he 4-2 victory came on the heels of a three-point game from Captain John Tavares and two power play goals.
The season began inauspiciously for the Islanders, dropping two games to the Chicago Blackhawks including an overtime loss that garnered the team their first point of the year in their Brooklyn opener. The team had a different tune in their Columbus Day matinee.
“I know we didn't have success against Chicago, but if you watched us play tonight with the focus and preparation, from the drop of the puck we dominated the hockey game,” said Islanders head coach Jack Capuano, according to the team.
The team was carried by their strong performance on the power play, which was powered by Tavares, who will need to follow up last season’s MVP-caliber performance with a similarly dominant campaign if the team wants to compete in arguably the strongest division in the league.
“Obviously, the power play was better, we were able to generate some momentum from it,” Tavares said. “Obviously we got a lot of power plays because we’re working hard and drawing penalties.”
They were also helped out by a little puck luck, with forward Ryan Strome burying a chance that bounced off the backboards after a shot by Kyle Okposo.
One of the most exciting moments of the afternoon came late in the third period after the Jets had cut the lead to 3-2. While they were looking for the equalizer, Tavares drew a rare penalty shot. After some dazzling wrist tricks, he was ultimately denied by Winnipeg netminder Ondrej Pavelec.
The roster, heading into the first three games is consistent with what the team mostly iced last year, however there’s been one notable exception: Jaroslav Halak has been missing in action with an unspecific upper body injury.
The German-native Thomas Greiss backstopped the club to their first win over the Jets (and their opening night loss), while 24-year-old Jean-Francois Berube was in net for the team’s 4-1 loss.
There is currently no timetable for when Halak will retake his rightful place as the starter between the pipes for the team, which will need a solid performance from the unheralded and often underrated goalie.
Greiss was solid, in not unspectacular, in the team’s first win of the year, giving up two goals but ultimately making the big saves when it counted.
“Everytime we needed [Greiss] he was there,” Strome said after the team’s win over Winnipeg. “He was great. All three games our goalies have been good for us, and that’s what we’re going to need. No matter who is in there, we feel confident.”
The Islanders three-game homestand continues on Thursday when they host the visiting Nashville Predators, who won their first two games in low-scoring affairs. They bring a talented young defensive corps and an all-star but often injured goaltender in Pekka Rinne.
The key for the Islanders on Thursday will be scoring early to force the Predators to open up their forecheck, giving some of the team’s more creative players open ice and the opportunity to slice through the defense.
This is an Islanders team built on having a dangerous transition and cycle game, which would wear on the Predators talented defensemen if the puck is not in their own end for a prolonged period of time.
The team will also welcome the San Jose Sharks and the Columbus Blue Jackets at the end of this week and next, who are both only a season removed from playoff contention. While they both missed last year thanks to a number of injuries and bad circumstance, they are still difficult teams that can give anyone fits on any night.