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Islanders 3 Hits: Opening night, special teams and the 4th line

Thoughts after the win over the Sabres, before meeting the Blues

Buffalo Sabres v New York Islanders
We are a happy group.
Photo by Abbie Parr/Getty Images

Monday’s matinee against the St. Louis Blues caps three games in (less than) four nights for the New York Islanders. The first two chapters of this opening weekend could not have been more different.

Friday in Columbus, the Isles fell behind early, generally looked slow, and never even got off the ground enough to score a goal.

Saturday at home in Brooklyn, the Isles scored early and then benefited from a Sabres power play disaster to build a 4-0 lead.

1) Saturday Was an Anomaly. (Friday Too)

In baseball, over a 162-game season teams’ “true talent” usually shakes out, but like in every sport the “any given Sunday” rule is in effect. A dominant starting pitcher can have a terrible first inning that changes the fate against a bad team.

So too, hockey can turn that way. While the Isles were better Saturday, the surge of shorthanded goals — John Tavares’ excellent anticipation notwithstanding — made this game one of those outliers. Yes, the Isles were good, but it was 1-0 in the second period before things went “any given Sunday.”

Today against the Blues should tell us a little more. The Blues have been good in their first two games, really activating their defense to extend pressure. With injuries to Alexander Steen, Patrik Berglund and Robbie Fabbri, they also have some young forwards the Isles won’t be familiar with. It’s going to be a classic inter-conference game between teams who don’t know each other very well.

2) We Have No Idea about the Power Play

The Islanders power play has been awful so far. But we really don’t know what they have to offer because their primary problem — outside of fumbles in their own zone leading to two shorthanders against the Sabres — has been the breakout and zone entries.

Rookie Mathew Barzal has the speed and moves to gain the zone, but he needs to make the right decisions once he gets there to gain possession. Doug Weight sounded optimistic:

"We have to fix some things 5-on-4 in our advantage, but we did a great job penatly killing," Weight said. "We unfortunately let them back in, we have to work on decision making and get them in the film room and figure it out, but we'll be fine."

3) The Best Fourth Line...Has Changed for the Moment

With Cal Clutterbuck out, there was a change of the “Best Fourth Line in Hockey.” Instead of simply dropping Jason Chimera into Clutterbuck’s place, Weight put Chimera there but had Brock Nelson center the line with Nikolay Kulemin instead of Casey Cizikas.

Cizikas centered top youngsters Joshua Ho-Sang and Anthony Beauvillier, to good results: Beauvillier scored on a play largely initiated by Ho-Sang’s forecheck, while Cizikas scored twice. Of course, both goals were independent of this line, one coming on a shorthanded pairing with Andrew Ladd and the other coming in 5-on-6 into an empty net.

Still, interesting that that line remained at Sunday’s practice:

So, we’ll see how things go this afternoon.

It’s particularly interesting because Clutterbuck and Alan Quine (who is on IR) are skating at practice. So a roster move is coming sooner than later.