www.insidehockey.com and www.puckdrop.ca for teaming up with me to present to you with tonight's recap of the Islanders and Flyers game, plus our opinions of each teams future this year.
In an unfortunate turn of events for the New York Islanders, they had to face a team awaiting an explosion. The Islanders were sent into the Wachovia Center in Philadelphia tonight hoping to add to the collapse of the Flyers, however the Flyers had other things in mind.
What fans witnessed tonight was just how far apart each team is in experience. The Flyers dominated the Islanders in almost every way. They were physical, resilient, and intimidating. The Islanders did not come ready to play once again and they paid the price. Both of the teams star players showed up for the game, but the Flyers clearly have more stars and more importantly experience on their side. The Flyers also have gotten to the Islanders psyche, now winning a staggering 12 games in a row against there Atlantic Division rivals.
For the Islanders, there long road trip is almost over. There final stop is in Toronto tomorrow, where last time they played, Dwayne Roloson looked like a convicted criminal standing against a pole, hands tied behind his back, blind folded and ready to be shot with pucks by the Toronto players. The Islanders must put in a solid wining effort to finish on a strong note and enter there home stand with confidence, something that was severely lacking today against the Flyers.
From the Flyers end, it seemed as if part of the Laviolette system finally made it's way into the players. It seemed like an animal was trying to break out of a cage, and then tonight, success. Martin Biron was shelled between the pipes as the Flyers shot everything possible in his direction. Unfortunately for Biron, the refs and those teammates of his did not help. The tides have turned, so it seems, in Philadelphia where for the Islanders it is still a question of how much they lack the veteran presence to fill the void with the fine mix of youth that are currently on this roster.
It is not a lost year, for either team, with plenty of hockey left to play. For the Islanders it seems it is a lack of leadership. The talent is there, it's just the inability to bring that talent out without any mentors. Something that, after tonight, seems to be the exact opposite in Philadelphia. Chris Pronger, who has led teams across the continent, seems to have finally gotten into Mike Richards, the current Captain in Philadelphia, in a positive way. In what some questioned to be fear and intimidation within Richards due to Prongers arrival, seems to finally have been buried. Richards looks poised to lead this team in the right direction, and looks focused to wear his "C" with pride. With a teammate like Pronger to help guide the way, how could anyone not accept what Pronger will bring to this team? They shouldn't, and with Laviolette on board, they will not.
There is good news from the Islanders front. With each day that passes, it's a day that Andy Sutton and Doug Weight are closer to returning. Now Paul, with those returns, do you feel it will be enough veteran experience to help this team towards a playoff push? Or is it an overall learning year on the Island?
I will admit, 100%, that the future looks fantastic for the Islanders from a team perspective. Let's hope we can say the same for the geographical location when the time comes.
Andy Sutton has missed some time, but not a lot to make a huge difference. Andrew MacDonald has proven to the Islanders organization that he can play in the NHL, but with the early departure to the always injured Radek Martinek, the Islanders need more veteran experience on the defensive side sooner rather than later. Doug Weight has missed almost two-thirds of the season so far, so getting him back is like adding a free agent. Time will tell if the Islanders need more experience on the offensive side. Will they help with the playoff push? Definitely! Will those two get the Islanders into the playoffs: No.
This is without a doubt a learning year for the Islanders, but fans have to wait and see how far this current squad can go without major changes. They’re still growing as a team, and this long road trip may have been a blessing in disguise for them to build that chemistry and in essence a family. We have not seen their crescendo or their climax because they’re still building upwards. We may see it in a few weeks after they play a few at home so that Snow will have a great grasp of what needs to be improved on.
The future is very bright for this team. They’re not far away at all and could be very good spoilers by the end of this year.
Now Anthony, the Flyers heard you, and you were granted the firing of John Stevens. Emery is out for several weeks. What will it take for the Flyers to be tops in the Conference again?
I have called for the firing of Stevens more times then the amount of cups of coffee I have had this week. Unfortunately, I do not feel the Flyers will be able to climb over the likes of Washington and Pittsburgh. Not without a healthy and proven Ray Emery and a defensive core that wakes up. They, like the Islanders, have a good make up of forward lines. The Flyers have the better blue line and that is an area the Islanders will really need to improve on in order to make that push from a leadership and experience standpoint.
It's not so much the return of Emery that will be important compared to if Emery looks like he did during the first two to three weeks of the season upon his return or not. If he returns and plays better then he has and the blame of an injury is the reason for his poor play I would have to say watch out.
That is something I feel the Islanders are a bit stronger at. They not only have a very good Dwayne Roloson, they are getting back an all-star goalie in Rick DiPietro. Brian Boucher and Jonas Backlund does not compare to the tandem the Islanders are soon to get back.
It should be an interesting six weeks for the Flyers where it's a week or two of anticipation for the Islanders. "DP" could bring forth a huge difference, just on a level of play from his presence back in the lock room alone. So there is no need to count either team out, despite the recent struggles of both teams but more-so the Flyers.
Tomorrow night at the ACC the Islanders will need to stand tall in front of Roloson and make sure to not let the Leafs bring forth the shooting barrage again.