From the Isle by Youngblood...
The feeling is all too familiar. Lying there in bed, on a weeknight, tired as could be, yet not able to sleep. It feels like the blood is pumping through your veins just a little faster than normal. You feel depressed, but also a little hurt - like your best friend just betrayed you. You try to watch something on TV, anything, to distract you. But nothing works. It's just a crappy night. At some point you drift off, and wake up the next morning feeling fairly normal. And then you remember. You remember that the Islanders somehow blew that game last night.
I truly believe it's an extremely fine line that separates the teams that have success from those that don't. All NHL and AHL players are freakishly good at their sport. The reason some guys make it and some guys don't are just subtle little differences. Things you wouldn't even notice in real time. A slightly stronger burst of speed. A slightly more accurate shot. Collectively, this is the foundation of what separates a good team from a bad team. It's a combination of your players skill with very slight differences at the team level. A slightly higher level of confidence to hold a lead. A slightly greater sense of urgency to get that tying goal. The problem with this Islander team and the one's we've seen these past few years, is that they straddle this line often. The reason why we can't sleep after these past 2 games is because it's now clear we are back in straddle position. This is due to our defense now looking very similar to last year. Basically we got 2 good defenseman before the season. If at any time during the season we lose 2 good ones, that may be enough to force to the bad side of the line. This defense and its ability to play strong and hold a lead is just OK. It only crosses the line to 'good' when it's fully staffed like it was most of the season. Other good teams can lose key players and stay good, but not this team. They're not there yet. That's what we are learning.
But now lets get back to reality and realize that it's not time to hit the panic button yet. These players have fought hard enough for us to stay far away from that button for now. We should still be basking in this dream season even if it's becoming less dreamy and more realistic. To expect a team to just transition over one summer to excellent from pretty darn bad is unrealistic. There will be bumps, there will be setbacks, and there will be injuries. You will question if this team is good, and I say look at the standings. It's a big enough sample size for us to realize the potential of this team and this season. They didn't just get lucky to get to this point. There's more happening here. Some thoughts:
- I only watch post-game show for the coach interview after these 'tough' losses. I'm not sure what I'm looking for, but it never helps. The coach will NEVER look into the camera and say, 'we sucked, heads will ROLL'
- We need Chad Johnson to be that clutch back-up goalie, not the unlucky one that has pucks go in off defensemen's necks. This is important.
- Kulemin seems to do everything well
- Grabner is key to their success and needs to keep moving up the lines
- Nelson is still best forward - but please maximize him, Jack
- Matt Martin has a place on this team, but not every single night. Conacher adds more in a game like last nights.
- Donovan has not been that bad - he should keep playing
- Strait is a warrior, and I respect his game. But he doesn't need to play every night in any situation
- Tavares and the offensive blue-line do not get along at all. He needs a plan when entering the zone. Great hockey player but he's not a dangler (see Patrick Kane). They will take it from him up there and go the other way.
Let's hope we get the next one so we can finally get some rest.