One of GM Lou Lamoriello's goals for the 2022-23 season was for the NY Islanders to be faster and more mobile on their blue line. That's one of the reasons why he brought in defenseman Alexander Romanov and set up the sixth spot on the blue line to be a competition for one of the Isles young defensemen to claim. From day one of training camp, Robin Salo was set up to claim that spot next to Scott Mayfield and played so well that he never left earning a spot on the Islanders' blue line for the regular season. In the Isles first contest against the Florida Panthers, Salo got off to a rough start in the 3-1 loss at UBS Arena Thursday night.
The stat line isn't great for Salo who received 11:28 of ice time, was a minus-two, took four minutes in penalties, and registered a giveaway. The giveaway came in the second period with 7:15 seconds left of the second frame when Salo collected the puck behind the Islanders net from Ilya Sorokin and threw it around the boards that led to a failed clearing attempt. Radko Gudas collected the puck at the blue line and put a shot on net that was deflected by Eetu Luostarinen in the slot that bounced past Sorokin for the 1-0 lead. Luostarinen in the slot should have been covered by Salo, however, the failed clearing attempt led to the 24-year-old defenseman scrambling to get back in position leaving the Panthers forward open to score the goal.
The Islanders were able to get even in the third period when they went to the man advantage and Noah Dobson scored on the power play. However, exactly 20 seconds later, another failed clearing attempt by Salo led to the Panthers regaining the lead.
The Panthers gained the Islanders' zone after winning a neutral zone face-off and the puck found its way to the right wall. With a few Islanders and Panthers fighting for puck possession along the boards, the puck found its way to Salo who attempted to clear the puck up the middle of the ice in what can only be described as a flubbed attempt. Ryan Lomberg intercepted the failed clear and put a shot on Sorokin. The Islanders goaltender made the save but left a rebound that was collected by Patric Hornqvist behind Sorokin's net. Salo attempted to meet Hornqvist on the opposite post taking a path through Sorokin's crease, but before he could catch up to the Panthers forward, Hornqvist deposited the puck in the net to take the 2-1 lead.
Salo was the direct result of two goals against including the game-winning tally for the Panthers. If that wasn't bad enough, Salo took two penalties in the second period just about six minutes apart while the Islanders were trying to take a lead. Fortunately for Salo, the Islanders' penalty-killing units were up to the task and it didn't result in a goal against.
It was just the first game of the season and mistakes will happen, so there's no reason to be overly concerned just yet. But, Lane Lambert will have to nip these kinds of mistakes quickly before it's too late and the Islanders find themselves in a hole and fast. Salo will look to rebound on Saturday when the Islanders take on the Anaheim Ducks at home.