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BLOG: The Final Countdown

Friday, 04.7.2006 / 12:00 AM ET / News
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BLOG: The Final Countdown
Nystrom Award Ceremony Set for Tomorrow

by Chris Botta

April 7, 2006

A few random notes and thoughts as the Islanders seek to end their six-game losing streak tomorrow night at the Coliseum against the Capitals:

- The Bob Nystrom Award presentation has been moved up to tomorrow night, prior to the opening faceoff between the Islanders and Caps. We moved it up a week earlier than originally scheduled because of a TV scheduling issue. The deadline for fan's chance to vote was set for Monday morning, but please get your votes in by midnight tonight. The award goes to the engraver tomorrow morning.

- If you can't make it to the game, make sure you turn on the Fox broadcast at 7:00 pm for the Nystrom Award ceremony. The award's namesake will be there, but we've also invited a recent fan favorite to present the award. Should be a nice moment.

- Got word late last night that this summer's NHL Draft in Vancouver will likely take place all in one day, beginning at 3:00 local time. That means the draft will start in the East at 6:00 pm and some kid from Ontario or New England that Tony Feltrin takes in the sixth or seventh round might get that call he's been dreaming his whole life of¦way after midnight.

- Speaking of the draft, we're kicking around the idea of doing another Draft Party like we've done in the past bring in some players, show the TV coverage of the first round on the big screen, a few phoners with the GM, Feltrin and the first round pick(s). Sounds good, right? Especially since it looks like the Islanders could have a top ten pick.

- No reason to read anything into my above tease of pick(s). I'm just stirring it up.

- Chris Campoli and Bruno Gervais came off as the first-class kids they are with Al Trautwig on MSG's hockey show last night. Al seemed surprised that someone named Campoli would be able to find good pizza anywhere but New York. When they got to talking about whether Bruno's haircut was a Mohawk or not, Bruno was honest: œIt's called a bunch of guys hanging out, and someone losing a bet.

- The Islanders took their team photo today. It was so great to see Kevin Colley in an Islanders jersey again.


The Eastern Conference Playoff Chase

6 NEW JERSEY 76 40 27 9 89
7 MONTREAL 76 40 27 9 89
8 TAMPA BAY 76 41 30 5 87
9 ATLANTA 76 37 32 7 81
10 TORONTO 76 36 32 8 80
11 FLORIDA 76 34 33 9 77
12 NY ISLANDERS 76 33 38 5 71
13 BOSTON 77 29 35 13 71


Tuesday, April 4

I woke up Saturday morning not feeling very motivated. Our Islanders had a stinker on Friday night against the last-place Penguins and the notion that there wasn't going to be any playoffs this spring started to really sink in. You know that feeling when it's like you have a hangover, but you didn't drink the night before? Yeah, that one.

Aidan had soccer practice at 8:30 am, and then I had to take one of the twins over to Islanders Iceworks for a skating lesson. The Dragons had a game at the Coliseum on Saturday night and I promised to take the three boys to work for Mascot Day on Sunday. Don't get me wrong: I have the best job in the world. But for a little while on Saturday morning I'm thinking that Loverboy song about "Everybody's Workin' for the Weekend" is even more awful than I remembered.

Anyway, I get to Iceworks around 10:30 and there's a buzz at the big rink where the Islanders are practicing. Mike Milbury called a meeting at the Coliseum for later that afternoon. My immediate reaction was, good for Mike. If he's that motivated, then maybe I should stop my whining.

If Milbury thought it was important enough to call a meeting on a gorgeous Saturday afternoon, it's only because he had the same reaction to Friday night's loss as you and me. Friday was such a shame. The entire month of March had been so positive for the Islanders, and now it looked like the season was going to end on a bad note. Mike could have mailed it in the rest of the way, but it was obvious the performance against the Penguins bothered him as much as it did the fans and he refused to run away and not do anything about it.

I wasn't at the meeting on Saturday afternoon, but here's what we do know. When I saw Chris Campoli at the Dragons game on Saturday night, he told me the meeting was completely appropriate and the guys appreciated what Milbury had to say. I spoke to a few veterans before and after Sunday's game and they said Mike was right to do what he did and they were inspired by it.

