Islanders Team Report
By Alan Hahn/Newsday
Goalie's goal punctuates miserable homestand
JANUARY 4, 2001
In his four-plus seasons on Long Island, veteran Claude Lapointe has
seen just about everything that has been so bad about being an
Islander in the organization's forgettable blunder years.
Lapointe saw the dreaded fisherman logo, witnessed the team's 30-day
self-eviction from Nassau Coliseum and endured a crippling slash of
And, of course, there was that John Spano guy.
Each time Lapointe has thought to himself, "It can't get any worse
He said it again Tuesday, when Canadiens goalie Jose Theodore
punctuated a miserable seven-game homestand by scoring a goal in the
Islanders' 3-0 loss. The Isles went 2-5 in what was considered a
crucial stretch of the season.
Then, after the game, it got worse again. Mark Parrish, who has been
an Islander for all of 38 games, scolded the booing fans by
saying: "If they're going to boo us like that, we'd appreciate it if
they just stayed home."
With just more than 7,000 fans scattered about the 16,297-seat
Coliseum, most of the team's fans already had.
The next day, Parrish apologized to the fans via an open letter
posted on the team's web site. In it he admitted his honesty was
tempered by frustration.
"I probably should have taken a little more time to cool off," he
said. "I have no doubt my quotes offended the people who pay their
hard-earned money and come out and support us, and you are the last
people in the world I should have taken my frustration out on.
"This has been a tough time for me and the team. The franchise should
be receiving more production from me and I expect more out of myself.
As a team, while we are trying our best every night, we know we are
not meeting expectations. It's our job to start winning more hockey
games. It's not my job to be telling Islander fans how to cheer."
The team then had a players-only meeting following practice on
Wednesday to address the issue as well as some bickering that went on
during the Montreal game.
"No doubt, it's not easy," Lapointe said, "We have to find a way to
keep the frustration out of us." . . .
While it seems the desperate need for a stud No. 1 center won't be
filled during the season, GM Mike Milbury has made some character
additions by bringing in Jason Blake from the Kings and Steve Martins
from Tampa Bay.
Both players have excellent speed and will be used primarily as
penalty killers and checkers. Most importantly, especially with
Martins, the lineup gets a needed boost of energy.
Neither provides much offense, and the obvious joke is to say the
Islanders got the wrong Blake from LA. But both players were acquired
for conditional picks and both come at a combined cost of $900,000.
And Martins has a Harvard degree in psychology. With the condition of
the depressing Isles, there has to be a good punch line somewhere.
With the continuing offensive woes, the Islanders at least have
themselves a solid checking line. Dave Scatchard has centered
Lapointe and Mark Lawrence on a third line that has done an excellent
job against opponents' top lines over the past few weeks, including
shutting down Atlanta's red-hot Brunette-Ferraro-Audette line in a
win last week (Audette scored on a power-play goal in that game).
Scatchard's group also held Montreal's top line centered by Saku
Koivu scoreless. . . .
Injuries to Roman Hamrlik, Kevin Haller and Kenny Jonsson decimating
the defense corps, and now the group's inexperience has been quite
apparent. Evgeny Korolev, 22, considered a decent puck mover and
skater, has been hesitant with the puck and has been unsure on his
skates. Branislav Mezei, 20, has pounded opponents into the boards
but has taken a few bad penalties as well. Ray Schultz, 24, has done
his part as an enforcer, but isn't as aggressive positionally in his
own zone. . . .
John Vanbiesbrouck has played much too well to have a 6-15-4 record.
His 2.68 goals-against is respectable if you consider the young
defense that has recently played before him. That alone makes
his .911 save percentage almost miraculous. He has faced 28.1 shots
on goal per game which ranks him fifth in the league in shots
against. Of those five players, only Phoenix's Sean Burke (.936) has
a better save percentage.
Speaking of the center position, 19-year-old Tim Connolly has started
to hear boos from the Coliseum faithless because of his struggles.
Connolly's problems mostly have to do with his penchant to look pass
instead of shot and make one move too many with the puck. In 37
games, Connolly has one goal and 14 assists and has shown increasing
frustration in his performance.
Connolly had 14 goals and 34 points as a rookie last season.
He has been watching game film of himself and highlight films of
accomplished stars such as Mike Modano, to whom Connolly draws
comparisons, and Brett Hull. He watched every one of Hull's 86 goals
from the 1990-91 season. "I can't quite shoot the puck like him,"
But Connolly must shoot the puck
Brad Isbister could be close to a return to the lineup. Isbister was
to have his broken jaw X-rayed Wednesday to check if it has healed
appropriately. That will determine how soon he can get back on the
ice. Isbister, who is tied with Mariusz Czerkawski for the team lead
with 12 goals, was injured Dec. 12 against Washington when he was hit
in the face with the puck. He has participated in a few post-practice
shinny games with the coaching staff wearing a protective chin guard
that he likely will use when he returns to the lineup.
Hamrlik and Haller, who are both nursing groin injuries, could return
to the lineup soon. Hamrlik could be back as soon as Thursday at the