Thursday, October 2, 2008


Let me lead off with this statement: Remember...this is only pre-season. Now having said that, I was not impressed. The "overspeed" system that Coach Gordon has installed for this team did not seem to surface last night. The boys were all over the ice, missing assignments and generally not playing the type of game I'm sure they would have liked. To be fair, the Devils did ice a team that was fraught with NHL caliber players like Brian Rolston, Patrick Elias, Brian Gionta and especially Martin Brodeur. So it was to be expected since the Isles decided to go with more of an evaluation roster rather than putting out the majority of their NHLer's to be playing catch up most of the contest. But it still does not excuse the shape the system was in last night.

By far the best line last night was the Tambellini-Neilsen-Hunter combination. They did generate some scoring chances, but when Tambellini had the puck he seemed tentative and unsure. Trent Hunter on the other hand, played quite well. His stick handling was decisive and his play along the wall was something Isles fans have come to expect from Trent. Another nod should go out to Kyle Okposo and his use of his size and strength to try and create opportunities. Obviously nothing came to fruition but the groundwork is there for him to make an impact. Lastly, I'd like to acknowledge Jack Hillen who should absolutely be on the final roster for opening night. He's solid in his own end and makes a very reliable first pass. Out of the defenseman he and Freddy Meyer were the standouts for me.

The best scoring chance of the night award goes to the "4 Million Dollar Man", Mike Comrie-Duff. He skated in through the slot, took a pass, circled the net and attempted a backhanded wraparound that went under Brodeur and through the crease, along the goaline. As he turned back up ice, nose pointed at the rafters and head swung back, you could sense the frustration the boys had considering how sloppy they played. At least for the 1st period fans had a little entertainment value via some pugilistic fireworks (Ahh, I love Pre-season).

There were 3 major bouts that broke out in the 1st period. The usual suspects were going at it to try to win a job. Brandon "Sugar" Sugden got a rousing applause after his bout behind the Devil's net, waving to the crowd as he skated to the box. Mitch Fritz, the 6'7" behemoth, also took a turn on the dance floor and as another blogger put it, "He has a lethal right uppercut". The final fight of the period featured Tim Jackman. Although I know Jackman is trying to win a spot through his toughness, I think his efforts can be better utilized elsewhere instead of fighting. He got his bell rung pretty well and most certainly lost the fight. Unfortunately, thus ended the fun for the evening as the game degraded further into oblivion as the Devil's took over with their patented brand of "let us put the fans to sleep" hockey.

Finally, I would like to evaluate last night's performance by Joey MacDonald. If last night was any indication what the season holds for the struggling backup, then Isles fans and Rick DiPietro are in for a long season. Granted, the first goal, a shorthanded tally by none other than Zach Parise was a defensive gaff that MacDonald created himself by mishandling the puck behind the net and had little to no chance on. But the next two goals that were scored were certainly stoppable shots. Both goals came off of slap shots from outside 25 feet and were glove side high. As far as I'm concerned those should be saves if Joey Mac was in position and square to the shooter (which didn't happen for most of the night).

As disappointed as I was with the performance by the boys last night, I still have faith in what the coaching staff is trying to do. There was plenty of speed, albeit not where it was supposed to be and there were several players that impressed with their individual efforts. For this team however, individual effort is not enough. It will take the whole team working together to get things going. With 3 more preseason games to go: Friday at the Rock, Saturday at TD Banknorth and Monday in Sunrise, FL, there are 3 more chances to right the ship. Let's hope that with Ricky D being cleared to practice (we think) and the roster getting a trimming ,things will coalesce and "overspeed" will be a viable and effect system. For now, the results remain incomplete.

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Update 10:21 AM: I forgot to mention in the original post what I thought about our new coach whom I finally witnessed behind the bench. If anyone went to games last season, you could audibly and visually notice how quiet Ted Nolan could be. With Scott Gordon it is the complete opposite. Even from the last row in 201 at the Blog Box, you could hear Gordon shouting, quite clearly I might add, instructions to players on the ice. That's the kind of coach I want for my team, someone who gets involved and looks passionate about his team and the game. There might be some detractors who liked Teddy, but I'm really enjoying the early part of Gordon's career as a bench boss in the NHL.

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