Sunday, October 10, 2010

When The Maven Is There

The first night back is always special. Besides being the beginning of a brand new season, those who are regulars at the Coliseum get to renew their friendships with people they haven’t seen all summer.

Well, it’s that way with those who cover the game as well.

I don’t know why I didn’t think that the Maven would be in the building last night but I was pleasantly surprised to see him on the lower level in the MSGPlus lobby studio. It was 5:15 pm and he was holding court and noshing a sandwich before the cameras started to roll.’s Mike Schuerlein, HI’s Tony Stabile and I checked into the Opening Night “Meet Up” for a few minutes before making our way upstairs. We rode the elevator with Newsday’s veteran writer Mark Herrmann. Considering Newsday hardly sends him to the Coliseum to cover the Islanders any more I was very happy to see him. (It means I won’t have to read an article about golf just to read him.)

The press box was full and everyone was renewing their acquaintance. Gary Harding was already in his seat, but it was the first time up there for both Tony and OkposoNet’s Ken Dick so I pointed them in all the important directions and then we went to our seats at the far end of the catwalk. The really, REALLY far end of the catwalk.

Howie Rose stopped me on the staircase and asked how my summer was. I laughed telling him I work for al living, I have no summer and then said something about the Yankees that made him grumble and walk away. (Oh, those Mets fans)

Also sitting with us, for the first time since 2007, was AOL Fanhouse’s Chris Botta. I had forgotten how intelligently he watches a hockey game and he had forgotten how jumpy I am. (Hopefully he doesn’t need his left arm today. Sorry about that Chris.)

With the final minutes of the game ticking down and a 4 - 3 score on the Jumbotron, we all packed up our laptops and waited to make the trek downstairs. But Matt Moulson decided he wasn’t done quite yet and tied the score at four with what Stan Fischler called “one hell of a goal.” The Maven asked Matt to take him through it.

“It was kind of sitting there. There were a bunch of opportunities, but we didn’t seem to be getting the bounces today. Doug Weight had me wide open in the back door and hit a skate on one end. But there were a bunch of chances on net and this one just kind of sat there. Luckily, it went in.”

Things are different in the post game when Stan Fischler is in the room. It’s HIS room and it’s not just because he’s holding the MSG microphone and the camera light follows him. (MSG’s Rob Carlin was in the room too and he stood back while Stan ran the show.) He brings out the best in anyone he’s interviewing, or should I say talking to. It’s more a conversation with Stan Fischler. There are jokes, there are smiles, there is a relaxed feeling in an open exchange.

He spoke with Rick DiPietro who laid blame on himself for the loss. Stan started with a simple “Your thoughts on the game.” but in a tone of understanding. DiPietro answered almost apologetically “It was a big point for us, especially after two bouncy goals right the power play.”

Stan then followed with “Gutsy performance.” Yes, the team pulled together after John Tavares left the ice and did not return. “Fantastic performance. I’m not sure we would have been capable of something like this last year. It goes to show you how we’ve grown and how our young guys have stepped up.”

When he asked Rick how he felt, he shrugged. “I felt pretty good. But that second goal is… I put the loss of the point on me and I have to be better….I would have liked to play better, but.. It‘s a work in progress”

As far as the shoot out goes, Rick said he was disappointed in himself for not being able to get that second point.

Knowing that Rick will not be practicing on Sunday, Stan asked if he would be taking on the Rangers in the Monday, Columbus Day matinee. Rick was non-committal but said he hoped so. “It’s still a day-to-day thing.”

That was basically the same answer Stan received from Scott Gordon from the podium in the new press room. “Day-by-day.” But Stan had to ask. He always has to ask Gordon questions he knows he won’t answer. But he also had him talking and laughing as well. Perhaps because it was game one or because Fischler was asking the bulk of the question, the usual three-minute coach’s recap lasted over eight minutes.

Gordon recognized the slow start of the special teams that managed to turn things around as the game progressed with three power play goals and the killing off of a 4 on 3 situation. Gordon thought before answering the question about Rick DiPietro’s play.

“Well, there’s only two goals that I know for sure that I saw and that was the first two. I can’t fault him on the third and the fourth one I believe was tipped. But I’d have to watch it. I’m sure he’d tell you he’d like the second one back.” (And he did.)

The elephant in the room was the condition of John Tavares after a collision with Adam Burish in the first period. Gordon repeated what had been previously reported that John sustained a mild concussion and would be evaluated on Monday. Concussions are a dangerous and strange thing. On a player as young as John, it could be debilitating or it could be nothing. This is the type of blow this team cannot afford right now.

Nino Niederreiter played 18 shifts and 11:27 in his first NHL game in front of his parents. Scott Gordon said that Nino was “…good. Much better than the games in exhibition.” Of course there are “minor things that he has to get better at.” as the youngest Islander player on the ice but he said “overall positionally he was strong and that he had a great release on his shot that “will eventually go in.”

Scott said that both Mottau and Wisniewski would have a big impact on the team. Wiz had a big impact on Jamie Benn as Ken Dick Tweeted out “Wiz just knocked Benn into next week. I should ask Benn who wins the AL pennant.” Benn returned to the bench seemingly not knowing his own name. Besides the big hit, Wiz had a goal and an assist as well. He couldn’t throw a fight in there and get the Gordie Howe? Okay, maybe with the Rangers on Monday.

And that is where all eyes will be focused: Monday. Will John Tavares be well enough to play? Will Dwayne Roloson get the start? Will the “Slap Shot line” of Gillies, Konopka and Sim make some memories?

We’ll have to wait until Monday to find out.

No comments: