Happy hockey everyone. It’s game day.
It’s pretty fitting that the Islanders first opponent is the New Jersey Devils; the first team they were slated to face at The Barc in the pre-season of the ‘normal’ schedule, that is until everything went . . . friggin’ nutbars.
Looking back: The Islanders took only two of the six match-ups against their division rival last season. One win on the road, one win at home(Nilsson’s shutout when the season was pretty much over).
Significant changes: Unless you live under a rock, you are well aware that the Devils lost their ‘Captain Eveything’ Zach Parise when he signed a bajillion dollar deal with the Minnesota Wild for like, a thousand years. Good for the Isles, and the rest of the division for that matter. The Islanders were unable to keep PA Parenteau around and will subsequently be pressed to replace his scoring and fill in the depth at forward. Neither team really added much to their respective rosters to fill the holes. The Isles, it appears, are banking on next year. However, It will be interesting to see if Brad Boyes can supplement the production void created when PA left town.
If the Islanders are going to win they will need to . . .
1) Capitalize on a potentially rusty Martin Brodeur. Let’s face it, Brodeur, as he begins his 18th season, is a little long in the tooth. On top of that he hadn’t ‘stayed warm’ by playing competitively overseas.
2) Exploit the Devils lack of depth at forward. No Parise. No Henrique (injury). They will be relying heavily upon their first line for scoring (sound familiar?). With that being said, if Cappy can get the proper match-ups and shut down Ilya and company, the Isles will have a pretty good chance of minimizing any scoring punch the Devils may have.
3) Control the chaos and play loose. With a shortened camp, it will take some time for teams to settle down, establish an identity, and find the chemistry. With the core of the Islanders rebuild a year further along in their development, it (the chemistry that is) may come back quickly, or it may not. Being at home for two games to open the season should help the team in this area. A healthy Mark Streit on the ice and in the locker room should help too. Also to the Isles benefit is the fact that Kovalchuck had only a couple days with his Jersey teammates to get ready. Also, even though he is physically here, mentally he may still be in Russia.
Final thoughts: Despite the Devils perceived down tick in on ice cache, I expect them to battle and prove they were worthy Stanley Cup Final material. Same goes for the Islanders; John Tavares absolutely hates to lose and will certainly have some of those, “get on my back, I will carry the team” moments. Tonight will be one of them; expect something big from JT.
See you at the Coliseum.
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