Another year of Islanders hockey has arrived, and by now everyone knows about the preseason setbacks suffered by the club. Despite injuries to vital pieces Kyle Okposo, Mark Streit, and Rob Schremp, the Islanders must attempt to stay afloat in the standings despite their sudden and unexpected predicament.
Tonight (10/9) the curtain came up on the 2010-2011 season, and despite the pessimism from traditional media outlets I am staying positive. It’s the only way to be as a fan of this franchise. Our day will come. I am sure of it.
That said, the Islanders faced a fairly tough assignment for their first test, the Dallas Stars. The Stars, fresh off a win in New Jersey on Friday night, are somewhat of a non-traditional opening night opponent for the Islanders.
At 7 PM, the crowd was rollicking and ready to welcome in a new season of hockey. Rick DiPietro received one of the biggest roars of approval during pregame introductions. They cheered again when New York Jets coach Rex Ryan, sporting a white Billy Smith sweater, dropped the ceremonial puck to start the season.
Dallas committed back-to-back penalties early on; both were killed off. However when Blake Comeau was sent of for boarding soon after, the Stars wasted no time capitalizing on their chance and sending the Isles to a 1-0 deficit.
Stephane Robidas added another Dallas goal at 11:56 of the first period and the proverbial air seemed to come out of the crowd. After the break the Isles came out and made some really good chances for themselves, but neither Matt Moulson nor Josh Bailey could convert either into a goal.
However, the Isles struck back with a power play goal of their own at 6:21 in the second. New acquisition James Wisniewski blasted the puck in from the point to slice the Dallas lead in half. However another newcomer, P.A. Parenteau, made a costly error while handling the puck that allowed Dallas to bump their lead back up to 2 goals.
Penalties continued to be the theme as the Isles soon found themselves on a 5-on-3 advantage. The venerable captain, Doug Weight, looking spry, netted his first goal of the season to cut Dallas’ lead to 3-2. The Islanders then traded goals and found themselves down 4-3 with 10 minutes left in the game.
Then something happened that likely wouldn’t have happened in past years. On a late powerplay, with the crowd roaring, the Islanders tied the game at 4 goals apiece. Matt Moulson, who netted 30 last season, got the equalizer. They had a chance to win in regulation when Robidas went off for a delay of game infraction, but nothing came of it. Overtime or a shootout would decide this one.
Though the Isles were unable to score in the shootout and Rick DiPietro allowed a Mike Ribiero goal, the talk was very positive from the Islanders all around. Coach Scott Gordon was pleased with the efforts of rookie Nino Niederreiter and a healthy Doug Weight. I also checked in with newcomer P.A. Parenteau who said that the crowd was great and he was initially nervous, but happy with his first game as a New York Islander.
My take? The game might be a harbinger of things to come for this squad that is still learning on the fly. While it was disappointing that they were nearly buried in an early hole, I really admire the fight and scrap that they showed. Just seeing the team tie the game late was a thrilling change; I really felt they were going to win, in fact. Outshooting your opponent 47-22 for an entire game never hurts either. I hope that keeps up.
That will likely be the theme this year. Another season of early struggles, but learning on the go how to both entertain and win when the odds are stacked against them.
News and notes:
- John Tavares left the game with a mild concussion. There was no further information available from team officials or the coach.
- Kyle Okposo remains in New York, not Minnesota, as he and Mark Streit begin their arduous trips down the road back from shoulder injuries.
- Nino Niederreiter's family made the trip from Switzerland to see his first NHL game. I only wish he had scored in front of them.
- Lastly, Scott Gordon would not commit to playing either DiPietro or Roloson for Monday's matinee against the Rangers. My guess would be that he'll go with Roloson.