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.
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!
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: firstname.lastname@example.org Twitter: Twitter.com/tonystabile