56° Good Morning
56° Good Morning

Thoughts on Kyle Okposo, Olympic hockey and Isles' win streak

Kyle Okposo skates during the first period of

Kyle Okposo skates during the first period of a game against the Chicago Blackhawks. (Jan. 2, 2014) Credit: Jim McIsaac

A few thoughts from the past couple days, including the Islanders’ third straight win:

-- It certainly made for a tidy storyline Thursday night that Kyle Okposo fired home the OT winner.

-- The Isles’ first overtime victory in nearly a full calendar year and first home OT win in nearly two calendar years -- and, since I was home and not racing around the locker room as Mark Herrmann was in my place, I was able to hear John Tavares’ incredibly hilarious, out-of-character remark postgame.

“I don’t know if (Okposo) thought David Poile’s head was in the net and he was aiming for it,” Tavares said.

Tavares is an emotional guy, to be sure. He only deviates from the script when talking after games about some of the failures of his team, so this one after a win was even more surprising. That should tell you how hacked off everyone in the organization is about Okposo’s U.S. Olympic omission -- probably more than Okposo himself, who has the impending birth of his daughter on his mind.

As far back as October, GM Garth Snow, coach Jack Capuano and assistant Doug Weight were chatting to me about how wrong it was for Okposo to barely be in the Olympic roster conversation. Those chats got more consistent as Okposo’s season got better. Weight, certainly, is a heavy hitter in USA Hockey circles, given he was just inducted into that group’s Hall of Fame and represented this country at three Olympics and the 1996 World Cup.

The inside details of Poile’s group and his selection process, chronicled by ESPN’s Scott Burnside and USA Today’s Kevin Allen, will only make the Islanders more annoyed. As Okposo showed he could play with and against elite players -- the kind he’d see in the Olympics -- those articles revealed he was barely mentioned at all over the months of meetings.

In any event, it’s done. Okposo has eight goals and eight assists in his last 11 games and I’d bet Snow, Capuano and Weight will take an energized, chip-on-the-shoulder Okposo for the last 40 games.

-- My feeling about the U.S. squad: It’s a strange mix. They went heavily on “leadership” guys up front (Dustin Brown, Ryan Callahan, Ryan Kesler) and went for younger, riskier choices on defense (John Carlson, Cam Fowler, Justin Faulk). These guys will be staring down the best of the best every game. I would have taken Jack Johnson, Erik Johnson or Dustin Byfuglien in place of one of the younger guys, and I don’t think the Paul Martin-Brooks Orpik veteran duo will add much, if Martin can even go as he’s currently out with a broken leg. Ryan Miller has to be as good as he’s been all season for this team to have a medal shot.

-- The Islanders did give up a two-goal lead for the eighth time last Thursday and are now 2-2-4 in those eight games. That’s bad. Slightly better than bad? They’ve put themselves back together to win two of the last three of these.

-- Since we’re noting their blown leads, let’s also note some resiliency: The Islanders have rallied from two goals down six times this season, with a 4-2 record in those games.

-- One more stat to note: Last season, we made a big deal of the Islanders being in just about every game. They were tied or led in the third period of 42 of their 48 games, with a 24-11-7 record in those.

This season, they’ve been down and out too many times, but that’s changed of late. They were tied or led in the third period of only 19 of their first 33 games, but they’ve been in that position in nine straight. Say what you will about this team (and many of you have, strongly), but they’re becoming a tougher team to play against.

Whether it’s too late to save this season is still up for debate. They are still nine points out of third, with five teams between them and the Flyers. Only Philadelphia failed to earn a point out of the Metro Division teams that played Thursday night.

One of those teams, the Hurricanes, come calling Saturday. The Islanders have lost three straight to Carolina at the Coliseum, including both last season with blown leads. Matt Donovan, just recalled Thursday from Bridgeport, may get back into the lineup after being in the AHL for a little over a month.

New York Sports