We jumped the gun on Patrick Division Revival excitement (and angst) two years ago when the NHL announced alphabetic realignment but the NHLPA, to steal an awful overused phrase by Carolina announcers, "said no."
But now it's real, now we're getting used to an eight-team division (it's Patrick+2, like MSG giving you twice the plus and half the reception!), and now we can consider turning the Washington Capitals into true mother-Pavonka rivals again.
The Caps meet the Islanders for the first time under the new alignment, with transient-November second place in the Metro on the line, and Alexander Ovechkin expected back in the lineup. The Caps outscored their opposition 10*-2 in the two games without Ovechkin, but that in itself carries a big Flyers asterisk (7-0 over Philly, 3*-2 in the trick shot* show over Florida).
How are the Capitals really doing? Okay. Or, like most teams on any given day in any NHL season:
"I think we’ve got to play more consistent for 60 minutes," says Caps forward Eric Fehr. "At times our d-zone has let us down and at times our offense has let us down. We’ve got to find a way to make those two mesh together. We’ve got to roll through all of our lines."
Defense, offense, consistency, special teams, finish your checks, don't miss tackles, grind out your at-bats, want it more, grit, go hahd, heart, [insert sports Successories poster here] etc.
In more real terms, the Washington penalty kill has been outstanding, stopping 9 of 10 opponent power plays. So that could make for a nice little regression vs. regression mini-battle with the Islanders power play, still at 21.7 percent.
The Islanders are also on a roll -- two wins counts as a roll, yes? -- as they take their new Vanek toy out on the road. After being outshot most games and outplayed for more stretches than is comfortable in October, they've looked more like their spring 2013 selves the last three games.
Their lineup remains the same, with Colin McDonald saying he's ready but remaining out -- he now admits he rushed back from injury for fear of this very scratch situation -- and Brock Nelson making a helluva fourth-line wing in his stead.
Peter Regin too remains despite having his wisdom teeth removed Sunday and sitting out practice yesterday. That fast rebound raises my eyebrow, and my name isn't even Colin McDonald.
The defense stands at just six healthy men, with Lubomir Visnovsky status quo with his concussion and Brian Strait yet to raise his lower body to game fitness. That means the rotating Matts continue in the same lineup, with Matt Carkner doing his thing that gets by and Matt Donovan doing his thing that should make him a productive NHL defenseman.
The Post has Donovan on his early season struggles and scratches:
"After those couple games, I lost all my confidence," Donovan told The Post. "I just needed to change. I felt like I needed to stop thinking and I just needed to play. And I think I’ve done that the last couple games, and I’ve kind of gotten back to my game."
Unfortunately, the Capitals are going with their better starter, Braden Holtby, and Ray Emery has proven that waltzing down the ice to showboat one's failed boxing career will do nothing to deter Holtby from stopping pucks. (Weird, I know.)
So Evgeni Nabokov will have to think of something else to backstop the Isles to a win tonight. I guess Jack Capuano's history lesson on Nabby in D.C. is a start. (The Post has more there, with hints of more than one Kevin Poulin start on this four-game trip.)
Leave your First Islanders Goal picks here.
Full standings are at the end of the last FIG post, but here is our leaderboard so far:
17 - martylnd
10 - jjbiii
8 - tm
7 - 19holekc
7 - dunnowhat2type
6 - Charlotte Isles
6 - BobBourneIdentity
6 - jeanluc1968
6 - JPinVA
More from Lighthouse Hockey:
- [Gameday Bits] Brock the Vote! End Mascot Abuse in Our Lifetime!
- Zeitgeist: Dr. Phil's Life Strategies for Ending NHL Violence
- [Bits] Strait to IR; In Minnesota, have your Vanek rumor cake and eat it too
- New York Islanders 'Roll': Improvement will be tested on 4-game road trip
- The Rick DiPietro Owner's Manual