For the first time since December 2011, The New York Islanders visit the United Center and the Chicago Blackhawks. The Islanders have started out the season 2-0-1 and currently sit just behind division leader Pittsburgh Penguins.
Here are last years Islanders statstics
Penalty Minutes-63 Matt Martin
Goalie-Evgeni Nabokov-23-11-7 3 shutouts 2.50 Goals Against Average .910 Save percentage
This week I caught up with Rich Dias-Rodrigues from the New York Islanders Fansided site Eyes On Isles to help us get ready for Friday nights game. Here is how our Q & A went this week.
BU-1. Does this team have a legit shot at post-season w/82 game season?
EOI-1.The New York Islanders stand a better chance of consecutive postseason appearances with this team and coaching staff than with any other of recent memory. There’s a progressive philosophy that exudes from the GM’s office down to the trainers, which is nothing less than a willingness to believe in a system that hones homegrown talent rather than outright buying it. That whether or not they’re the favorites to win a matchup, a series, or considered bottom feeders, the team on the ice will grind it out, make the mistakes characteristic of a young talent, but never leave the ice without some semblance of a fight.
BU-2. Where does John Tavares rank amongst the NHL’s elite?
EOI-2. John Tavares is a top three forward and one of the very best playmakers in the NHL. You have Jonathan Toews, and the Isles have Tavares. With the addition that “JT” will be a Hart trophy candidate for the next several seasons much to chagrin of many. In all honesty, the only benefit stemming from the horrible teams this past several years was the John Tavares pick, and GM Garth Snow has been able been able to build a team and a game philosophy around him. Rare, however, is the ability to see a young talent come to fruition as quickly as it has, with a maturity level that rivals even some veterans around the league. John Tavares is quite a special talent to say the least. And I’d expect nothing but the Blackhawks defense to tax Tavares heavily this coming Friday.
BU-3.Who is this year’s Matt Moulson (Or at least something relative to his performance last year)?
EOI-3. Other players that can come to mind, perhaps Michael Grabner or Josh Bailey with regards to scoring goals. For assists, fortitude, etc. I’d say the Isles spread out those responsibilities and expectations evenly throughout. If you take a look at Tuesday night’s 6-1 victory against Phoenix, there were 5 Islander players with multiple point nights. Spreading the wealth, as it were. The Isles have little in the way of a top-heavy team, meaning, there’s a superstar and then those who flank him. The Isles, as of late, say April of this year and onward, depending on each other more than on say, Moulson or John Tavares. Maybe with regards to setting a tone, this team leans on Tavares or Moulson, or gain a spark from the 4th line with Casey Cizikas and Matt Martin skating and hitting as they do. But again, nothing about this team funnels back to one player. Rise and fall with four lines.
BU-4. Will the move to Brooklyn change anything about the organization from the fans to the culture, much like how it did for the BK Nets?
EOI-4. Fans have been clamoring about the move, for they obviously feel akin to the Coliseum confines. There’s no lying in the saying that almost all of us, if not all of us here at EOI have a special connection with that lovable ol’ barn. I cannot speak about the organization completely, but I will say that if you’ve seen the boys in the locker room and paid close attention to the moves made by Garth Snow these past 24 months, the team philosophy runs deeper than a building. The character and courage these boys roll out every night isn’t something that exudes from a building into them, but quite the opposite.
If there’s a change, for better or worse, it will come from the fan base, and not the team. But I will leave you with this thought: the preseason game at the Barclays was sold out. A preseason game hosting approximately 14K people. Not too shabby. The issue has been quite ‘divisive’ when one take a pulse of it via social media. But the alternative is what then? Allow the Islanders to go to Kansas City? Now that’s reality all too frightening. Be it Brooklyn and not Missouri.
BU-5. Is John Tavares truly ready to lead this team?
EIO-5. Without a doubt. He already has and will continue to do so. His captaincy makes all the sense in the world, and having seen his demeanor off the ice, we here at EOI can say that he’s as intense as they come. This team plays for each other. And Tavares leads by example, which is exactly what’s needed on the ice, which then carries over into the locker room.
BU-6. Is goaltending your biggest weakness heading into the season? If not, what is?
EOI-6. I wouldn’t say weakness, for it implies that Evgeni Nabokov is a poor goaltender—which he’s not! Is it an issue to know, however, that our backup situation is tenuous at best? Yes, maybe. But again, this team, right now, has a particularly peculiar way of working off each other’s energy. I am sure Kevin Poulin is taking note of Nabby’s good play these past three games. Worrisome it is for fans and organization alike to picture Nabokov playing 65% of the season schedule, but with a strong Poulin backing things up that so-called issue goes away.
So, is it THE biggest concern? Not really the biggest, but definitely ONE of the gravest. Both goalies could stand to have better defense, that’s for sure.
BU-7. How important is it to qualify for the playoffs again, after 2013?
EOI-7.Incredibly important, for it will most definitely afford the New York Islanders some much deserve respect from around the NHL, not to mention demonstrate to all those watching that a team needn’t buy overpriced UFAs, or make elaborate trades in order to win. If you ask us, an Islander playoff berth would be benefit all of hockey, because GM Snow needs to be recognized for his genius at creating and, again, cultivating a ‘product’ that is both cost-effective and alluring and successful. If the Isles win, hockey wins. If there’s another lockout, blame Philadelphia and others like them, and thanks the Islanders and Garth Snow for trying to be responsible.
BU-8. Has the Penguins series set expectations to high?
EOI-8. Absolutely not. If anything it brought Pittsburgh down to earth, and showed that with courage and tenacity you can silence both critics and Crosby. The Isles couldn’t seal the deal because of their inexperience, and let’s face it, Pittsburgh is a scoring machine. Those looking at the Islanders as outsiders can very well feel as if that’s [setting high expectations] the case. But watching them gel as they have since April, there’s nothing categorically exaggerated in thinking that the Isles are a legitimate contender for a playoff spot for the next several years.
BU-9.Did realignment change anything for the Islanders?
EOI-9. Absolutely. Now the Isles have to deal with the Detroit Red Wings. We’ve already seen this past Saturday what the Blue Jackets can bring, which isn’t as much as Pavel Datsyuk’s club can, but with Sergei Bobrovsky leading the charge in Ohio, there’s not much wiggle room for the Isles in either scenario. It’s safe to assume that the Eastern Conference is just one big mess of talent and getting to the playoffs got just that much more difficult.
BU-10. When will Islanders banners get raised again?
EOI-10. Can’t give a definitive answer but rest assured it will be a Brooklyn Block party to say the least.
Thanks again to Rich for taking time out of his schedule to answer our questions and if you are looking for Islanders news or updates stop by Eyes on Isles.
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