The New York Islanders began the 2016-2017 on October 13. They started off against a familiar foe in the New York Rangers. Looking back seven months later you can see that game would foreshadow the 2016-2017 season for the Islanders.
The 2016-2017 New York Islanders season began with what could be best described as a nervous anticipation for fans. The team was just coming off of their first playoff series win in over 20 years but saw some of their core players walk in free agency.
As every Rangers game, the hype was at its peak. The season was a blank slate, the outcome of this game would set the tone for the next 81 after it. And it opened in the worst possible way.
Worst Start Imaginable
New York Islanders
Michael Grabner traded to the Maple Leafs for a bag full of prospects and then subsequently moved to the Rangers in free agency scored the first goal of the season for the Rangers 13:41 into the first period.
His first of 27 this past season. A high he hadn’t produced since 2010-11, his first season with the Islanders.
Mats Zuccarello scored the only goal in the second period, and the Isles would head into the third period down 2-0.
Nick Leddy scored the first Islanders’ goal of the season 47 seconds into the third period. And just like that, the Isles were right back in the game.
Cal Clutterbuck would tie the game just over three minutes later. But the Rangers would score three unanswered goals to take a 5-2 lead. Brock Nelson scored to cut the lead to 5-3 with about 90 seconds to go.
Josh Bailey and Anthony Beauvillier each had assists on Nelson’s goal. The assists wound up being significant as it was the first point on what would become a career year for Bailey, and also the first point of Beauvillier’s career.
Sign of Things to Come
Looking back at the Islanders season it’s, easy to draw parallels from opening night against the Rangers. Much like going down 2-0 in the second period the Isles found themselves in a deep playoff hole early on.
This version of the New York Islanders was built to win not just a single playoff round but two. But as the halfway mark of the season loomed the Isles were sitting near the bottom of the Eastern Conference. Not anywhere near where they thought they’d be.
The lackluster start cost long term coach Jack Capuano his job. Doug Weight took over and the Islanders were playing like a new team. Under Weight, they were able to play well and climb up the standings.
The Islanders were able to tie the game on opening night and were also able to fight back into a playoff spot at the tail end of the season. Their six-game winning streak to end the year gave us all a little glimmer of hope. But the poor start to the season would sink the Isles. Finishing just a single point from a playoff spot.
Unfortunately, both Opening Night and the remaining 81 games of the regular season saw the Isles fight back, but fall just short of reaching their goal. We should have seen this coming.