Isles' Grabner steals rookie show at Garden

Isles' Grabner steals rookie show at Garden
April 7, 2011, 3:09 am
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By DannyPicard
CSNNE.com

BOSTON -- It was the tale of two rookies. Both first-round picks. Both at the TD Garden on Wednesday night.

But only one was playing.

Unlike Bruins rookie forward Tyler Seguin, New York Islanders rookie winger Michael Grabner wasn't drafted last summer. He was taken 14th overall by the Vancouver Canucks in 2006. Seguin was taken second overall in 2010.

But having only played 20 games last season for the Canucks, Grabner is still categorized as a rookie this season with the Islanders.

On Wednesday night at the TD Garden, while the healthy-scratched Seguin sat high above the ice on the ninth floor, New York's rookie scored his team's only two goals, giving him 33 on the season in 74 games.

Grabner leads all rookies in goals, and is a clear-cut candidate for the Calder Memorial Trophy.

In fairness to Seguin, Grabner -- while a previous first-round pick -- is four years older. And since being drafted in 2006, Grabner had played three full seasons in the AHL prior to what's now being called his "rookie" year.

Still, Grabner hasn't disappointed the Islanders since being picked off waivers in October. The Florida Panthers placed him on those waivers with the purpose of sending him to their minor-league team.

Grabner went to New York with something to prove, after Vancouver traded him to the Panthers' organization at the 2010 NHL draft, the same draft in which the Bruins selected Seguin No. 2 overall.

Neither player's rookie campaign can be compared to the other. That was evident on Wednesday night as Grabner tied the game at 1-1 in the opening minutes of the second period with a one-timer from the right circle on a power play. He followed it up later in the period by cutting the Bruins' lead to 3-2, after he flat out beat Tomas Kaberle to a race to the puck at center ice, while the Islanders were on the penalty kill.

Grabner took the puck and skated in all alone, only to beat Tim Thomas with a deke and a quick flip into the top-right corner of the net.

"What can you say? It's almost like, when you chip a puck out into the neutral zone, he's got a chance to track that puck down, and make something very exciting happen," said Islanders coach Jack Capuano after his team's 3-2 loss to Boston. "And that's what happened tonight. We got a little turnover, and Josh Bailey just chipped it out, and Grabner made a great move on Thomas there.

"He's just been working hard," added Capuano on his speedy winger. "And when you work hard in practice, and you do the right things, it pays off for you."

That's not to say Seguin doesn't work hard in practice, or do the right things when he's on the ice. After all, the 19-year-old has played in 72 games this season, totaling 11 goals and 11 assists.

And perhaps if the Bruins weren't one of the top teams in the Eastern Conference, Seguin would have the luxury of playing more minutes, and seeing consistent time on the top line.

But Boston coach Claude Julien is in a position where, not only does he not have to give Seguin those minutes, but he doesn't even have to dress him, regardless of how hard he might work, and how much more improved he's looked in recent weeks.

The Bruins are playing for a Stanley Cup. The Islanders are, well, playing two more regular-season games and then teeing off.

It still can't be denied that Grabner's individual rookie season has been better than Seguin's. But those factors -- older, more experienced, getting plenty of ice time on a going-nowhere team with no expectations -- will always make one wonder what the results would have been if the shoe were on the other foot.

"It was nice to get a couple goals," said Grabner. "Obviously, it would be nicer to have a win in the bag. I'm just not going to change my game. I think the whole team worked hard tonight.

"Like I said before, I just try to go out there and play my game," added Grabner. "I was drafted to score goals. It has been going good this year. Hopefully I can keep it up the last couple of games."

Danny Picard is on Twitter at http:twitter.comDannyPicard. You can listen to Danny on hisstreaming radio show I'm Just Sayin' Monday-Friday from9-10 a.m. on CSNNE.com.