October 18, 2010

Battle of the Surprises: New York Islanders @ Toronto Maple Leafs, 7 PM

The Islanders (2-1-2) Take on the undefeated Maple Leafs (4-0-0) at 7 PM tonight. In the hockey world, this seems to be an anticipated match up, with differing view points across the board.

Despite what others around feel, be it about how good either of the teams really are or what have you, this is a huge game for the Islanders.

These two teams aren't the same ones that have skated the past two years. Brian Burke, believe it or not made some good additions to his team in the off-season. Meanwhile, their stars are actually playing like stars. Phil Kessel has gotten off to a very strong start (4 G-2 A-6 P in 4) while Dion Phaneuf looks like the Phaneuf of three seasons ago, the captaincy not phasing him at all. J.S. Giguere is a good goaltender, who fell on hard times the past couple of seasons, but also looks like he did a few years ago and is off to a hot start of his own (3-0-0, .914 SV %, 1.98 GAA). Add in some good supporting guys such as Colby Armstrong and Kris Versteeg, and you can see how this Maple Leafs team is better than the previous editions.

The Islanders announced that Dwayne Roloson will be in net tonight, with Scott Gordon pointing to the 58 save performance from last season. One would hope that, with an improved defense, Roloson doesn't have to come anywhere close to that tonight. This is the right decision as far as I'm concerned. Sean and I disagreed on the podcast last night (more on that later) about how much leeway Rick DiPietro should get. I feel that this will be a very long, drawn out process, as it should be for someone who had played 13 games the previous two seasons. He was beat up pretty good in the Pittsburgh game, most of it courtesy of Matt Cooke.

Trent Hunter did not make the trip and won't be in the lineup once again. Blake Comeau, who didn't play in the 2nd half of the 3rd period on Saturday after blocking a shot (we could hear it cleanly all the way up in the press box) will be playing.

Josh Bailey and John Tavares both had strong performances against the Leafs in Toronto last season, the team both have listed as the one they grew up rooting for. With the way Bailey has started this season, look for him to have yet another solid performance. Tavares seemed to still be getting his legs going during Saturdays game after missing the previous three with the concussion. I'll assume he needs another couple of games before we see the real Tavares show up, but don't put anything past him.

The power-play looked much better on Saturday with Tavares and James Wisniewski returning to the lineup. Not having their creativity affected the team in Washington and Pittsburgh. Toronto's PKers have been performing at a sky high rate of 93.3%. They have some excellent defensive forwards on the roster, which might make Wisniewski's job a bit tougher. That is where Mike Mottau and Andrew MacDonald will have to be on their games.

Toronto's power-play is middle of the road for now, but you always have to be concerned about the big guns of Phaneuf and Kessel. This is an Islander team that has generally been disciplined, but when they do go on the PK it seems slightly disorganized, despite having some success the last couple of games.

Based on comments from Leafs head coach Ron Wilson, his team won't be taking the Isles lightly as they seem to fly under the radar. They have a lot that they are playing for - defending their home turf and trying to get to 5-0-0 to start a season for the first time since 1993. The Islanders, meanwhile, will be looking to get to three wins and start their long road trip (10 of the next 12 on the road) with a statement win, while trying to take sole possession of 1st place.

This should be an interesting one.

New Podcast Posted: Sean and I recorded and uploaded our latest podcast late last night. For those of you not subscribed yet, it can be found at the NYI FYI podcast site. It's another long one, one and a half hours, but we talked about some good stuff without making it sound too boring. Hope you guys enjoy it.



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