It’s here! The New and Improved (teehee) New York Islanders finally begin the 2022-23 season tonight, at home — a place they didn’t see till near-U.S. Thanksgiving last season.
Their opponent, the formidable Florida Panthers, look a little different but still daunting. Gone are Jonathan Huberdeau and MacKenzie Weegar, among others. Joining the fray is head coach Paul Maurice (hmmm...) and agitating power forward Matthew Tkachuk.
Tkachuk, of course, drew the ire of many an opponent while toiling for Calgary in the Pacific Division. He’s a tremendous player, but if you grew up from birth around NHL rinks, received constant NHL-expert coaching (and opportunity) as a youth, and had a path to juniors paved with— well, what I’m saying is you better at least make the pros. He’s done far more than that, is rich now, and will be super-rich starting next year. Everything has fallen into place, and at age 24 he is asked to be the final piece for a very good team in a slandered market. Not unlike the first half of his father’s career.
Anyway, Tkachuk isn’t in the Isles’ division, but chances are fans will see him enough to hate him. He’ll do something agitate-y, will avoid answering to that agitation because he’s “too important,” and will glide around treating his mouthguard like an unbuckled seatbelt. Privilege has its privileges!
It’s funny, the Panthers have been “on the rise” for a long, long time — since at least when they should have won a playoff series in Brooklyn but for the grace of Greiss. They inch closer and closer, but at a pace where their best assets may pass their peak, especially when Aaron Ekblad gets injured each year at the worst possible time. Now Aleksander Barkov is 27, Huberdeau is a Flame, and Sergei Bobrovsky is a bust.
Now they have Maurice, whose lengthy track record indicates a permanent state of Almost There But Not Quite is assured.
Which brings us tonight, when both the Isles and Panthers begin their accounts. Leave your First Islanders Goal picks here. [NOTE: The FIG link has been updated since this was first posted.] There’s no prize for winning, but on your deathbed you’ll receive a sponsor logo rally towel.
- Plugging this again: Dan and Mike’s Islanders Anxiety podcast season preview, a mix of hope, dread, and disgust at NHL Network, and the Andy Sutton “Oh, so you’re an expert?” Award goes to Dan, who watched some preseason games in their entirety. [LHH]
- Season Preview: Various official facts from the team site. [Isles]
- Beginning with four games at home means the Isles really, really need a strong start. [Post]
- We’re at this late, desperate stage of the preseason where we have headlines like “Islanders Learned Lesson: They Have to Work for Playoff Spot.” [Newsday]
- Legendary Islander and one-time Devil Andy Greene has retired. [NHL]
- While Greene’s brief stint with the Devils will likely be forgotten, many will remember the significant lessons he taught his Islanders teammates. [Isles]
- On the seventh day, God said every millimeter* of this beautiful but neglected Earth shall be monetized. [Isles]
*little known fact: Genesis^ God used the metric system
^Genesis the book, not the Hall of Fame rock group. Those guys probably knew metric.
- Mattias Samuelsson signs a seven-year extension with the Sabres, which makes me think I should really know who Mattias Samuelsson is. [NHL]
- Anton Stralman’s NHL career lives on: The PTO signs in Boston. [TSN]
- Carey Price dressed as Garth Brooks for Halloween and received a standing ovation from the Montreal fans. [Sportsnet]
- David Pastrnak (who logged a bunch of points last night) and the Bruins both want an extension, but Pastrnak is in no hurry and is happy to negotiate during the season. [TSN]
- Patrik Laine scores but got hurt, Johnny Gaudreau did neither, and the Blue Jackets lost their opener. [ESPN]
- Referee Chris Rooney opens the season with a speech. On the one hand...who does that? On the other, it was so flat that surely it was ordered by the league? Surely? [Post]