The New York Islanders host the Vancouver Canucks in the third of six home games they have in the seven-game run-up to the NHL All-Star break. They've won the first two in regulation -- a nice response to the 0-4 stinkfest in Philadelphia that preceded this -- but I wouldn't say they exactly have their game back just yet.
*And by "their game," we're referring to their form for most of 2014-15, which may be charitable at this point, some 40+ games later, but which is the general baseline they are pursuing.
The Canucks are entering their third game of a six-game trip, coming off an overtime win in Carolina that was largely thanks to Jacob Markstrom and Bo Horvat. Markstrom has been hot but is expected to be spelled by Ryan Miller today. You might remember Horvat, at least according to one string of reports and dots-connecting, was the draft target Vancouver had in mind when they traded Corey Schneider to the Devils rather than to the Isles reportedly were offering Nino Niederreiter.
Horvat has six goals and three assists in his last six games -- a blip, or a breakout and franchise transition for a 20-year-old who has 8-11-19 and minus-20 on the season?
After Thursday's win over the Rangers, the two New York teams find themselves with identical records, identical goal difference, but with the Smurfs holding the first tiebreaker of regulation/OT wins by one. It's going to be tight.
Capuano: "I want to have the swagger, the confidence, the poise. Not cockiness...but having those ingredients is what good teams do." #Isles— Brett Cyrgalis (@BrettCyrgalis) January 17, 2016
The win over the Rangers was competitive throughout and entailed a third-period comeback win over a team that rarely allows that, but it cannot be said the Isles had the better of play for the majority of that game. The win over the Blue Jackets was better, but it was also the Blue Jackets.
Regardless, if feeling is believing is making it so, let them have their swagger. As long as actual improved play follows.
With that in mind the Isles will keep their same forward lines and Jaroslav Halak in net but will dress seven defensemen for warmups because someone is dealing with a "gametime decision" malady.
For pure learning's sake, you hope it's not Adam Pelech, as it's been fun to see the rookie introduced into new situations over the past couple of weeks as the Islanders discover just what they have.
Leave your First Islanders Goal picks here before 4 p.m. EST.
And consider this afternoon post your in-game thread.