The New York Islanders started out the season with a tough road trip, including all seven October games on the road. The Islanders stumbled out of the gate winning only three of their first seven games and earning eight points but despite the early season struggles, have reminded opponents that they are a tough team to play against and will ultimately end the season as one of the top teams in the NHL.
The upcoming month starts off with a continuation of the tough road trip with the Islanders playing their first home game on Nov 20th, and there are plenty of tough opponents that provide difficult matchups in November as well. The Islanders play 12 games in the month, and some of the teams are the best in the NHL and will continue to test head coach Barry Trotz and the coaching staff as well as the still-developing roster.
Tampa Bay Lightning – Nov. 15
The Islanders finally have the chance to get their revenge in the 2021-22 NHL regular season against the team that defeated them in the 2021 Eastern Conference Final. The Tampa Bay Lightning defeated the Islanders last season in the Eastern Conference Final in seven games and went on to win the Stanley Cup for the second consecutive season. The back-to-back Cup champions have struggled early on this season and will be without star scorer Nikita Kucherov, but they still possess one of the best and most complete rosters in the NHL.
The Islanders will have to beat the Lightning in the game with the same formula that gave them three wins in the Semifinal and pushed their opponent to the brink. The Islanders will have to find shots on the net from the face-off circles against a defensive unit that loves to control the center of the zone, limiting cross-ice passes and shots from the center of the net. Moreover, the forwards must fire low shots on the net and test the world-class goaltender Andrei Vasilevskiy who single-handedly eliminated the offense the last time these two teams met, highlighted by a 1-0 shutout in Game 7.
Florida Panthers – Nov. 16
The Florida Panthers are playing great to begin their 2021-22 season, winning eight of their nine games, including defeating the Islanders 5-1 in the first meeting between these two teams. The Panthers will test the Islanders once again on both ends of the ice with deep and talented units. The defensemen, in particular, will have to limit opposing forwards like Jonathan Huberdeau and Aleksander Barkov from finding scoring chances on the odd-man rush and finding open shots on the net.
Calgary Flames – Nov. 20
The Islanders finally play their first home game and open up UBS Arena after 13 road games. After an exhausting road trip, the Islanders will start their homestand with a matchup against the Calgary Flames, who have won six of their first eight games and are playing great on both ends of the ice led by a resurgent Jacob Markstrom in goal. The Flames are an unfamiliar opponent as they play in the Pacific Divison that last met in February of 2019 and have unique skill sets and a balanced roster that will be tough to eliminate.
Notably, the Islanders will have to limit Elias Lindholm in the offensive zone from finding shots near the net and Johnny Gaudreau in space, who can specifically exploit older defensemen like Zdeno Chara and Andy Greene, who don’t have the speed to keep up with the forwards. On the other end of the ice, the forward unit is going to have a tough game against defensemen in Noah Hanifin and Rasmus Andersson, who are both having great starts to the season but also must overwhelm Markstrom in goal, requiring the forward depth, led by Jean-Gabriel Pageau, Casey Cizikas, and Cal Clutterbuck to find shots in the offensive zone.
Pittsburgh Penguins – Nov. 26
The Islanders faced the Pittsburgh Penguins in the First Round of the Stanley Cup playoffs last season in a six-game series that saw plenty of adjustments from both coaching staffs. The Islanders won the series, but the Penguins won six of the eight regular-season meetings and finished with the best record in the East Division and look to remain a tough matchup this season as well, led by future Hall of Famer Sidney Crosby and deep in every unit.
The Penguins notably beat the Islanders with their speed, especially from the top line of Crosby, Bryan Rust, and Jake Guentzel, and require the Islanders’ defensemen to step up in the neutral zone and defensive zone alike. The Islanders, however, can use a similar blueprint from the First Round to find goals against the Penguins defense and goaltender Tristan Jarry. The forwards can find scoring chances against the backend of the defensive unit, and accurate shooters like Oliver Wahlstrom and Kyle Palmieri can test Jarry with top-shelf shots, which he struggled with in the playoffs.
Other Big Games in November
In addition to facing some of the best teams in the NHL, the Islanders will also play plenty of tough opponents on back-to-back nights. The Islanders play the Winnipeg Jets and Minnesota Wild on consecutive nights early on in the month, they also face the two Florida teams on back-to-back nights, and at the end of the month, they play the Toronto Maple Leafs a night after hosting the Flames.
In addition, at the end of the month, the Islanders play the New York Rangers twice, who have won six of their first nine games and are a tough Metropolitan Division opponent. Ultimately, the schedule is going to continue to test the team early on but allow Trotz and the coaching staff to build a championship-caliber roster with constant adjustments in the games.
Mike Fink joined The Hockey Writers in November 2020 and covers the New York Islanders. In addition to covering the Islanders, Fink writes about the NHL at large and contributes as a weekly guest to The Hockey Writers Podcast. Follow Mike on Twitter @Finks_thoughts for more Islanders and general hockey insights.