We're back from Nassau Coliseum for what was the first (and last) preseason game of the year in that building. The Islanders took on their other area rivals, the New Jersey Devils. After lots of talk about good team chemistry, "overspeed," new systems, and general love, peace, and harmony, we were eager to see the product hit the home ice. Well, you know we don't pull our punches here at Okposo Net, and by the end of the game our hand-written notes contained three bold letters scribbled on the bottom: SOI. Same Old Islanders.
Speaking of punches, they were certainly flying early. The sparse crowd of 9,701 (most dressed as seats) witnessed more fights in the first period than they did all of last season. Okay, perhaps we exaggerate a bit, but the pugilism enthusiasts amongst them were treated to three (3) separate bouts of flying fists. The Devils' Bryce Salvador tangled with bruiser Brandon Sugden, soon followed by a Tim Jackman/Sheldon Brookbank tilt. The fight card continued after New Jersey winger Mike Rupp dumped our man Kyle near the benches, but found out that every action has an equal and opposite (and quite possibly painful) reaction courtesy of big Mitch Fritz. Somewhat lost in this was a horrendous communication breakdown between defenseman Jack Hillen and goalie Joey MacDonald in their own end which led to an unassisted, shorthanded Zach Parise goal that gave NJ a 1-0 lead. Had Vice Presidential candidate Joe Biden been there to see the own-end shenanigans he would have surely commented, "That's not change, that's more of the same."
Fast forwarding, when the dust settled the final result was 3-0 Devils. To be fair, though, the scene wasn't all bleak, it just felt that way. Despite only generating 16 shots on Marty Brodeur, the Islanders limited the opponents to 22. Right from the start we noticed that this Isles squad was more readily giving up their bodies on defense than last year's version, and on offense they were moving their feet better. Unfortunately, the problem of not creating traffic and screens in front of the opposing crease has not been rectified. And once again the power play was powerless, netting nothing in four tries. These areas are going to need major amounts of work if the Isles hope to improve last year's dreadful offensive numbers.
Coach Scott Gordon had a few things to say after the whitewashing, explaining that the team is still in a learning phase, but he praised the work of his defense. He felt the team played tentatively in the Devils' zone, and feels that his playmakers, Kyle especially, need to shoot more.
Kyle acknowledged this point when we finally met up with him in the locker room, saying that he made some poor decisions with the puck and needs to think less and just shoot. Linemate Mike Comrie echoed this sentiment as well, stating that Kyle is quick, big, and strong and thinks that it'll just take some more repetition before the goals start flowing.
Their next chance will come on Friday (10/3), this time on the road against New Jersey.