1. Better Effort, Smoother Execution
Particularly early in the season, from the outside you can fall into the trap of mistaking individual game results for performance. But Monday's result was fair, and reflected a much sharper squad than what we saw in Chicago over the weekend.
A misleading result might have come if, after the Isles piled all those shots on in the first period without finding paydirt, Thomas Greiss hadn't stopped Bryan Little on that 4-on-4 breakaway and Ryan Strome hadn't found that carom off the boards in the final minute.
Fans don't always agree with Jack Capuano's assessment of games, but he does tend to call out poor efforts even after wins. No such disappointment from him on this one:
"When the opposition started to push like they did, we’re not sitting back. That’s not our mindset," Capuano said. "We played Islanders hockey. The focus, the preparation, from the drop of the puck we dominated the hockey game."
[Nelson] played with more intensity and desperation in his game and I thought Ryan, at the same time, played well too," Capuano said. "All of our young kids are starting to come now. Overall they played well, along with our whole team."
2. Special Teams Bounced Right
Speaking of "it's early" and small samples, special teams performance is notoriously hard to project from early results. There aren't many reps to go off of, teams are still scouting each other out, and two bounces is all that stands between 0% and 20% (or 80% and 100%, for the PK).
The penalty kill was okay. They gave up six shots on three kills, and Dustin Byfuglien had room and traffic for his deflected blast from the point.
The Isles power play was mixed. They created several chances on their first power play, then could hardly gain the zone on their second. To think either was a sign of anything larger qualifies you as a Twitter expert.
Their two goals were both good bounces and good instincts: Strome read and jumped on the lively endboards bounce, while John Tavares jumped on the rebound off of Anders Lee in front.
"We were hungry on loose pucks. And that’s where I think it made a big difference for us," John Tavares said (via Daily News). "It was obviously nice to get that going."
One bounce that might have gone against them: The Anders Lee goal that was disallowed and would have made it 2-0. It was probably a high stick, but the two angles I saw were awfully close. (I'm sure the war room had better angles.)
3. Better Ice, Too?
This is a somewhat subjective topic and inexact science, but while in-game observations from reporters speculated about more bad ice, a few reports (Times here, Newsday there, Post yonder) had players and league officials saying the ice was better Monday than Friday. Not perfect, but improving.
Honestly, for all the gripes and angst about third jerseys, views, prices, parking and cheese-moving, a more important issue about the transition to Barclays Center is whether they get the ice right. It was never revered at the Coliseum. But it needs to be NHL quality in Brooklyn, the sooner the better.
4. Greiss Gets it Done
Only 24 shots faced, but that's two good showings in two starts for new backup and current number one Thomas Greiss. I liked his patience on the Little breakaway and his overall positional calm in the net.
Players will always praise their goalie, so here's Ryan Strome:
"He was great, no matter who's in the net we're going to be confident, that's for sure. He's made a good impression on everyone and if he can play like that every night then we have a really good chance."
...but coaches don't always, um, talk about the goaltending. Capuano liked Greiss' puckhandling and communication:
"I like the way he played the puck," coach Jack Capuano said. "Communication with the 'D' is crucial at certain times of the game and he really settled some things down."
If he keeps this up while Jaroslav Halak is day to day, message-board goalie controversy in five...four...three...
5. The Isles Beat a Dangerous Team
So it wasn't the Cup champions, but the Winnipeg Jets are an up-and-coming team. They made the playoffs last year from a tough division, and with a tough first-round draw, and they were off to a good start in -- short sample alert! -- their first two games. They've given the Isles some trouble over the last few seasons too. No surprise to see the laser goals from Mark Scheifele and Dustin Byfuglien.
So maybe the Jets were a little disoriented by the unfamiliar midday start, which was noon by their body clocks. But either way it was a small reassuring sign that the Isles handled them so well.
And Five More Quickies
- Loved Brock Nelson's poise and far-post shot on the 3-on-1, after looking off Tavares.
- Scheifele's release is terrifying.
- Not sure if it was toddler-tossing-worthy, but Josh Bailey's empty netter from center ice was...impressively high.
- The Jets play the second half of a New York back-to-back Wednesday, so good luck to them at the Garden.
- Fun hearing Jiggs this first week of the season. Will he stick around if the Mets advance? (If so, go baseball team!)