September 25, 2011

Preseason Game 2: Devils 2, Islanders 6

The Islanders dressed a much more veteran line-up on Saturday night against the Devils than the night prior in Boston, and it paid off in a big fashion as the Islanders defeated their Atlantic Division rivals 6-2.

The story of the game was Mark Streit. Playing his first NHL game since April 2010 after missing all of last season with a severe shoulder injury, the defenseman lead the Islanders to a win with a goal and two assists. His performance earned him the first star of the game.

Mark Streit provided his usual offence. Photo by C. Hessel
The Islanders won this game thanks to their power-play, one that struggled at times last season with Streit absent. The defensive effort was pretty good too, despite the Devils resting many of their regulars. Streit made some good break ups, and did it all cleanly. The return of the newly named captain will provide a good jolt to the defensive unit.

As far as the forwards go, John Tavares, Frans Nielsen and Michael Grabner all looked like their normal selves. Grabner used his speed to create fast breaks. Tavares looked like he worked on his skating a bit and made some really nice passes. Nielsen and Tavares, along with Matt Moulson all were on the same powerplay line that created some nice chances and a couple of goals to boot.

Nielsen told me after the game that while the effort was good, their timing is a bit off but that's why they play preseason games. To be honest, if their timing was off it was only by a little bit. It's great that with a limited preseason schedule, they are already at that level. The offense will definitely be fun to watch again this season.

Al Montoya got the start and was replaced in the middle of the 2nd period by Kevin Poulin. Poulin looked the better of the two, but they each had a couple of missteps here and there that didn't really cost the Islanders. But, we'd have to see that improve because those mistakes will be cashed in by the likes of the Sidney Crosby's and Ilya Kovalchuk's of the division. Montoya had to scramble a couple of times, perhaps from going down too soon. But this is when a goalie works on their timing, and the fact that both made it work out despite making an occasional mistake here and there is a good way to start.

Defensively, the effort was good too. Mark Eaton got caught a couple of times, but he played in his first game since December. Travis Hamonic had a strong showing, and looked even better on offense than last season. He'll obviously look to take on a more offensive role this season as he'll likely be on one of the powerplay units and may even be on the first pairing with Streit. Good to see him start off on a good note.

Other guys who impressed me on defense are Steve Staios and Aaron Ness. Staios was very steady, and made up a good pairing with Streit. It allowed Streit to play his game as the two were good compliments to one another. At this point, something would have to go terribly wrong for Staios to not get a contract from the team. Ness showed good speed, and played his usual high risk game. However, he was very sure not to get caught out of position and used that speed to get back if need be. He's fast enough that he was able to spring ahead of an opposing forward before turning around to skate backwards and get into defense mode. There is definitely some workable talent there, and he'll have a chance to do great things in Bridgeport this season with Mark Katic likely out for the year.

The Isles have a couple of days off now before their game against the Calgary Flames, on Tuesday night.


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