Good weekend gets Islanders back on track


John Tavares continues to be the leader of an Islanders team that got back on track this weekend. AP Photo via Getty Images by CoyoteDucks54.

Following a tough one-goal loss to the Sharks, the Islanders needed to respond. They won only one of their first four games entering the weekend. Able to take care of business by beating the Coyotes 3-2 and doubling up the Wild 6-3 both on home ice at Barclays Center, they’re back to 3-3-0.

In the one-goal win over the Coyotes, the supporting cast provided the offense. Goals were scored by vet defenseman Dennis Seidenberg, Ryan Strome and Johnny Boychuk, whose shorthanded tally in the third period from Brock Nelson provided the difference. Jaroslav Halak picked up the win with 23 saves.

Following the game, Cal Clutterbuck spoke at length about how bad the ice was. The ice surface at Barclays has been a hot topic. The building uses PVC piping which is an issue because it can’t keep the ice temperature at 21 degrees. Something metal pipes can.

“From about the 5-6 minute mark of the second, you knew it was one of those nights,” Clutterbuck explained to Newsday beat writer Arthur Staple. “You basically couldn’t string three passes together, the ice was unplayable. But we found a way.”

First and foremost, it is a basketball arena and home to the Brooklyn Nets. When the Islanders relocated, the hope was they would do everything to accommodate them. With obstructed views and poor ice conditions, the club has explored the possibility of a new arena adjacent to Citi Field in Queens. It remains a dicey situation. The team has an opt out clause after three seasons.

In their second year at Brooklyn since leaving Nassau Coliseum, the Islanders have managed to make the slushy home ice an advantage. They are used to playing on the surface which can create odd bounces and slow the game down. The fan support has helped.  It was instrumental in the franchise finally advancing out of the first round last Spring for the first time since 1993.

Captain John Tavares was the hometown hero providing the game-tying and emotional series clincher in overtime. The Islanders’ franchise star center is in his eighth season. He broke out with a three-point effort (2-1-3) in the team’s second straight victory last night over the Wild. Prior to that performance, he only had a goal and assist.

The 26-year old from Mississauga, Ontario remains without a sidekick. With the organization going in a different direction by letting Kyle Okposo and Frans Nielsen go, Tavares is left to find chemistry with other players. Free agent pick up Andrew Ladd finally picked up his first point getting a primary assist on Tavares’ empty netter with 1:43 remaining on Sunday night. Signed for five years with an average cap hit of $5.5 million, the former Jets captain should be producing better. The 30-year old vet is a proven scorer capable of 25 goals and between 50 to 60 points. Give it some time.

While Ladd adjusts to life in Brooklyn, Islander brass has to be pleased with Anthony Beauvillier. The 19-year old 2015 first round pick (28th overall) continues to impress notching two assists in helping the team even their record. He’s tied with Tavares for the team lead in scoring with five points (1-4-5). While Mathew Barzal looks ticketed for Seattle of the Western Hockey League (WHL) with the Isles signing Steve Bernier, Beauvillier looks like he’s here to stay.

If they’re to be successful, it’s all about the depth up front. They know what they’ll get from Clutterbuck and Casey Cizikas. So far, Nelson is off to a quick start with two goals and three assists. Josh Bailey also has started well picking up two helpers to give him a goal and four assists. Strome also is out better with two goals and two assists.

It has to be scoring by committee. In last night’s win, the Isles got three goals from their back end with Boychuk, Calvin de Haan and Thomas Hickey all scoring. With anchor Nick Leddy able to return from injury, it was perfect timing with the club losing Ryan Pulock for an extended period with a broken foot. He sustained it in the first period on Friday after being recalled from Bridgeport after five shifts. Unfortunate.

The Isles will need more from Ladd and Anders Lee. Both of whom have a point. Lee with a goal so far. With Shane Prince on the injured reserve and the future of Mikhail Grabovski (concussion) uncertain, the lineup they ice is probably gonna be the same. Alan Quine scored his first yesterday.

Coach Jack Capuano knows he has two reliable goalies in Halak and Thomas Greiss with the 30-year old German getting his first win with 26 saves against Minnesota. The question is what will they do with Jean-Francois Berube. Most teams don’t keep three goalies. Especially in a cap era where carrying extra forwards and D are vital. At the moment, the Isles are going with six defensemen.

They’ll get a good test when the improved Canadiens (4-0-1) visit Barclays Center Wednesday. With mostly home games aside from a visit to the Penguins, who should have Sidney Crosby back this week, they look to continue their success at home.

