January 20, 2013

Opener: Devils 2, Islanders 1; 1/20/2013 Podcast

After a long anticipated wait, the Islanders finally opened up their season on Saturday night against the New Jersey Devils. As expected after a training camp that lasted just shy of a week, the game of hockey that was played between the two wasn't the prettiest thing we've seen.

It's very tough to judge things when you only have a handful of players from each team who had actually played overseas during the lockout. But from what we saw in game one, this Islanders team needs some time to get used to playing games.

Photo by Chris Hessel
The thing that stands out in my mind is the lack of cohesiveness overall. Due to injuries, the Islanders are attempting to plug up the holes by using guys like Keith Aucoin and Colin McDonald. I felt Aucoin played pretty well for what he was, but could do without the powerplay time right now. Special teams are going to be key in this short season and the Islanders need to be sure they have the best candidates out there.

Casey Cizikas sat in favor of Marty Reasoner, and that decision was a questionable one. Reasoner made some odd plays on the defensive end, which is really where he is supposed to be successful. I understand that he's a 4th line player, but the least you should be able to expect from a guy like this is 10-12 minutes of solid play on the defensive end and he just didn't provide this against the Devils.
The Islanders made it very easy for the Devils, and one thing that struck me was how slow the Islanders tried to play. It was clear that many players were still getting their legs back, but the Devils consistently put two men in on the forecheck and the Isles' defensemen were pressured into making bad plays from time to time. Every time the Islanders tried to carry the puck into the zone, the Devils would double and triple team them to cause turnovers. The game plan seemed to be very beatable.

The sooner the Islanders realize they don't have all sorts of time against the Eastern Conference teams like this, the better off they will be.

On the defensive side, everything was jumbled. I don't understand the reasoning behind benching Radek Martinek unless, as Sean pointed out in today's podcast, there is an injury we are unaware of. But after listening to Jack Capuano speak all week about the size of the defense and penalty killing being a concern, we knew it was possible.

Despite only playing 11:13, I think we saw the limitations of Joe Finley. I like his size, but at this point it appears that's all he provides. It was difficult for him to deal with the speed of the Devils' wingers and he had issues skating backwards smoothly. Matt Carkner won't be able to cover for him like this consistently. He'd better suited with a better skating partner.

Brian Strait wasn't terrible, but if it weren't for Mark Streit I wonder how many opportunities the Devils would have had to hammer the puck home. He's an intense player, and got off to a rough start but once he toned it down and played his game he looked solid.

Evgeni Nabokov was phenomenal and made plenty of saves. The Devils had some high percentage shots that he was able to turn away. He definitely kept himself in game shape during the lockout and appeared to be in mid season form. I would like to see him get a majority of the starts, but I feel we won't be seeing him on Monday afternoon.

The Islanders have some decisions to make before that Monday matinee against the Tampa Bay Lightning, but I suspect we'll see the same line-up except for a goalie swap.

NYI FYI Podcast: Sean and I recorded our second show of the season. We had a lot of live listeners and a lot of comments, which was great. It's clear the passion for hockey games has not left Isles fans and we loved giving you guys an outlet to discuss the game, ticket prices and other things.

For those who missed it you can check it out on demand on our web page. The show will be up on iTunes within the next day, and we'll be sure to let you know when that goes up.


No comments: