The Islanders have completed their first two games of the season, suffering from a 2-0 loss to the Florida Panthers on Saturday and hanging on for a 2-1 win this afternoon against the Minnesota Wild.
While it’s entirely too early to accurately gauge what to expect in the remaining 80 games this season – I’ve seen, and heard a few things that are worth noting at this point.
Saturday’s game was disappointing, not only from the standpoint of it being a let-down for the fans that packed out Nassau Coliseum, but because the team looked flat and often misplayed the puck. The bar was raised really high by the organization (well, the players themselves really) – so it stung seeing the team struggle before a building filled to near capacity in their season opener.
The ice at the Coliseum looks horrible, like the players were skating in soup. At one point at the start of the second period on Saturday, the on ice officials spent about five minutes with squeegees getting the pools of water moved from the ice surface. You can only really blame the County for this one – as they are responsible for any repairs. I hope to have more on this in the coming days.
The Islanders came out relatively flat, often misplaying the puck or not making smart decisions with and without the puck. Andrew MacDonald showed plenty of rust, committed several turnovers – even though he wasn’t officially charged with any in the post game stats. Mark Streit played a decent game for someone who hadn’t seen professional action in over a year. Mike Mottau took three penalties – three too many.
The forwards were often unable to get things going, chipping the puck past Florida’s defense and just being stopped cold. Al Montoya kept them in the game though making 27 saves for the Isles. They need to do more offensively, which I’m sure they will once all cylinders are firing.
I don’t want to hammer the team with negatives, so let’s jump right to the positives.
Travis Hamonic threw down the gloves and jumped to the support of his teammate Al Montoya by fighting Scotty Upshall. When I asked him during the post game interviews if there was any words exchanged, or if it was just something he had to do to support his goaltender – I got one of the greatest answers one could expect from the budding defenseman.
Every time you fight, I say you fight for a couple of reasons. One is to defend a teammate, two is to change the momentum of the game and three is to defend yourself. I think that in that instance, it hit the nail on the head for all three of them. I was trying to defend Al, and you know next thing I know I turn around and he [Upshall] was in my face. That’s the part of the game that I welcome, I think it happens with the style of play that I play and at that point it was 1-0 for the other team and I felt it it was a good opportunity to change the momentum of the game, so that’s why I did what I did.
Every game the young Travis Hamonic plays – I become more and more impressed. He hits, he makes sound passes, he’s very physical and he plays big important minutes for his team. When he’s paired with Andrew MacDonald – the two of them compliment each other very well.
Fast forward to this afternoon’s game against Minnesota – the Islanders came out a very different team in the first twenty minutes. They skated, they passed and they moved the puck past the defense in a way they couldn’t manage against Florida the game before.
Andrew MacDonald played a much better game, and made up for the mistakes he committed in his first game back. At the start of the game I never would’ve pegged him to score the first goal of the 2011/2012 season – but score he did and it was a beauty. Take a look for yourself:
The Islanders second goal was even better. Mark Streit fakes a shot from the point and moves down the boards. Frans Nielsen is moving towards the Wild net and Streit executes a perfect shot pass – Nielsen redirected it perfectly to give the Islanders a two goal lead. This goal, you just HAVE to watch:
The rest of today’s game wasn’t as good – even though the Islanders managed to hang on and win 2-1. They looked fatigued as the game wore on, at one point not getting a shot for almost ten minutes and being held in their own zone for long stretches. Despite the negatives, the fact that the team held on is a testament to how far they’ve come since last season. Perhaps you can credit the veteran infusion, but you certainly have to credit Al Montoya for his stellar performance once again.
At the end of the day, the Islanders won, we heard the new Goal Song, the team moved to .500 on the season and improved their record to 1-1. It’s certainly a start.