The New York Islanders started the 2016-17 season off by going 0-2 on the road before the home opener tonight in Brooklyn. Should we be worried just yet?
Going 0-2 to start the season isn’t great. On the road to divisional rivals is even worse. But it’s not the end of the world for the New York Islanders. Maybe our 19-year-old prospect just isn’t ready yet.
These first two games have been seemingly used as an extension of training camp by Islanders management. Both Mathew Barzal and Anthony Beauvillier have been given independent auditions with meaningful games on the line.
And with last night’s brain fart by Mathew Barzal it’s understandable for the Isles faithful to be stressed on the outcome of this experiment.
For those who may not have seen the game, it was back-to-back penalties for Barzal that I’m referencing. As he finished serving his first two minutes for slashing he was immediately given a second. For playing the puck while in the penalty box.
There are bad penalties and stupid penalties, and this one ranks amongst one of the dumbest a player can take.
But the lesson to take here isn’t that Barzal is a bad player with bad judgment. It’s that he’s a 19-year-old kid who let the occasion get to him.
The Power of Experience
It’s not that Barzal didn’t know that he’d get a penalty for playing the puck from the box. It’s that he didn’t think of it. He saw a 50/50 puck and an oncoming Capitals player. So he played it.
If you look back at the play you’ll see that it wasn’t even the best play to make. If he was looking to make a play he could have chipped it up to Tavares and send the Islanders on the attack.
But instead he “played” it to Travis Hamonic who was being covered by Daniel Winnik. Both would have resulted in a penalty. It just shows how little he was thinking of his actions. He acted without thinking of the consequences.
It’s a teachable moment. Not what the rules of the game are, but simply to calm down. Credit to Hamonic for seizing that opportunity and going over to the kid to just get him focused again.
Is He Ready Yet?
So should we be worried? The Islanders are still on a two-game losing streak, teachable moment or not we still haven’t won yet.
A two-game sample is much too early to be deciding how the season is going to fair. But perhaps it points to these kids not yet being ready for the big show.
If the occasion, a regular season game in Washington in what looked like a half-filled arena, is going to be enough to flummox Barzal, perhaps an AHL stint is necessary.
The Islanders should give Barzal one more game to sort out his nerves before making the decision to send him down. If he’s got a hard time keeping his nerves in check for a game in front of the home-crowd, then a stint in Bridgeport is the next step.
The only issue I see with that is that the experiment continues. Meaning more games are given up in the name of roster evaluation. Something that should have been completed in training camp.
Two games to tinker and sort the roster out is justifiable. But for a team with intentions of making the conference finals, like the New York Islanders, anything more becomes a serious impediment to that goal.