If there was ever a time for the Islanders to show the fans how much character and heart they have, the home opener was the time to do it.
The Islanders rallied from multiple two goal deficits against the Dallas Stars on Saturday night to force overtime and ultimately, a shootout. The Islanders fell short in their comeback, but walk away with a point that they didn't look like they were going to get for most of the game.
The Isles suffered an early blow, with John Tavares taking a hit up high. He stayed down on the ice with his head buried in is arms for a minute, but was able to skate off on his own. The team later said he suffered a "mild concussion" and will be re-evaluated on Monday. Yikes. Let's hope for the best here.
Although the Coliseum was not sold out, the crowd was certainly loud. The reception for New York Jets head coach Rex Ryan was loud, as expected. I think he was a good choice for the ceremonial puck drop. He is definitely an inspirational figure.
As far as the game goes, the Islanders goals came from James Wisniewski, Doug Weight, Blake Comeau and Matt Moulson. Three of those goals were on the powerplay, as the Stars played a pretty undisciplined game, and even unravelled late in the 3rd to give the Islanders multiple power play chances that they ultimately cashed in on.
Looking at individual players, some guys stood out to me. Weight finished the game with three points, and skated really well. All preseason he has been saying how healthy he was, and how much he was looking forward to showing everyone that he has a lot left in the tank still. Fans got an early glimpse of this, and everyone who sat around me in 107 was amazed at the night and day transformation from previous seasons.
Comeau had a strong game as well. He didn't seem disinterested, and was always going hard on the forecheck. He made some nice plays, and scored his goal on a slap shot from between the faceoff circles. This is the Comeau we need to show up more often than not. Very happy to see him pick up where he left off.
Wisniewski made some strong plays aside from his goal, such as the hit on Jamie Benn in the 3rd period as the Islanders were in the midst of a momentum change. He did have a couple of defensive gaffes, one that led to a Dallas goal, but all in all he had a solid showing. He's an excellent skater, and you can see how much of an offensive game he has. He is a two way defenseman, one that we have needed for quite some time. Hopefully he stays up to the task and can continue to log big minutes for us all season (he had just over 24).
Trent Hunter had a nice game as well, throwing some big, and relevant hits. He was most noticeable in the 3rd period with the Islanders making their comeback, and had one shift where he hit whatever Stars player was near the puck. It helped the Islanders maintain possession, and although they didn't score on this play, it lead to a frustrated Stephan Robidas flipping the puck out of play for one of his two late period delay of game penalties.
Mark Eaton is a good skater, but definitely avoids contact. He looked a little soft to me. Obviously, his game isn't to hit people as he only had 27 hits last season. He's here primarily to block a ton of shots and provide some stability on the back end while logging 20+ minutes per night. He didn't make any huge mistakes, but I wanted to point out that he doesn't have a hard hitting game since that is going to be something that people will probably complain about. It's just not his game.
Milan Jurcina had a nice showing, and also made some big hits in the 3rd period comeback. His minutes were limited (18) and in that amount of time, he is at his best. There was one Dallas breakout where Jurcina had to get back, and was able to and force the Dallas skater to the outside. For a big man, I found that pretty impressive. Hopefully he can remain effective on that 3rd pairing.
Josh Bailey, as we had been saying on this blog for a while, looked bigger, faster and stronger. He had a very strong game, and was involved in the play a ton. He even played a lot in the corners, battling for loose pucks - an element of his game that was virtually non-existent last season. He finished the game with two assists.
Finally, one other guy I would like to point out is Rick DiPietro. He obviously had some rust. You can make the case that one, maybe two of the goals were his fault, but there were some defensive breakdowns in front of him. He played much better in the 2nd and 3rd periods of the game, as was the case for most of the team. I'm still not sure how much playing time DiPietro will get, despite Scott Gordon effectively making him their number one with his comments yesterday, but it wouldn't be the first time I was off.
The Islanders took 47 shots last night, something rarely seen from them. This is what they are going to have to do to be successful with a big chunk of their offense missing for the time being. The Islanders have some guys who like to play in front of the net, and taking a lot of shots is what will make guys like Moulson flourish as we saw with the tying goal. Tavares is the other guy who flourishes down low, and all we can do is hope that he isn't out for very long.
Despite loosing Tavares, and even though the Stars essentially handed the Islanders a point, you have to tip your hat to them. Tavares goes down, the team found themselves down 2-0, 3-1 and 4-2, and they took it all the way to a shootout. Take some of that momentum into Monday against the Rangers.
PODCAST COMING: We'll be making a podcast this afternoon. With more analysis and recap of the home opener. Be sure to check out the NYI FYI Podcast website and look for that to go up. We'll post a reminder, as always, in this space.