4 Takeaways From Islanders’ 3-1 Loss to Panthers – 10/13/22

The New York Islanders started their 50th season and 2022-23 campaign hoping to erase the memory of last season where they missed the playoffs and struggled across the board. Facing the Florida Panthers on opening night, the reigning Presidents’ Trophy winners, meant they were going to be tested and asked to play at an elite level to win and start the year 1-0.

Related: Islanders 2022-23 Opening Week: What to Watch For

The game itself was a slow, defensive battle. It was the type of game that the Islanders have grown accustomed to in recent years and one that they would generally churn out a victory in. Instead, the Panthers came out on top and won the game 3-1 with a Matthew Tkachuk empty net goal making the final score more lopsided than the game would otherwise indicate. However, the opening night loss exploited some of the weaknesses in the Islanders’ roster and some issues that cost the team last year.

Islanders’ Undisciplined Play Costs Them

The Islanders took five penalties in the game. While the penalty kill stepped up, killing all five opportunities for the Panthers and occasionally creating scoring chances off of turnovers, playing shorthanded left them one step behind. It was hard for them to build momentum and take control in a matchup where setting the tone ended up being pivotal in the outcome.

To make matters worse, the Islanders took a penalty within the first minute of both the first and second periods while starting the third period shorthanded as well. Essentially with the Islanders on the penalty kill, they were fighting an uphill battle against one of the best teams in the league. This was Lane Lambert’s first game behind the bench as the head coach and it was one where the team looked undisciplined and out of place, resulting in a multitude of penalties.

Lane Lambert New York Islanders
Lane Lambert, New York Islanders (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

Along with the five penalties, the Islanders were also caught napping on the game-winning goal. Just seconds after evening up the score at one goal apiece, they allowed the Panthers to start up the offense and generate multiple shots on the net. It resulted in Patric Hornqvist scoring on a wraparound and putting a dagger into the sellout crowd at UBS Arena.

Dobson Picks Up Where He Left Off

Noah Dobson was arguably the best skater on the Islanders last season. The young defenseman had a breakout year and helped the team in all three zones, including 13 goals and 38 assists, both of which led the defensive unit. Following an offseason where the Islanders extended him to a three-year deal, they saw why he is an impactful player on the ice.

Noah Dobson New York Islanders
Noah Dobson, New York Islanders (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

The only goal scored by the Islanders was a Dobson shot from the point on the power play. It was a goal that has become a staple of his game, finding an open shot and firing the puck through traffic and into the back of the net. On a night where the Islanders struggled, especially offensively, him stepping up was a bright spot and something the team can lean into as the season progresses.

Salo’s Highs & Lows

Robin Salo entered the season with high hopes but also a lot of pressure. He’s one of the new faces on the Islanders’ defense as an everyday player instead of someone that on occasion, would get called up from the American Hockey League (AHL) team, the Bridgeport Islanders. Salo is the left-side defenseman that will play alongside Scott Mayfield, rounding out the defensive unit.

Robin Salo New York Islanders
Robin Salo, New York Islanders (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

Salo had some strong plays defensively and notably stepped up as a puck-handler, carrying the puck out of the defensive zone and playing a pivotal role from the point in the offensive zone. However, he also let the Islanders down throughout the game, including taking two costly penalties in the second period that allowed the Panthers to flip the momentum and score the first goal of the game.

Those mistakes are expected from Salo at this point in the season. He’s a young defenseman that is finally playing at the NHL level and being asked to stop faster, more skilled opponents than the ones he saw in the AHL. However, in this type of game, those mistakes became costly and are one of the primary reasons the Islanders are starting the season 0-1.

Bobrovsky Outdueled Sorokin

The Islanders had their chances to take over the game and in multiple instances, looked like they had created scoring chances that would allow them to find the back of the net. However, the opening night game became a goaltending duel between Sergei Bobrovsky and Ilya Sorokin with both goaltenders making plenty of big saves to keep the game low-scoring.

Sergei Bobrovsky Florida Panthers
Sergei Bobrovsky, Florida Panthers (Jess Starr/The Hockey Writers)

Ultimately, Bobrovsky had a remarkable night where he saved 32 of the 33 shots he faced, leading his team to a 3-1 victory. The Panthers weren’t known for their goaltending last season, rather their offense took up the spotlight, averaging a league-high 4.11 goals per game. The first game of the season, however, proved that they are a complete team that can win the low-scoring games and Bobrovsky is a primary reason why. He blanked the Islanders’ scoring chances and left the offense looking hapless and oftentimes nonexistent.

Other Takeaways from the Islanders’ Loss

  • The Islanders outshot the Panthers 33-29 in the game but those numbers are misleading. After they outshot the Panthers 18-9 in the first period, they were outshot 20-15 for the rest of the game and the momentum reflected that in the final 40 minutes of play.
  • The Panthers scored their first goal on a redirected puck with Eetu Luostarinen tipping a Radko Gudas shot past Sorokin. It was a chaotic goal that caught him by surprise but it’s the type of goal good teams find. Furthermore, the Panthers set themselves up in the second period for a goal of any kind and with all the momentum, they finally drew first blood.
  • Defenseman Alexander Romanov had four hits and blocked nine shots on the night. After being acquired from the Montreal Canadiens, it was a mystery how he would fit into the defense. After the first game, it’s clear that he’ll be a hard-hitter on defense that is willing to put his body on the line to help the Islanders win.

What’s Next for the Islanders

The Panthers were an overwhelming test for the Islanders to start the season. However, their next two games, both of which are at home, will be against the Anaheim Ducks and the San Jose Sharks. While the Ducks and Sharks are both expected to improve from last season, the two teams missed the playoffs and are in the middle of rebuilds with younger rosters.

Following a rough and frustrating loss, it’s pivotal for the Islanders to take advantage of their upcoming opponents. Moreover, they need to string together a few wins in the opening week of the season to improve in the standings and start the year off on the right foot.

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