Rick DiPietro is tonight's starter for the New York Islanders, but not even "The Franchise" with his contract and his injury comeback can be the story on Opening Night.
No, Opening Night is about firing up the engines on a new season of hope, of wonder, of sheer joy at the possibilities about to unfold.
Projections and predictions don't matter on Opening Night, she of the proverbial 0-0 record, because tonight is about the franchise as it exists in every fan's mental construction, through their shared experiences and the experiences passed down from their dads, uncles, sisters -- or from their own genesis at that first magical moment when each budding hockey addict realized: "I love the Islanders."
It's about that crest right there, with its endearingly '70s collision of fonts, its old-time-hockey circular container, its one-of-a-kind silhouette of the Island the team calls home, and the subtlest of nods to a storied history. I look at that crest and I get a rush of memories from Bossy to Tavares. I also see a four-stripe tribute to the Dynasty where it should be: Understated, on a stick decoration (stripes above the heel) that is a relic of the past. Honored, but not overbearing.
Teams may feign an entirely unbelievable ignorance about how important a consistent visual look is to fans, but we know. Players, management, even buildings (if we're lucky) change, but our collective history following this team is symbolized by that visual identity that carries through from Westfall to Niederreiter. I'm thrilled the original visual theme is back, because now every Islanders fan -- even those who came on in 1995 -- can identify with the Orange & Royal Blue.
Islanders vs. Dallas Stars (1-0-0)
7 p.m. EDT | Nassau [gloriously unsponsored] Veterans Memorial Coliseum | MSG+, WRHU 88.7?
SBN voice of the South Stars: Defending Big D
The Stars beat the Devils in OT last night, with Martin Brodeur giving up four goals. As is custom, Stars players like Brad Richards, Brendan Morrow, Mike Ribeiro (coming off a disappointing year) and Jamie Benn looked sharp and keyed the win. Loui Eriksson got the winner on a counterattack.
The Stars are in transition now, restrained to an almost Islanders-like budget (minus big buyouts) thanks to the troubles of owner Tom Hicks, who partnered with former Canadiens owner George Gillett to destroy historic English soccer club Liverpool FC. But the Stars still have some nice talent, some of it emerging like the best players on a team we know.
Last season the Stars played the Islanders very well in Rick DiPietro's return. DiPietro looked off that night (and, it turned out, still not back in form), but our reactions at the time reflected how Dallas also had goalie problems. Marty Turco's gone and now comes the former Atlanta enigma Kari Lehtonen. If the Stars don't run him out there on this back-to-back, we get the pleasure of Andrew Raycroft. Between back-to-backs and the new goalies, the opportunity is there for a fun season opener.
- Needs to prove his health: DiPietro, for the third year in a row
- Needs to prove himself: P.A. Parenteau, whose chances begin now
- Needs to be himself: Nino Niederreiter
- Needs to make a statement: John Tavares, the default offensive leader
- Under the microscope: The defensive unit, which is improved but must organize absent Mark Streit
- Radio Deal: [The Times coverage quotes a commenter at IPB] [Islanders release has details]
- UPDATE: Morning skate and lineup report from Chris Botta at IPB
- LATE: Calvin de Haan returned to Oshawa's lineup as their new captain, but their big comeback fell short and their win streak ended.
- Let the DiPietro stories flood in. [CBS NY]
- More Gordon praise for Andrew MacDonald's growth, confirmation Roloson starts Monday [Post]
- Dylan Reese and First-Base Andy Hilbert get the A's in Bridgeport [Soundin' Off]
- Nino is a little older than Patrick Marleau and Jordan Staal when they made their debuts [Forever1940]
- I Swear I Didn't Do A Community Projection: Andy Sutton breaks his thumb in his Ducks debut.
- Scary business with Ondrej Pavelec collapsing on the ice last night.
- The AP's Islanders preview
- Bob McKenzie with a rant about a pointless fight in a blowout. [TSN]
- As far as prognosis evolution from "it's nothing" to "it's something," the Flyers have their own DP-like saga with Michael Leighton [Broad Street Hockey]
Last year at this time, I was up at the Coliseum with Mrs. Lighthouse when chills ran down my spine as John Tavares collected a deflection and calmly backhanded it high for his first NHL goal. Will we be so lucky with Nino? I can dream.
Whether you're watching, listening, or at the game, you can chat it up in our Lighthouse Hockey game thread tonight.
FYI to new and old readers who are commenters or thinking of joining the comment/FanPost zoo: We finally have some codified community standards here. No major changes from the tone most of you have set and embraced here. But with new members coming in, I thought I should lay down some boundaries so that every fits in like one big fun-loving dysfunctional family.
Scott Gordon on the final camp cuts, a couple days ago, including thoughts on Matt Martin going down to get more ice time now that Michael Grabner's here.