After facing each other in back-to-back games to start the season, I think the Islanders and Blackhawks have satisfied the criteria to be eligible for one of NBCSN's dubious and nebulous "Wednesday Night Rivalry" games.
Now that the rigmarole of the team's inaugural game at that terrible, horrible, no good, why-don't-they-just-move-back-oh-right-they-can't Barclays Center is over with, the Islanders can concentrate on taking two points from the Blackhawks at United Center one night after a 3-2 overtime loss.
My own recap of last night was that it was a mostly fine first game of the season for the Islanders. They started sloppy, but slowly straightened out as the game wore on, and basically gave it to the champs as well as they got. Points are always good, but when you take a penalty in OT against Jonathan Toews, Patrick Kane and company, you're writing on your own tombstone. Try not to do that in the future (i.e. tonight)
MSG+2 has the game, with the pregame show starting at 8 pm and puck drop at 8:30.
On the radio, tune to WNYE 91.5 FM, WRHU 88.7 FM or WRCN 103.9 FM.
So now what? Some pertinent questions:
So, uh, who's in goal?
Thomas Greiss made 32 saves in Friday's game and looked pretty good. He was beaten by a short-handed backhand breakaway, a sweet blind pass by Toews to a wide open Kane and on an own goal re-direction during a 4-on-3 OT. He gave the Islanders a chance to win the game, but could he do it on back-to-back nights?
If Jack Capuano doesn't think so, we could see the NHL debut of Jean-Francois Berube, who was picked up on waivers from the Kings last week. Or Jaroslav Halak could make a Willis Reed-like return from the injury that's kept him out for most of training camp and last night.
Update: Bonne chance, jeune homme.
J.F. Berube to start in goal tonight, will make NHL debut #Isles— New York Islanders (@NYIslanders) October 10, 2015
Capuano on Berube making his NHL debut: "There isn't much time to think about nerves. He's been waiting for this. Go out and enjoy it."— Arthur Staple (@StapeNewsday) October 10, 2015
For the Blackhawks, expect Scott Darling to step in for Corey Crawford. Darling carried Chicago for a little while last year, and looked like an unlikely savior when he replaced a shaky Crawford in the playoffs against the Predators. Crawford eventually came back and was in goal when the Hawks beat Tampa Bay in the Cup final.
More of the same?
The Islanders started shaky, but ultimately ended up out-possessing and outshooting the Blackhawks for the game (albeit by one whole shot). Playing Chicago at home right away with the same confidence and physicality would be a great sign, regardless of how the score turns out (he said now, four hours before game time).
I don't want to put too much stock into one game, but the Islanders went 0-for-2 on the power play last night and exhibited the same passive, shambling, frustrating tendencies they showed at the end of last season and into the playoffs, where they went 0-for-the-series against the Capitals.
Teams have survived and even won championships with crappy power play units, by why would anyone want to cripple themselves like that? The Islanders have far too much offensive talent to be that bad with an extra attacker. I'm not a coach, and I have never played one on TV, but dudes, whatever you're doing, it ain't working.
Bonus! Arthur Staple Mini Q&A
Newsday's Islanders beat writer took some questions from fans during his flight to Chicago this morning. Not too many revelations, but here are a few select answers. You can read the whole thread here. Thanks again, Art.
@Matt_Taub Think it's something that's been nagging him, so hard to tell. Best guess is next week, barring a setback.— Arthur Staple (@StapeNewsday) October 10, 2015
@goldens28 Hamonic and Boychuk combined for 9 SOG... I think they generated enough.— Arthur Staple (@StapeNewsday) October 10, 2015
@jeffbeil 37. He works his ass off, but he's limited. That's the proper order of things, 14-28 and 37 as the extra.— Arthur Staple (@StapeNewsday) October 10, 2015
@EMN430 It's similar... If they're bobbing along around .500 end of the month, wouldn't surprise me at all if there's a shakeup.— Arthur Staple (@StapeNewsday) October 10, 2015
@jeff25624 It was definitely loud, despite the empty pockets. Upstairs near the press box was pretty constant noise. Good to see.— Arthur Staple (@StapeNewsday) October 10, 2015