Vanbiesbrouck, Islanders Need to Find Spark
by Alan Hahn
He stood by his locker with his pads and equipment strewn about his
feet and he challenged the question with, it seemed, more intensity
than he did opposing shooters in the intrasquad scrimmage earlier in
the day. John Vanbiesbrouck, a proud and accomplished goaltender,
wanted to be told that he appeared to be playing below par.
"Self-evaluation is a very difficult thing in this game," he said.
It is a week before the start of his 17th regular season in the NHL-
his first with the Islanders - and Vanbiesbrouck said he is ready.
Never mind the 0-2-1 record (the offense has provided him just four
goals in three games) or his listless performance in a 5-1 loss in
Friday's Blue-White scrimmage (you know the deal about veterans and
the boredom that is the preseason).
"I've probably played more exhibition games than most of these guys
have played NHL games," the 37-year-old said of the young team around
him. "The results in this preseason haven't been there for us. And we
all take responsibility for that." But the goalie is usually the one
held most accountable, something Philadelphia Flyers coach Craig
Ramsay proved late last season when he supplanted Vanbiesbrouck as
his No. 1 goalie for rookie Brian Boucher when the team started to
struggle. Islanders coach Butch Goring thought enough of it to have a
recent chat with Vanbiesbrouck about the importance of being ready by
Friday's opener in Tampa.
"He's a seasoned pro, I've got to believe he takes me serious,"
Goring said. "The whole organization, they've read enough times in
the paper about how important this season is. I know he wants to do
well, so I've got to believe that he's going to be ready." If he's
not, Goring said he won't hesitate to go to backup Wade Flaherty, who
was solid in his one preseason appearance (a 2-1 loss to Philadelphia
on Sept. 15) and Friday's scrimmage.
"I think what's evident here is Flaherty is not rolling over and
saying, 'John, you can just have this job,' " Goring said. "He's
making a strong case to the coaching staff and management to
say, 'Hey, you know what? I'm ready. I can play.' " There are two
games left in the preseason, today against the Rangers in Hartford
and tomorrow against the Devils. Vanbiesbrouck will see most of the
work in both games and the Islanders hope to see him playing better.
Winning one or both games also would be nice.
"I think everybody understands the emphasis is on the first game,"
Vanbiesbrouck said of the regular season. "And then it's the second
game. It boils down to, sure, being prepared, but you know, everybody
wants to have a perfect preseason and do everything perfect. But
unfortunately, we're not created that way." Notes & Quotes: C Robert
Petrovicky will play this afternoon in place of C Oleg Kvasha, who is
sitting out the final game of his three-game suspension for elbowing
Flyers C Daymond Langkow in a Sept. 15 game. Kvasha will be in the
lineup for tomorrow's preseason finale against the Devils . . . The
Islanders and Rangers will have a natural minor-league rivalry next
season, when the Islanders' new AHL affiliate (Bridgeport Sound
Tigers) begin play just 45 minutes south on Connecticut's I-91 from
the Rangers' AHL team, the Hartford WolfPack.