This past Monday was the first Islander-Ranger game of the season, so I figured, what better a game to get my first taste of the NYI Blog Box? Unfortunately the Isles didn't finish with the expectations that I had hoped, but it was an exciting game that showed areas of promise...and areas of concern.
Joey MacDonald cannot be blamed for the Isles poor start. That has to be recognized amongst all. He has only had one bad game (the 7-1 loss to Buffalo) and has stood on his head some nights. A weak/young (and oft-injured) defense hasn't helped him. Neither has an unproductive offense, but Mac, who was the one addition the fans were incredibly skeptical over, is proving to be a solid back-up.
But could he handle it for the long-haul? Ricky may be out for an extended period of time, and with the Isles new 'no-tell' injury policy, we may never know when he's going to return or what he's injured. I can tell you one thing though, Ricky needs to learn to sit and heal. He's always "raring to go" as quoted by coaches and teammates, but does that mean he always should be the one in net? If he wasn't ready Gordon shouldn't have dressed him the first four games to sit as the back-up, and he sure as hell shouldn't have started the ones he played. If these two injuries are in fact unrelated, then it's just bad luck...to me it looks too coincidental.
But at the end of the day what matters on the ice is what's important. In the locker room, Guerin said it best: "If Ricky isn't here he can't help us." It's that plain and simple. He can't help if he continues to hurt himself as well. Let Ricky sit 20 games if he has too. He's here for the next 10 years and change, the last thing the team needs is a check going to a sidelined contract.
With all that being said, let's hope we get word on his injury soon and that he returns to the line-up with a speedy, healthy recovery.
As for my thoughts on the Islander/Ranger game, the blue and orange, as stated by Gordon and MacDonald, played well through the first period and a half. However hockey games are 60 minutes long, not 30. Sure, there were a bunch of unlucky bounces...but that can't be the excuse every game. Goals need to be scored, and we got one from a player we need to produce - Kyle Okposo.
I'm sitting amongst my fellow bloggers as they're giving me the low down on how things go during and after games. I'm getting into the game, and I won't lie, I was pretty stoked knowing I was going down to the press conferences afterwards. As we're chit chatting about the game, I made a note that Okposo, although hustling every shift, has concerned me with his play. I just hadn't thought he had shown any of the bits of flair he showed at the end of last season. Play is dead with 7 seconds left in the period, so I leave to go grab a pretzel.
The horn sounds and I run back to hear, "you missed it! Okposo scored!" Talk about coincidence. After that he showed a completely different style of play. He was flying, and do I mean flying. He was so much more aggressive with the puck. Suddenly he didn't seem intimidated by any of the Rangers d-men and was shrugging them off like an old habit. There was one particular rush where he made a crisp drop pass at the blue-line to Comrie who fed it right back down low to KO, who came in tight on goal to pass it to Tambellini across the goal crease. He couldn't bury it, but it was a great set up - this was the first time we saw Kyle start and almost assist on finishing a play all season. His confidence rose significantly and he was hands down the best player in the second period.
But then I have to ask, why was his first shift in the third period not until the 12:50 mark? The Isles did get into some penalty trouble so I wasn't surprised to see him on the bench for the kills, but there were not 7:50 seconds of penalties. He could've gotten one or two forty second shifts somewhere in that time frame. The funny thing is that Gordon acknowledged his play in Newsday as well.
Either way, hopefully Okposo's play Monday night will carry over to tonight's game against the Flyers.
As for the Blog Box, I have to say it was quite the experience. Pulling in under the VIP section, getting handed credentials, and going down with the press to the locker rooms after the final buzzer so I can write about the game and team that I love? Fantastic. The other bloggers are a good bunch of people that have really interesting blogs of their own, covering the Isles from all different angles. Everyone that I met was very helpful and made me feel welcome which was great. It was just awesome to be chilling after the game outside of the Isles locker room, standing around with Josh Bailey after the Mac, Okposo, and Guerin interviews. I can't wait to get to another game - hopefully this time I'll come up with a few questions of my own.
Tonight the Isles visit the Flyers. Mac should be in net and will have help with the return of Andy Sutton on defense. We all know his size has been missed. Hopefully he'll be able to shake off any cobwebs he might have and get right in there with those hip checks at the blue line. With the Flyers rough line-up we can sure use all the physical help we can get.