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Game #6: Black and Blueshirts out grind Coyotes 3-2


Dan Girardi wears the Broadway Hat after a successful return in which his goal proved to be the game-winner in a 3-2 win by the Rangers over the Coyotes. AP Photo via Getty Images Real NYR Fans.

A win is a win. Not every performance will be top notch. Ultimately, the Rangers were successful where it counted. On the scoreboard where they defeated the Coyotes 3-2 at Madison Square Garden.

In a back-to-back situation, they were challenged by the rebuilding Coyotes. Losers of three straight, Arizona led on the game’s first shift and were tied after two periods. The difference was Dan Girardi’s first goal at 1:55 of the third period off a great set up from Brady Skjei.

It was fitting that it would be Girardi in his return that got the game-winner. After missing three games due to a groin injury, number five was back in his Rangers jersey paired alongside rookie Skjei. They were solid together combining for the winning goal and each going plus-two. It couldn’t have gone better for the 32-year old Girardi, who was on at the end with old partner Ryan McDonagh helping protect a one-goal lead.

On this night, the Rangers had to dig deep. They weren’t as sharp and it showed in their play. There were more giveaways, turnovers and shots allowed (29) along with quality chances. Despite allowing two goals to Radim Vrbata including a weak one that tied the contest late in the second, Henrik Lundqvist was called upon to make some key saves en route to career win number 377. That included 12 of 13 in the second and another eight for eight in a workmanlike third.

In a league where you don’t get style points for winning, the Rangers went back to an old philosophy used under former coach John Tortorella. The Black and Blueshirts returned. On a night they were out-attempted 69-50, the Rangers sacrificed their bodies to block 28 shots. Five came from McDonagh, who was everywhere in a team high 22:17 while setting up J.T. Miller’s first of the season. The captain has continued to deliver big performances so far. He covered for a couple of hiccups from partner Nick Holden and other teammates.

As a team, the Rangers had 22 giveaways. Way too many for assistant coach Jeff Beukeboom’s liking. In a interview with MSG’s Dave Maloney before the third, Beukeboom emphasized taking better care of the puck. They were able to when they had to in improving to 4-2-0. They’ll now have two days to recover before hosting the Bruins at 8 PM in another NHL On NBC Sports Network Rivalry Night exclusive. The first regular season match I’m attending. I get to meet a special friend.🙂

It didn’t start well with Vrbata able to beat Lundqvist with a seeing eye shot from Connor Murphy 33 seconds into the first. Kevin Klein and Marc Staal were caught out for it. Klein and Miller were unable to clear the puck which led to Murphy combining with Vrbata to give the Coyotes a quick lead.

The Rangers responded well from behind. Beginning to crank up their speed and possession fore-check, they began pinning the Coyotes in their end for stretches. After a couple of close calls, it was the strong play of Jesper Fast along the wall that kept a play alive which led to Michael Grabner setting up Josh Jooris in front for his first. One of the best Ranger forwards, Fast swung the puck around the boards to Grabner, who then passed for Jooris in front where he was able to deke around and tuck the puck past Arizona starter Louis Domingue.

With the game still even, the Rangers went to work on the power play. With 2016 first round pick Jakob Chychrun off for hooking, Brandon Pirri worked the puck across to McDonagh, whose shot pass was perfectly redirected home by Miller in front. Funny enough, I tweeted in the first that I felt J.T. was due. He was around the puck a lot in the first on a line with Mika Zibanejad and Mats Zuccarello. Sure enough, he came through with his second to put the Blueshirts up 2-1 at 5:45 of the second.

But sloppy play crept into their game. Giving up dangerous chances to a more rested Coyotes that were led by Vrbata and Chychrun, they gave back the lead. On a bad Kevin Hayes turnover in the neutral zone, Christian Dvorak started a counter attack that allowed Max Domi to find a wide open Vrbata, who surprised Lundqvist with a quick snapshot for his second of the game tying it up with 3:42 left. Hayes got lost in coverage failing to take Vrbata after misreading the play when Klein had coverage down low. It was a bad game for Hayes, who finished with six giveaways. Fast covered for him a few times.

The Rangers only took one penalty. A Nash tripping minor with 2:17 left in the second. They were able to get it killed off, keeping the game knotted for the final stanza.

