Two bitter defeats and the news on Campoli had to be on their mind. This team was facing a challenge. Nolan added to this by resting Rick DiPietro (more on that later). So with Dubie in goal, the Isles went to Carolina in the daunting task to notch a win against a team that beat them twice. Once was a blowout, the second a come from behind win that whitened Isle fans knuckles and popped veins in some Bruce Banneresque rage.
Last night the Isles came out ready, willing and able while the Hurricane were the ones caught with flat-feet. The Islanders burned them with a transition game, scoring on Carolina's own powerplay three times. The Hurricane are no patsies, and they gave Isles fans, as well as the team, some anxious moments as they made it 4-3 at one point, with Bruno Gervais called for a penalty. It got even more dramatic as Wade Dubielewicz shot back from leaving open the net on Kaberle to make the stop. Instead, as the PP expired, Blake Comeau supplied the puck to Brendan Witt. Yes, that is not a typo. Witt. And it made it 5-3. Then Comeau, who has opened many eyes who hadn't been open from his good training camp, got an empty-netter to make it 6-3.
A much needed win. Next game is versus Boston on Thursday. Then the All-Star break where Rick DiPietro MIGHT be the starter while Boston's Tim Thomas now joins the team now that Marty Brodeur has announced that he will not be at the All-Star game due to family reasons. No official word on who's starting, however.
Meanwhile, back at home . . .
VP of Media Relation's Chris Botta blog is always a good read. One, because he follows and talks about other sports. Two, because he, like in real life, is very candid and says what he thinks. So I'll grab this little snippet from his latest to address some kids on the farm.
"The System: Once in a while I'll see something about the Islanders' farm system being a bit dry, but that seems exaggerated. In Bridgeport right now is one bonafide stud (Okposo), a scoring machine who WILL get his chance (Tambellini) and two very steady two-way centers who could play on my team any time (Frans Nielsen and Ben Walter). Comeau, the 2004 second round pick who won't turn 22 for another month, is playing big minutes. One of the stories of tonight's game was not that Comeau had a goal and an assist in the final three minutes - it was that Ted Nolan had the faith to put him out there in the first place."
On defense, there is a very good future Islander (Dustin Kohn), who will join recent youngins Bruno, Campoli and Meyer. Scouts visiting the Coli press box tell me the 2006 and 2007 drafts were both very strong for the NYI. Of course, time will tell, but the Hockey News' next Future Watch issue will not be lacking.
- Chris Botta on NYI Point Blank
Chris is dead right on Comeau. He's also right on the forwards.
On Dustin Kohn, and perhaps the allusion to Mark Katic, he has something there too. However, overall, while the farm is bright with some forwards, the defense is far sparser on TALENT.
Lets take a look at the always good Hockeyfutures.com which who cites only 3 Dmen in the Isles farm system as a top 20 prospects.
6. Dustin Kohn, D
8. Andrew MacDonald, D
17. Mark Katic, D
Now, that's not bad. Most have at least 3 or 4 in their system that is slated in the top 20. Not to mention the top 20 is merely their projections. Nolan is very familiar with McDonald, since they strove for a Memorial Cup together. So he might have a spot sometime in the future.
The Isles also have:
Emil Axelsson, Blake Kessel, Simon Lacroix, Jamie Fraser, Tyrell Mason, and Shane Sims.
But none of these, or even those in the Top 20 are blue chips. And out of all of these others, only Sims really strikes me as a possible potential NHLer.
What REALLY makes Isles a bit defensive on the subject of defensive futures, is simply that the NYI's is rather thin at talent even on the NHL level.
Yes, Meyer really found his way and I have been VERY impressed. Consistency for him, will be key. Sutton is doing well, especially being paired with Meyer. Gervais, well, is still learning and I'm a bit out-to-lunch on where he's going to fall between expectation and reality. I think Bruno has had some trouble this season. He's played well in spots, and not so well in others. Martinek and Witt...well, not much to say there. These guys are the best and most consistent dmen they have. Good NHLers and a steady force.
But then we have Marc-Andre Bergeron and Bryan Berard. And these are two BIG question marks, and who make this D so terribly thin due to their trials and tribulations. Berard, overall, to me, has been a disappointment. His play has been erratic at times. Sometimes with a great crafty pass, and other times just blah and invisible. I am more a fan of MAB, who, yes at times he struggles. But who also can burn a team with his shot and powerplay skills. He has also been used more defensively.
As Greg Logan aptly put forth in his blog, the trading of MAB might now be moot with Campoli being out for the rest of the season. So, it leaves Berard and the very energetic and game Aaron Johnson fighting for time.
So, to me, therein lies still more questions. But a good draft can make all the difference.