In his post-game press briefing, Brad Shaw said he approved of Milbury's meeting, adding that sometimes it's good for the team to hear a different voice. When Alan Hahn quoted Brad in his article in Monday's Newsday, Hahn editorialized at the end of Shaw's quote, writing he œchose his words ever so carefully from his tenuous position. What a load of psycho-babble horse-hockey. As I've mentioned, I wish Brad would choose his words more carefully!

Also note that Rick DiPietro looked each reporter in the eye after the game on Sunday and said the following: "Mike just wanted us all to know these last nine games are important, especially now with all these young guys up. He asked the veterans to make an impression on them. It starts with us and goes to them. They have to bring their intensity every day and we've got to come out and play hard and play smart and try to win hockey games from here on in."

Of course, what affected the media's perception of Milbury's meeting is the outcome of the game. I wonder: if the Islanders beat the Flyers on Sunday, would that have made Mike a hero? One thing is not for debate the Islanders played with noticeable jump on Sunday. As Joe Micheletti noted on FSN, they played one of the best teams in the league with nine rookies and out-played them most of the way. In the first period, the Islanders out-shot the Flyers and were two centimeters and two video replays short of two goals. Do you really not think Milbury got his message through, or did you not watch the game?

As for this notion the press loves to invent that Mike having a meeting creates the perception he will still be the de facto GM next season, just shut up already. This media myth certainly hasn't shortened the line wrapped around the Coliseum of qualified candidates begging for consideration. And during which part of the Jan. 12 press conference was Charles Wang unclear when he said the owner will choose the new GM? Or the part when he said the new GM will report directly to the owner? It's time a few reporters let their infatuation with Mike go. Maybe they have created this illusion because they'll miss him too much.

Alan's article in Monday's paper was disappointing. The space allotted by Long Island's newspaper for Long Island's only major professional sports team has been embarrassingly weak this season. Newsday's sports section gave up on the Islanders weeks before DiPietro and the rest of the team did. The Islanders were a nice story in March and had a lot of people talking around the league. Too bad Newsday buried it. Now all of a sudden Mike calls a meeting, the editors give Alan a full page and he uses it to take easy cheap shots because the home team lost.

Worst of all is that the story was unfair to the organization and to Milbury. In my opinion, Mike has been first-class since he stepped down on January 12. There's no doubt he could have made a desperate move or two and maybe end his tenure as GM with four straight playoff appearances. (I've seen other GMs do it for years. In fact, you can make the case that at least one did it this March 9). It would have been so easy for Mike to trade a few prospects, knowing that he was leaving the position and it would have been his successor's problem, not his. But Milbury refused to do anything that would hurt the future of the franchise.

On top of that, he made one of the best deals at the trade deadline, getting two key pieces for the nucleus from LA. He also stockpiled draft picks for Tony Feltrin and created a boatload of cap space for the next GM, who will inherit one of the game's best cores of young players because Milbury's staff drafted well and the GM held on to his prospects the last few years as ownership was solidified. What a selfish son of a gun Milbury is.

Look, it didn't go as planned this year. Everyone knows that. My very uneducated outside view is that the Islanders lost two very good defensemen to free agency in the new NHL and one great one to retirement, and never quite recovered. The good news is the Islanders have the players, the resources and most importantly the owner to get back into contention as early as next season.

So Mike Milbury watches a bad loss on Friday, becomes concerned about the effect these final games could have on Nilsson, Bergenheim and company and does something about it.

If you don't appreciate what Milbury did, you don't care about the Islanders.


The Eastern Conference Playoff Chase

6 NEW JERSEY 75 39 27 9 87
7 MONTREAL 74 38 27 9 85
8 TAMPA BAY 75 40 30 5 85
9 ATLANTA 73 36 32 6 78
10 TORONTO 74 35 32 6 78
11 FLORIDA 75 34 32 9 77
12 NY ISLANDERS 74 33 36 5 71
13 BOSTON 75 28 34 13 69


[Monday, April 3]

Hey, anyone can make the case for Brad Shaw when it's going good. But even after the Islanders' fourth straight defeat -- yes, the boys are 0-4 since I started this blog -- I have no problem explaining why he's likely going to get a long look.
If I was the person making the decision and the person to whom next season's coach would report to, I would take Shaw's integrity into consideration even more than his second-half performance. Everyone knows Shaw's record as interim coach -- the good stretches, the development of certain key players and, yes, the 2 or 3 bad nights (Friday being the standout).
But everyone should know the following about Shaw:
He's smart. Brad knows the game and the league. Now I know what you're thinking -- shouldn't all NHL coaches? You'd be surprised.

