Tonight's shootout loss was a hard fought defeat to the Los Angeles Kings, a team that the Isles should hope to reflect one day. The Kings have a nucleus of young skaters ranging from Kopitar, Frolov, and O'Sullivan to Doughty and Johnson. For the past few seasons they have sat at the bottom of the Western Conference standings, frustrating themselves and their fan base. Now they are on the cusp of a playoff berth, just two points away from the 8th placed Columbus Blue Jackets.
The Islanders weren't looking into a mirror when they were staring them down as the opposition tonight, but maybe a crystal ball looking into the Isles future. Now only if it revealed whether or not the location was the Lighthouse or not...::snare, snare, symbol crash!::
This year the Isles sit at the bottom of the Eastern Conference standings and can look to the Kings and see what it is like to have patience and determination. The city of Los Angeles doesn't have a contender yet, but the team is on the verge of taking themselves to the next level. Gordon and Isles fans have been seeing that as of late in some of the core younger players, particularly Kyle Okposo. His hustle on every shift can't go unnoticed, and he shows that he is no longer afraid to fight in the corners and take a hit into the boards. Bailey has played very well along side of him with Comeau as the grinder on that line, holding on to the puck and creating space for the other two.
Bergenheim looked well tonight too, especially for a player who had missed considerable time. There was one rush in particular where he played the puck to himself by tossing it over the defense-man's stick, forcing Quick to make a good save. He attempted to do the same in over-time, going in hard and crashing the net. This is the kind of play that everyone wants to see out of a player like Sean.
In the shootout we got to see Nielsen, Okposo, and Bailey get a chance to win the game. Unfortunately all were unsuccessful but I can see signs of improvement in all three. Nielsen has good hands and I firmly believe he can be a great two-way third line center one day. He's already winning some key face-offs and has good vision for solid passes. He made a nice back-handed effort as the first shooter but was stopped by Quick's glove-hand.
Okposo pulled out a nice dangle as the second shooter, holding on to the puck behind him as he slid laterally across the crease. If only he could have lifted the puck it might have been a highlight reel goal, but unfortunately it went straight into Quick's right leg-pad.
Bailey got his second career opportunity in the shootout and looked very nervous. Perhaps Gordon should have went with Josh as the second shooter to take some of the pressure off of him because his inability to score allowed Jack Johnson to come in and bury the game-winning goal as the third contestant for LA. If Bailey didn't lose control of the puck at the last second he might have been able to lift over the sprawled LA goaltender, but the puck rolled off his blade and into the corner.
Although neither of these guys scored, they showed improvement in their confidence and technique. And although I wasn't at the game tonight, I'm sure Gordon is happy with seeing certain elements like this being displayed in his team's overall play.
It may not take very long for the Isles to be in the spot the Kings are in if they keep this up.