Not Your Same Old Isles

The first ever playoff game in the Barclay’s Center was underway and this Islanders team has shown they are not like ones we have seen before. I think the tough seven game series against the Caps definitely helped the boys mature. Last night, they quickly found themselves down 2-0. Then Ryan Pulock scored a five on three power play goal. Unfortunately, the Panthers answered quickly to go up 3-1. This is where the old Islanders would have probably let things get out of hand, but not this team.

Shane Prince scored an adrenaline releasing goal that nearly had me screaming in the school library. And talk about going hard on the celly.

So the deficit was cut to only a single goal and the Isles definitely had full control of the game’s momentum. Later in the second period, Islander forward Franz Nielsen netted a power play goal with assists from Tavares and Okposo. That line has been absolutely lethal in this series, which is exactly what you need from your top line in the playoffs. If you have a first line that consistently puts points on the board, then that puts a ton of pressure on the opponent’s second and third lines. If you can couple a dominant top line with depth and secondary scoring the way the Isles have done so far, you will win games.

After the Islanders evened the score, the Isles and Cats experienced their first scoreless period of the series as they moved to a sudden death overtime period. I think this speaks for itself.

The New York Islanders had an up and down season, but they really started playing well in the final weeks (Reminds me of the team from Manhattan). So, if the Isles have the first line and they have depth in their other lines, what are they missing?

Goal tending. It seems like they have the offense, the defense could be a little better even though it is solid, but they really just need a goalie that can take over and put the team on his back. In the playoffs, one game means everything. It is a HUGE advantage to have a elite goalie. You are inevitably going to have a bad game, but if you have a guy that can keep the other team off the scoreboard or limit them to a goal, that increases your odds of winning.

The Isles should have Halak back in the lineup by the second round (should they get there). This may be something that spurs them on a run not too many people suspected. All they can do now is strive for five!

– R. Ilardi

Friars Lose Another KEY Player

(Photo via getty images)

On Thursday, April 7, it was announced that Providence Friars starting goalie, Nick Ellis, has inked a two-year entry level contract with the Edmonton Oilers. He now becomes the eighth Providence player from the 2015-16 season to sign either an entry level contract or amateur tryout agreement. Providence has lost a lot of players after this past season, and will have to look and bounce back after an off-season filled with losses.

Ellis was the full-time starter this season for the first time, after backing up goaltender Jon Gillies last season, who has now been in the Flames organization for two seasons. In his first year as the main man in net, Ellis started 36 games and put forth the best statistical season in Friars history. The team went 25-7-4 with him in net, as he posted a 1.80 goals against average and a .936 save percentage. Clearly losing Ellis is a huge hit to the Friars, but maybe not the demise of the team either. Luckily for the Friars, they have rising-sophomore, and draft pick of the Montreal Canadiens, Hayden Hawkey, waiting for his turn to take over the Friar crease.

Hawkey started two games and played in three other games during his freshman campaign for the Friars, and logged 179:35 in ice time. He posted a solid 1.67 goals against average and a .940 save percentage. In games that Hawkey started, the team went 2-0-0.

Yes, Nick Ellis will be tremendously missed by all of Friartown, as many people looked at him as our brightest star, but it is not over for the Friars. There is far too much talent at Providence for this team not to have a successful season in the 2016-17 campaign.

– K. Troy

What It’s Like Being a Philadelphia Sports Fan

(Photo via fastphillysports.com)

It sucks. There’s no other words to describe it. It just sucks. The last place Phillies, the lower than last place Sixers, the Super Bowl winning-less Eagles, and the almost relevant but not-s0-relevant Flyers. The winningest sports team in Philly for the last 12 years has been their arena football team, the Philadelphia Soul. LOL. How’s that sound for one of the most die-hard sports fan bases in America? Every damn team in the city has replaced their head coach within the past 2 years. I, unfortunately, put myself in that category rooting for the statistically worst sports team in Professional Sports History. By no means does that mean I am embarrassed to be a Philadelphia sports fan, even though I should be. I love my sports teams just as much as the next brainless Philly fan, and I’ll never root against them, but the losing needs to stop.

The Eagles have been kind of heading in the right direction with the firing of Chip Kelly. He needed to go immediately. Never did I think it would be a good idea to hire a head coach straight from college AND THEN they wanted to give him all the power he wants in moving around the roster. Yeah, it looked great on paper, but that’s just an irresponsible move on Jeffrey Lurie’s part. I was ecstatic when they got rid of Kelly and even got a little excited hearing they hired Doug Pederson, a former Eagles quarterback. But, no Super Bowls? How can you talk trash to any other team out there when you have ZERO Super Bowl rings?