With Girardi asserting himself while working well with the faster skating Skjei, he got just reward when he scored his first. On a great rush by Skjei in which he skated around the net and found an open Girardi at the right point, Danny G let go of a one-timer that beat Domingue glove side at 1:55 of the third. It was nice to see him get the goal which amounted to the game-winner. A great play and read by Skjei and a quick release from Girardi.

All this while Twitter was debating Girardi again. On a night where some had the audacity to complain about his play due to the beloved corsi/possession, he and Skjei were good together. It was just asinine. Klein and Staal had a tough night on for two goals against. Though I don’t think either were their fault. The first was a bad break. The second Hayes was responsible for.

To their credit, the Blueshirts played a better third out-shooting the Coyotes 9-8. They generated quality chances. Particularly Nash who stayed with Derek Stepan and a more confident Jimmy Vesey, who came so close in the first twice. It was also Vesey, who made a great move and pass for a cutting Nash, who was flat out robbed by Domingue on a great glove save point blank. Nash just doesn’t have any luck.

The Rangers could’ve scored more. But they missed the net quite a bit misfiring 16 times. That included three from Vesey, two from Zuccarello and three from Zibanejad, who was robbed by Michael Stone on a delayed penalty. He had Domingue beaten but Stone blocked his shot sending it harmlessly off the post.

The bottom line is they got the ‘W.’ Two points well earned with Girardi out on the final shift with McDonagh and the mistake prone Hayes actually trusted to clear the zone.

BONY 3 Stars:

3rd Star-J.T. Miller, NYR (power play goal-2nd of season, 7 shots, 4 hits, -1 in 23 shifts-17:19)

2nd Star-Jakob Chychrun, Arizona (2 shots, 6 attempts, 3 hits, dangerous throughout -1 in 22 shifts-16:23)

1st Star-Dan Girardi, NYR (game-winner-1st of season, 2 shots, 3 hits, 2 blocks, +2 in 25 shifts-19:15 incl. 18:24 even strength, 51 seconds on PK)

Notes: In his season debut, Oscar Lindberg was fine centering the fourth line. In 15 shifts (10:37) he won 7 of 9 face-offs and had two blocks. … Grabner had another strong game assisting on Jooris’ first while blocking three shots and going plus-one in 13:21. … In another MSG return, Anthony Duclair was held without a point for a fifth straight game. He attempted five shots in 19 shifts (16:44). … Dylan Strome was a healthy scratch for the Coyotes. … Face-offs went in favor of Arizona 31-29 led by Martin Hanzal, who was a dominant 15-and-7. Lindberg led the Rangers at 7-and-2 with Hayes also over .500 (8-and-6). Key Stat: Blocked shots NYR 28 (McDonagh 5, Klein 4) Coyotes 8 (Ekman-Larsson 3). Giveaways NYR 22 (Hayes 6) Arizona 4 (Shane Doan 2).

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Game #6 Coyotes visit Rangers Preview: Girardi returns

The Rangers host the Coyotes tonight at MSG. The game starts at 7 PM. On a rare football Sunday where both the Giants and Jets won, the Blueshirts can make it a successful weekend if they can get past the NHL’s worst team.

So far, Arizona is 1-3-0 with two points. They are touring the metro area with still the Devils ahead on Tuesday. They were 3-2 losers to the Islanders on Friday. Their third straight loss- being outscored 15-8. Max Domi and Anthony Duclair have given them nothing combining for one assist and a minus-eight.

The Coyotes are a very young roster. Featuring five rookies including 2016 first round pick Jakob Chychrun, Dylan Strome, Christian Dvorak, Lawson Crouse and Laurent Dauphin, Arizona is a rebuilding team which requires patience. How much vet coach Dave Tippett has left remains to be seen. In an interview with beat reporter Sarah McLellan, he admitted that he had to think long and hard before returning. She can be followed on Twitter.

At the very least, the Coyotes still boast lone original Winnipeg Jets holdover Shane Doan. The 40-year old captain is three goals shy of 400 and two points from 950. He has a goal and two assists thus far. Arizona is counting on Oliver Ekman-Larsson and former Star Alex Goligoski to lead the blue line. Ekman-Larsson has two goals while Goligoski has three assists. But each has been on the minus side going a combined minus-eight.

They also just got back defenseman Michael Stone. Along with Chychrun who’s off to a nice start with a goal and two helpers, the Arizona back end has a bright future. Especially if former 2011 first round pick Connor Murphy can continue to improve off last season. Luke Schenn is the sixth defenseman.

