The 5-4-5 Islanders now have enough of a body of work in the faceoff circle to prove their success is not a fluke. The team’s ability to win key draws through most of the young season is a result of…
1. A Scott Gordon-mandated commitment to improving in this area after his team struggled through most of last season
2. The teaching ability and work ethic of assistant coach Scott Allen
3. Dedication to the craft by…
Frans Nielsen – 63%
Doug Weight – 58%
Richard Park – 57%
Nate Thompson – 55%
Josh Bailey – 52%
John Tavares – 50%
NHL-calculated faceoff stats can be misleading because they do not place an emphasis, for example, on a key draw in the defensive zone during a close game over a neutral zone faceoff two minutes into the first period. However, what cannot be denied is that the Islanders have been sharp in this key aspect of the game since the beginning of the season. Their success has played a pivotal role in the team winning four games in a row and getting points in six straight (4-0-2).
In his search for new assistants, Gordon made Faceoff Professor “part of the job description.” The second-year head coach wanted faceoffs to be part of the everyday routine at practice – not always the case in the NHL. As much as he wants his players working at draws on the ice, Gordon also makes sure his players are prepared. This is where Allen comes in.
A new video system installed by Gordon’s geek squad in the Islanders’ main locker room at the Coliseum allows Allen’s students to analyze that night’s opposing centers with the touch of a button. On a typical game day, Gordon says, his centers can watch video assistant Ryan Ward’s reel of faceoffs before hitting the ice for the morning skate. This way, when Allen drops the puck for faceoff practice after drills are over, his players can work on strategies for their 7:00 pm opponents.
“Scott Allen is the same as a coach as he was as a player – relentless in everything he does,” said Gordon. “You give Scott a responsibility and he gives you back more in preparation and dilligence than you could ever ask for.”
Gordon continued: “In the end, it all comes down to the players. We’ve asked them to compete harder and they’ve put in the time. When we don’t win a faceoff cleanly, they’re battling for possession.
“Fransy has been dominating. Josh and John, for such young players, have really done a nice job. Doug’s won some big ones for us when called on. And to my mind, with Nate Thompson and Richard Park on the same line, we have one of the best 1-2 tandems in the league on crucial defensive zone draws.”
Lineup: Barring illness or injury, expect the same lineup (with Martin Biron in goal) when the Islanders play in Buffalo on Wednesday. Trent Hunter needs more practice time before he re-joins the lineup.
Election: For the many emailers inquiring about my ho-hum attitude toward today’s Town of Hempstead election, allow me to explain. For the last 4-6 months, the Democratic Party had a golden opportunity to ride the support of thousands of voters who cared about the Lighthouse Project. They chose not to.
Kristen McElroy’s efforts the last few weeks were simply way too little, way too late. If Kate Murray’s political rivals were not motivated or organized enough to take advantage of the thousands of Islanders fans who might have done a lot of work for them, this little blogger sure as heck had other, better things to do. Sorry.
In the short time between Murray’s re-election and the holiday period, it will be fascinating to see if Charles Wang and the Town Supervisor get anything done. Wang’s deadline for “certainty” passed a month ago today. I would expect a news leak on Hempstead or Queens sometime between now and when Rick DiPietro returns, around Thanksgiving.
Live Chat? You Make the Call: I’m as big a Yankees fan as there is. They are the one sports team in my DNA, via my Bronx born and raised dad. That said, I’m willing to keep my commitment to hosting live chats whenever possible for Islanders weeknight road games. The Islanders are on a roll and the fans have been responding on the Internets. The way I see it, Game 6 of the World Series will be in the third inning when the Islanders game ends.
Your call. Please only respond in Comments only if you are a Yes. If we get enough interest, we’ll have another live chat for Go-Go’s gritty-gutties beginning at 7:00 pm Wednesday.