"We ask him over and over again not to play the puck as much," Nolan said of DiPietro. "He's one of the best puck-handlers in the league, but you just can't overhandle it. When you overhandle it, you get yourself in trouble a little bit."
Sounds like Ted Nolan is just a tad bit frustrated with DiPietro making mistakes handling the puck in consecutive games which resulted into empty-net goals. Good thing Teddy used a pencil when it was declared he was slated to start the remainder of the season. If it were permanent ink we may be in for some migraines and Tylenol.
In no way is this a blogger bashing the team’s star net-minder. There is no question that DiPietro has carried this team on his back for the entire season, and was undoubtedly the only reason why this team was within playoff contention a few weeks back. However, prior to his grandmother’s death DP was below .500 in a span of 15 or 16 games and has yet to earn a win since his return. Despite all that being said, I do not believe that last night’s loss to Tampa should be entirely blamed on DP.
Although letting up 8 goals is an atrocity, he is playing with some unreliable defenseman in Berard and Johnson, who both log big minutes. Maybe DP does not trust his d-men fielding the puck in their zone since they have made plenty of costly turnovers in recent games. Who knows? Bottom line is that DP’s shoulders are not wide enough at this stage of his career to carry the team for 65 games, and his back is starting to break. It is quite understandable and shows that Dubie should have gotten more playing time. If they are not confident enough in Dubie to handle more games than he has been given, then the team should seriously consider looking for a strong back-up who can take some of the workload off of DP so we can get solid performances throughout the year instead of just the first half.
The only positive that I could take out of last night’s game is that the kids got more playing time. Bergenheim led the way with nearly 16 minutes, with Tamby and Comeau right behind him with almost 14. To me it does not matter that they did not rack up the score sheet with a ton of goals and assists. Those are close to second line minutes, and the only way the kids will gain experience is if they are given the time to play. Heck, it even resulted with Ben Walter getting his first NHL goal. I particularly was happy to see Nolan throw Walter out on the penalty kill early in the first period to only be paired with another inexperienced youngster in Jeremy Colliton. He is showing more faith in the youth and I am very proud to see that.
Speaking of the youth, they may get more time to play as Hilbert left warm-ups with an ankle injury and Fedotenko left the third period with a knee-sprain, both of whom are being re-evaluated today. At this stage of the season it is almost safe to say we will not be making the playoffs. Currently the Isles sit in 13th place with Atlanta only one point behind them. Mathematically we are still capable of making it, but now being 8 points out of the last playoff spot, the final nail in the coffin is set in place with the next six or seven games possibly being the hammer. If you ask me, let the race for Stamkos begin. Without a doubt we all want the best for this team, but I do not see a scramble to enter the playoffs being the logical faith.
However with Tamby, Comeau, Bergenheim, and Walter already up here and Nielsen out with an injury, who do the Isles call up to replace Fedotenko and Hilbert if they are too miss a few games? Could it be possible that Kyle Okposo will be making his NHL debut in the next few games? I am not saying he necessarily will be but it does make me curious. He has 9 games to play in the NHL this year before his contract kicks into effect. There is only eleven left on this season, so it almost seems logical that if they intended on him getting any playing time with the big club this year, it would be now with roster spots open for only a temporary period of time.
So what do you think? Should the Isles call up Kyle Okposo and give him some time? Do you still hope and or believe this team will make the playoffs? What’ is better – a high top five draft pick or making the playoffs in 8th place?
Let’s hear your thoughts.