The Phillies are just God-awful. There is nothing positive to say about the Phillies. Bringing in a brand new manager and pretty much cleaning house with the release of Jimmy Rollins, Chase Utley, and Cole Hamels. Ryan Howard and Carlos Ruiz are the only players left on that roster from the 2008 World Series Championship. I guess we have to wait another 10 years to see any relevance out of one of the worst teams in the MLB.

The 76ers. Nope.

The Flyers have given us some type of hope with their late playoff push. Wow, that sounds awful. I’m getting somewhat excited that there’s the slightest possibility that the Flyers might sneak into the Wild Card spot in the East playoff picture. I do have to say, the future is looking very bright for this Philadelphia team, but I guess we’ll have to wait and see.

I hope now you can all feel my pain of rooting for the worst sports teams in the world. But hey, at least we don’t deflate our balls, right?

– M. Gress

Rangers Looking Cup-Ready

(Photo via dfw.cbslocal.com)

We look at stats. We look at standings. But the Rangers are Stanley Cup ready.

They said the 2012 ECF loss to the Devils was our time. They said the 2014 Finals loss to the Kings was our chance. They said the 2015 ECF loss to Tampa (moment of silence please) was our best chance.

“The window is closing,” or, “Hank is getting older,” maybe even, “Girardi and Staal suck.” These are quotes I hear daily about this Rangers team. While the critics aren’t necessarily all wrong, they’re not 100% right. With 92 points and still 9 games left on the table, the Rangers stand alone for second in the Eastern Conference. As a team with a sort of “identity crisis”, the Boys in Blue notched two big wins against the Panthers and Bruins, respectively.

We all point fingers at Nash for not scoring 42 goals again. We point fingers at Kreider for not living up to his expectations. We point fingers are Girardi and Staal for breathing air. We point fingers at AV for his coaching decisions (I agree, but not entirely). You can’t blame Vigneault for everything. “Fire him,”­ c’mon guys. The man has brought this team to a Cup Finals and to an ECF. Let him do his job.

This is the most important week this Rangers team has faced this season. The Rangers know they can win games at home, and this team knows how to show up for the big games. But, they need to get a better feel for who they are as a whole before anything else. Don’t count the Blue-shirts out in this year’s playoffs just yet. It’s a sport full of surprises.

Bleed blue.

– M. Fritz

Philly, Welcome Back to Relevance

(Photo via nj.com)

Just when you think the city of Philly is going to get picked up and moved somewhere else, the Flyers catch fire. You’re probably cleaning wax out of your ears, which is weird because you’re reading this.

Anyway, lets get into the details. The Philadelphia Flyers are arguably the hottest team in the NHL in the last two weeks. They have a huge win over the Blues, a home-road sweep of the Lightning, followed up by a massive statement win over the Detroit Red Wings. So what does this all mean?

Well for one, the suicide rate among Philly sports fans shouldn’t be as bad this year. on a more relevant note, the Flyers are riding this hot streak right into a wild card possibility. With the Capitals already clinching a playoff spot and the Islanders and Rangers also fairly safe, it seems as if a wild card spot is all they can do. But hey, this is a big step up from the Eagles, Phillies, and 76ers.

What do they have left in the tank? That’s the question. They are fresh off a win against Detroit to close the gap. Detroit is clinging to the last wild card spot in the east and the Flyers are nipping at their heels. It’s going to be a real test for Philly though. They have to play against the Isles, Rangers, Penguins, and Caps to end the year. They have two games against the in state rival Pens. These are must wins for the Flyers because Pittsburgh is occupying the other wildcard spot.  They have to finish a tough stretch, but once they get through it they have some very winnable games.
As it looks now, the Flyers have what it takes to give a one of their divisional rivals a fight in the first round of the playoffs. The problem is will they get there? With a much harder schedule remaining than the Red Wings and the Penguins, it will be a daunting task to even get to the playoffs. If they do get in they will most likely be matched up with the Caps- the Golden State of the NHL.
However, if I’m a Flyer fan, I’d be pretty excited right now. The Flyers showed potential early in the year, but then they kind of fell off. It is a huge boost to see the team playing well and making the season meaningful. If they make the playoffs, it’s very important to go into the post season hot. The islanders were the best in the league for the first half last year, but they went into the playoffs cold and it led to their first round exit at the hands of the Caps.
-R. Ilardi

THE RACE IS ON IN THE NHL

(Photo via neontommy.com)

With only a month left in the NHL season, the race for the Stanley Cup Playoffs is as tight as it can be. Aside from the Washington Capitals who have an 18 point lead in the Metro Division, the top teams in each division are separated by 3 points at most. It’s crunch time for these teams. It’s time for these teams to show that they belong in first place.

