Isles are ready to go
By Gary Harding
About 60 hours from the typing of this article, the Islanders will begin their 40th NHL season, as one of the 30 teams vying for the chance to drink from the Cup of Lord Stanley.
From most of the NHL pundits, the Isles are getting the typical talk…..
"They have such young talent, but they still need some time.More experience is needed…The goaltending is the big question…"
As usual the Isles getting the proverbial SHAFT!
However, this year, I really like the fact that many are not giving these guys a snowball’s chance in hell. For these boys, this is a year, that Aretha’s Franklin’s famous line should be shouted from the rooftops.
All of these young kids are another year older, and another year wiser.
Up front, John Tavares is now in his 3rd season. He is not the ‘wet behind the ears’ kid that stepped onto the Coliseum ice in 2009. Truthfully, he never was that. But it is noticeable to see the continued maturation process. He talks and appears to be one that is a great deal older than the 21 year older. I really expect the breakout season from him. I will predict right here and now – that 40 goals is indeed attainable for him this season.
Playing with JT will be his neightbor Matt Moulson and PA Parenteau. Their chemistry is sound and should continue to blossom. If they can repeat their performances from last season, this would be a line that could have nearly 100 goals combined. What team would NOT want that?
Then – line two with Michael Grabner, Kyle Okposo and Frans Nielsen will make defenses take notice a little more closely. Can the “Gremlin” repeat the performance of last season? Remember – he started the season slowly, and did not get to full speed, until Jack Capuano was inserted as the head coach. Okposo will hopefully get a full season under his belt. With his increased physicality, and strong work ethic, I expect some great things from him. As for Nielsen, the least paid on this team, gets involved in some of the most important player roles. He needs to keep the same focus, and hopefully his offensive numbers will get even better.
Will Brian Rolston, Jay Pandolfo, and Marty Reasoner provide not only the leadership aspect, but also contribute to the scoresheet as well?
For the back line, I, along with many others are hoping that the “CAPTAIN” Mark Streit, becomes the player that he was a few seasons ago, when he was an All-Star. He will be paired up with Steve Staios, a 14 year vet who made the team on a tryout contract. They both will log serious minutes and be the shut down pair for the Isles this season.
Andrew MacDonald and Travis Hamonic will be the second pair. MacDonald, now 100% healed from the shoulder, should continue his growth process and be a smart two-way defenseman. Hamonic, brought up a little early, but matured so strongly, and will be replied to be a physical presence, as well as be a stopper on the PK.
Mike Mottau and Mark Eaton, both injured for most of the season, bring experience and smarts to the back line. They may be 5 and 6, but can step up to 1 or 2, should it be needed.
Milan Jurcina, out again with another groin injury, provides strength, when healthy, and can be a scoring touch too.
As far as the Wheel of Goalies are concerned, the Isles are carrying three. Rick DiPietro, Evgeni Nabakov and Al Montoya are all going to see time. Just how much, depends on who steps up early and takes the intiative. This remains to be seen. Nabakov could be the surprise of the three. Just a hunch of mine.
There is a good deal of talent on IR, and in the minors, especially Nino Niederriter, Ryan Strome (who is here, but not sure on the playing time he will get), and of course Trevor Gillies are here on the Island. At Bridgeport – Calvin DeHaan is among the young guns awaiting the call, if needed. In his case, I am hoping that the number of man games lost by the big club will be severly cut down from last season, which will allow the young talent to develop and grow.
We are at two days and counting. I am excited. This is a real positive team, and can prove the skeptics wrong, and challenge for post-season play. I am looking forward to tailgating on Opening Night as Kevin Dineen and the Florida Panthers come and visit.
I am not blogging, but I will be tweeting from the game. Check me out at @islessection317.
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