There shall be no grumbling concerning the Islanders’ schedule this time round.
A yr after beginning the season with 13 straight on the highway whereas UBS Area was being accomplished, the league threw the Isles a bone this season. The staff’s first 4 video games shall be at dwelling, beginning with Thursday night time’s opener towards the Panthers, in addition to six of their first 9. In the event that they win Thursday, it is going to be their first victory in a house opener since 1994, which was additionally towards the Panthers.
Final yr, getting again to Lengthy Island a hair underneath .500 was considered as a win, earlier than COVID-19 wrecked the Islanders’ homecoming. This time round, there is likely to be no staff within the league for whom it’s extra essential to begin sturdy.
“I believe lots of guys left final season embarrassed and upset with themselves, as a result of we all know we had much more to offer than we confirmed,” Casey Cizikas instructed The Publish following Wednesday’s apply. “It’s gonna be a giant begin.”
It must be.
Three of the Islanders’ opponents on their opening homestand — Anaheim, San Jose and New Jersey — weren’t within the playoffs final season. From there, they may play 5 in a row towards groups that made it previous the primary spherical (Tampa, Florida, the Rangers, Carolina, Colorado). In the event that they stumble out of the gate, that could be a recipe for a pre-November catastrophe.
There’s additionally the intangible component of how the fan base would reply to such a state of affairs. The empty seats and single-digit costs on the secondary marketplace for tickets have been plainly embarrassing towards the tip of final season, although the Islanders have been all however formally out of competition by February. Season tickets at UBS Area aren’t low cost, and there may be solely a lot fiftieth anniversary celebrating the Islanders can promote if the staff on the ice just isn’t well worth the cash.
The fan base spent the summer time on edge after its well-liked head coach was fired, just one huge change was made to the roster and the ahead group remained the identical. Its persistence may not final notably lengthy if the Islanders can’t show that final yr was certainly the fluke that they consider it was.
After all, the best method to deal with that dynamic is by avoiding it altogether — by successful, and successful early.
“Proper now, I believe it’s about having a very good begin,” Mathew Barzal instructed The Publish, when requested about his expectations for the season. “Deal with the primary 5 video games, get off to a very good begin. Anytime you look too far forward, you gotta keep within the second via an 82-game season.”
The vibe has been good via coaching camp, with head coach Lane Lambert displaying he can run a spirited apply and the Islanders giving constructive critiques on his aggressive method. After just a few years of marching to their very own drum, the Islanders are — a minimum of to some extent — getting in keeping with the remainder of the league.
“Have a look at Colorado. Everybody’s up within the play, skating quick,” Barzal mentioned. “Carolina’s so exhausting to play towards trigger everyone seems to be up and aggressive and in your face. That’s kinda how different good groups play now. We gotta adapt.”
What does that imply, precisely?
“I believe it’s only a complete staff mentality simply to be extra aggressive and never sit again and play protection,” Barzal mentioned. “We need to exit the zone rapidly and spend much less time in our finish. I believe it’s only a staff mentality factor. … It’s forwards, D, everyone being extra aggressive.”
In the course of the preseason, it’s been evident at occasions — notably exiting their very own zone — that the Islanders are nonetheless adjusting to that fashion. As soon as the puck drops on Thursday, that adjustment interval must be over and accomplished with.
Leave a Reply