The trouble spot for the Coyotes is in net. With Mike Smith sidelined week-to-week, Louis Domingue has struggled in his second year. In three appearances, he’s allowed 10 goals on 61 shots. He’ll get the start tonight. Journeyman Justin Peters backs up.

Jordan Martinook and Brad Richardson have been bright spots each tied for the team lead with two goals and two helpers. The Coyotes still boast reliable two-way center Martin Hanzal. Radim Vrbata has returned where he’s had success. So far, he has a goal and two assists. Tobias Rieder was a good player for them last year playing with Domi and Duclair.

For the Rangers who look to make it two straight on back-to-back nights following an impressive 4-2 comeback win over the Caps, Henrik Lundqvist gets his third consecutive start. He’s been better in the last two allowing four goals on 46 shots. With the next two days off before the Bruins visit Wednesday, it looks like Alain Vigneault wants to get Lundqvist in a groove.

There are two changes for tonight. Dan Girardi returns after missing the last three games with a groin injury. As usual, the 32-year old veteran right defenseman has been a hot topic on social media and the internet. Fans, bloggers and reporters are split up. Girardi isn’t what he used to be. Coming off his worst season, he has to prove he can still be consistent.

It’s not about Ranger fans hating Girardi. Most are appreciative of what he’s brought. A key part of the core that helped the team reach three Final Fours including a Stanley Cup appearance in 2014, he’s given his heart and soul. However, he must be managed better than last year when Vigneault was too loyal, rushing him back from a cracked kneecap while Dylan McIlrath sat.

McIlrath has gotten the short end of the stick. Only having played one game, he’s eighth on the depth chart. Vigneault is killing his trade value. At some point, he’ll be given away and get a chance elsewhere. It hasn’t been fair at all to the former 2010 first round pick whose size, strength and physicality are areas the Rangers lack. Vigneault prefers skating defenseman yet remains loyal to Girardi, who we don’t know what he has left to give.

At least Nick Holden has been as advertised on the penalty kill. He did a great job with Kevin Klein in Saturday’s win helping kill off a five-on-three. For those who are confused on why Holden stays in over Adam Clendening, it’s because he’s more trusted defensively. The penalty kill is more important than the power play. Clendening hasn’t done anything wrong, picking up an assist on a nice breakout that led to J.T. Miller sending Brandon Pirri in for a big goal.

Clendening is a good skating right D who has been used exclusively with rookie Brady Skjei on the third pair. Neither saw much ice late in regulation against the Caps. Vigneault leaned heavily on the top four which has included an improved Marc Staal and workhorse Ryan McDonagh, who’s averaging 25:51 per game while leading Ranger blue liners in assists (4) and shots (11).

By taking Clendening out, they lose a good puck possession right D who has played the left point on the power play. What does that mean? McDonagh is the only defenseman that can play on the man-advantage. Klein can’t as proven last year. Would they give the superb skating Skjei a look? He doesn’t play much shorthanded.

While the D works itself out, the Rangers are without leading scorer Chris Kreider due to neck spasms. That means different lines except for the Derek Stepan, Jimmy Vesey, Rick Nash combo. Oscar Lindberg has been activated with Pavel Buchnevich on the injured reserve. He’ll center the fourth line. J.T. Miller moves up to the Mika Zibanejad unit with Mats Zuccarello. Michael Grabner stays put with Kevin Hayes and Jesper Fast. I don’t get why Vigneault won’t keep Fast on the fourth line and move up Pirri, who scored his second last game.

Rangers lines:





I’m just gonna guess on the D:





According to Sarah McLellan, here are porential Coyotes lines:









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Game #5: Vesey scores two pair in big Rangers’ 4-2 comeback win over Caps



Hobey Proud: Former Hobey winner Jimmy Vesey skates around Karl Alzner and gets ready to beat Braden Holtby for the game-winner in a resounding Rangers’ 4-2 win over the Caps. AP Photo via Getty Images courtesy The Score.

For a period at least, we’d seen this script before. Braden Holtby standing on his head at one end. His teammates providing offense with goals from Lars Eller and Alexander Ovechkin past Henrik Lundqvist as the Caps led 2-0 over the Rangers.

But this is a different year. So, the ’16-17 Rangers flipped the script by having a big second period with three goals including two pair from rookie Jimmy Vesey en route to a big 4-2 come from behind win over the Caps- silencing Verizon Center.

