The Islanders finally started playing games at their new arena, UBS Arena, last week. Unfortunately, the roster was missing key pieces due to players placed in COVID-19 protocol or listed on injured reserve. With a week packed with hockey, the roster situation only got worse.
As more games were played, the Isles community woke up to more positive cases the next day. The NHL finally agreed to postpone their games from at least Nov. 27 - Nov. 30.
Overlooking the negatives that the Isles were presented with, could this be an eye-opener for some players? The team had a few Bridgeport Islanders play throughout the week and the majority of them stood out.
Panik was seen working hard to generate plays and is very capable of moving the puck well. He looked more confident against Toronto in comparison to Saturday which definitely propelled his play.
Isles rookie defenseman Robin Salo was paired with Scott Mayfield over the weekend. Salo played his heart out despite the quick transition into the NHL and presented an impressive NHL debut. In his second NHL game, he recorded 45 minutes of playing time that was very well deserved. He even led the team in shots with three.
Islanders head coach Barry Trotz even gave Salo a nod during the post-game of his debut, “He handles the puck really well, he sees the ice really well. On the power play, he’s got lots of deception but I love the fact that he gets it and he moves it. Gets it and moves it, opens up some lanes.”
Sebastian Aho really stepped up his game in comparison to his first game this season. Last week, Aho majorly improved by shooting the puck more, using his body, and finding his position on the ice. Could this put Zdeno Chara's spot at risk?
Do they deserve a permanent spot?
It is still early in the season but the Islanders need to snap out of this slug soon. Veterans need to start stepping up when it comes to making smart plays or simply just shooting the puck. It is definitely challenging with the ongoing COVID-19 protocol issues and injuries the roster is experiencing but this team cannot give up.
With the Islanders pierced defense, fill-in defensemen could see a full-time role. Noah Dobson, who is not having a bad season, stepped up his play after Trotz jabbed at a “personnel change”.
With the majority of the roster missing, this might not only open the eyes of players who need to step up. This could be a wake-up call to Islanders head coach, Barry Trotz.
Trotz is known for being hard on the younger players and he makes sure it is known when mistakes are made. Oliver Wahlstrom during the 2021 Stanley Cup Playoffs is a pure example of that. The real question is, when will veterans get alerted for those same mistakes?
Zdeno Chara has been struggling with his play recently and if the team wants to get anywhere in the playoffs they need to start with a stable defense. Once we have a healthy roster, Robin Salo and/or Sebastian Aho should be rotated into the lineup. If they are given the opportunity by Trotz to develop, they can easily be a solution to the issue with our defense.
Small changes like that could give the team a much needed jump start. Once everyone is back healthy and games are able to be played, we will see what lineup changes will take place.