Football has not looked good so far in New York. The Mets lost a heartbreaker over a week ago in the playoffs. For New York fans looking forward to something, the Islanders take on the Rangers in their first regular season game of the year. Is there a better way to kick off the hockey season than the greatest rivalry in New York?
For the Islanders, this is a very important season for the franchise. Last season, they won a playoff series for the first time since 1993, so expectations could be high this year. Fans are hungry for a deep playoff run. They gave fans a little taste of that last year, but fans want more.They lost some key players this offseason including Frans Nielson, Kyle Okposo, and Matt Martin. Out of all those losses, I thought Martin was the biggest loss. He did little things that went unnoticed such as setting the tone with big hits and always getting loose pucks. Okposo and Nielson were also big losses, being that they were 2 of the team’s top scorers. We can’t look back now, as this team still has a lot of young talent. We know we have John Tavares who is one of the best players in the league. Something that the team needs is more from Brock Nelson, Ryan Strome, and even Anders Lee. These guys have had some NHL experience, so it’s time for them to take the next step. These 3 should score 20 or more goals this season, and if they do, the Islanders could be a top team in the Metropolitan division. 2 key additions in the offseason were forwards Andrew Ladd and Jason Chimera. Chimera will hopefully fill Matt Martin’s shoes and set the tone early. Ladd needs to be by Tavares’ side, and be the goal scorer he has been before. Hopefully the Islanders will get 25 or more goals out of him, as he will have a major role on this team. I think the key for this team to be successful this year is to get more production out of players besides Tavares. In the playoffs last year, they were so reliant on Tavares in the first series, that by the second round he was burnt out. This is a team game, and everyone needs to contribute. For the first time in a while, I feel pretty good about the Islanders goalies. At the same time, I think neither should be the actual starter. Instead they should utilize the 2 goalie system, and play the hot hand. Thomas Greiss showed us he could be a starter in the league during the playoffs last season. I think we know what we will get out of Jaroslav Halak. Halak played very well in the World Cup of Hockey this fall. They really have some nice goalie depth, and both players should give them a chance to win every night, exactly what you’d ask out of your goalie. I also feel pretty good about their defensemen. Guys like Travis Hamonic and Nick Leddy have continued to improve, as well as Thomas Hickey. I’d like to see a little more out of Johnny Boychuk this year, especially on the offensive side. Their defensemen held up pretty well in the playoffs, but their one weakness was clearing the puck out of their own zone. Overall, their defensemen are very young, with room to improve. But they, like the goalies, will give the Islanders a chance to win. The X-factors for the season to me are Brock Nelson and Ryan Strome. Nelson made strides last season, but Strome took a step back. Strome was supposed to be a guy that scores a lot of goals. He has not proven he can do that in the NHL yet. Strome’s only 23, but he needs to improve this year especially since he’s been in the league for a few years. Nelson had 26 goal last season, so he is moving in the right direction. We should get 15 goals out of Cal Clutterbuck, and casey Cizikas should continue to grind. Hopefully they will still lead the best 4th line in hockey. There are so many questions about this team, and I do not have answers right now. It’s very hard to break down this team right now because we need to see a few games. They really look like a different team. They have the potential, so hopefully they will make a deep playoff run this year. For now, what better way to start off the year than against their biggest rival, the New York Rangers? The Rangers are due to beat the Islanders since they won all 4 meetings last year. Who will own New York? We will find out tonight.