If the current squad of the New York Islanders keep up their winning ways, they may well be “The Toast of the League” one day. Too bad most of them will have to celebrate with ginger ale instead of champagne due to legal age restrictions.
Jeff Tambellini scored for the third time in four games and Yann Danis made 40 saves to help the Islanders seal a 3-2 win over the Phoenix Coyotes this afternoon at the Nassau Coliseum.Â They also received goals from Josh Bailey and Kyle Okposo.Â Phoenix countered with tallies by Shane Doan and newly acquired Scottie Upshall.
The mood in Islander Nation has experienced a complete shift since last Wednesday.Â On March 4, there was much ire directed at GM Garth Snow for “letting” Bill Guerin go the Penguins for “only” a draft pick that might end up being a third rounder.Â If only those angry souls could have known that the Guerin move and a couple of more injuries would pave the way for a complete infusion of youth from the Bridgeport Sound Tigers, the Islanders' minor league affiliate….and also provide the most exciting hockey they have seen played in years.
Even longtime fans of the team need a scorecard these days as they are probably not familiar with names like Kurtis McLean, Jesse Joensuu or Mike Iggulden.Â However, these strange new names are quickly working their way into Islander fan's hearts.Â The uptempo style of play that they are capable of executing is exciting and the enthusiasm they bring to the rink is palpable.Â More importantly, they are producing on the scoresheet.Â The future indeed looks much brighter than it did only two months ago.
Of course, the recent win streak has not come without a cost.Â The Isles are coming dangerously close to falling out of the top spot in the John Tavares/Victor Hedman sweepstakes.Â The Atlanta Thrashers have been playing better and are keeping pace with New York, but the Tampa Bay Lightning have now lost three straight and seem to be in the process of executing their annual swoon.Â This team has been dogged with allegations of intentionally tanking games in the past in order to secure a better draft position.Â While such accusations would be tough to prove, it's hard to imagine how a team that possesses such stars as Vincent Lecavalier and Martin St. Louis could find itself in these types of positions.Â “Suspicious” might be a better word for it.
Of course, those who are rooting for the team to lose may not have all that much to fret about.Â A glance at the upcoming schedule reveals a six game road trip that begins Tuesday night in Toronto.Â The youngsters have proven they can win at home, but winning on the road may be an entirely different story.
However, even if the Islanders do somehow finish out of the running for the top two picks, there should be much less consternation about it this time around.Â Beyond Tavares/Hedman, there are still plenty of players available in the draft who can make a difference.
Besides, as recent games have shown, the Islanders may not be as badly in need of help as previously thought.
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Written by Frank Mazzola