Last night the Islanders opened their season in an exciting 5-4 SO defeat against the Dallas Stars on Coliseum ice, the second home opener in row that ended with a win in the shoot out in favor of the visiting team. The 0-0-1 start is not the only loss for the Isles, as John Tavares left the first period with a mild-concussion and is to be re-evaluated tomorrow. He joins a growing list of injuries that include Mark Streit, Kyle Okposo and Rob Schremp.
The funny thing about concussions is that they are very hard to diagnose. Tavares may be given a certain time table for return but it can change on a given day. Anyone who has had a concussion, (I’ve had two mild ones myself that I’ve received from playing hockey) can understand this; it can take a few days or a few weeks to recover. The worst part is that it makes you more likely to sustain others in the future. Hopefully that won’t be the case being that it is only a minor one.
The encouraging story from last night’s game was that the team did not deflate with the loss of their top-line center. Instead, they rose to the occasion and everyone stepped up. Josh Bailey, who will likely slide into the number one center position for tomorrow afternoon’s tilt with the Rangers, recorded two assists last night. Veteran Captain Doug Weight had a goal and two assists for a three point performance; the fact that he is completely healthy now was evident in his play all night long. James Wisniewski delivered a vicious body check that made it difficult for Jamie Benn to leave the ice while also contributing a goal on the power play and an assist as well. Blake Comeau and Matt Moulson scored goals for the Isles, continuing their production from last season – but it needs to be consistent, especially from here on out.
Rick DiPietro looked rusty at the beginning and many fans weren’t ready to give him the patience that he deserves. Besides last night’s home opener, Rick has only appeared in 13 games over the past two years. He’s entitled to have first game nerves and lack polish on saves that he used to make with ease. If he is able to stay healthy, he will likely regain form.
But goaltending aside, the power play cashed in 3 times out of 6 last night, an impressive statistic considering who was missing on the ice. Overall, the team was able to keep themselves in the game and earn a point after being down by two goals three times.
One player that stood out to me was Frans Nielsen. He notched a helper on Matt Moulson’s game-tying goal that was buried in the crease, but he was also seen flying up the boards and driving hard to the net on countless attempts. There is a reason that Gordon sees him as his team’s number 2 center even if he doesn’t put up the same numbers as Tavares, Weight or Schremp. He is effective in all areas of the ice and one of the best two-way forwards this team has had in years. As a whole, the team looked as if it took a major step in maturation and looked hungry on the ice, even without their top guns.
And that’s what they are going to need tomorrow afternoon: hunger. They are playing the Rangers who are coming off an impressive 6-3 victory over the Buffalo Sabres in which 20-year old Derek Stepan made history, becoming the youngest player for the New York Rangers to score a hat trick in his first NHL game. He almost got a fourth after hitting the side of the right post when the Sabres net was empty.
Injuries or not, there can’t be any excuses. Points that aren’t earned in the month of October are harder to make up in March and April.
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