The win improved them to 3-2-0. Along with the 7-4 victory over the Sharks, this was right up there. A statement win over a team the Rangers had trouble with last year. Even better, Lundqvist outdueled Holtby making 26 saves to pick up his second victory (376th career). His best coming on Ovechkin at the end of the second to preserve a one-goal lead.

It definitely is the kind of win these Blueshirts can point to if they are to build towards a good season. Written off by many pundits with even this writer wondering what to expect, they have outplayed all five opponents thus far and could easily be 5-0. The speed and possession game Alain Vigneault has emphasized is working better due to the right personnel.

Adding a quality first-year pro in Vesey definitely has helped the cause. The 23-year old former Hobey Baker winner from Harvard hasn’t looked out of place. Continuing to get more comfortable with American linemate Derek Stepan, Vesey picked a good time for his first career two-goal NHL game. Look who he did it against. The rating Vezina winner Holtby, who held his team in before caving in a lopsided second.

To be honest, the Rangers didn’t play a bad first period yet trailed by two. Adam Clendening failed to clear the zone. Brooks Orpik intercepted the puck at the blue line and let go of a deflectable shot Eller got a piece of for the game’s first goal at 1:33. In a first where they out-shot the Caps 13-10 and created plenty of chances only to be stoned by Holtby, the Blueshirts fell behind by two on what was a perfect play and shot by Ovechkin.

Taking a pass from Evgeny Kuznetsov, he used Marc Staal perfectly skating to the other side for a screen before wiring a laser past Lundqvist for a 2-0 Caps’ lead at 14:49. Staal defended it as well as expected. It was just a phenomenal play by an electrifying superstar.

Undeterred, the Rangers kept coming at the Caps. J.T. Miller had a redirect go off the post. He also was stoned by Holtby earlier on the doorstep. Miller has yet to score but it hasn’t been for lack of chances which he’s created with hard work. It’ll come eventually.

The second saw the guys in white take over. After a good defensive play, Miller fed Brandon Pirri for a breakaway. The guy with the lightning quick hands didn’t miss beating Holtby top shelf to cut the deficit to 2-1. The play was made possible by Clendening, who made a good read behind the net. He trapped two Caps with a saucer backhand feed to Miller, who then sent Pirri in for his second.

Mika Zibanejad got his stick up and was nabbed for a high-sticking double minor. Killing four minutes against the Caps power play can be a unenviable task. If this were last year, there’s no way they would’ve survived. However, the upgrades to the penalty kill were evident. In particular, Michael Grabner’s speed and defensive instincts along with an omnipresent Ryan McDonagh, Nick Holden and Derek Stepan did a splendid job. They were standouts along with Marc Staal, Kevin Klein, Jesper Fast, Rick Nash, Miller and Kevin Hayes. Staal and Klein were stalwarts each logging 2:17. Fast, Grabner, Stepan and Nash each went over 90 seconds.

The successful penalty kill was so good that Lundqvist barely had to sweat. It was a game changer. If special teams cost them in a tough one-goal loss to the Red Wings, it was a difference maker tonight. Given a power play on a Matt Niskanen rough, the Rangers got even when Vesey got his first from Nash and Stepan. The play was really set up by Hayes, who skated around the net and reset the power play working the puck to Stepan. Eventually, Stepan fired a shot towards Nash, who had the presence of mind to redirect the puck across for an easy one-time and a bang from Vesey- tying the score at 11:22.

Exactly three minutes later, there was more Vesey magic when he produced a highlight reel goal for the game-winner. Off a rush started by Zibanejad, he took a feed from Mats Zuccarello and skated around the Washington defense putting a deke on Holtby and going to the backhand five-hole for a sweet finish. That made it 3-2. For the period, the Rangers converted on three of five shots on Holtby. Lundqvist then robbed Ovechkin to preserve the lead.

The third was more defensive oriented. No. The Rangers didn’t sit back by any means getting seven more shots on Holtby. But the Caps had 11 and tested Lundqvist, who was equal to the challenge. With Vigneault and new defensive assistant leaning heavily on the top four of McDonagh, Holden, Staal and Klein. They all logged over 21 minutes with the workhorse captain and new Dad McDonagh leading everyone with 25:30 (29 shifts) while going plus-one. He is back. He made some terrific defensive plays in the third to protect the lead.

It was McDonagh who made the final defensive play, sending Nash in for an empty netter (Rangers’ fourth empty net goal) with six seconds left that put an exclamation mark on a character building win. On a night that will be forever remembered in for the Cubs winning the pennant at Wrigley Field for the first time since 1945, the Rangers continued to come together. They’ll return to MSG tomorrow and aim for two in a row against the Coyotes.

