh no, Stan Fischler. This intermission is going to be more painful than my splitting headache.
I got a text message from my friend the other day that read "Doesn't Stan Fischler look like the old drunk guy from Big Daddy?" To which I replied in typical Mr. Hurley fashion, "Hell yes!"

7:53 p.m. - I missed Butch Goring's analysis of the period searching restlessly for Sudafed and something to get my head to stop pulsating. I usually don't like to take too many pills for minor stuff. But lately, it feels like I've got more pills in me than Heath Ledger.
Thank God for TiVo. I went back to see Deb going over the particulars of the Islanders' newest gimmick to get people to come pay to see them play, the 2-Year Loyalty Season Ticket Plan. You're kidding me, right? You get a price that's locked for two years at the current price AND premium parking for all five remaining home games in addition to next year! Not to mention, you get 12 1/2% off the face value for next year's tickets. Not a bad deal, but let's face it. The only way you're going to get people to come see you on a regular basis (outside of binge-drinking Hofstra students that can pay $16 and still get free parking across the street) is to win.
Sure, maybe you'll get just enough people to buy this package to make it sound like a mild success, but unless you make the playoffs, it's not going to amount to anything.

8:01 p.m. - Al Trautwig takes a shot at the Isles saying they need a deflection to beat Marty Biron, just like they did with Henrik Lundqvist. He's right.

8:03 p.m. - Back to the game. My TiVo is fast forwarded to the current action.

8:04 p.m. - Penalty to Trent Hunter for slashing. Probably a "marginal call" like Jaffe demands.

8:05 p.m. - DP takes a bad tripping penalty. Even I think it should've been a dive. Philly's awarded with 1:31 of 5-on-3 power play time.

8:06 p.m. - Danny "Sloth" Briere scores on a pinball open net goal in front. Braydon Coburn got an assist as he fanned on a shot from the point. The Flyers still have a man advantage for 1:43.

8:10 p.m. - I just decided. I want the Islanders to win this game. I mean, they still won't probably get into the playoffs, but I'm dying to see a Pittsburgh-Washington 1 vs. 8 playoff series. This would be possible if Boston kept up its current pace of allowing 12 goals per game or so, especially tomorrow against my Rangers. 12 should get us a win.
Keeping that in mind, here's my ideal playoff scenario in the East:
1. Pittsburgh vs. 8. Washington- Sidney and Evgeni against Alexander the Great. I know I'm not the only one quietly rooting for this, either. In fact, I bet every league executive wants to see both Sidney and Ovechkin in the playoffs, but against each other that would be something. Besides, it would be a nice reward for both Bruce Boudreau and George McPhee. I'm so pissed I'm going to miss tomorrow's game.
2. Montreal vs. 7. Philadelphia- With all the talk of these big, bad Flyers I don't think any of them have the fortitude to go into the corner with Mike Komisarek. And if they do, I doubt they'd live to tell about it.  By the way, where'd Komisarek go to college? Heh.
3. Carolina vs. 6. New York- I've heard people tell me the Rangers still have a shot to finish atop the Eastern conference. Okay, I admit it. Some, if not most, Rangers fans are delusional. But I want us to stay in sixth because the Hurricanes are clearly the worst of the nine or ten teams contending still. If this series went to five games before the Rangers clinched, it should be a moral victory for Carolina.
4. New Jersey vs. 5. Ottawa- This would be probably the most intriguing series of the four. I wonder if the Senators can pull out of this tailspin in time to win a playoff series. On the other hand, the Devils have been red hot and that second round exit courtesy of Ottawa last year cannot sit right with Martin Brodeur and the Devs.

8:17 p.m. - They just showed the second of two Riley Cote vs. Andre Roy fights from last night again. That was hysterical. If you missed it, please, YouTube it immediately. Apparently, he was sent back to Tampa by the team and will miss the next two games. The scoreboard staff played the replay of Cote’s two-punch knockout repeatedly, infuriating Roy. He had to be restrained by linesmen and eventually Tampa Bay coach John Tortorella after attempting to go after Cote a third time. I can just imagine the conversation between the fiery coach and the enforcer:Tortorella: That’s it! We’re sticking you on the next plane back to Tampa. You got your bell rung, then you embarrassed the rest of this team.
Roy: Wait, so you’re suspending me for getting knocked out?
Tortorella: Yes… (pauses and giggles to himself) I mean no. You embarrassed us later when you tried to go back after him. What were you thinking? Those refs probably saved you another beating, anyway.

