Sunday, April 1, 2012

Isles: Out & Down (Just a little)

No, there was no loud music and laughter in the Isles locker room after yesterday’s game as there had been Thursday night when they won. No. The mood was one of contemplative reflection on the season that is now positively ending in just a few days. As long as there was the smallest of chances, there was still youthful hope. But as hard as they worked yesterday, the Bruins, the defending Stanley Cup champions, were not going to lose to the Islanders AGAIN. So they didn’t.

A writer for the New York Times said that none of the Islanders reporters would mention that the Islanders were HEALTHY and the Bruins were not. I suppose he was trying to say that indeed, the Islanders should have won. However, I can’t really say they were healthy considering that the backbone in net named Evgeni Nabokov has made an early exit from the season with a strained abductor. But there. I said it. Maybe he’ll rescind the statement now. (I doubt it.)

Matt Martin and Josh Bailey were particularly quiet sitting in their stalls post game. No good natured ribbing of each other. No jawing at Travis Hamonic across the room. They sat in drenched tee shirts waiting to explain to the throngs of cameras and tape recorders just how they felt about “being out of it.”

I couldn’t ask it that way, so I asked Matt how difficult it is to stay focused as the season winds down and the weather turns to Spring knowing he’d find his way to the real question.

“I don’t think it’s really that difficult. If you go to Florida and it’s nice weather or you travel to different places, I think our focus is to finish these last games off as strong as we can.” (And there it is….) “Obviously we all want to win. Some guys are still looking for contracts. (Martin is an RFA) I don’t think it’s hard to stay focused.”

As Jack Capuano has said this week, the team is not deviating from their routine or their program. They weren’t looking at the standings and playing to help or hurt other teams in the hunt. They were just trying to stay within their own system.

This from Eric Hornick’s excellent work on "The Skinny" regarding Matt Martin’s accomplishment this season:

Heavy Hitters
The Islanders out-hit Boston 21-19. Matt Martin led the way with six hits and in the process established a new National Hockey League record in hits. Martin now has 360 hits (hits have only been recorded since 2005-06), breaking the record of 356 set by Cal Clutterbuck of Minnesota in 2008-09. Martin has also recorded 13 of the team’s 22 fighting majors this season.

Having known this, I mentioned it to Matt as for the first time this season, he sat looking up at me without hair hanging down in his eyes. A nonchalant “okay” was his first reaction, so I pressed. “Well, obviously it’s a (he thought about the right word) accomplishment, I think, to lead the league in anything. It’s an accomplishment, but I’m a physical player (he finally smiled just a little), it’s just part of the game for me. It’s not trying to count how many I’m hitting. I just play the same way every night. It’s really all that is.”

While Matt Martin hits, Matt Moulson scores and gives back. For another year Moulson has pledged $500 for every goal he scores to go to children’s charity. Not to be outdone by his brother-in-law, LA Kings goaltender Jonathan Quick pledged $500 for every WIN he earned this season. Together Moulson and Quick created the 326 Foundation and yesterday Moulson split his pledge between the Islanders Children’s Fund and the326 Foundation to the tune of $17,000.

Feeling in the giving sprit too, Kyle Okposo and Michael Grabner each pledged $300 per goal to the IFC and yesterday presented a check for $22,000 to Islanders General Manager Garth Snow along side Matt Moulson’s beautiful wife Alicia.

Today is Fan Appreciation Day at the Coliseum as the Islanders face the Ottawa Senators. While the Islanders are now “officially” out of the playoffs (as Newsday’s Art Staple had to announce to Jack Capuano in the post game meeting), don’t expect them to play any different. Matt Martin will still hit. Moulson will still crowd the net, Parenteau will still look to swoop in and score and Okposo will still try to muscle his way around anyone standing in his way of the net. Tavares will still look to win the game whether it matters to the score sheet or not. It matters to him.

For the fans in attendance today the entertainment value of the game will be enhanced by the amazing amount of giveaways that are planned. With three games remaining on the schedule, we should just enjoy them -- while we can.

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