Hockey From The Blind Side; More Is Better

It might be said that with a 3-1 record and a 3 game winning streak to star the season, there shouldn’t be much to “complain” about. Winning is generally a “good” thing and it’s probably not best to start picking at the “little” things when there has been success so far.

Nevertheless, at the risk of repeating a theme that a lot of other people have been stressing over the last few days, I do have my own “concerns” or “worries” about the state of the Islanders. No, it’s nothing serious or critical, especially so early into the current campaign, yet, to me, there is a factor that should be addressed at this stage just the same.

The reality is, the Islanders have scored 11 goals in their 4 first games of the season. Of those 11 goals, the “first line” of John Tavares, Matt Moulson, and PA Parenteau have been responsible for 8 of those goals. Frans Nielsen, Kyle oKposo and Andrew MacDonald, for those stat people who are interested, have tallied the other 3 goals.

What is missing from that proverbial picture? I think it’s pretty obvious. Although the “second line” of Nielsen, Grabner and Okposo has played well, the Islanders are going to need contributions from them on a lot more consistent basis. That line has some serious firepower with Grabner’s speed and the dimensions Nielsen and Okposo also add. Those guys have to put the puck in the net and bring a viable threat that will take the pressure off of JT’s line.

More importantly, though, in my humble opinion, is the matter of the “third” line. There have been NO GOALS thus far from Rolston, Bailey and Comeau. Without a doubt, Rolston has played well and has shot the puck a great deal. However, as I have previously mentioned, Comeau needs to show that last season was not a fluke and Josh Bailey needs to demonstrate why the Isles traded to enable themselves to select him in the draft at the #9 pick three years ago. To me, that line has the potential to also find the twine regularly enough to make it a dangerous threesome on the ice, and in order for the Islanders to have long term success, they are going to need to get their names on the score sheet.

It will be interesting to see what happens when Nino Niederreiter is ready to return from his groin injury. With Trevor Gillies also able to play and Blake Comeau having been scratch from Saturday night’s game, I really believe that guys are going to have to earn their playing time. Also, Milan Jurcina’s return to the lineup is going to present a problem as far as who will sit from the six guys who have been playing thus far. Who will be the odd man out?

Also in regard to the back line, in the long term, the Isles are going to need consistent scoring from them as well. Mark Streit has surely contributed and has impacted the team’s success, but they are going to need some balance scoring from other guys game in and game out. Andrew MacDonald, Travis Hamonic and Milan Jurcina are the 3 guys who come to mind as far as offensive capabilities.

The bottom line, however, is to continue to win and grab 2 points each night. Remember that the Islanders did start off last season on a winning note as well. These next two games in the Sunshine state are going to be important ones for them. Winning on the road has been a real problem for the Isles in recent years, and in order to compete for a playoff spot, this is an area in which they will have to improve significantly.

From a purely selfish perspective, both as an Islander fan and a fantasy hockey owner, I hope the line of JT, Moulson and Parenteau continue to earn those points. They carried me in two of my leagues last week. My personal thanks to JT, in particular ….. Still, I do have Grabner and Okposo on multiple teams, as well as A-Mac and Hammer and Streiter.

Overall, I simply think the philosophy of “more being better” is what the Islanders need to live by. More goals, more consistency and more wins. Every game is important within the context of the season, and 2 points squandered early on can come back to hurt in the end. Thus, the other lines and the defense have to step up their games and balance out the scoring on a game by game basis. That is how this team will enable itself to earn a playoff spot come April.

As for who will get the start in goal tonight, I have no idea. The Islanders are carrying all 3 goaltenders on the trip, but as far as I have read, there has been no announced starter for tonight. Tampa has been giving up goals, so the Isles are going to have to pick up where the left off last Thursday when they beat the Lightning 5-1 at the NVMC.

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