From The Isle by Youngblood
While of course I'm extremely thankful for this Islander team and it's play over the first 20 games (obviously), I'm also thankful for NHL schedule makers consistently allowing the Islanders to play a home game on Thanksgiving eve.
The annual Thanksgiving eve game has always been my favorite non-playoff game of the season. The atmosphere is joyful and loose since nobody works tomorrow. More importantly, it always gave me something to do on a night that is filled with pressures to flex your social muscles. Somewhere around 20, Thanksgiving Eve began to compete with New Years eve as the night that makes you feel most like a loser because you don't have plans. The Thanksgiving eve game has always been my plan. As crazy as this statement sounds, I appreciate the Islanders for one night a year NOT making me feel like a loser. Now onto the team:
Thankful...so very thankful, but not shocked by this team. I've said it from the start and I'll say it again...this team was built for today. And they are proving it. The goaltending has been strong, the new defense looks like that of an NHL team, and the forwards are getting more scoring from people not named Tavares. If you go through the list of things they needed, it's all being addressed, and that's why they have a share of first place. Simply put, there's nothing to complain about...except...the slightly inflated record due to the shootout. Yes, we can't completely overlook the fact they have 5 shootout victories. Take those 5 away and the win column isn't nearly as inflated and they go from a great record to a good record. One would have to imagine that the shootout luck will even itself out over the course of the season, and key wins against LA, San Jose, and Philadelphia turn into 1 point consolation losses. In order for them to be better, they have to have the ability to close out teams in regulation or OT. They need to dominate play and produce a goal when it's most needed. Relying on the shootout is not the answer long term. Some more thoughts ahead of tonights battle v. Washington:
- Tavares needs to play better. He needs to make better decisions with the puck when just inside the opponents blue line, and he needs to be more of a beast when the team needs a goal. Hungrier on the puck...that's the term.
- Okposo has somehow reinvented the shootout. I give him credit and respect for this...he has goalies completely fooled right now
- Brock Nelson is still the best forward on the ice
- Grabovski's time is coming...very soon...he's close to breaking out
- DeHaan is better than Luke Schenn
- Great problem to have: when there's no space for a guy like Michael Grabner
For now though, let's all take a moment and enjoy this near perfect Thanksgiving. For the final season it couldn't have gone any better, and tonight's the payoff. No matter what the rest of the season brings, we have this night to be Thankful for. Cheers to that.
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