8:23 p.m. - Witt blocks a heavy shot from the point, Rose mentions his ailing knee again.

8:24 p.m. - Flyers score. DiPietro goes behind the net to play the puck, but it hits his leg and goes right to Scottie Upshall. He passes to Jeff Carter who puts it in the empty net. That is my favorite kind of goal scored on DP. I always wonder if the Isles would be any good if he made a conscious effort to stay in the crease.

8:27 p.m. - Freddy Meyer hits Vaclav Prospal into the padded partition in between the benches, completely wiping him out. Ah, my favorite play in hockey.8:30 p.m. - Martin Biron is playing decent. He hasn't had to be great at all, but he's still got that shutout in tact.
...Can you jinx someone on purpose? I hope so.

8:34 p.m. - Comrie sticks Briere in the face right off the draw, then gets in his face on the way to the box. What could you possibly say to him? Shut up, idiot.

8:38 p.m. - They just showed Kimmo Timonen on the bench which reminded me of how good a job Flyers' GM Paul Holmgren has done putting this team together. When Lupul and Richards come back, this team could make a run in the playoffs if they get any consistency from Biron.

8:39 p.m. - Line brawl! Guerin and Smith, the two captains, fight to a draw along the boards. Guerin started the whole pileup by giving Upshall a shot in the mouth. Stupid penalty or a message to his team?

8:41 p.m. - Well as things are sorted out, the Islanders will carry 1:50 of a power play into the third period. Guerin got two minutes for roughing, but Jason Smith got a double minor, giving New York the man advantage. This could be the break the Islanders needed.

8:45 p.m. - Oh wonderful, another intermission full of Al Trautwig taking shots at the Islanders. He definitely gets my vote for Biggest Rangers' Fan Employed by MSG, at least since the strange disappearance of Bobby Granger.

8:47 p.m. - Stan Fischler just simplified the playoff race as if he was talking to a third grader. Well, I guess most of the audience tonight is Isles fans, so maybe that's not so farfetched. My apologies, Stan. I guess I'm right on par with Al Trautwig, except I'm not being paid by MSG.

8:51 p.m. - Goring is saying the Isles need discipline badly. I agree. But Guerin's forearm into Upshall's jaw seemed to work out for them just fine.

8:52 p.m. - Deb plugs the whole 2-year loyalty ticket plan thing again. I'm now aware that this is an every-period thing. I just wish they didn't take face time away from her in this bi-nightly exercise in futility.

8:55 p.m. - New York is outshooting Philadelphia, 19-16. They need a power play goal here. I hope for the sake of watching bad hockey they get one.

8:58 p.m. - A promo for the Isles' next home game against Toronto on March 18th shows a bevy of Islanders saying how much of a difference the crowd makes. I'm going to rewind the TiVo to make sure I heard this correctly.

8:59 p.m. - Yes, I did. Wow, I'm actually considering suing for false advertising. The only time they manage to get more than a third of that building filled is when they roll out all the fossils from the 1980s Stanley Cup years for some ridiculous anniversary. The one exception to this, of course, is when the Rangers come to town. On these four nights a year, the arena is filled, but not with Islanders' fans. It's fair to assume there are as many people there rooting for the Blueshirts as there are for the home team on those nights.

9:01 p.m. - Halfway through the power play, one shot on goal. The Isles need traffic in front of Biron or they're toast.

9:03 p.m. - And we're back to even strength. The Islanders are going to lose this game. They have their power play to blame for it. It's about as lifeless as DiPietro's grandmother.
Too soon?

9:04 p.m. - Satan misses the net on a terribly executed 3-on-1. It'll be a miracle if they get one goal tonight. 

