We all know how well the Islanders played and protected leads last season, but it’s with growing confidence I can say that may be a thing of the past.
The ice at the Barclays Center looked the same as it has the last few games – slow, soft and slushy. I understand that the arena personnel there are new to this ice maintainence routine and that the arena is like MSG with a lot of events, but this is a situation that bears watching long term.
There were a few positive takeaways from the game however – the Islanders were fairly physical against their opponent, out hitting them 43-33. At times the Isles did what made them so successful last season, were strong on the forecheck and puck retrieval. Three of their four goals came off plays where they forechecked hard, either causing a turnover or kept the play in the zone and were able to score off rebounds or plays down low.
Surprisingly, both teams were even in draws, but watching I felt that the Islanders were the weaker of two teams.
The Islanders had scoring from all kinds of players – their first line combined for 5 points (Lee with Goal, Assist – Tavares Goal, Assist and Strome Assist) the second line, also with 5 points (Okposo Goal, Grabovski 2 Assists, Kulemin Goal, Nelson Assist). All told the Islanders had 8 different players on the scoresheet, not too bad offensively. When you have two lines going, it’s going to be harder to stop you.
Some negatives, the Isles seemed to scramble in their own zone at times. Zidlicky tried to clear the puck from the crease and hit the post, scoring on his own net. There was also a few occasions where they could not clear the crease in front of Greiss, which was evident on the third goal. The Islanders felt there was contact by a Predator player in the crease and used a coaches challenge for the first time this season, but were unsuccessful in their case. While this burned their timeout, the team got an extended rest during the review process – so it was a smart gamble by Capuano. It’s something we could see more of in those situations throughout the season for sure. Lastly, Brian Strait – paired with Zidlicky. That’s all I need to say there.
Ultimately, this was a confidence builder for the Islanders – a strong team came to town and the Islanders played them well enough to win even though it wasn’t their best performance. The season is still young, but it’s games like this that will matter come April. They face a similar opponent in the San Jose Sharks tomorrow night, they need to play a stronger, more physical game – if they want to come away with two more points.
Reports out of practice this morning, by both Artur Staple and the New York Islanders have goaltender Jaroslav Halak and defenseman Thomas Hickey practicing with the full squad.
Hickey, who’s been nursing a finger fracture and Halak a mysterious upper body type injury – have missed the first three games for the Islanders, including the Barclays Home Opener.
While the Isles have made due without both of these players, having your number one net minder and a key pivot on the back end close to returning can only help. That’s not to say Greiss hasn’t played well in his two starts, posting a respectable .915 save percentage and a 2.46 goals against average.
The Islanders certainly bounced back after their second game against the Blackhwaks with a strong, spirited matinee win over the Winnipeg Jets on Monday.
I’ve only gotten to see highlights of the last two games, but it looks like the team is on the right path, I’ll reevaluate after Thursday’s matchup with the 3-0 Predators when they come to town.
When you’ve been a fan of a team for what amounts to a lifetime of ups and downs, there’s always a lot of optimism following a strong season. One playoff win away from advancing in the playoffs, a strong and emotional send off to your old arena, and of course – the continued development of your youth, and core. In years past, opening night – especially the Home Opener meant great and exciting things for me. I’d drive down Hempstead Turnpike, fighting traffic lights and rush-hour to sit in my season long seats in Section 309, or make my way up to the press box to cover the game. But that’s all behind me these days, as much as it’s still an exciting time.
As I sit and reminisce about those days, I pass the old barn, it’s colorful exterior advertisements removed and the emptiness of the building and parking lot ring out like the new and failed goal horn of the Barclays Center. The what ifs, the government failures and flat out lies – the disappointment that the team is now a Brooklyn resident instead of a Nassau one. But I digress, they’re still in New York.
This blog has been dark for a long time, my life has changed quite a bit since I started it almost 10 years ago. I moved to Eastern Suffolk, got married and started a family. There’s been a lot I could’ve written about here and have been called out by some in the mainstream media to start writing again (I’m looking at you Katie and Peter…) – so here I am.
I’ll eventually post up my experience of the final regular season home game in April and the awesomeness that was the series against the Washington Capitals. In a way maybe I wasn’t ready to let go of the old feelings just yet, but it’s time to move on.
Tonight marks the beginning of a new era, Traditions New Home as the Yomark folks say. I’m excited to see how much the team has grown from their game seven loss last season.
Tonight will be different though, as I won’t be in the press box at the Barclays, I won’t be in my seats at the game and I won’t be riding the LIRR to the game (but you never know if I manage to write with any regularity…). Instead I’ll be in front of my brand new TV, taking part in the discussion on Twitter (@islesblogger) and taking notes as I always have for my eventual return to writing.
The venue may have changed, but Islanders hockey is back – as much as it may still be different, this time.