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Baby Bruins 5, Little Islanders 2: Rookie Game impressions

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The first caveat for any preseason game -- much less a strictly rookie-and-longshot affair -- is don't read much into it. What's more, tonight we'll double the observational data we accumulated in Game 1.

That said, last night was a lot of fans' first look at some young Islanders. From the fight-filled 5-2 (EN) loss, some individual impressions follow links and lines. As you'll see if you check out the links below, impressions varied.


I didn't get a full read on the lines -- it was hard over the stadium feed and Bruins-centric announcers. But lines I think I saw included:

Rakhshani - Ullstrom - Niederreiter (lots)
DiBenedetto - Cizikas - Kabanov (often)
O'Neill - Romano - Figren (mixed with the above and the below)
Taylor, Tarasuk

de Haan - Hamonic (on PK, but also at 5-on-5)
Klementyev - Katic
DeHart - Syvret


Other Impressions

Travis Hamonic looked like a pro out there. His game is as billed: physical, spatially aware, feisty, quick to stick up for his teammates (including when anyone got close to Mikko Koskinen). His shot from the point was deflected in by Nino for the first Isles goal. He also, I believe, was in the first fight, a quick mutual takedown where Hamonic nonetheless threw the Bruin off of him while Hamonic was on his back.

Calvin de Haan was also as billed, in terms of smooth movements and insightful puck-moving. He was also turned around on one of the Bruins' goals (the winger spun him, got a shot on that created a tap-in rebound). He also hasn't played a lot of hockey since his shoulder surgery.

Rhett Rakhshani, with the advantages that come with being a four-year college vet, looked like a man playing among youngsters. He moved quite well, made deceptive plays with the puck, was always noticeable. Given the competition and relative ages, I don't know how significant that is.

Mikko Koskinen is as big as billed, of course. His movements in the crease are calm and fluid. His legs cover a lot of ground (of course) but quickly: He seems to easily get low. I'm not sure how quick the rest of his reflexes are -- that's not a criticism, I just wasn't able to see that. But he made lots of saves, and generally made smart decisions on smothering the puck, etc. He does not have the DiPietro wanderlust.

As mentioned, Casey Cizikas looked like a guy with potential. Smart passes. I believe he hit the post once. He could help one day.

Nino Niederreiter wasn't the most noticeable out there -- he lost his balance a few times, was checked a few times as possibly a high-value target of the Bruins. But he flashed some skill and physicality. His tip-in was great. He got some shots off.

DiBenedetto, as some commented in our game thread, was feisty and combative. This is a good sign. This is probably his path to the NHL should he make it. I liked what I saw, and I liked it more if it turns out his major/game ejection for elbowing was an errant call. (It's possible, if you read the links above, it was an errant Bruins' stick that caused the damage. I never saw the play.)

David Ullstrom looked smart as a center. He and Nino and Rhett clearly composed the most accomplished line, so take that into consideration, but you could imagine where Ullstrom might be the Isles best Nordic forward draft pick yet. We'll see.

Kirill Kabanov flashed his skill a few times. He also showed his feisty side -- this kid will not likely get pushed around, despite his thin frame. Or at least when pushed, he pushes back.

Robin Figren, one of the "veterans," played well, scored by crashing the net, and served as de facto captain. I'll take it.

*  *  *

We'll do it all again tomorrow. Game thread again here. If you are attending and want to hook up with some other Islanders fans, check ogam5's FanPost and weigh in on your plans.

This was a mostly positive report card, but that's in part because they're rookies and I'm looking for the positives, looking for the evidence of their billing. A lot of you weighed in during the game thread, but any and all impressions and questions are welcome in comments.

The best part is hockey's back, baby. Hockey's back.