GAME DAY: WILD AT ISLANDERS, 1 PMGame two of a four game homestand

Steven S, Massapequa Park
If you’d like to see your picture on a gameday post, send it to kschultz08@gmail.com or tweet @schultz88.


Update, 11:00a: Arthur Staple tweets Montoya to start today

It’s only one game… It’s only one game…

It is certainly irrational to freak out after losing just one of 82 games. If Saturday night had been the 8th, 28th or 68th game of the season no one would have batted an eye. A loss, sure, but in the middle of the season it would be a normal occurrence devoid of any real statement to make about the team, it’s destiny or ability.

Taken in context as the first game of the season in front of a raucous home crowd, it’s a little different. In the standings, it means the same. One of 82. In the context of opening night, which cannot be ignored, it does raise some questions. Why did they come out so flat? Can they not handle pressure situations? What of the top 3 lines, with Coach Capuano stating that he thought the 4th line was the best?

The answers are probably a combination of a young team with nervous stomachs in the first of hopefully many high pressure situations they will face. You can’t fault them for that, the only other night for them that compares to Saturday is the debut of John Tavares on opening night against Pittsburgh two years ago. And now that this one is out of the way, things will get easier. Patience is the name of the game in the six-and-a-half month grind that is the NHL’s regular season but the Islanders did get a great opportunity from the scheduling overlords by opening the year with four in a row at home.

The Islanders face the Minnesota Wild at the Coliseum today in a Columbus Day matinee. It’s another winnable game at home against a team that missed the playoffs in 2011. With the dynamic Lightning and hated Rangers coming in later this week to complete the four game homestand, the Islanders need to avoid going 0-for-2 with the two toughest games of the homestand ahead. The Wild will be better than the Panthers after adding Devin Setoguchi and Dany Heatley this off-season and the road ahead only gets tougher.

NEWS AND NOTES

+ Al Montoya got the surprise start on Saturday night and played well. Regardless of how the rest of the team played, going 27 for 29 with one goal coming on a 5-on-3 where he was completely screened is a good outing for Montoya. That said, give the situation in net I’m sure we’ll see someone else in net if not today then certainly by Thursday.

+ On the Isles telecast Saturday night Howie Rose called the crowd the loudest he’s heard save for a banner raising. I wouldn’t agree with quite that much hyperbole but it was certainly the loudest since a certain playoff series.

+ Check out the 40th anniversary video played on Saturday night.

+ Crowd chant by Long Island’s own Joe Satriani is your new goal song. I guess we have to take their word for it because… Uh… With the shutout and all.

+ Reader Eric B. sent in this video of the festivities.

THE OPPOSING VIEW
with Ryan Henning from Minnesota Sports blog the Victoria Times and Barry Melrose Rocks

KS: Ryan, can you give us a general outlook for the Wild this season? We’re not familar with them here in the east and they’ve made some serious offensive additions.

RH:After many years of mediocrity, and a lack of a scoring touch, Wild fans are pretty excited to have a scorer and a young offensive prospect in Dany Heatley and Devin Setoguchi. It’s amazing how much that has changed the outlook for Minnesota, if only in public perception. Having Pierre-Marc Bouchard back is also a welcome addition to the team as he gives a little bit of dynamic depth.

Last season, the forwards were pass first, and having three players that are a little more willing to shoot the puck are going to help (in Bouchard’s case admittedly very little more willing to shoot). I mean, they scored 4 times last night. A veritable offensive explosion. The defense is fairly young, but Minnesota has always been able to get the most out of defensmen through development, but also because the forwards are generally adept at the back check. I think this season, barring injury, Minnesota should be a little bit more interesting to the casual viewer, and may even claim one of the last spots in the playoffs. Given what a horrible year it’s been for Minnesota sports, this would be a welcome change.

KS: A lot of fans on Long Island naturally wanted to grab Eric Nystrom off the waiver wire when he was cut by the Wild. Can you talk a little about Eric and why he didn’t make their opening night roster?

RH:If the team is going to move forward and they have the option of bringing a player who is slightly less skilled but significantly younger, they will do so. Guys like 19 year old Brett Bulmer or 22 year old Colton Gillies have a chance to develop into something great. Nystrom’s probably near what we could ever expect from him. And it kills me to say that, because he is the same age as I am. We’ve both peaked.

KS:What are your thoughts on the Islanders this year?

RH:I wish nothing but the best for the Isles this year. Any team that can get under the skin of the Penguins is A-OK in my book. It seems that lately, they have been building the team the right way, investing in youth and building from within, rather than dumping a lot of money into high priced free agents that might block youngsters. A personal favorite for the Islanders is University of Minnesota product Kyle Okposo. I think they might be a year out, but it’s probably not much more than that before they become a threat in the Eastern Conference again.