Save for the Olaf Kolzig show on Monday afternoon, in which the Isles out-shot Washington 31-12 but managed to lose, 2-1, the Isles season has been a success in the early-going. The top line carried the team in the home-and-home series with Buffalo, but has since cooled off. The defense led the offense against the Rangers Wednesday with powerplay goals from Bryan Berard and Marc-Andre Bergeron. But, if not for Rick DiPietro, the team would be at .500. DP bailed out his defensemen time and time again while accumulating 36 saves on 37 Ranger shots.
No surprise here, but Freddy Meyer was finally waived and subsequently picked up by Phoenix. If he gets some powerplay time in the desert, which is likely, Meyer can be a key contributor from the blueline. Personally, I would wait to pick him up to make sure he is indeed getting PP time. If your league penalizes poor +/- ratings, Meyer may not be the best addition since Phoenix is expected to struggle on both ends this season.
Unfortunately, Meyer never got his game together for the Isles. Last season, he played with a broken finger, but that was no excuse for his frequent defensive lapses. Perhaps being traded for Alexei Zhitnik put a lot of pressure on him and he just tried too hard. Regardless, Garth Snow made the right decision and it paid immediate dividends as Bryan Berard scored the game winning goal in his first game.
Speaking of Berard, he should now be available in your fantasy league since he played his first regulation game of the season. He played just over eight minutes Wednesday night, including 5:43 on the powerplay. In time, Berard will likely take a chunk of Bergeron's even strength minutes.
The Isles will undoubtedly miss the hard work and all-out play of Jon Sim, who is expected to miss the remainder of the season with a knee injury, but the reunited line of Hilbert-Sillinger-Hunter is picking up where it left off last season. The trio can cycle with the best of them, and is capable of keeping the puck deep in the offensive zone for significant periods of time. It’s only a matter of time before they put the puck in the net.
The Sim injury will also force Ted Nolan to utilize Jeff Tambellini on a long-term basis. Hopefully for all involved, Tambellini is given ample time on a scoring line and proves his worth. The youngster hustles and drew two Ranger penalties Wednesday night.
Nolan’s bench follies
Since Nolan opted to dress seven defensemen against the Rangers, Darryl Bootland was scratched and the lines were tinkered with the exception of the Fedotenko-Comrie-Guerin and Hilbert-Sillinger-Hunter units. Nolan will use the same lineup tonight in Toronto, so expect more of the same.
Does Nolan plan on playing Bergenheim this little all season? He's arguably the most consistent hitter on the team, yet he sits all but four short shifts (2:35) vs. the Rangers. Meanwhile, despite all that happened in the preseason with the Blueshirts, Nolan sits his only full-time enforcer, the aforementioned Bootland. True, many players on this team will drop the mittens if the situation calls for it, but the Isles can't afford to have Bill Guerin and Brendan Witt sitting in the penalty box.
Marc Andre Bergeron was on the ice for 22:14 against the Rangers, including over 15 minutes of even strength, nearly twice the amount of Bruno Gervais and Chris Campoli. Included in these 15 minutes was a terrible defensive play on Brendan Shanahan. Not only did Bergeron miss his initial check, he floated away and watched as Shanahan was able to unload another couple of shots. Despite all of this, he played over a minute on the penalty kill as well.
If Bergeron doesn't learn to pick his spots to carry the puck up the ice, he could, and should, find himself as strictly a PP specialist. On one play against the Rangers, he attempted to beat just about the entire Rangers squad, all hanging back in the neutral zone. The end result was a 2-on-1 for the Blueshirts, and luckily for Bergeron and the Isles, a timely save from DiPietro.
And not for nothing, but the top scoring line and least defensive defenseman (Bergeron) should not be on the ice in the final minute to hold a one-goal lead.
On the topic of last-minute personnel, what was Andy Hilbert doing on the ice when the Isles were in dire need of a goal late in the game vs. Washington? (Besides flubbing yet another golden opportunity.)
Wake up, Nolan!
A sampling of the lines used vs. the Rangers:
(* denotes permanent unit)
Bergeron and Berard spent some time paired with Bruno Gervais.
Nolan also utilized Berard and Satan on the point.
On the mend:
F Jon Sim (knee) will likely undergo season-ending surgery. He hurt his knee while forechecking as he slipped on bad Coliseum ice Saturday night.
F Chris Simon (suspension) will have served the remainder of his suspension following tonight's game in Toronto. Expect Simon in the lineup Saturday in Philadelphia.
Thu. 10/11 @ Toronto
Sat. 10/13 @ Philly
Thu. 10/18 @ Washington
Sat. 10/20 vs. New Jersey
Sat. 10/27 vs. Carolina
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