Opening Night Observations From the Coliseum

It’s great to have hockey back. There were plenty of games to pick and choose from last night, and of course, it was good to be watching hockey at the Coliseum for another Islanders Opening Night.

Nothing beats a sell-out at the Coliseum, and last night was a reminder of that. The Coliseum exploded for the team’s only goal, and it’s a shame we were only able to enjoy the moment for one minute. Last night showed that the passion and energy has not been sucked out of the Island, although many have grown impatient from the lack of success this organization has had over the past two decades.

Unfortunately, the Islanders ended up losing their home opener to the New Jersey Devils by the score of 2-1. The game was very sloppy for both teams, which was expected, but disgusting at times. There were missed passes, sluggish skating, broken plays, and a lackluster fore-check. Regardless, I would still rather talk about a game needing improvement than a lockout.

The opening frame of the Islanders home opener was not exactly a hockey fan’s dream. The Islanders started off hot. An early scoring chance within the first 30 seconds led to a power-play. Fans were amped, but the Islanders were not. The power-play came and went, and the Islanders would not see their first shot on net until the period was halfway through.

Towards the middle of the first period, Michael Grabner had a breakaway, but could not convert. Grabner’s breakaway was the best (and only) quality scoring chance of the first for the Islanders, who provided no offensive pressure in the period. Patrick Elias, of the Devils, also had a breakaway, but either missed the net completely, or Nabby got a small piece of the shot.

The Islanders greeted their fans with another sluggish offensive effort in the second period. The line of Keith Aucoin-David Ullstrom-Colin McDonald created a few scoring opportunities at the beginning of the period, but that was the most we would see in the second frame.

The Devils managed to score a goal on an ill-timed Islanders line-change. While the Devils had possession at their own-blue line, all of the Islanders who were on the ice, got off, and the puck ended up on Ilya Kovalchuck’s stick. A beautiful, but too easy, set-up on a 2-on-1 from Kovalchuck to Zajac put the Devils up 1-0.

The Islanders had mustered 10 shots after two periods.

It looked bleak in the third, as well. The Islanders had a few extra shots, but it was not until their second power-play of the game that they would get on the scoreboard. The team’s second power-play unit was on the ice, fighting for the puck in the corner. Seemingly, the entire Devils penalty-kill was in the corner with them. Travis Hamonic made a move to the slot, so when Michael Grabner found him, Hamonic had all the time in the world to roof it past Brodeur. The shot was a laser, and it tied the game at 1.

The Coliseum was loud, and it felt like the longest goal celebration in a while. It was the first on the Island since April 2012.

Unfortunately, it lasted for one minute and five seconds. David Clarkson would take a low shot from the half boards that found its way past Nabokov, who was screened in front of the net.

The Isles would get one more power-play, but failed to convert on their chance. Travis Hamonic came close to tying the game, but Brodeur made a great glove save on the Islanders’ defenseman. Brodeur also made a scrambling save on John Tavares through traffic. The game would end with a final score of 2-1, as the Islanders could not score on their chances in the waning minutes.

The Islanders finished the game with 19 shots.

A few observations:

-The Islanders won more face-offs (29/49), but not the important ones in the first two periods. It seemed like the Devils won all of the crucial face-offs in the first two periods, and the Islanders were constantly starting without puck possession. It was frustrating.

-John Tavares was the best player for the Islanders. At times, it seemed as if he was trying to do too much.

-The best line for the Islanders was their third-line of Ullstrom-Aucoin-McDonald. They were all skating hard, and provided energy to a team that did not show much of it.

-It wasn’t a very physical game, but new defenseman Joe Finley led the team with 3 hits. At times, it seemed as if he was having trouble clearing the puck, but overall, Finley wasn’t bad. Could have been better, but wasn’t bad.

-Speaking of physicality, the Islanders could have used a fight from Eric Boulton or Matt Carkner, no? You would think the two off-season acquisitions would want to show a spark for their new team in an attempt to win over their new fans. If they benched Cizikas for the likes of Boulton, you would, at least, want to see the gloves dropped.