He works hard. Again, don't take for granted that coaches are the first to arrive and last to leave. Shaw is, and it's not just because he's trying to make an impression. He lived in the coach's office even when he was just an assistant.

He can communicate. I have seen him get immediate results after spending "quality time" with players.

He is selfless. From the moment he agreed to become interim coach, Brad could have made the rest of the season his personal platform for future work as a head coach here or elsewhere. Instead, he made the Islanders' present and future his only agenda. Which leads me to his best trait...

He's honest. Might not sound like much, but what I like best about Brad Shaw is that he is free of his initials.

Let me be clear here. I'm not saying Shaw should get the job, no questions asked. The new general manager would be doing everyone a disservice by not considering all options. Also understand that I have no personal rooting interest here. I think Brad and I share a mutual respect, but we've both been too busy the last three months to get to know each other. And every time he's about to over-share information with the press -- which he has come close to doing once or twice -- I feel like Carmela going after A.J. for yakking to that blond reporter in last week's "Sopranos."
That said, since I posted my contact info on Friday and encouraged opinions, almost every email was about Coach Shaw. Like 90% of those fans, I also believe he has earned not just a lot of respect, but serious consideration for next season and beyond.


The Eastern Conference Playoff Chase

6 NEW JERSEY 75 39 27 9 87
7 MONTREAL 74 38 27 9 85
8 TAMPA BAY 74 39 30 5 83
9 ATLANTA 73 36 31 6 78
10 FLORIDA 74 34 31 9 77
11 TORONTO 73 35 32 6 76
12 NY ISLANDERS 74 33 36 5 71
13 BOSTON 75 28 34 13 69

Sunday Results
Philadelphia 4, Islanders 1
New Jersey 3, Pittsburgh 2 (OT)

Big Games Monday
Atlanta at Ottawa, 7:30 pm
Florida at Tampa Bay, 7:30 pm

Next Islander Games
Wednesday, April 5: at Toronto, 7:30 pm
Thursday, April 6, at Rangers, 7:00 pm
Saturday, April 8, vs. Washington, 7:00 pm


[Friday, March 30]

With just over two weeks left in the regular season, there is some clear separation between teams 6-8 in the East and the rest of the pack. Florida's recent run has been valiant, but may not be enough. Atlanta got down 4-0 last night to Tampa, made it 4-3 but fell short of getting at least a point. The Islanders have opened a lot of eyes around the league, but the one-two punch they absorbed on Tuesday and Wednesday could be too much to overcome.

So it's natural to think that tonight's game at the Coli against the Pens is about the kids Crosby, Nilsson, Bergenheim, Fleury, Tambellini and the rest. But for the Islanders tonight, it should be about a veteran.

Garth Snow rightfully so is getting the nod tonight from Brad Shaw and he'll be looking for his first win since Nov. 26. Now that's kind of misleading because Rick DiPietro has started more than 80% of the games, but it's still should be enough to inspire everyone in an Islanders sweater tonight to play the game of their lives.

Snow has meant a lot to this team since his arrival in 2001. We talk about the acquisitions of Yashin and Peca and Osgood and Aucoin as crucial developments in the revival of the franchise. But don't leave out Snow, who has brought more intangibles to the room than anyone on the roster in the last five years.

Tuesday night in Montreal, ten minutes before warmup, the team was doing its best to stay loose when I brought a cameraman from RDS in the dressing room to get some footage of the guys getting ready. The mood in the room was about to get even tenser, as the cameraman zoomed in on DiPietro and Miro lacing up. You could hear a pin drop. Then Garth, sensing the tension, said something unprintably funny out loud and everyone started breathing again.

The fans know about all the big wins on the road Snow has stolen for the team over the years, but probably Nilsson, Grebeshkov and Gervais do not. So I hope Brad brings it up this morning, and Yash, too.

