Sound Tigers Update 2/5/2014
The streaky Bridgeport Sound Tigers continue their season of extreme hot and cold streaks by going 5-1-0 in their last 6. Only 1 of the 5 wins over that span wasn't in regulation when the Sound Tigers needed a shootout to earn the victory on January 24th in Portland over the Pirates. In their most recent game, Anders Nilsson pitched a shutout for Bridgeport as they were able to best the Springfield Falcons 3-0.
Bridgeport has two contests this weekend as they play host to the Albany Devils on Saturday, February 8th at 7pm and the Adirondack Phantoms on Sunday, February 9th at 3pm. As always, if you are in the Connecticut area or have access to the Port Jeff ferry on Long Island and haven't made plans yet for this weekend, I suggest heading to Bridgeport to see a game. It is genuinely good hockey and you can usually get a ticket to a game for cheaper than what a movie ticket is these days.
Some Sound Tiger Notes;
-Much like their NHL affiliate, the Sound Tigers have shown flashes of excellence and others of abhorrent play through out the year. While it was hard for me to get a read on it for a while, I have come to the conclusion that for both it seems to be a lack of identity. We all know the talent and potential is there and we could talk about it until we're blue in the face, but the lack of consistency is tied to the absence of team identity. Without player roles being identified and carried out game to game, the ups and downs will continue.
-Even after spending 15 games in the NHL, Ryan Strome still leads the Sound Tigers in assists (30) and points (40). I get that he needs to get games in during the Olympic break, but this guy needs to get back to the NHL as soon as possible to further his development.
-Anders Nilsson may not have the numbers at the NHL to support his actual ability, but I still believe this guys is fundamentally a better goaltender than Kevin Poulin. They have contrasting styles but he is positionally more sound and shows a lot more poise from what I have seen. He has turned in some big games with Bridgeport and I attribute his less than impressive numbers in the NHL to his minimal experience and little to no help from the defense while with the Islanders.
-While it makes sense that Ryan Strome and Anders Lee would be the primary topics of conversation in regard to the offensive production in Bridgeport, flying under the radar all year has been winger Mike Halmo. Currently, the Kitchener, Ontario native ranks second on the team in goals (16) and third in points (31), through 46 games. In all of last season, Halmo played 46 games in total and finished with 5 goals and 9 assists for 14 points, which is clearly a vast improvement. Some of his increase in scoring output can be attributed to having the likes of Strome and Lee on his line this year but scoring wasn't exactly anemic last season for the Sound Tigers with Brock Nelson and Nino Niederreiter churning out big years. Halmo's value goes beyond just the statistics as he is arguably the most consistent forward on the team at this point in the season. Whenever I see highlights or read game recaps, his name always seems to pop up. If the Islanders continue on their current path, there is no reason to think he can't be a late season call up and be given an opportunity to crack the Islanders roster in next year's training camp.
-Due to their abilities at both ends of the ice, and the place in which they were drafted, Griffin Reinhart and Ryan Pulock are the future of the Islanders blueline and with good reason. However, youngster Scott Mayfield is making a case for himself in his first full year in Bridgeport. Mayfield won't be the type of player to find the score sheet very often and that was known when the Islanders drafted him out of the University of Denver, but the St. Louis, Missouri product is showing that he might be developing into the sound, defensive minded player that they so desperately need. Mayfield is a presence whenever he is on the ice with his ability to throw the big hit, work in the corners and make life for opposing forwards in front of the net a nightmare. His plus-6 rating on a team that is in 12th place in their conference and 8 points removed from the last playoff spot speaks volumes to what he means to the team. Reinhart and Pulock will have more flash to their game, but don't underestimate the value Mayfield could bring to the Islanders in the near future.
A Quick Thought On Thomas Vanek;
Hearing that Vanek declined a contract from the Isles in the area of 7 years and $50 million stings. But we knew when the trade happened that being able to retain him was a 50/50 shot at best. He is going into what will be his one chance at testing the UFA market and having the final say as to where not only himself, but his family ends up. The focus now should be on trading him and getting a return that will help this team not only now but in the future as well. Vanek also never ruled out signing here altogether. He just wants to test the market. So keep a rational mind and support this man who has been nothing but class since the day he arrived.
Stay as positive as you can Isles & Sound Tigers fans.