Sitting Atop the Conference

Not since the 2001-2002 season, have the Islanders started a season like this. Gaining points in 6 of the team’s first 7 games has the Islanders in first place in the Eastern Conference and the surprising part is, they’re doing it without their top defenseman and top all around forward.

Last night the Islanders played without number one defenseman Mark Streit, forwards Kyle Okposo, Rob Schremp and Josh Bailey and then lost stalwart Andrew MacDonald midway through the second period with a hand injury. With all of that, the team was still able to finish off the Tampa Bay Lightning and earn back to back wins on the road. The reason?…it’s simple, the defense. The defense, though unspectacular, has been rock solid in front of hot goalie tandem Rick DiPietro and Dwayne Roloson. They have allotted the offense to relax and do their thing, and they have responded with much better 3rd periods, which in turn has resulted in wins, and not last minute collapses, which is what we saw last year. New comers Mike Mottau, James Wisniewski and Milan Jurcina have been a huge upgrade and coupled with the return of Radek Martinek, have given the Islanders some experience and grit on the backline.

Now, offensively, the Islanders have some kids who can put the puck in the net. You have to be impressed with young forwards Michael Grabner and Nino Niederreiter, as are both responsible enough to be on the ice late in a close game, and have the potential to put the puck in the net. Having Weight center them is a fantastic idea, and has paid off as both have scored off Weight passes in the past week. John Tavares looks like he’s added a slap shot to his arsenal of weapons as he scored the game winner in Toronto off a wicked one timer and blasted a few shots on Dan Ellis last night. The more I watch Tavares, the more I think he’s going to have a very good season. He’s just more relentless on the puck, doesn’t seem to be falling down as much as last year, and as we all know, his offensive skills are outstanding.

All in all, this team has surprised some, and with DiPietro healthy, the December return of Kyle Okposo and an All Star Break return for Mark Streit could be all this team needs to find itself back in the playoff hunt come March 1st.

Isles Notes

I didn’t like how MacDonald went off the ice and I’m afraid he broke his hand or wrist. MacDonald is extremely solid and would be a huge loss if he misses significant time. Hopefully we’ll hear something soon.

Anyone notice Wisniewski has 6 points in 5 games and they are all on the Power Play?

I love Blake Comeau, but that boy needs to hit more. If he throws his body around the way he did Opening Night, he’d be a force in this league. He had 6 hits in his first 2 games (against Dallas and the Rangers), and has had 3 hits since.

Have I mentioned how much I LOVE the new white uniforms???

Rick Rypien = Bad decision (6 games per TSN’s Bob McKenzie)

Random movie note….Jackass 3D, hysterical…only wanted to puke like 3 times (and yes that’s a good thing).

Can anyone imagine how good defensively this team will be once Mark Streit comes back?

Michael Grabner is like a cheetah on skates….takes huge strides.

Vinny Lecavalier is not the same player he was 2 years ago.

Random TV note….Detroit 187 may be the best police show since NYPD Blue.

Isles back on the ice Sat in Fort Lauderdale….enjoy the weekend!

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Filed Under: Eastern ConferenceNew York IslandersNHLNHL Teams

About the Author: The New York Islanders have been a huge part of my life since I was 7 years old, and during the past 27 years I have experience many ups and downs with this team. The back end of 4 straight Stanley Cups, the Drive for 5, the Easter Epic, trading of my heroes John Tonelli, and Kelly Hrudey. Mike Bossy's early retirement, Pat LaFontaine for Pierre Turgeon, Dale Hunter, David Volek, Ron Hextall, Al Arbour's retirement, Bill Torrey to Florida, Mike Milbury, John Spano, The Milstein's, Hoistgate, the sale to Charles Wang, Draft Day 2000, Alexei Yashin and Michael Peca, Milbury's "reassignement", 40 days of Neil Smith, Ted Nolan, The Lighthouse Project, Kate Murray, Scott Gordon, going from 5 to 7 to 9, Josh Bailey, John Tavares, Calvin deHaan, El Nino, the 2 Kirill's and hopefully.....much, much more. I have been an Islanders blogger for the past 3 years, starting on Myspace, then for IslesNation.com and currently for HockeyIndependent.com, and I have been selected to the 2010-2011 New York Islanders Blog Box. I am an IT Manager for a quite large facility working for a government agency. I am married for 7 years to an incredibly patient woman and am the proud father of a beautiful 1 year old daughter. Email: ajstabile@gmail.com Twitter: Twitter.com/tonystabile

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  1. Isles27 says:

    Biggest difference in the Isles this season over last is on faceoffs, don’t underestimate the importance of winning most of your faceoffs and one of the biggest reasons for that is Konopka. Once again I’m going to take issue with you on Okposo you would think he played like Gretzky last year the way some people are talking about “wait until he comes back”. Right now they are just fine without him, without his -22, without his razzle dazzle on the perimeter, without him on the PK which was terrible last season, and without him not sticking up for a teammate when they take a cheap shot right in front of his face. Did you happen to notice Bailey’s reaction in Pitt this season compared to Okposo’s last season. Big difference. So let’s calm down with the “wait until Okposo’s gets back”. Here’s a random TV note from me any reason why MSG can’t show the Isles in HD on their MSG Varsity channel (ch 14) which is now in HD and it’s a MSG channel so they control what is on that channel. They can’t preempt HS girls Volleyball for a NHL game? Any reason why MSG can’t show the Isles in HD on LI and the Devils in HD in NJ? The picture on their overflow channel sucks. A comment on your random TV note best TV cop show since NYPD was “The Wire” without a doubt most realistic and it was not the PC crap that all the other cop shows are. Always enjoy your comments Stabile agree with some disagree with others keep up the good work.

    • RobC/KO21 says:

      You are ridiculous with your relentless, KO bashing, give it a rest…he kids only had 2 full seasons and everyone but you feels hes the real deal…If he doesn’t stick up for his teammates thats another story…I believe he will…I agree he should stand up more but his relentless play is unbelievable but you’re attitude towards the kid is getting old…

  2. Isles27 says:

    It’s not bashing it’s fact Rob I see you can’t handle the truth. Actually Rob there are fans out there that feel he is overrated by some in this fan base maybe like me they have been watching hockey since the mid 70′s and are not suckered by all his razzle dazzle which leads to nothing like you are. You predict he will stick up for his teammates well he hasn’t so far and age has nothing to do with it it should come naturally for players a lot younger than him.

    • RobC/KO21 says:

      He has tons of ability and he is relentless when hes on the ice…Okposo has allot to offer…I did see Bailey stick up for his teammates the other night and I was equally impressed so we are in agreement, standing up for your teammates is very important and I think KO will…Im giving this kid the benefit of the doubt because I haven’t seen a player like KO on this team in a long time and he is fun to watch…He can be a difference maker…Give him a break already..If the one knock you have on him is he needs to fight sometimes than thats fine and good…Its just that you act like hes a bum…

  3. Isles27 says:

    Comrie used to toe drag all the time and get hammered by the fans but when Okposo does it it’s fine. Him not fighting is not the big problem him not willing to crash the net and battle to score and get his hands dirty in front is the big problem. If he thinks he’s going to stick handle by and fake out NHL players on a regular basis to score his goals he is sadly mistaken. He’s got plenty of size he does not use it to his advantage. Bailey just put on size for this season and he is using it to his advantage. If Okposo can accept accolades from the fans he has to also accept criticism. This team is 4-1-2 right now not 0-7 so I don’t get all the talk of “wait until KO gets back”.

  4. RobC/KO21 says:

    You know what, man???I agree with you…I was wondering if the fact that he doesn’t crash the net, esp on the pp, is because of the coach???I don’t think he belongs at the point on the PP…He would be better served, playing down low, on the wing…Believe it or not I agree with allot of what you are criticizing him about but he has the “IT” factor and I believe KO is the real deal and can be a force…I think I’m right and I hope he can become that kind of player…Hes still young and all players are different when it comes to their learning curves, regarding what it takes to score at the highest level…Look at Bailey, hes gone from a guy getting pushed around to the guy doing the pushing around…I hope the coach starts demanding more from KO wghen it comes to crashing the net…

  5. Isles27 says:

    Okposo was bigger and stronger than Bailey from the get go so Bailey had reasons why he wasn’t good with the physical play but in the off season he bulked up and now he is much better with the physical play but Okposo has had the size all along and CHOOSES not to get involved in front in my opinion. If he isn’t willing to battle down low I don’t see him ever getting to 30 goals, we’ll see when he comes back if he plays a more aggressive style, for his sake I hope so. BTW Rob I’ve been saying this since last season.

  6. Mlem says:

    Kyle put up 52 points in just his 2nd “full” NHL season…Bailey is finally showing what he may be capable of in the beginning of his 3rd NHL season…I think it’s plenty fair to assume that the best of both of them lays ahead. Kyle has already had 2 pretty decent seasons and would be considered a better player than Bailey, and Comeau too for that matter, before this season started. I think it is pretty reasonable to expect Okposo to have started this year just as well as Bailey and Comeau, if not better. Taking a look at the team we currently have you can’t possibly believe he isn’t one of the top 2 right wingers on the roster.

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