-Special teams were effective. With or without Visnovsky, the Islanders should have a good power-play this season. The penalty-killers effort was there, including Marty Reasoner’s. Still, I would have liked to see Casey Cizikas in his place.

-I like Keith Aucoin in the mix on the power-play. Didn’t like decision to have him out there in the final minute, but that’s what happens when you play your top-six forwards the entire game.

-Nabokov played well. He didn’t face a lot of scoring chances, but he turned aside 24 out of the 26 shots he faced.

-DiPietro was the only Isles player that got booed the way he did (Reasoner heard light boos). I understand the frustration, but he’s been extremely dedicated to the Islanders organization. Just like on Wednesday’s scrimmage, fans were hostile to DP. There’s nothing we can do, but for a guy who has done nothing but want to be on this team, hopefully we can just mutually part ways. When he does start, he’s going to hear sarcastic chants every time he makes a save. It’s a shame.

-Very rusty play. Brad Boyes was stood up at the blue-line early, and missed an easy pass at his own blue-line with 30 seconds left. He wasn’t the only one, but yea. Sloppy.

-The Islanders forwards were trying to be way too fancy during the first two periods. Instead of taking the shot, they would force unnecessary passes that led to giveaways. The Devils clog the slot, and that’s why the team had 10 shots through two periods.

-Six Islanders forwards played under 10 minutes last night. That should never be the case. The coaches had their top-six out way too often, and they weren’t generating anything. Roll four lines, or at least give the third line a bit more time. Tavares shouldn’t be playing 25 minutes per game. Okposo shouldn’t be playing 24 minutes.

-Every time the Islanders would dump the puck, I felt there was no pressure to accompany it. The term “dump and chase” was non-existent. Quite often, the Islanders would dump the puck, and the puck would come right back out. No fore-check made it very easy on New Jersey.

-Jersey fans, out of nowhere. Surrounded by them last night, and some of them are nasty. We score a goal, and they toss their garbage at us. Good on them. New York >.

So, after one game, it’s not time to panic. The Devils are the defending Eastern Conference Champs, and they played solid defensive hockey. They frustrated the Islanders and their fans by playing the Devils’ boring brand of hockey.

There are 47 games to go. It’s hard to make judgments after one sloppy hockey game. No need to panic at the moment.

Let’s go Islanders! Game 2 is on Monday against Tampa.

Follow @Christriants

Thanks for reading. What are your thoughts on opening night?

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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

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  1. RobJ74 says:

    Why didnt you mention the fact that this isnt the lineup Isles fans have been looking forward to? Half the team were no names and they didnt know each other. Looks like Garth is tanking the season with the guys they announced on opening night.

    • ChrisTriants says:

      In my honest opinion, this is the line-up everyone was looking forward to. It may not be the line-up everyone wanted, but when they released the roster, it should not have been the surprise that half of Long Island made it out to be.

      CC should have been in over Reasoner or Boulton (especially since there were no fights), but besides that, what did you expect?

      Maybe Nino could be up right now, and maybe Strome, but this season looks like a bridge for 2013-14. Those guys will be playing here in October.

      Maybe it was a bit of a surprise to see Keith Aucoin, Joe Finley, and Brian Strait, but the funny thing is, Keith Aucoin was one of the better players, and Brian Strait played well on defense. The “no names” weren’t terrible. The Devils shut them down, and the Islanders top-six generated nothing. Let’s see what happens at 1PM, and then we can get a better look at these guys.

      Thank you for the comment.

  2. radda says:

    I think the team played pretty well besides some rust. What do u think the chances are they make the playoffs?

    • ChrisTriants says:

      I think they can make the playoffs. I think a lot of things have to go right, but it’s not out of the realm of possibility. If the offense plays better than they did last season, and the defense can be average, this team should be playing hockey in May.

      Now, I’m an optimist with this team. It goes against the opinions of the majority, but I truly think they have a good group of guys on the Island. Anything can happen with the shortened season, so if the Islanders can get hot, they can get in. 1-1-0-0 so far. We’ll have a clearer picture of this team, which has been partly assembled this week, after their 5-game road trip.