Don't write the Isles off.

The Islanders tonight smoked the cross-state rival NJ Devils 5-1 in their final pre-season game of the year. The Isles finished the pre-season 7-0 defeating NJ twice, Philly twice, Pittsburgh twice and Boston. Now I realize that the pre-season doesn’t mean that much. In many instances, veterans are rested for youngsters. Goalies split their time. Line combinations are changed. However the Isles had a lot to work through after a disturbing finish to their season last year with the dismissal of coach Laviolette who brought them to the playoffs two years in a row. The Isles had to implement a new system and they have done extremely well. In 7 games, they only allowed 8 goals, 5 of those scored in man down situations. However they have killed off 41 of 46 penalties.

Reports are coming out that the Isles are loving Michael Peca again and Peca in return is producing. He is laying out opponents. He is scoring. He is killing penalties.

On top of that, the Isles are getting a ton of production out of youngsters Justin Papineau, Trent Hunter, Justin Mapletoft and Sean Bergenheim. It will be interesting to see which of the four make the team. Bergenheim either makes the team or has to be sent back to Finalnd as part of a previously arranged deal.

Finally, Mariusz Czerkawski and Alexei Yashin are starting to click. After a mostly unproductive camp for Czerkawski which forced the Islanders to put him up for the waiver draft, he has scored 3 goals in 2 games.

The goaltending has been very good with help from a very effective trap. Yes the trap. The Isles have abandoned the aggressive Laviolette skating style for the 1-2-2 trap.

Don’t get me wrong. The Isles won’t go to the cup this year. But most writers are saying the Isles will miss the playoffs or just sneak in. If they continue to play great defense which is very possible with Hamrlik, Aucoin, Jonsson and Niinimaa in the lineup and get scoring from Peca, Blake and Czerkawski in addition to Yashin, they could very well be the surprise of the East.

You heard it here first.

23 Responses to Don't write the Isles off.

  1. Dynamo710 says:

    Who is their new head coach? I think it was a mistake for them to fire Laviolette. 7-0 in the preseason means nothing. I think they’ll make the playoffs though. I’m predicting a 4-5 matchup first round with the Rangers.

  2. nskerr says:

    Steve Stirling is their new coach. He coached their minor leage team the last two years, bringing Bridgeport to the Calder finals two years ago. Hs claim to fame was that he was the coach chosen by Lou Lamiorello when Lamiorello was the A.D. at Providence College.

  3. Johnny_Blaze says:

    One word, goaltending. They really should try for Cujo. He could take them all the way. It’s not about winning the Cup this year, it’s about retribution to the Red Wings for him.

    Other than that, good article, and I love the way the team looks this year too!!!

  4. nskerr says:

    Cujo won’t help. H wasn’t able to win cups on very talented Toronto and Detroit teams. He chokes under pressure. I think the Isles goaltending will be fine. And if not, there are much cheaper alternatives.

  5. Levitate says:

    they’re goaltending will definatly be the teams weakpoint.

    can snow really carry the team the entire year? he’s never been more than an average goalie, and dipietro still isn’t ready IMO

    that being said, i don’t think getting cujo would be the solution to that problem either

    anyways…kudos to them for having a good preseason…but yeah preseason really means nothing. montreal had a great preseason last year and look where it got them. i think it’ll take time to see if the new coach will really work out…the players may be listening now but when things get rolling and more is being asked of them, are they gonna work with him? and is he truly ready to coach in the NHL?

    i think they’ll have a decent year and make the playoffs, but be bounced in the first around again

  6. Johnny_Blaze says:

    Cujo will help. The red wings simply couldn’t score last year in the playoffs. Giguerre shut them out, it wasn’t Cujo’s fault.

    Toronto, in my opinion, wasn’t all that talented because Cujo bailed them out many, many games. Belfour played excellently last year and look where it got Toronto…same place the great play of Cujo ever got them. ???

  7. mikster says:

    Snow will start with his smaller pads now. We’ll see how he’ll do.

    Pre-season means squat. It’s good for youngsters to show some scoring, but nothing is sure once reg-season is over. Defense will count more in pre-season than forwards. Papineau caused a lot of heat with the Blues in pre-season and died in the reg-season.

