Perhaps the title “What about Jimmy” is a better title to this article. I have not been heard from or written since the bitter end of the Notre Dame Football season. The winter at Notre Dame was a mix of ups and downs. Great season from the Women’s basketball team, difficult road for the Men, and a hockey team that seems to shine brightest when the lights are on. More on that later.
Where was Jimmy?
While I was away, I had time to publish a short book. I also took a deep dive into the NHL season through my favorite team the Philadelphia Flyers. People that know me well, know that when it comes to sports it is Notre Dame and the Flyers. That being said despite being a true Flyers fan, I do root for every Notre Dame player regardless of the team they are on. Yes, even Bryan Rust despite him playing for the Penguins. For the record, my favorite Flyer from my youth? Dave Poulin former Notre Dame Head Coach.
A Re-Birth on Long Island?
Saturday I had the opportunity to watch the Flyers, and get an up-close look at former Notre Dame star Anders Lee. Lee is helping author one of the feel good stories in the NHL this season. Since their glory days of the 1980s, the New York Islanders have struggled. In fact they have made just 10 playoff appearances since 1990, in a league where over half of the teams make the playoffs.
With two consecutive non-playoff seasons and the departure of John Tavares (their best player) this season should have been no different. As the season enters its final two weeks, the Islanders are approaching 100 points and sit just a point behind defending Stanley Cup Champion the Washington Capitals.
New coach Barry Trotz is a coach of the year finalist, but 1st year team captain Lee also deserves credit. This is the fourth season that Lee has topped the 20 goal mark and last year produced a 40 goal season. However, this season he is a +17 a gigantic improvement from the pervious season when he finished as a -25. For those that don’t understand hockey, you get a plus whenever your team scores an even strength or shorthanded goal and you are on the ice. The player receives a minus when the opponent scores an even strength or shorthanded goal and they are on the ice.
Anders Lee-ding the Way!
Coach Trotz plays a more defensive style which takes commitment from everyone. In his system, scorers may sacrifice stats to commit to this style. Lee’s improvement is a clear indicator that he has. Perhaps more importantly as captain his influence has likely spread to the rest of the team. The Islanders are a relentless and swarming unit that frustrated the Flyers thoughout the 60 minutes on their way to a 4-2 win. The Islanders win likely ended the Flyers slim hopes of making the post-season.
My favorite part of the day was seeing the pre-game skate up close. The Islanders coming off a couple of losses appeared dialed-in during the pre-game skate. All business and laser focus. My daughter and I, decked out in Notre Dame hockey gear got a friendly “wink” from Anders. Perhaps his “wink” was a nod to the Big 10 title game to be played later. Anders was solid throughout the day, drawing an early penalty, giving 3 hits, and finishing a +1.
I closed my evening listening to Darin Pritchett call the Big 10 Championship game on my phone. He was awesome! It took me back to my days as a kid listening to sports on AM radio. On Saturday night a happy “big kid” went to bed ecstatic that the Irish are back in the NCAA tournament. Today I’m ecstatic to be back to work for Shakedown the Thunder Sports!