In the Metropolitan Division, the Capitals have been running away with the division since the second month of the season. However, the race for home ice in the first round against the Rangers and Islanders is separated by just 3 points. The Islanders, with 82 points, have 3 games in hand on the Rangers, who have 85 points. So if the Isles can win 2 of those 3 games they will have the lead on the Rangers. These two teams still have one head to head matchup left. And you can’t count the Penguins out either. The Pens sit in the first Wild Card spot in the East with 80 points. So if the Islanders go on even the smallest losing streak, Pittsburgh will have the opportunity to jump into third place.

The Atlantic Division can’t get any tighter. Right now, the Bruins, who surprisingly missed the playoffs last season, are in first place with 86 points. However, the surprising Panthers and the Lightning are tied for second just one behind, each with 85 points. Also, the Panthers and Lightning have games in hand on the Bruins. So tomorrow maybe the Panthers will be in first, or maybe the Lightning. This division race with be going back and forth until the very last game of the season.

The Central Division is a battle between three of the top offenses in the league. The Stars and Blues are tied atop the Central with 91 points. But the Blackhawks are right behind with 88 points and one game in hand. Because of their success in the playoffs in the past 6 seasons the Blackhawks were the favorite to win the division at the start of the season. But the Stars have had the best offense in the Western Conference this season, as have been able to hold off the Blackhawks up to this point. Chicago plays both the Stars and Blues one more time so they’ll have their chance to take over the division lead.

Finally, in the Pacific Division, The LA Kings, who shocked the league last season by missing the playoffs, sit in first place with 85 points. The Ducks, who got off to an extremely slow start this season are right behind with 83 points, thanks to a recent 11 game winning streak. Then the Sharks are just one point behind them with 82 points. The Ducks and Sharks each play the Kings one more time this season, so the Kings will need to win those games to stay in first place. Also, the Minnesota Wild and Colorado Avalanche are tied for the final Wild Card spot in the Western Conference with 74 points. These two teams still have one more head to head matchup so if the standings stay this close until then, that game will have a huge impact on who makes the playoffs and who doesn’t.

Every game between all of these teams is going to have the atmosphere of a playoff game. They all want the home ice advantage that is so important in these playoffs. It’s going to be exciting to watch how the standings are going to change from now until the end of the season.

– T. Ilardi

NHL Hands out another 20­-game suspension

In early February, the NHL handed a 20-­game suspension to Flames defenseman Dennis Wideman for his blindside cross­check to linesman Don Henderson. His check occurred after a hard hit delivered by Nashville’s Miikka Salomaki, which leads some to believe that Wideman was impaired at the time of the incident. The league has protocol for concussions. The player is to be taken off the ice, taken to a “quiet room” and be evaluated by a qualified professional. There, the player is put through a series of quick tests that are enough to tell if a head injury has occurred. Wideman took it upon himself to say he was fine to play. That’s like asking a fat kid if he’s had enough chocolate cake.

We now move to March 9th, as Coyotes defenseman Jarred Tinordi has been suspended 20 games for violating the terms of the NHL/NHLPA Performance Enhancing Program. The league announced Wednesday that Tinordi will miss the remainder of the season and his suspension will carry over to the 2016-­2017 season. As part of the John Scott trade 2 months prior, Tinordi has only played seven games with the Coyotes, and has played most of his career in the AHL. The 24 year old is the second NHL player to be suspended for taking a prohibited substance this season. On January 26, Shawn Horcoff of the Anaheim Ducks was banned 20 games for the same violation.

Forget about hockey for a minute and just think about sports in general. With a few exceptions, the league’s top stars are not going to be the ones seeking drug enhancements to gain an edge. The ones gaining an edge are the players bouncing around the majors and the minors; the ones struggling to keep their starting role on the team. It’s the former first rounders who cannot make the NHL team and cannot live up to their potential. It’s the Tinordi’s who fail drug tests.

This is 2016. This would’ve flown 20 years ago, but not now. We know the stat that says 1 in every 10 former football player used steroids. And who knows what that number is for recently retired baseball players. But the numbers for Hockey are lower not so much for the lack of use, but rather the low rate at which the NHL catches cheaters. In the past 10 years, only 4 players have been caught failing enhancement drug tests, compared to 52 by the MLB over the same amount of time. Comedian Daniel Tosh said a while back, “Don’t worry about your records either, for every superstar that has done steroids, a billion double-­A boys have juiced up”. Exaggerated, but not wrong at all.

Concussion Policies. Banned substance policies. NHL deserves some scrutiny on their policies and the legitimacy of enforcing them. With the World Cup of Hockey coming up in a few months, it is going to be interesting what steps, if any, the league takes.

– M. Fritz