    Isle’s still need depth in their forward lines. Polish Prince is doing ok…exposed in waivers draft. Their wingers are way too weak i think.

    They’ll definitely rely on their defense since goaltending should be decent.

  8. GretzNYR99 says:

    The goaltending is the Achilles heel here, Snow without the big pads is like Peanut Butter without Jelly, it’s defenitely not the same. DiPietro has played great, but again, this is preseason hockey, and the quality of play is downgraded. The only thing that really counts here is the factor of chemistry. If you establish good chemistry, things can go well. Now I know the I’d rather finish with a .500 flat record than a 7-0 record, it means jack-shit, and with that record, there’s sure to be some inconsistent periods within the Isles lineup. Their defense is good, but I don’t think it’s good enough to protect Garth Snow, who isn’t a starting netminder, and a rookie coach who still has yet to adapt to the NHL game don’t exactly help the Isles playoff chances. I know he was picked by Lou Lamiorello (sp?) for a job as a head coach at college (I don’t remember which one), so he’s got to be a pretty good coach. I don’t expect much of this team, maybe an 8th or 9th place finish.

    The wings are weak, and I don’t expect Jason Blake or Dave Scatchard to put up 20 goal, 50 point years again. I also know that Mike Peca is healthy, and Alexei Yashin’s on the prowl for a big rebound year, but I don’t know if they’ll be able to do it this time with Snow as a starter, and DiPietro as a backup.

    The goaltending is killing them, and Cujo would certainly help them. It’s not his fault that Detroit and Toronto couldn’t score in the playoffs. It’s not his fault that Mats Sundin is nowhere to be found when the tough gets going. It’s not his fault that JS Giguere absolutely outplayed almost every goaltender he faced last postseason. It’s time to give him a little credit where he deserves it, and although I don’t think he would get the Isles to the promised land, I think he’d get a little more credit and recognition for carrying that team there.

  9. Levitate says:

    yeah stirling may be a good coach, but there’s just a fundamental difference between coaching in the AHL and the NHL. motivating the players, getting the most out of them, and dealing with other teams are all things stirling is gonna have to learn. It’s just not the same and the first time he has to really crack down on his players or squeeze more out of them, he could have trouble. it’s easy to say everyone is on the same page in the pre-season but when the pressure is on, the players most likely won’t respond the same way

    but if he is a good coach, then he should be able to work through it.

    ithink going to the trap is basically what may keep the isles alive in a lot of ways…they survived somewhat last year off of career years from certain players and that’s not really something you want to rely on happening again. if they can execute the trap well then they’ll do ok. but i’m not convinced their scoring is gonna be strong enough to give them a boost so it’ll have to be done on defense…and that’s where their shakiness in net could become factor

  10. DP40oz says:

    It’s good to see someone actually giving the isles some credit. They had an awful year last year, pretty much everyone on the team played terrible, except Blake and Scatchard and they still made the playoffs. The Islanders are a team with alot to prove this year. Peca is healthy, they have one of the best (if not THE BEST) defense in the NHL, and theyre coming off a year that everyone wants to forget with a fresh start. Yashin who despite popular opinion is still a star player in this league, and those who actually watch him play know that he can dominate a game just as well as anyone.

    The question mark is definitely the goaltending, but if Snow plays like he did during the playoffs last year and if Dipietro is the goalie he’s supposed to be, i think the isles will be a top 4 eastern conference team.

    And Ranger fans please just admit in video game hockey you have a great team, but in real life youre not going anywhere.

  11. mattf says:

    i dont mean to put a sore foot into all of this but the preseason pretty much means SQUAT. detriot finished what? 2-6?

    i think this is yashin’s make it or break it year in terms of leadership and production. for the money he’s making if he doesn’t produce i know if i was the gm i’d shop him

  12. MikeOxbig says:

    Islanders blow! Prepare for a season of humiliation!

  13. amazing_jesse says:

    Great. Another trap team. Just what the NHL needs.

  14. NYIchooch75 says:

    Expect a 6th place finish. Boston D is worse than the Rangers. Toronto is a year older, and I’m not too sure how healthy Nolan is. Buffalo improved, but they have some ways to go.

