The New York Islanders finally broke their winless streak last Friday, and I know exactly how they feel. When I was in college I took French (though I don't have any recollection of why I was taking French in the first place - who did I think I was? - maybe it was because I flunked out of Spanish and German in high school), and I was so bad, I had absolutely no idea what was going on in class, mainly because the teacher only spoke in French and I didn't speak French. One day deep into the semester I was called upon, and I actually got the answer correct. My fellow students burst into a round of applause. Not sarcastic applause, but "Man, do we feel sorry for that poor moronic schmuck" applause. And when the Islanders came out victorious over the Devils, the tri-state area burst out in applause. Even if you're not an Islanders fan, you have to feel bad for the constant losing. And the question is: What happened to this franchise?
After two obligatory bad expansion seasons in 1972-'73 and '73-'74, the Islanders qualified for the playoffs in only their third season of existence. They knocked off the New York Rangers-New York Islanders 1975 and 1979 better than one or both wallowing in mediocrity? Isn't a Rangers-New Jersey Devils playoff series better than Rangers-Thrashers or Devils-Capitals? Is there any hope for the Islanders? Let's all hope so.in the first round, which was the impetus for Emile Francis to start breaking up that team, and then the Isles dug themselves out of a 3-0 hole to miraculously beat Pittsburgh before losing to the Flyers (but almost repeating their trick of the previous round). Beginning that season, they made the postseason 14 consecutive years. They, of course, won the Stanley Cup four years in a row and for about a six-year period, they were one of the greatest teams in hockey history. Then shaky ownership happened, Mike Milbury happened, Charles Wang happened and a bunch of stuff in between, and now we're talking about a move to Kansas City. Let's all hope the Islander franchise can turn themselves around. Isn't it better when all the local teams are good? Isn't
And now on to the top stories of the week in the world of New York sports.
A Giant Win: The New York Giants were just awful in the first half of Sunday's game, but thanks to the inspiring halftime speech by Justin Tuck they Jets'd their way to a last-minute comeback. They marched down field on their first possession of the game until Derek Hagan seemingly fumbled the ball. Are you kidding me? Here we go again. But Tom Coughlin, the King of Challenges, was having none of it. He saved the day with his challenge flag, and the Giants amazingly did not commit a turnover all afternoon. They won this game on guts and mettle, with injury fill-ins as far as the eye can see. Eli Manning, Brandon Jacobs, Kevin Boss, Mario Manningham, Tuck, Osi Umenyiora, Jason Pierre-Paul and Terrell Thomas all came up big. And Perry Fewell made all the right adjustments at halftime. The offense was just good enough, the defense was just good enough and the special teamers were just good enough. And just good enough is good enough if you don't turn the ball over. But the fans weren't good enough for Antrel Rolle, who obviously hasn't spent a lot of time in the New York area. Booing? That's how we say "good morning" here.
New York, New York I: There were three New York-New York clashes this week (well, some of them involved New Jersey, but hey, it's close enough). The Nets won the war of words when Mikhail Prokhorov responded to the New York Knicks' radio ad claiming the New Jersey Nets will never be the Knicks: "I don't think we want to be like the Knicks. I think we'd more like to resemble the Lakers." I'm sure they'd even take the New Orleans Hornets or Atlanta Hawks for that matter. But the Knicks won the war on the court. Amar'e Stoudemire rocked the Garden on Tuesday, with his 35-point, nine-rebound extravaganza of ferocity. The buzz in the arena was unlike anything heard since the days of Spencer Haywood . . . ok, more like Patrick Ewing. $100 million? Maybe Stoudemire should get a raise. He outdueled Brook Lopez, who was impressive himself, with a career-high 36 points. Kris Humphries mistook Devin Harris for Kim Kardashian and pounced on the point guard, straining Harris' knee, which surely made things easier for the Knicks (2-1 for the week), who are now over .500 for the first time since, oh, I don't know, ever? Well, maybe not, but it sure seems like it. In other Nets news, they lost a triple-overtime thriller to the Thunder. There was no Harris or Kevin Durant in the game, but that didn't damper the excitement. And last Friday, they demoted Terrence Williams to the D-League's Springfield Armor. Armor? I thought Springfield was called the Isotopes.
New York, New York II: A wild shootout broke out at Nassau Coliseum between the Islanders and Rangers on Thursday night. It had scoring, it had fighting, it had hustle, it had heart, it had everything. Except defense and good goaltending, that is.Sean Avery recently said that the Rangers (3-1 for the week) need to bring some New York Jets-like swagger to their games. They had a chance last night, but the only way they resembled the Jets was in their imitation of one of Gang Green's last-minute wins where you play poorly all game but still, somehow, come out victorious. It sure helps when Marian Gaborik plays like Marian Gaborik, though, and racks up four points. Of course, the Islanders were just as gritty, just as tough, just as resilient and just as bad as the Rangers. If the game had gone on another two minutes they most likely would have scored again and the game would have lasted all night. The Rangers dominated the first period, the Islanders the second and the third was a free-for-all. Even the fights were even, with Derek Boogaard and Matt Martin winning the bouts. And they get to do it all over again on Friday night. Fasten your seat belts.
New York, New York III: The Islanders whipped the Devils, 2-0, last Friday to halt a14-game skid and put the whole local battles thing in motion. Rick DiPietro played his best game of the year, and it was the first Islanders win since, oh, I don't know, the days of Spencer Haywood . . . no, that doesn't work. Well, it's been awhile, anyway. The Devils impressively beat the Flyers in a shootout on Saturday afternoon and unimpressively lost 5-1 to Montreal on Thursday to go 1-2 for the week.
Two More Years: Mariano Rivera is back in the fold, agreeing to a two-year deal worth $30 million. And the New York Yankees have reportedly upped their offer to Derek Jeter. It wasn't all good news for the Bombers, though, as former Yankee Gil McDougald passed away on Monday, at the age of 82. The versatile infielder won the Rookie of the Year award in 1951, and played 10 seasons with the Yanks, winning five World Series and eight pennants. He's probably most known for smashing a line drive that hit Indians pitcher Herb Score in the eye. McDougald was selected to six All-Star Games and appeared in four. Leslie Nielsen also died this week. He wasn't a Yankee, but he was pretty damn funny.
(For in-depth analysis and discussion of the Giants, Knicks, Nets, Yankees, Rangers, Islanders and Devils, go to SB Nation's Big Blue View, Posting and Toasting, NetsDaily, Pinstripe Alley, Blueshirt Banter, Lighthouse Hockey and In Lou We Trust, respectively.)