Tonight is for Garth Snow.


If you have a thought you'd like to share for this blog as we head into week 2, feel free to send it to Please do not ask me questions I can't answer like about the GM search or free agents the Islanders might sign. And you can flame away, but just don't bring my family or friends into it.



The Eastern Conference Playoff Chase

6 TAMPA BAY 73 39 29 5 83
7 NEW JERSEY 73 37 27 9 83
8 MONTREAL 73 37 27 9 83
9 ATLANTA 72 35 31 6 76
10 FLORIDA 72 33 30 9 75
11 TORONTO 72 34 32 6 74
12 NY ISLANDERS 72 33 34 5 71
13 BOSTON 73 28 33 13 69

Thursday Results
Montreal 3, Washington 2
New Jersey 3, Buffalo 1
Tampa Bay 4, Atlanta 3

Big Games Tonight
Pittsburgh at Islanders, 7:00 pm
Florida at Carolina, 7:00 pm

Next Islander Games
Friday: vs. Pittsburgh, 7:00 pm
Sunday: vs. Philadelphia, 1:00 pm
Wednesday, April 5: at Toronto, 7:30 pm
Thursday, April 6, at Rangers, 7:00 pm
Saturday, April 8, vs. Washington, 7:00 pm


[Thursday, March 30]

Last night was expected to be a tough one, 24 hours after leaving everything they had on the ice in Montreal. Nevertheless, the loss to the Rangers had nothing to do about not being ready to play and everything to do with not having an answer for Jaromir Jagr. The Islanders are not alone in how they looked last night. For the last few weeks Jagr has been doing that to just about everyone. It was quite amazing to see from the press box perch last night. No. 68 would come down the ice with the puck, and suddenly everyone else on the Rangers was wide open. It's the kind of thing we haven't seen since, well, Gretzky.

The Islanders have two home games this weekend against Pitt (Friday) and the Flyers (Sunday afternoon). Brad Shaw gave the boys the day off today, which is understandable considering their tanks must be empty. Friday morning presents another challenge for the coach getting his team focused after an emotional two days and taking four points in two games in front of the very supportive fans that have raised their game since the trade deadline.

It was so great to see Petteri Nokelainen back on the ice. The young Finn has been through so much in his first season in North America. He's one of those players that you can always see in his eyes how much he loves the game. So to see him out there first, absorbing a big hit and moments later laying a Ranger out brought smiles to his friends who got tired of sitting with him in the press box.

The good news for the near future continues with the word that the finishing touches are being put on a three-year deal for Ryan O'Marra. It's one thing for a franchise to say, œHey look, we got a bunch of first-rounders in the lineup. It's another thing when Rick DiPietro (2000), Sean Bergenheim (02), Robert Nilsson (03), Nokelainen (04) and O'Marra (05) have proven to be worthy of their selections. Ryan's arrival gives Islander fans another reason to get to Bridgeport for the AHL playoffs.

Don't forget to check out œHockey New York Live tonight at 10:30 on MSG Network as Al Trautwig interviews Islanders rising stars Nilsson and Bergenheim. Even on their day off, the kids knew this was a good opportunity to spread the gospel about the new Islanders. And yeah, I guess the comp dinner at Ardo was motivation, too.

The Eastern Conference Playoff Chase

6 TAMPA BAY 72 38 29 5 81
7 NEW JERSEY 72 36 27 9 81
8 MONTREAL 72 36 27 9 81
9 ATLANTA 71 35 30 6 76
10 FLORIDA 72 33 30 9 75
11 TORONTO 72 34 32 6 74
12 NY ISLANDERS 72 33 34 5 71
13 BOSTON 73 28 33 13 69

Wednesday Results
Rangers 5, Islanders 1
Buffalo 4, Boston 3
Florida 5, Pittsburgh 3

Big Games Tonight
Washington at Montreal, 7:30 pm
Buffalo at New Jersey, 7:30 pm
Atlanta at Tampa Bay, 7:30 pm

Next Islander Games
Friday: vs. Pittsburgh, 7:00 pm
Sunday: vs. Philadelphia, 1:00 pm
Wednesday, April 5: at Toronto, 7:30 pm
Thursday, April 6, at Rangers, 7:00 pm
Saturday, April 8, vs. Washington, 7:00 pm


[Wednesday, March 29]

Just after 7:30 last night, six Islanders gathered outside the visiting team dressing room, anxiously waiting to take the ice. Tambellini and Bergenheim, Bouchard and Gervais, and Campoli and Godard were going over last-minute details and encouraging each other. Robert Nilsson joined the group and said to Bruno, playing in his hometown, "Nervous, buddy"? Gervais nodded and said, "Yeah, a little bit, I guess." Nilsson said, "You should be," and everyone laughed. Then Bruno went out and played 24:25 of very steady D.

Amazing to think that of that group, only Bouchard playing in pain, sacrificing for the team 25 minutes nightly wouldn't get carded going into Mulcahy's. The Islanders did not disappoint with their effort. It was Cristobal Huet who broke a lot of hearts on Long Island last night.

When Rick DiPietro was announced as the game's No. 2 star, the overflow crowd at the Keg paid him the highest compliment no one booed. What can you say about DiPietro that hasn't already been said in the last month? There's this: unsolicited, more than a few players have told me that Garth Snow's continued leadership has been one of the key factors in Rick's breakout. I'm glad Garth will be around for at least two more years.

The late-night flight home from Montreal, knowing the Islanders have a game less than 24 hours later at the Coliseum against the Rangers, reminds me of the time early in his tenure that Gary Bettman hitched a ride home on the charter after a Friday night game in Tampa Bay. The commish asked when the Islanders' next game was. "About 17 hours after we land," he was told. "Man, how do you guys do it?" said Mr. Bettman. My sentiments exactly.

They'll need to find a way against the Blueshirts. The last time the teams played, Feb. 2, the Islanders like most teams didn't have an answer for Jaromir Jagr. And that was when Z was healthy and formed a good first pairing with Brent Sopel. What a challenge for the kids. Could be helped by a healthy and rested Mike York, who will be a game-time decision.

After the loss in Montreal last night, the subject of the Islanders only playing for pride the rest of the way was delicately brought up by a reporter. I loved how Brad Shaw responded:

"I would be very surprised if the guys don't give everything they have until the end of the final period of the season," Shaw said. "And if that's in the Stanley Cup playoffs, even better."


The Eastern Conference Playoff Chase

7 NEW JERSEY 71 36 27 9 81
8 MONTREAL 71 36 27 9 81
9 ATLANTA 71 35 30 6 76
10 TORONTO 72 34 32 6 74
11 FLORIDA 71 32 30 9 73
12 NY ISLANDERS 70 33 33 5 71
13 BOSTON 73 28 32 13 69

Tuesday Results
Montreal 2, Islanders 0
Toronto 3, Philadelphia 2
New Jersey 3, Ottawa 2 (SO)

Big Games Tonight
Rangers at Islanders, 7:00 pm
Boston at Buffalo, 7:00 pm
Florida at Pittsburgh, 7:30 pm

Next Islander Games
Friday: vs. Pittsburgh, 7:00 pm
Sunday: vs. Philadelphia, 1:00 pm
Wednesday, April 5: at Toronto, 7:30 pm
Thursday, April 6, at Rangers, 7:00 pm
Saturday, April 8, vs. Washington, 7:00 pm


[Tuesday, March 28]

The Islanders arrived in Montreal yesterday a loose, confident bunch. The news that Mike York is out tonight he took a puck to the eye at practice yesterday and is day-to-day did not seem to shake them. Adversity only seems to make this team better.

Rob Collins was expected to arrive in time for the morning skate at the Molson Centre today. I would expect the lines to be similar to when York missed a few games last week with a concussion, but I long ago stopped trying to figure out the line combinations of any coach. Collins is an interesting player. Seems to me that if he continues to work at it, he could be a reliable depth player in the NHL, a la Wyatt Smith. Considering Rob wasn't drafted after a solid junior career in Barrie (OHL), that would be an impressive accomplishment.

