A contender destroyed a pretender last night, but the loser may end up with the last laugh.
One team had everything to play for, the other one needed a loss in the worst way. It's no wonder things ended up like they did.
Eric Staal recorded a hat trick and Cam Ward needed to make only 12 saves (no, that's not a misprint) to shut out the New York Islanders as the Carolina Hurricanes rolled to a 9-0 victory last evening in Raleigh. Tuomo Ruutu (2), Dennis Seidenberg, Scott Walker, Rod Brind'Amour and Frantisek Kaberle had the other hurricanes' goals. As for the Islanders, goaltender Yann Danis was chased from the nets after giving up three goals on ten shots. His replacement, Joey MacDonald, fared equally badly, allowing six more goals on 47 more shots.
It's not such a huge surprise that the Islanders suffered their worst defeat in franchise history at this point in the season. The real surprise is that a loss of this scale hasn't happened earlier this season. As injuries have mounted (add Blake Comeau to list as he will miss the rest of the season with a broken bone in his wrist), New York has been forced to field a minor league lineup on a nightly basis. Yes, the kids have fought hard and played well, but there's no way to accelerate their learning curve. When you match up guys who haven't even played ten NHL games against a veteran-laden squad playing desperate hockey in an attempt to make the playoffs, the outcome should be nothing more than a foregone conclusion.
In regards to the many Islander fans who have lambasted the team on the official message board yesterday, accusing them of “tanking”, I say “Shame on you”. If the Islanders were going to give away games, it would have happened earlier than this. They have been fighting tooth and nail as of late trying to prove themselves. If you can't see that and are determined to paint this team with a very broad (and erroneous) brush over a single loss, then why not just pack it in, go swaddle yourself in red, white and blue and become a Ranger fan already?
Speaking of “tanking”, the loss did have a rather beneficial effect on the Islanders' future fortunes. New York is now guaranteed of picking no later than the third pick in this upcoming draft and second if another team behind them doesn't win the lottery. If they lose once more or if Colorado wins again, the Islanders will be in last place and will be guaranteed a shot at either scoring phenom John Tavares or stud defenseman Victor Hedman.
Of course, you want your team to win every game. However, sometimes, it pays to lose.
Big picture, folks…keep your eye on the Big Picture.
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Written by Frank Mazzola