It certainly was not the way Islander fans nor the New York Islanders would have wanted to open the new season. Frankly, I was quite disappointed and, to some degree, disgusted. After they played a pretty solid game for their home opener at the Barclays Center on Friday, they played a spectacularly bad game in Chicago last night to complete the home and home with the Black Hawks. The home opener loss was 3-2 in overtime, but last night, it was a 4-1 beating that realistically should have been worse.
On Friday, the Islanders competed well and stayed in stride with the Stanley Cup champions. After going down 1-0 in the first period, the captain, John Tavares scored the first ever goal in the regular season at the Barclays Center for the New York Islanders. Then, trailing 2-1 in the third period, newcomer, Marek Zidlicky tied the game. With a little puck luck, the Isles could have won the game in the 3rd period, Kyle Okposo hitting a post near the final minute of the contest. However, on the penalty kill, the Islanders lost the game when Patrick Kane netted the game winner to give the visitors the 2 points.
Last night ….. well … the Islanders just didn’t look good. Unfortunately, goaltender, Jean-Francois Berube came to play and made several good saves out of the 30 saves he made during the game, but the rest of the 18 skaters didn’t seem to show up. This included a terrible give away by Islander fans favorite whipping boy, Brian Strait. Cal Clutterbuck, shorthanded, scored the only goal for the Isles, but it was really too late at that point.
So, the bad news is the Islanders only got 1 out of a potential 4 points. The good news is there is still 80 games to go in the season. It is not the start we wanted for the boys, but they certainly have plenty of time to rebound. And, the important thing is that they do turn it around fast. The Metro division is going to be a tough one, and losing points at any time of the season could be costly later on. Nevertheless, there is plenty of hockey left to play, and the time to be overly concerned is not now.I did catch all of the home opener and most of the game in Chicago. With that said, I have some “blind observations” to offer in my usually opinionated manner:
• It really doesn’t need to be said that 3 goals in 2 games isn’t going to cut it. There have been times in which the four lines have showed some life, but particularly last night, even having 28 shots on net, I don’t think Scott Darling was challenged all that many times.
• The fourth line is hitting and showing some of the energy we became accustom to last season. At least, to me, they did seem like they were skating and working hard. Unfortunately, it didn’t translate into any offense, as Clutterbuck’s goal was while on the PK.
• John Tavares certainly has come to play. I think he took two uncharacteristic penalties last night, but I also think such acts were out of his level of competitiveness and frustration.
• The penalty kill only gave up one goal, but that was on a 5 on 3 situation. The Islanders took some particularly bad penalties in the 3rd period of last night’s game, in fact. However, the power play hasn’t yet looked all that good to me. It seems the need to pass and not shoot still seems to be showing its ugly head.
• Goaltending was not the problem. Both Thomas Greiss and Jean-Francois Berube played well enough to win their respective games. Of course, getting Jaro back in net will be a big boost, but neither game over the weekend could be attributed to a weakness in the net minding in regard to the outcomes. Berube, as previously mentioned, was hung out to dry in some shape or form on all 4 goals surrendered by the Islanders.
• It’s time to have Ryan Pulock play. I do not mean at all to add to the Brian Strait bashing, but he has not looked good. The defense was the problem or, more precisely, the defensive play was suspect in both games.
• Grabovski, Kulemin and Nelson, to me, especially in the home opener, played well. Grabo centering the line, I think, will help in the face-off department, and Brock Nelson continues to show that he can play any position up front. That is a line that I think needs to stay together and continue to develop chemistry.
Beyond that, I don’t have much else to offer. I simply am shaking off the dust from this weekend and moving on. Hopefully, so will the Islanders and Monday will be a different game and different team that comes out to face the Winnipeg Jets. The Isles need to grab those two points, and will come out looking like the team that earned 101 points in the regular season last year.