Islanders still need the tools to re-build

Adding the top pick in the NHL draft does not instantly make you a
better team — but it certainly helps. In the case of the New York
Islanders, the team is technically better than they were last season yet
still find themselves in once again at the bottom of the Eastern
Conference standings (which is exceptionally impressive this season,
considering the overall competitive level in the East).

Yet Islanders coach Scott Gordon is happy with his team’s
progress, saying that the franchise needs time and stability as they
work to improve. And when you compare what the Islanders are doing —
seemingly in the midst of a rebuild every single year — to what the New
Jersey Devils have done, then you start to really see how big of a
challenge lies ahead for GM Garth Snow and his coach.

Gordon says
not to compare the two
, however.

“The Devils are re-tooling. We’re trying to rebuild with a master
plan of winning a Stanley Cup,” said Gordon. “We’re not re-tooling.
We’re still trying to find the tools.

“With all the changes in coaches and managers here, there hasn’t been
a stretch of continuity. We haven’t deviated from the approach. Garth
(Snow) hasn’t traded any players in a panic. We haven’t given up
something that we’re going to miss.”

“I see a level of consistency,” said the coach. “The power play and
the penalty kill…there’s no question we’ve got to get better.
Five-on-five, we don’t give up a lot. With a young team that could use a
lot of practice time, and in a year with a condensed scehdule where
there hasn’t been much, I’ve been happy with what I see in our work.

“You have to remember, the roster didn’t change a whole lot – except
for the goaltenders. Now, for me, it’s about finding a few missing
pieces to fill in.”

Personally, it’s frustrating when teams don’t give their coaching
staffs time to actually work on improving the team and they are fired
after 1-2 seasons of frustration. I understand the wont to win
immediately, yet longevity and consistency with the coaches allows
players time to respect and buy into the system they’re teaching.

The Islanders have the chance to get another top three pick in this
year’s draft, and some re-working of the roster should make this a much
different team next season. Is there a possibility that the Islanders
are this year’s Chicago Blackhawks in four years? We shall find out. If
not, then they’ll be a mediocre team with a couple of wasted draft
picks. Not that it’s ever happened before.

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    Fleury, Penguins hang on for Game 1 win against Capitals

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    The Pittsburgh Penguins pulled off a 3-2 Game 1 win against the Washington Capitals, but Thursday’s thriller probably prompted a sigh of relief.

    (Washington, meanwhile, might have uttered a sigh at such unpleasantly familiar feelings.)

    The first period ended 0-0 in part thanks to Jake Guentzel‘s sprawling “kick save.” Business really picked up in the second after Sidney Crosby raced off to two quick goals, only for Alex Ovechkin to give Washington a shot thanks to a booming goal and some physical play.

    It sure felt like this one might head to overtime, especially after Evgeny Kuznetsov was tying things up and flapping his arms like wings. That was not to be, however, as Nick Bonino took advantage of a pretty area pass to beat Braden Holtby for the decisive tally.

    Now, it was only decisive because Marc-Andre Fleury was at the top of his game. Oh, and also because the Penguins did a collective Guentzel impression in frantically denying a tying tally.

    Makes you want to wipe some sweat from your brow, eh?

    The Capitals dominated by just about every statistical measure … except, of course, goals on the scoreboard. Pittsburgh will gladly take that 1-0 series lead, then.

    Expect a desperate Washington team in Game 2, which airs at 8 p.m. ET on Saturday. You can watch it online and via the NBC Sports App (click here for the livestream link).

    Karlsson makes difference for Senators vs. Lundqvist, Rangers

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    Swedish superstars Henrik Lundqvist and Erik Karlsson were both stupendous in Game 1 between the New York Rangers and Ottawa Senators.

    Still, it was Karlsson’s game-winning goal (from a seemingly impossible angle) against Lundqvist that made the difference as the Senators beat the Rangers 2-1 on Thursday. With that, the Senators are up 1-0 in the series.

    That Karlsson goal really deserves a special look.

    Whether you blame that 2-1 tally on Lundqvist or not, the Rangers would be foolish to do anything but praise their red-hot franchise goalie. He stopped all 21 Senators shots in the first period and ultimately made 41 out of 43 stops in defeat.

    Craig Anderson was strong in his own right, mind you. stopping 34 out of 35 shots (including all 28 at even-strength) to help Ottawa take that tight contest.

    Anderson’s strong play highlights the fact that Rangers – Senators doesn’t merely come down to Lundqvist vs. Karlsson … but even so, both Swedish superstars really did stand out in this one.

    Game 2 airs on NBC at 3 p.m. ET on Saturday. You can also watch online and via the NBC Sports App; click here for the livestream link.

    Ovechkin vs. Crosby shifts into high gear, Carlson clobbers Malkin

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    You have to love when sports deliver on – if not exceed – the hype.

    The second period of Game 1 between the Pittsburgh Penguins and Washington Capitals has been brilliant and nasty, possibly more than many hockey fans dreamed.

    It began with the Penguins getting the big edge; Sidney Crosby scored two goals in the span of 52 seconds and Braden Holtby needed to make some tough stops to keep it at 2-0.

    MORE: Video of Crosby’s hot start

    That put a damper on the great crowd at the Verizon Center for a bit, but the Capitals ended up responding.

    Part of that was a physical response, with Dmitry Orlov delivering a big hit on Tom Kuhnhackl and John Carlson absolutely leveling Evgeni Malkin. The narrative got almost too obvious moments later, as Alex Ovechkin fired a shot past Marc-Andre Fleury to make it 2-1.

    Fleury made a tough stop or two of his own once it was 2-1, so while the pace is picking up, the two goalies seem like they’re alert to the challenge as well.

    There was plenty of nastiness with 18.9 seconds remaining in the second, setting the stage for what could be a thrilling third period … and maybe more?

    Buckle up.

    Video: Crosby scores two goals in 52 seconds vs. Capitals

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    Sidney Crosby and the Pittsburgh Penguins came roaring out of the gate to start the second period after a 0-0 opening frame against the Washington Capitals in Game 1.

    Crosby scored two goals in just 52 seconds to give the Penguins a sudden 2-0 lead. One feels some pity for any fans who didn’t get to their seats just to start the frame … though in the likely event that they are Capitals fans, they might have been spared.

    To Braden Holtby‘s credit, he made a couple tough saves moments later to keep it 2-0. It’s been a hectic first few minutes of the second after that relatively mundane first 20 minutes, so hang on tight.

    Check out video above; you can also watch the pair of goals in the GIF combo below: