The Islanders Have Crucial Games Early in the Season

New York Islanders, Mathew Barzal #13 (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
New York Islanders, Mathew Barzal #13 (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images) /

The New York Islanders have begun the season and first homestand with a .500 record. Games against the Florida Panthers and the Anaheim Ducks were almost opposite results.

New York has always struggled to score under the current regime but is hoping for better results with an adjustment to the system from the new head coach, Lane Lambert.

The two opponents New York has seen so far seem to be headed in different directions. However, the overall effort and performance were encouraging from the Islanders.

The importance of the next two games is huge as the schedule starts to get difficult.

The Islanders have two winnable games to start this week.

New York opened the season at the new UBS Arena against the former President’s Trophy-winning Florida Panthers. The Panthers are a high-octane offense with a new toy in Matthew Tkachuk.

The Islanders were able to contain the Panthers’ offense for most of the game but were unable to finish any chances created in the offensive zone.

As the prior seasons have indicated, the Islanders’ lack of finishing touch hurt them as the Panthers were able to capitalize on their scoring chances.

Additionally, the Islander’s power play was unable to provide strength to an even game early. It seemed only a matter of time before the Panthers would find the back of the net. The Islanders were unable to muster up much of a fight and were defeated 3-1.

Despite the Islanders bringing back seemingly the same players as the last few seasons, it will take some time to adjust from the defense-heavy system of Barry Trotz to the Lambert style.

The Ducks game was a much different story as the Islanders were able to score early and often in the game, lighting the lamp seven times.

Oliver Wahlstrom made his season debut and was able to contribute a goal and an assist.

The noticeable difference in this game versus those in years past was that the defensemen were heavily involved in the offense. Scott Mayfield and Robin Salo had two goals each and Noah Dobson chipped in with a goal.

This was important for Salo to bounce back from a tough game against the Panthers. Salo is still extremely young and inexperienced.

Upcoming Schedule

Tonight, the Islanders face off against the winless San Jose Sharks at home. The Sharks are 0-4 to start the season and are in the middle of an organizational adjustment.

The Sharks have some strong pieces in the lineup but are looking toward the future for the most part. Over the summer, the Sharks appointed former Rangers coach, David Quinn, as the head coach. This is a very winnable game at home for the Islanders.

To follow up this game, the Islanders welcome the New Jersey Devils to the UBS Arena for a contest on Thursday. The Devils play the Ducks tonight but are currently winless.

The Devils were aggressive in the off-season and seem ready for a breakout season. In the first two games, they were outplayed by the Flyers and the Red Wings. Both were strong opportunities for the Devils to get off to a hot start.

Again, this is a game on home ice that favors the Islanders. After this game, the favors turn to the opponents.

After four games at home to start the season, the Islanders will head down south for two games against the Panthers and Lightning, two of the better teams in the conference. The Islanders will be happy with any points from the possible four in Florida.

Islanders fans are familiar with the Lightning and what they bring to the game. The team that defeated the Islanders in two straight Eastern Conference Finals always makes it difficult to score with Andrei Vasilevskiy in the net.

A normally banged-up roster will be fully healthy and ready to get things on track after opening the season with two of three losses.

The Islanders may luck out as the Lightning will be playing them in the backend of a back-to-back. With the Lightning playing their state rival, the Panthers, Friday, the Islanders may see the backup keeper, Brian Elliot.

New York will then finish a back-to-back against the Panthers. Seeing them on opening night shows the explosiveness that they can show.

A few days of rest will be followed by a return home for a rivalry match-up against the New York Rangers. The Rangers have picked up where they left off last season and are off to a wonderful start.

Though a difficult match-up, the Islanders will have the advantage of the crowd at home to induce energy against the long-time rivals.

After the game against the Rangers, the Islanders head back south to face the Carolina Hurricanes before returning home to meet the Stanley Cup Champion Colorado Avalanche.

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November has its fair share of difficult games, but it will be important for the Islanders to pick up points this week before the first difficult test of the young season.