When I mentioned yesterday how enjoyable it is to watch some of these kids come of age, one of the young players I left out was Bruno Gervais. That was definitely not on purpose. Bruno will be on the Islanders blueline for a long time. He has one of the best attitudes of not only any players I've ever met, but any human beings on the planet. I've met few people who embrace life like this kid. He always has a smile, a positive attitude. Earlier in the season, the Islanders called him up for a road trip through Detroit, St. Louis and Columbus in which Bruno didn't play much, but the Islanders got 5 of 6 points. I mentioned to my friends on the hockey side that even if Bruno isn't playing, it's worth having him up just for the attitude and approach he brings. Of course, his development in the AHL was more important at the time, but it's no surprise to me that he's contributing big-time during this late-season run.

Being in Canada, it wasn't hard to keep posted on the big games in the East last night. The first 20 minutes of TSN's "Sportscentre" were dedicated to the NHL! The lead item, with reporters at the scene, was about Jason Allison's hand injury from his rare fight the other night against Montreal. Looks like Z Chara will miss the game tonight against the Devils, which kind of stinks, but the Senators as all the great teams do seem to find ways to overcome injuries.

Both teams got points in the Florida-Boston game, but the Bruins probably needed to take two. Give credit to the Panthers for hanging in there. Tampa Bay lost in Carolina last night, but it's hard to bet against the defending champs. Of all the teams from 6-13, I believe they are the most likely to nail down a spot.

The tilt in Montreal is at 7:30 tonight. When you're on the road and used to most games being at 7:00, it's funny how long that extra 30 minutes seems. When the game is as huge as tonight's, it seems like an eternity.


The Eastern Conference Playoff Chase

7 NEW JERSEY 71 35 27 9 79
8 MONTREAL 71 35 27 9 79
9 ATLANTA 71 35 30 6 76
10 FLORIDA 71 32 30 9 73
11 TORONTO 71 33 32 6 72
12 NY ISLANDERS 70 33 32 5 71
13 BOSTON 73 28 32 13 69

Monday Results
Florida 4, Boston 3 (SO)
Carolina 2, Tampa Bay 1

Big Games Tonight
Islanders at Montreal, 7:30 pm
Toronto at Philadelphia, 7:00 pm
New Jersey at Ottawa, 7:00 pm

[Monday, March 27]
There are so many teams in this race, some nights it's confusing trying to figure out whom to root for. A few of the staff and players were in a suite at the Coldplay concert Sunday night at the Coliseum, and we had the Devils-Leafs game on. Sundin scored to make it 3-1 and we all looked at each other as if to say, œUh, that's good, right?

The news wasn' good at the Igloo, where Long Island's Chris Higgins scored twice and was first star in the Canadien's 6-5 victory over the Pens. The Hab's win sets up another win-and-live-for-another-day scenario for the Islanders in Montreal on Tuesday night.

The Islanders leave on a 2:30 charter out of Farmingdale this afternoon for Montreal after practice at Iceworks. The guys have survived two recent Game 7s (to use Miro's term): last Tuesday over the Habs and Saturday night against Atlanta. What makes tomorrow night's game different is that it is on the road and the NYI haven't traveled well the last little while.

Shaw's Redeemers fell a point shy of their goal in Pittsburgh on Friday night, and dropped the previous three road games. The back-to-back-to-back painful losses in Atlanta, Florida and Tampa Bay were after the injury list went from A (the gritty-gutty Arron Asham) to Z (No. 1 dman Alexei Zhitnik) when both got whacked in the swamps of Jersey. But it shows what a good job Brad has done on his team's psyche that they didn't take any moral victory from being in all three games in the third period. They also let two points get away in DC on March 6, just when the good vibrations were starting to kick in.

I think it's going to be a heckuva game at the Molson Centre. Going to Montreal and seeing how much hockey means there is always a privilege for me. So is the chance to watch such good kids like Nilsson, Bergenheim, Campoli, Tambellini, Grebeshkov and the rest start to come of age right before our eyes. You really want them to win on Tuesday because then the Rangers game on Wednesday night is even bigger. The experience will be invaluable to the kids.

Sunday morning, my seven-year old son Aidan asked how the Islanders did the night before. When I told him the good guys won big, 5-1, his eyes lit up. He recently had the chance to see the Grail up close when we had it in for the 1980 weekend. œWow, 5-1? That's great, dad. Maybe the Islanders can win the Stanley Cup this year.

