The Islanders had an excellent chance to make a statement to their fans, and start the season off in a huge way. Billed all offseason as a different team with different goals and a core that's committed through at least 2016, the excitement was palpable from the moment the Isles came on for warm-ups before the game.
Unfortunately, it didn't go so well.
The Islanders were shut out in front of a sold out crowd. This wasn't just any sold out crowd though - it was legitimately sold out with Islanders fans. The Panthers aren't a team with a huge fan base in areas other than Florida. They don't have a fan base that travels far and wide. Unfortunately, this was a chance for the Islanders to give their fans something to be excited about, and to put it frankly they blew it.
The Panthers are a better team than given credit for. Sure, they added a lot of compliment pieces in an off-season spending spree to make up a $30 million gap between them and the cap floor. But it's a hard working team that, as they have been for the past few seasons, is built with a strong defense.
When you have a team that is built like that, and in front of a shaky goaltender, you have to get pucks to the net. Each time the Isles went on offensive breaks, all you saw was constantly trying to get too cute, making passes that were not there and trying to force plays. That's not going to fly against many teams in this league, let alone a good defensive corps. Many of the star forwards were doing this, the ring leader being Kyle Okposo.
Speaking of defense, the Isles group was less than stellar themselves. The biggest culprit? None other than... Andrew MacDonald?! That's right, MacDonald didn't have a very good game at all. He was knocked off the puck easily, flubbed a lot of passes and made too many turnovers. I'm not sure if this was all due to shaking the rust off after offseason surgery, but it was definitely not a banner game for him.
It's a shame for Al Montoya, because he really was solid. He looked better to me than he did in preseason at times, and kept the scrambling to a minimum. He had a few weird moments, but thanks to heads up defensive plays by Mark Streit and Josh Bailey the score remained at 2-0.
The Isles will have a shot to get into the win column on Monday afternoon when they take on the new look Minnesota Wild in their annual Columbus Day Matinee. I would expect a fairly big crowd for this one too, but not with the same intensity of the home opener. It's kids opening day, so it's a much different group.
And that's one of the things that bothers me most. The Islanders had an excellent opportunity here to win back people that hadn't been coming regularly, and laid an egg. I couldn't tell you the next time they'll get a crowd like that again.
NYI FYI RETURNS AT 11 AM: As I mentioned yesterday, Sean and I are back on the air for our 5th season today! We'll have the uStream up and running, where you can watch us live as we banter back and forth about the offseason and opening night. There's a chat room component where we'll be fielding your questions and comments and we'll discuss those on the air. Be sure to tune in!
For those who can't listen live, be sure to check out the podcast through the NYI FYI MyPodcast site.