    Yes, the goaltending has a lot of question marks, but I’m pretty sure DiPietro will establish himself as the #1 by December. Remember, the kid excelled under Stirling down in Bridgeport. Yes, I am aware it is the minor leagues, but clicking with your coach can go a long way (see last year’s Islanders and the previous 2 years Rangers for examples on how wrong it can go).

    Also, what a lot of people do not realize is that this team actually has some depth in the forward position. Yes, we do not have 10 – 30 goal scorers, but there is a lot of talent there. The trap, as much as I can’t stand it, is perfect for this team.

    Yashin, Peca and Kvasha (yes, Kvasha) will have better years. Blake and Scatchard probably won’t match last years totals, but they will definitely chip in and be one of the more productive 3rd lines in the NHL. The D is as solid as they come. Having Niinimaa and Peca healthy for a full year will be a huge help, and some of these kids in the lineup will bring some energy. Bergenheim is very fast, and Papineau is a pure sniper, or that is what the scouting reports on him are. The kid has a nose for the net.

    Oh, and forget Cujo. No way, no how. They can’t afford him, and please, PLEASE do not mention the moronic “Yashin for Cujo” trade. Not happening. Yashin isn’t going anywhere. And for all the heat he is getting, am I the only one who noticed he outscored Roenick? Granted, Roenick brings a lot of intangibles, but I found that pretty interesting.

    Rest assured Islander fans, it will be a very exciting year.

  15. NYIchooch75 says:

    Mikster, c’mon now. Papineau played about 10 games for the Blues, was buried on the 4th line, saw 5 minutes a night. And he was 22 years old. Czerkawski was exposed because it allowed the Islanders to protect another player. Nobody wanted him for $900K when he was a free agent, no one was going to pick him up in the waiver draft. It was no reflection on his performance at all.

  16. 24cups says:

    By the way, how’s Czerkawski doing???

  17. Kashin says:

    Strength at center should help weak wings. However with the polish princess, parrish and blake it isnt that bad, however czerkawski doenst guarentee anything, blake had one good year and parrish had a huge slump last year.

  18. Kashin says:

    You got the right view from the outside but the one problem was that toronto scored more goals then they needed to. thats why the isles didnt go furthure two years ago.

  19. Kashin says:

    6th place finish

    3rd Atlantic

    I love this team this year and even though the preseason doesnt count it can build positive momentum, something the team lives on.

    Peca can score 25 goals when healthy. he’ll get 20-25.

    yashin will do what he does and he will get no less then 30 goals even if he has a slump.

    scatchard is injured and he might only get 20 if he is lucky, but if he plays with blake then who knows.

    blake will pick up where he left off, 25 goals.

    parrish will need a rebound year or he is out of here, 25 goals is a good year but that could be along shot.

    pappaneu could be a calder candidate.

    The defense is just sick. Aucoin will still be overused. he will miss 4 games with a muscle injury like a groin or something in that area or in the legs. Jonnson will get his head injury and will miss 7 games. Hamrlik will miss 10 games. 5 for a shoulder injury and 5 for a knee injury. Niiniimma will have a great year on the PP. Carins will not fight anymore. Unless your name is Barnaby.

    Dipetro will be the main goalie by mid-november because of good performance not because bad performance by snow.

    playoffs definately. now lets go further.

  20. Lapointefan says:

    Last yr Ozzie was out with an injury and missed almost 7 weeks in the middle of the season.Snow and DiPietro played solidly.No reason they can’t again.

    You seriously underrate the nyi defense of Hamrlik,Jonsson,Niinimaa,Aucoin,Martinek,Timmander and Cairns.Scatchard’s had seasons of 20 goals and 27 goals,so why can’t he score 20 this yr?Last yr was the first in Blake’s career that he got a lot of icetime and he responded with a career high of 26 goals.Peca playing with an edge to his game again, would be a huge boost to the team.

  21. NYIchooch75 says:

    By the way, how is the absolutley nothing you got doing? Asham for free is how I look at it.

  22. bignorth says:

    i wonder if there’s a reason why we don’t really pay attention to pre-season games?

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