Say what you will about the New York Islanders these days, they just don’t really seem to buy into common opinion.
Just about every major sports news outlet has pegged the Islanders for dead last in the league, just as they have year after year – they just always seem to thrive on that negativity though. Be it new faces in the room, or simply a bond of young raw talent looking to change the perception of the team, they have not rolled over in the face of adversity. Although, it just got a bit tougher with the two game suspension of James Wisniewski. (An aside, check out my humorous look at the “gesture” over on Lighthouse Hockey from yesterday).
The Islanders were in for a struggle even before the season began, having lost Mark Streit for six months with a serious shoulder injury. Just days later the team would learn that Kyle Okposo would also require shoulder surgery and miss three months. The Islanders played out their preseason schedule without those two key players, only to lose another – Rob Schremp (back injury, out 2-4 weeks).
If you thought all bad things come in threes, you’re mistaken as John Tavares was felled to a concussion in the Islanders home opener. He has been cleared to practice but may miss a handful of games before he returns.
Looking at the Islanders standings you wouldn’t ever have guessed that the team has been playing without it’s top talent. Players like Josh Bailey, Blake Comeau, Nino Niederreiter, PA Parenteau, Michael Grabner and even the veteran Captain Doug Weight have all stepped in with offensive production and gotten the Islanders off to a 1-0-1 start (3 pts).
The Islanders power play has clicked, as has their offense in general having scored ten goals over two games.
Something extremely refreshing to see is how some new faces on this team have made it a point to give this young Islanders club a new identity. A great example of this is the recent goal song change. Islanders forward Zenon Konopka lead this charge and a petition to Islanders brass was formed by the players requesting the change.
The Islanders face a formidable opponent tonight in the Washington Capitals. Having to face the team without Wisniewski is going to be tough, but not impossible. Waiting in the wings are two capable defensemen who find themselves on the outside looking in – Jack Hillen and Bruno Gervais. The Islanders have announced however that Hillen will be playing for Wisniewski tonight. Rick DiPietro has the night off and Dwayne Roloson gets his first start of the season.
Keys to an Islanders win
Play smart defensively. That means letting Roloson see shots and avoid taking unnecessary penalties.
Clear out those pesky rebounds.
Keep the power play working and moving the puck. They will be at a disadvantage without Wisniewski, but can still attack down low.
Use the forecheck, and Sim, Konopka, and Gillies to their potential, as they have been. It’s what will lead to odd man opportunities.
Oh! One last thing – keep Ovechkin and Semin at bay!
It should be a great game tonight as always.