The Captain is back, and he brought The Wiz with him.
For a Home Opener, the Islanders and their Stars guests did not disappoint. The Isles even built in some drama by coughing up two goals in the first due to turnovers and disorganization, creating anxiety among the faithful (more faithful anxiety came later, in the skills competition).
An up-and-down game followed, with the Islanders reversing form by erasing someone else's 2-goal third-period lead rather than squandering their own. The OT that followed included a successful Isles PK. The shootout produced only one conversion, that by Mike Ribeiro, which gave the Stars the extra point.
About that shootout: Did the Danish Backhand of Judgment really get denied? No...he merely showed mercy upon Kari Lehtonen's injury-prone soul. Though the Coliseum crowd gasped in horror when Frans Automatic was denied -- like natives watching in horror as their idol was toppled by this newfangled "gunpowder" -- it was nothing. Just move along.
Special Teams Lead Special Comeback
The stats favored the home side -- 47-22 in shots, 57% on faceoffs (thank you Mr. Weight and Mr. Konopka), and 42-21 on hits. But part of that was due to the Islanders chasing most of the game trying to comeback. Mind you, comeback they did. Though each team had plenty of powerplay opportunities, it was critical that the Islanders converted on three of theirs (including a 5-on-3) while the Stars fell short on all of theirs (including an OT 4-on-3). Thank you, Stephane Robidas, for flipping the puck not once but twice directly over the glass in the third period.
One game is nothing to read anything on, but if the Islanders powerplay is going to move the puck like that -- even overcoming the bumpy Coliseum ice -- then that unit won't be at the trough of the league again.
The defense looked like it could use a few more get-to-know you sessions. That should come with time, as the pairs adjust and communicate. No one looked like a red flag based on purely individual play.
John Tavares suffered a "minor" concussion, on a fluke hit at the blueline, where Adam Burish was skating regular speed hoping to stay onside while breaking into the zone with speed. Tavares, skating backwards, didn't see him coming. Knowing Burish, he may have thrown a little more oomph into the collision, but only enough to ensure he wasn't the one going down. The contact was with JT's upper back. Apparently Zenon Konopka was about to engage Burish later when the Stars scored their third goal after a Parenteau turnover.
Rick DiPietro's movements looked better than last year to my eye, but his side-to-side still gave you pause. A few times when a glove was used where a leg would do (like the first rebound goal). A few bad angle reads where he stayed standing when you expect a butterfly guy to crouch low to be safe. It bears watching. That said: He looked good in the shootout, and I don't know what kind of drill tests a goalie's mobile health more than a shootout.
Doug Weight -- The 2-0 deficit called for someone to take charge, and the captain answered. Three points, including a goal on the 5-on-3 (it came off a lucky carom, but it came after lots of great puck movement engineered by him). He looked night-and-day from last year: He wasn't playing to protect the shoulder, but rather to lead this team. Great to see.
P.A. Parenteau -- Had bad luck in the shootout, beating Lehtonen but ringing the iron. He was perimeter-ish and tentative. Made some poor decisions, including a soft backhand pass at center ice that was intercepted and led to a Stars goal. He didn't look like a guy motivated to seize this golden chance, but it's one game.
Nino Niederreiter -- The big rookie is BIG. He was perimeter-ish for several stretches, but he hit people and initiated contact, and by the third period he was crashing the net with regularity. Even if this is only nine games, he's going to be fun to watch grow. ... Did I mention he was big?
Matt Moulson -- Picked up right where he left off, scoring the huge tying goal with poise from his Office in front of the net. Just 2:39 left in the game, that was a massive lift for this team. #mightymattmoulson!
Andrew MacDonald -- Talk about picking up where you left off. His game was filled with smart decisions and -- maybe better yet -- lots of great communication during stress situations (turnover rushes, odd-man rushes, situations where a forward was the second man back). I remember noticing this side of his game when I first watched him in person last year in St. Louis, but he appears even better than last year. Six minutes of PK time alone without a goal against. (He was on for an EV goal against.)
Radek Martinek -- So glad the quiet Czech is back. Looked like the Martinek of old -- calm, smooth and smart, with a couple of goal-saving pokes for good measure.
Josh Bailey -- The Kid enters his third year, but Tavares's injury opened up a spot at center, where he did well and logged a team-high (forwards) 22:09, including five minutes on the PK alone. He was part of multiple shifts that sustained pressure in the second half of the game. His sneaky-smart play fueled Blake Comeau's powerplay goal: Lehtonen's dropped stick was in his way, so he cleared it to the corner, where the distracted Lehtonen wasn't getting it back.
Zenon Konopka -- Exactly what he was brought in for: Team-high seven hits, 9-6 on faceoffs, and a visible and vocal guy on the bench and in skirmishes.
James Wisniewski was as advertised: Booming shot for the powerplay goal, a huge hit to the solar plexus that destroyed Jamie Benn, and a few positional decisions that made you go "hmmmm." He is going to be fun, and sometimes he's going to be a guy who is overused at times. He led the team with 24 minutes TOI.
Witness here his destruction of Benn for your enjoyment (or stomach-turning, as Benn was left woozy). On further review, it was a clean hit to the chest, but their heads collided -- probably Benn's face/chin/cheek to Wiz's helmet, which is why Wiz survived unharmed):
Also: Eight different Islanders were credited with three or more hits.
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Overall, that was a blast. Cheers to everyone in the game thread, and if you were at the Coliseum we'll be expecting your thoughts as soon as you've come down.
Battle of New York resumes Monday afternoon. Tune in later for WebBard's Sunday post on that rivalry.