I attended last night's first Islander/Ranger tilt not as a blogger, but as a fan. At times in the blog box I may shout or slam my first on the table, but for the most part, I try to keep myself contained since I'm representing the Islanders as a member of the media. But as a fan, I get to let loose.
And boy, did I enjoy this one. The perspective you get as a blogger in the blog box is a rewarding one that you can't get as a fan. We're close to the ice, can hear the players shouting to each other, and get to go down to the press conferences after the game concludes. But as a fan, you get to be in a special environment - especially at Islander/Ranger games.
The Islanders came out strong and once again proved that they are a team that will show up for big games. Their home-opener against the Penguins was a close fight to the finish that left many fans excited for the next game. Since then they have struggled to hold leads and win hockey games. But last night they came out and played a full 60 minutes of hockey.
Matt Moulson continued his superb play with a breakaway goal that was started with a great outlet pass from Jack Hillen. Jack has looked very impressive thus far on the blue-line and may be forcing management to consider which of their aging defenseman should be here in the long-run. In the second period it was Kyle Okposo scoring on a rebound off a shot that came from Hillen on the power-play. And last but not least, John Tavares had the put-away goal slide past Henrik Lundqvist with a little over 5 minutes left in the third.
The first line, once again, is the line that got the job done. Players such as Bailey, Bergenheim, Sim, Jackman, Thompson, and Park looked aggressive and ready to go out there. However, they did not find their way on to the score sheet. Bergenheim and Bailey need to find a way to contribute more offensively. Matt, Kyle, and John are not going to be there every night to score goals.
To the rivalry…
On the ice, it may not be as intense as it used to be. Besides the Simon/Hollweg incident from a few years ago, nothing has really occurred to keep a strong hatred between the players. Guys such as Hollweg, Orr, Simon, and Hill are gone…and even so, the rivalry hasn’t been the same since the Asham vs. Barnaby or Cairns vs. McCarthy or Fleury vs. Webb days. Now those were some sick games. But I’m not worried. In a few years, pending the Lighthouse gets approved, the rivalry will return to old form. With the young guys growing up as Islanders, and the Rangers implementing some kids from their farm-system as well, they will learn to dislike one another.
But in the crowd, nothing has changed. There were three fights by my section in 319. In fact, the biggest one occurred directly behind me. One ranger fan decided to challenge five Islander fans. It was not a smart decision by any choice. Although the Ranger fan walked away with a busted lip, no one appeared to be seriously injured. Nassau Coliseum security did a good job getting up there fast and escorting everyone involved out of the rink.
Do I condone this sort of behavior? Absolutely not. The fighting should be on the ice and on the ice only. Of course arguing with opposing fans is going to happen – and at times it can be fun. But it’s so unnecessary for fans to take it that far.
The important part is that the Isles took the first game of the Islanders/Rangers series. Assuming he does not get hurt again, the Isles should expect to see Marian Gaborik back with the blue-shirts for their next encounter, and it is a safe bet to expect the game to be a little closer with a sniper like him in uniform.
Yesterday afternoon I was given the opportunity to interview defenseman Travis Hamonic, an Islanders 2nd round pick of the 2008 draft. He is off to a great start with the Moose Jaw Warriors of the WHL. I should have that blog posted by this evening, so make sure to check back later.