The title of this post, while factual, is a bit misleading. The Islanders did not make Jack Capuano a winner in his National Hockey League debut on Wednesday (11/17), but things did looked different. Though they are now winless in 11 straight games and have only one "loser point" to show for their work, the effort looked better.
One change I noticed was a difference in John Tavares' play. He had time and space to maneuver in the offensive zone. He doesn't have the speed of a player like Steven Stamkos, who he is sometimes compared to due to their similar draft positions, but he has the talent to become an elite scorer. This was on display against Stamkos and his mates as Tavares netted the type of goal that needs to be the centerpiece of his game, cleaning up rebounds. It was his 7th of the year, tied with Matt Moulson, who also banked his own 7th goal of 2010 in the game.
The two strikes were far from enough offense, though, as the Islanders lost 4-2 to Tampa Bay. Taking penalties in the offensive zone and going dry on all four power play chances (including a major) will just not do.
The announcers claimed that the Islanders looked more relaxed since Scott Gordon's dismissal. This wasn't a jab at Gordon, but rather an explanation of a concerted attempt by the downtrodden Isles to get back to looking at hockey as a fun game. Some of that talk was also heard from the players in the post-game debriefings.
The cold facts are that no magic bullet exists for Capuano and his team right now. They are undermanned and lack very much scoring punch. As everyone also knows, the Islanders remain dead last in the league standings.
While things seemed markedly better for this game, the fact is that the franchise has a lot of work to do (both on and off the ice) to right the ship. Compiling the problem was that fewer people are in the crowd to notice any changes (8,025 on this night) these days. And most of that task lies with people other than Capuano.
It seems like we've been here before, doesn't it?