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Inside the Crease by Youngblood

Hopefully you all had a chance to enjoy my first post titled "A Look Back".  While I time machined my way into a prediction (aka ideal scenario), I figured I should take a moment to introduce myself.  The name's Youngblood - in honor of the greatest hockey movie of all time - and I am...an Islander fan.

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  As a mid-30's person, I've been lucky enough to experience almost all the downs with hardly any ups.  That's right, by the time I could hold my own popcorn, the Islanders were done winning cups.  The dynasty was ending...and a new beginning was starting.  A dark and yucky beginning.

 
The past 30 years has consisted of a steady stream of ownership struggle, GM struggle, bad trades, bad drafts,  an arena struggle, and just some real bad hockey.  Just sniffing the playoffs is like winning the Stanley Cup at this point.  Yet when all is said and done, there's something special about this team and it's relationship with it's fan base that keeps people hooked.  No, not hooked, obsessed.  I've always said there are no casual Islander fans - you're either all in our you're out.  And once you're in, it's impossible to get out.  I have no clue why, it just is.
 
So my goal with these posts is to connect with all of the obsessed, tortured, and hopeful fans.  I'm not about advanced stats, salary caps, or the benefits of a rebuild.  I want to see the Islander win every night and that's it.  I don't work for the team, and I'm not a journalist.  There's no incentive for me to be anything but real.  I'll preview most games and come with some strong recaps following.  I hope you enjoy, and understand.  With all that said, let's get this thing going...hard.
 
Games 1 and 2: Islanders @ Carolina ; Carolina @ Islanders.
 
If you like opening nights, you'll love this weekend.  The rare 'home and home' to start the season for both teams.
 
What I think you need to know about the Islanders:  While the real country (and hockey country) couldn't care less... Islander country is pumped for this season to start.  For the first time in a while, real players were added through free agency and trade this summer.  Needs were identified at the end of last season, and they were nearly all addressed in one way or the other.  We needed a goalie...we got 2.  All the players that were added:  84 Mikhail Grabovski, 86 Nikolay Kulemin, 55 Johnny Boychuk, and 2 Nick Leddy are all quality, accomplished, and proven players in this league.  89 Corey Conacher was also added and will jump right onto the top line with 91 John Tavares and 21 Kyle Okposo.  These additions, coupled with a young team that is now one year older and closer to being in their prime, puts all the pressure on this team to succeed now.  It's a position most of us are probably a bit scared of.  No excuses.  While I don't expect things to just magically come together over the first month - I think this team will hits it's stride early and it could be special.  Team will be without 40 Michael Grabner up front this weekend, along with  11 Lubomir Visnovsky and 44 Calvin De Haan on Defense.  These are arguably 3 fairly large pieces to the puzzle, but their absence is clearly overshadowed by the new additions, and the return of Top 5 NHL forward John Tavares - who plays in his first NHL game since his Olympic injury last season.
 
What I think you need to know about the Carolina Hurricanes:  Hurricane fans are probably feeling a bit concerned to start the year given the injury to 1/2 of their Staal combination, 11 Jordan Staal.  Jordan plays a very effective game both offensively and defensively - so his loss for the first 4-6 weeks of the season will be quite impactful.  His brother 12 Eric Stall, the offensive dynamo, leads a young group of players highlighted by 22 year old phenom Jeff Skinner.  Skinner alone can provide enough offense to get ahead in a game and put pressure on the opposition to score.  It's shocking he's only 22.  He's the Bieber of hockey.  Victor Rask is the potential breakout player to watch and can factor into this weekends games.  Their goalies kind of stink - Anton Khudobin and Cam Ward.  Islander fans are all too familiar with a young team being anchored by mediocre goalies.  This may be what does them in this weekend.
 
The most important thing for Islander fans to realize is that we're currently at .500 - and that's a good thing.  Sit back, relax, and enjoy the weekends games against a team that can and should be beaten.  One win tomorrow night and we'll be in first place.  How cool is that?

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