Hockey is back and Nassau Coliseum! I know, I know – it’s been back in one form or another since July, but I promise – it’s back in full swing as the Islanders opened up their 2010-2011 season against the Dallas Stars tonight, a 5-4 shootout loss in which the Islanders dominated in shots 47-22.
Let’s talk about some key points.
What about them new boys?
The Islanders are full of new and fresh faces, and you can tell. Gone were the players whom you would moan and groan about because of bone headed plays, instead there was a calming and veteran presence on the ice. But it wasn’t because of an influx of veteran talent though. Bailey looks like he is twice as strong as last season, he skated and hit with reckless abandon. He mixed it up offensively and even finished the night with two assists. Trent Hunter looked like the Trent of old, hitting every single player on his shift – including nearly depositing one of the Stars back onto his bench. He would finish the night 3 registered hits, but there were times he was hitting three of four per shift.
James Wisniewski, there isn’t enough you can say about that player. If you rewind the clock back to August and read my one on one interview, you’ll see a player brimming with confidence even back then. Move the clock back to present and you’ll see someone who stepped up in Mark Streit’s absence big time. Power play, short handed – it didn’t matter the situation. He hits, he scores, he passes – did I mention hits? At one point in the third period Wisniewski absolutely tattooed Jamie Benn in front of the Islanders bench. He needed to be assisted off the ice and you could tell that he had no clue where he was. The Wiz Kid would finish the night with 1 goal and 1 assist, 4 hits, and 24:10 TOI. I really liked what I saw tonight out of him and hope it continues.
Mike Mottau, Mark Eaton and Milan Jurcina make our defense leaps and bounds from where they were last year. Those three players alone accounted for a bunch of hits and general mayhem wherever they were. Speaking of mayhem, the Gillies-Konopka-Sim line is scary, and effective. Scott Gordon threw that line out there and they got under the Stars skin. Konopka was Ott’s shadow tonight, although he couldn’t get him to dance at all.
Nino Niederreiter did not look out of place at all, in fact – he really does look like an NHL player. He hit, he skated, he dangled and most importantly – he shot the puck. He was a little timid in the early going, but once he got his legs going he was hard to stop. Nino finished with 11:27 of ice time, registered two shots and accounted for 4 hits. He may find himself with his first NHL goal relatively quickly.
PA Parenteau may not have been in the spotlight, but he didn’t need to be. He showed he has the hands and the skill to bring stuff to our Islanders. He did struggle a bit in the neutral zone with turnovers, one lead directly to a Stars tally, but that’s fine. Parenteau finished with 4 hits, 17:05 minutes of ice time and an assist. For a regular season debut in a his first full time role, he did fine and will improve.
They Were High
Don’t take that statement the wrong way.
The first three Islanders goals, including both power play tallies came from up top near the blueline. The Islanders have not had that much success from up top in I cant even remember. That’s a big reason why they were able to storm back from a two goal and one goal deficit tonight. Then, you have to factor in a great power play and extremely effective forecheck.
The Dougie of Old
Who was that guy skating around with the number 93 tonight? Could it, could it be? Yes, it was Doug Weight. Who knew a little snip and tuck of the shoulder would rewind a players career ten years – but that’s how it looks. The Captain had three points tonight, a goal and two assists. Consider Weight played injured in his time last season and did not score for quite a stretch a clear cut improvement. Scott Gordon talked about Gordon like he never has, but his main reasoning was because he hasn’t seen Weight play so good, skate so fast and make the moves he did since he hoisted the Stanley Cup in Carolina. Yea, Doug Weight is back and he looks good.
Rick DiPietro started tonight, that in and of itself should be a lead story. What’s more is that he played well for two thirds of the game. DiPietro faced 22 shots making 18 saves. He shook off the rust after a few bad goals in the first period, something Wisniewski said that weren’t DP’s fault as he was “hung out to dry there”. With time, the well oiled althletic machine in DP we have all come to know and love will be back and that’s huge. Scott Gordon said he hasn’t decided who is starting against the Rangers on Monday, but that DiPietro would not skate tomorrow. DiPietro claimed he felt great and it was fantastic to be back.
Oh yea, that costly loss
Early in the first period, John Tavares was circling back into the defensive zone when he was hit by Stars winger Adam Burish. Tavares lay in a pile near the blueline motionless and would eventually be helped off the ice by head trainer Garret Timms. We would later find out that Tavares suffered a mild concussion and would be re-evaluated on Monday.
Should JT be sidelined any significant amount of time, it would be yet another crushing blow for the Islanders, already having lost Streit and Okposo to longterm injury and Rob Schremp for a few weeks. Not good.
So to recap my recap, the Islanders lost to the Dallas Stars 5-4 in a shootout. While there was some bad, the team clearly is on the right track and will work out some of the kinks in the days that lie ahead. The Islanders came out with a point today, it’s a starting point and provides them a good place to build their success off of. It’s going to be an exciting year and I cannot wait to watch the rest unfold!