9:04 p.m. (cont.) - Blake Comeau hit the post from the blue line as I wrote the last entry. Solid shift by the "kid line," but it's just not the Isles' night.

9:07 p.m. - Passing shot of the Islanders bench. Not one player looks like he knows where he is. Not exactly the attitude you want down two in a must-win game.

9:10 p.m. - Bergenheim rattles Upshall along the boards and gets two minutes for roughing. Upshall should've gotten one also, but hopefully the Flyers will put this game on ice and I can start watching the Duke-UNC game.

9:13 p.m. - My prayers are answered. Braydon Coburn scores from the point. 3-0 Flyers.

9:16 p.m. - They gave the goal to Hartnell. Oh no. Just as I went to change the channel to ESPN, the Islanders scored. Freddy Meyer's shot from the point eluded both the traffic in front and Biron. 3-1. Hm, traffic in front. I believe I've heard that before.

9:17 p.m. - Turns out the Islanders got a power play too. Upshall took a penalty after the goal for unsportsmanlike conduct. He shoved Meyer, but nothing was really necessary. Eh, he just got away with one on Bergenheim though. Interesting. Maybe the Isles aren't dead yet.

9:20 p.m. - Isles' power play fails them again. They're now 0-5 for the game.

9:21 p.m. - R.J. Umberger misses the net on another 2-on-1, his second of the game without registering a shot on goal. There should be an award given annually in his name to the NHLer who displays a knack for botching the most scoring chances over the course of the season: The R.J. Umberger Award. I like it.
Other players up for consideration: Andy Hilbert of the New York Islanders, Marcel Hossa, now with Phoenix and Michael Ryder of the Montreal Canadians. Feel free to let me know if you can think of a player worthy of consideration.

9:22 p.m. - Speaking of botched scoring chances, Patrick Thoresen just missed the net on a breakaway, but drew a penalty with 7:27 to play.

9:24 p.m. - Surprise! Flyers score again on the power play. Hartnell gets his second of the night with a nice deflection to squeeze it between DiPietro's legs. 4-1. Game, set, match.

9:25 p.m. - Thoresen just got denied on the doorstep after it looked like he hit the puck with his purse.

9:27 p.m. - I thought about changing the channel to the Duke-UNC game, but I can't watch the first half of a basketball game unless there's lots of alcohol and/or money involved. Speaking of basketball, beer and money, it is March and my favorite underdog punched their ticket to the Big Dance today for the fourth straight year. The Winthrop Eagles won the Big South conference tournament to earn an automatic bid into the NCAA tournament. You may remember them from last year, as they ousted Notre Dame in the first round of last year's tourney in a 6 vs. 11 matchup that was hardly an upset.

9:32 p.m. - 2:32 to play, and no other fights yet. Fingers are crossed. I don't expect much thought. This rivalry isn't as big as Rangers-Flyers anymore. Besides, since the Islanders traded their chief buffoon Chris Simon, who's their big enforcer now? Brendan Witt? I just laughed again. That make three so far, about 10 less than I thought I'd have by now.

9:34 p.m. - Howie Rose just hit it on the head. The Islanders look dead. They probably think their season's already over. There is no greater letdown as a fan to be able to see your team physically give up. This rag-tag group of guys whose identity was all about outworking more skilled opponents looks like they've finally thrown in the towel. Even the biggest of Islanders' haters such as myself think this is sad.

9:38 p.m. - You really don't need a post-game show after a game like this. They gave up once the Flyers scored the fourth goal. From then on, Rose and Jaffe went into painstaking detail about what went wrong with this team. Trouble is, they're just not that good. No doubt in my mind, I'm going to watch some of it anyway. I can only stay sympathetic to this team for so long. Besides, Duke-UNC is at half. What else is there to watch?

9:42 p.m. - Ooh, Ted Nolan's press conference. Who does he throw under the bus tonight?

9:44 p.m. - He praised Sean Bergenheim, but complained about the ref. Typical Nolan press conference, sans the cocky and crooked smile. He sounds as dejected as his team. Maybe even he knows it's over.


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