An injection of youth is always a good thing.


The Eastern Conference Playoff Chase

7 NEW JERSEY 71 35 27 9 79
8 MONTREAL 71 35 27 9 79
9 ATLANTA 71 35 30 6 76
10 TORONTO 70 33 32 6 72
11 NY ISLANDERS 70 33 32 5 71
12 FLORIDA 70 31 30 9 71
13 BOSTON 72 28 32 12 68


Sunday Results
Toronto 4, New Jersey 3
Montreal 6, Pittsburgh 5

Big Games Tonight
Florida at Boston, 7:00 pm
Tampa Bay at Carolina, 7:00 pm

Next Islander Games
Tuesday: at Montreal, 7:30 pm
Wednesday: vs. Rangers, 7:00 pm
Friday: vs. Pittsburgh, 7:00 pm
Sunday: vs. Philadelphia, 1:00 pm


[Sunday, March 26]

As Evan Grossman wrote in today's Post, they just won't die. I know time is running out and it could turn out to be a case of too little too late, but have the last three weeks around Islanders Country been a blast, or what?

It had been a tough year through February, no doubt. But Tuesday night I sat in the stands with a friend for the third period and cheered more than I had since the Islanders beat the Caps in 02 to clinch their first playoff berth in years. Last night the PR, game ops and web crew normally able to keep emotions in check didn't even try to suppress our clapping under the table as Miro made that play to York.

For the final three weeks of the season, we'll take a daily look at the hunt for the final playoff berths in the Eastern Conference. For our purposes, we will concede spots for Ottawa (clinched last night), Philadelphia, Carolina, Buffalo and the Rangers. A tip of the hat to the latter three the same amount of people who had George Mason in the Elite Eight picked the Canes, Sabres and Rangers to dominate from start to finish.

We'll stay with it until the curtain falls, no matter how it works out for the NYI. When Alexei Zhitnik went down for the season, it looked like it could have been the final blow. Then Brad Shaw's crew took 5 out of 6 points this week, dominating the Thrashers last night. Maybe the fun can continue for a few more weeks.


The Eastern Conference Playoff Chase

6 TAMPA BAY 71 38 28 5 81
7 NEW JERSEY 70 35 26 9 79
8 MONTREAL 70 34 27 9 77
9 ATLANTA 71 35 30 6 76
10 NY ISLANDERS 70 33 32 5 71
11 FLORIDA 70 31 30 9 71
12 TORONTO 70 32 32 6 70
13 BOSTON 72 28 32 12 68

Big Games Tonight

Toronto at New Jersey, 7:30 pm
Montreal at Pittsburgh, 7:30 pm

Next Islander Games

Tuesday: at Montreal, 7:30 pm
Wednesday: vs. Rangers, 7:00 pm
Friday: vs. Pittsburgh, 7:00 pm
Sunday: vs. Philadelphia, 1:00 pm




1 p - WSH 82 56 18 8 252 193 120
2 x - PIT 82 48 26 8 245 203 104
3 y - FLA 82 47 26 9 239 203 103
4 x - NYR 82 46 27 9 236 217 101
5 x - NYI 82 45 27 10 232 216 100
6 x - TBL 82 46 31 5 227 201 97
7 x - PHI 82 41 27 14 214 218 96
8 x - DET 82 41 30 11 211 224 93
9 BOS 82 42 31 9 240 230 93
10 CAR 82 35 31 16 198 226 86
11 OTT 82 38 35 9 236 247 85
12 NJD 82 38 36 8 184 208 84
13 MTL 82 38 38 6 221 236 82
14 BUF 82 35 36 11 201 222 81
15 CBJ 82 34 40 8 219 252 76
16 TOR 82 29 42 11 198 246 69


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K. Okposo 11 2 6 -3 8
F. Nielsen 11 3 3 -3 6
B. Nelson 11 1 4 -5 5
T. Hickey 11 1 4 -5 5
A. Quine 10 1 4 -1 5
S. Prince 11 3 1 -1 4
R. Strome 8 1 3 1 4
N. Leddy 11 1 3 1 4
N. Kulemin 11 1 3 -5 4
T. Greiss 5 6 2 .923 2.46
J. Berube 0 0 0 1.000 0.00
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