After losing to the Pittsburgh Penguins in six games of the opening round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs, the New York Islanders looked determined to get back on their mission as they started the 2013-2014 NHL season with back-to-back games. While the Islanders did not manage to secure the four points that they had an opportunity to gain over the course of Friday and Saturday, they showed fans that they mean business, and that last year's playoff push and playoff run were not just mere flukes and products of an abbreviated NHL schedule.
Here's a recap of some of the events that occurred over the last two nights:
Despite the fact that the Islanders didn't walk away with four points after the completion of their Saturday night contest, the team gathered three out of four possible points and demonstrated some very good work ethic over their first two contests. Evgeni Nabokov was solid for the Islanders and was a big reason for the team's victory over the Devils on Friday night. Even though Nabokov gave up three goals against New Jersey, he was sharp when he needed to be and played like a youngster in the shootout as he stopped every Devils shooter sent his way.
Over the course of these first two games, Nabokov stopped 50 of 55 shots and showed no ill effects of being the Isles' workhorse between the pipes last season. As a matter of fact, it is hard to envision the Islanders skating to the same results to open the season without Nabokov in net for the team.
On the other hand, secondary scoring was a big reason for the Isles' success against the Devils as the first line didn't make itself known until Saturday night's game against Columbus as John Tavares and Matt Moulson combined to register three points on the night. The Isles' first line was essentially neutralized on opening night as Travis Zajac did a particularly good job shutting down John Tavares, but the top-line was given a break as the Islanders received key contributions from Michael Grabner and Frans Nielsen.
Lastly, work ethic seemed to be right where it needed to be over the course of these first two games. While the Islanders allowed the Blue Jackets to get back into the game on Saturday night as they surrendered a 2-0 lead in the third period, the team still has loads of time to adjust over a full 82-game schedule.
Of course, one could go on and on about blowing yet another third period lead, but what good would that do Islanders fans? The New York Islanders are still a developing product, and closing out games is something that the team will have to learn as a collective unit as they keep on maturing together. Holding a third period lead has been a bugaboo for New York over the last couple of years, but fans should expect the team to get better at this aspect of the game as time wears on.
Although the Isles managed to get on the board with a powerplay goal on Saturday night, bigger things will probably be expected of the team's man-advantage for this season. After having one of the league's better powerplay units last year, Doug Weight and the Isles' man-advantage will be tasked with repeating their success from last season and potentially exceeding it.
Aside from some minor hiccups over the first two games, the Islanders sure looked like the team that stormed into last year's Stanley Cup Playoffs. Intensity, dedication, and work ethic were all significantly evidenced on New York's behalf over their first two games, and there is certainly a different atmosphere surrounding the team and its fans at the start of this season. Fans might not like the fact that their team squandered yet another third period lead last night, but there are still 80 games left to be played, and the Islanders will only continue to improve as the season goes along.