Let’s just get right to the point today. While there has not been much going on in the NHL due to CBA discussions, and the looming lockout that comes with them, the NHL decided to move ahead and release the upcoming NHL National TV Schedule anyways.
Every season, I’m always curious to see who the Islanders will be facing on NBC or NBCSN, and every year it’s usually the same deal: The Islanders get one game on NBCSN (formerly known as Versus), and nothing else besides the voices of Butch Goring and Howie Rose. Usually, this one game is against another team that “matters” such as the Penguins, who the Islanders were forced to appear on National Television against due to Sidney Crosby’s “dramatic” return. This game was a disaster.
Well, the Islanders got the same deal as they do every season, except the game itself might not be as appealing to the masses. The Islanders will face-off against the Florida Panthers on NBCSN. The date is October 22nd, and although it’s sort of a weird game to televise nationally, this one might be more important to Islanders fans than anyone else would think.
There must be something to that beginning-of-the-season Florida road-trip. The past two Islanders seasons can be summed up by the results of what happens when the Islanders head south in October. I mention only the past two seasons because, in each of those years, post-trip play was a debacle.
Let’s go back to the 2010-11 season, where the Islanders were coached under Scott Gordon, and expected to have a big season. Of course, the Islanders lost Mark Streit and Kyle Okposo to shoulder injuries right before the season started, but the team still came out of the gates with a respectable start. The Islanders started the season 3-1-2 before their first trip to Florida. They even pulled out a win in confusing overtime fashion against the Tampa Bay Lightning, which pushed them to an NHL-best 4-1-2 record. Things looked pretty good for the Islanders. Then they played in Miami.
On October 23, 2010, the Islanders fell to the Panthers 4-3 despite John Tavares’ first NHL hat trick, and then it all happened. The losses began piling up. First, they lost to 5-3 to Montreal, and then again 3-1. This was followed by two blow-out losses to Philadelphia and Carolina, where the Islanders were outscored 13-3.
Before you knew it, it was Thanksgiving, Scott Gordon had been fired, and the Islanders still hadn’t won a game since Tampa. The Isles had played 14 games, and went 0-11-3, until they broke the streak and shutout the New Jersey Devils on the annual matinee-after-Thanksgiving game. It didn’t stop there, though.
Another six straight losses pushed the Islanders to 1-17-3 in their previous 21 games, which is basically one quarter of the season. It figures that, for the remainder of the season, the Islanders would play their last 50 games the best I have ever seen them play for a 50-game stretch, but it was too little, too late. The season was lost, and the Islanders, who looked so promising for half the season, were too damaged from their post-Florida play.
Fast forward one season, and the Islanders were again expecting a playoff berth. Mark Streit and Kyle Okposo were healthy to start the year, Nino Niederreiter would be on the ice, and the Islanders had goaltending all figured out with Al Montoya and Evgeni Nabokov between the pipes.
The Islanders started off the season 3-1-0, with their only loss coming to the Florida Panthers during an abysmal 2-0 home opener. The Isles followed the loss with three promising wins at home, and then it was off to, you know, Florida. This time, the Islanders fell to the Tampa Bay Lightning 4-1. Al Montoya wasn’t too sharp, nor was the rest of the team.
On October 22nd, the theme would carry-over as they headed further south to face-off against the Panthers. Nabby looked good during his second start in an Islanders jersey, but that was it. The Islanders mustered 10 shots in the first two periods against Jose Theodore, who was injured, and had to be replaced by Jacob Markstrom, who stopped all 18 shots he faced in the third. Anyone have any idea where this is heading?
The Islanders went 2-8-4 over their next 14 games.
This season, the Islanders will be back in Miami to face the Panthers exactly one year since their first game in Miami last season. Sure, the game might not be the best game to nationally televise, but it’s crucial for the Long Island fan-base. The Islanders need to get over the hump. They need to make a stand in Florida. They cannot leave their hope on the sands of Miami Beach.
It’s the beginning of the season (only the 4th game), but that’s where the Islanders have faltered in each of the past two years. The beginning of the season has been a setback for an otherwise respectable team. It’s important the Islanders don’t continue to fall into the same negative trends. The New York Islanders have to be seen as a competitive team after Thanksgiving. In order to do that, the Islanders must clear their first obstacle, which will be televised for all of the hockey fans around the country: The Florida Panthers.
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About the Author: Writes at Islanders Op-Timism. Islanders Season Ticket Holder who tends to see the light at the end of the tunnel. Hofstra Graduate currently working at Portnoy, Messinger, Pearl & Associates. I definitely want to end up working within the world of hockey. Blog: www.IslandersOptimism.com E-Mail: ChristopherTriantafilis@gmail.com Twitter: @ChrisTriants