BONY 3 Stars:

3rd Star-Rick Nash, NYR (empty net goal-2nd, assist-1st, 4 shots in 24 shifts-16:47 incl. 1:35 shorthanded)

2nd Star-Ryan McDonagh, NYR (assist-4th, +1 in 29 shifts-25:30 incl. 21:54 even strength)

1st Star-Jimmy Vesey, NYR (1st career 2-goal game-2nd, 3rd, 6 shot attempts in 23 shifts-17:19)

Notes: The third pair of Clendening and Brady Skjei didn’t see the ice much down the stretch. However, Clendening had an assist for his first point on Vesey’s first that started the comeback. Skjei saw one shift late and led the Rangers with five hits. Clendening took 18 shifts (11:55) including 9:03 EV, 2:28 PP, 24 seconds shorthanded. Skjei received 16 shifts (10:50) including 10:26 EV and 24 seconds on the PK. … Shots favored the Caps 28-26. Attempts were close with the Caps prevailing 52-48. … Key stat: Giveaways NYR-6 Caps-19. … Blocked shots NYR-15 (Klein 3) Caps-13 (Orpik 3). … Caps were a little better on draws going 26-and-22 led by Jay Beagle (6-and-1) and a very quiet Nicklas Backstrom (8-and-5). The Rangers’ leader was Hayes, who went 5-and-4. … Rangers (3-2-0) host the Coyotes (1-3-0) at MSG Sunday night at 7 PM. For those out of the area, the game can be viewed on NHL Network.

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Devils Week 2 recap: One Hall of a week


Sitting at the Rock watching the Devils fail to score 5-on-5 yet again (or for nearly 52 minutes failing to score period), I had more than a feeling of same old crap with this offense, which hadn’t scored a 5-on-5 goal since the first five minutes in Tampa Bay – an entire week and three games ago.  In total, the Devils went approximately 225 minutes without scoring an even strength goal…until P.A. Parenteau finally brought the house down by firing a slapshot past Devan Dubnyk in the third period of tonight’s game against the Wild to tie the game at 1 and provide an electric shock to a previously comatose offense.  It was a more ballyhooed offseason acquisition who eventually provided a winner just thirty seconds into the 3-on-3 OT, as Taylor Hall and Adam Henrique recreated their juniors magic in one spectacular give and go that resulted in Hall’s third goal of the week and second game-winner at the Rock in two games.

Such is life in the NHL where one shift and one period can dramatically change perception. Instead of the Devils being 1-3-1 and having me moan and groan about an offense that’s been a joke since the lockout and rant about how advanced stats are crap to me since they somehow never apply to us, I’m in a much better mood with the team 2-2-1 and their key offseason acquisition off to a dream of a start.  Certainly Hall’s beginning has been to this point much better than Ilya Kovalchuk‘s beginnings both after being traded here, then after signing a big contract with us.  Though I don’t want to even utter his name for obvious reasons, the KHL star was one of the most hyped acquisitions the Devils have ever made and the only one I can think of in recent memory that compares to Hall for the advance sizzle factor.  Unlike the KHL star though, Hall isn’t yet about the money or about fame, he just wants to win.

In the vein of ex-Devil star wingers, clearly tonight’s sellout crowd at the Rock hasn’t curbed its venom toward Zach Parise one bit for leaving, mercilessly booing every time he touched the puck Scott Gomez-style.  Unlike Kovalchuk, he was a home-grown star, a salt of the earth kid who was going to be the next great Devil and have his number one day raised to the rafters alongside Martin Brodeur and Scott Stevens (both of whom were in the house tonight).  After claiming for months he only wanted to stay, Parise shocked many by taking a 13 year, $98 million deal from the Wild to go home becoming just another big name who left for greener pastures in the end.  Personally I’m over the drama of the summer of 2012, especially in comparison to what the KHL star would later do to the franchise.  Merely leaving as a free agent doesn’t compare to breaking a 15-year contract after just three and leaving the franchise in a lurch.

Past and future collided at the Rock tonight as the Devils dedicated a statue to Brodeur outside the Rock in a drizzling rain before the game, while Stevens returned as an assistant coach for the Wild after his long coaching stint with the Devils ended before last season.  Both got well-deserved standing ovations when introduced in stoppages during the first period.  Despite the presence of both icons, tonight was about one thing for the Devils and their fans – getting a much-needed win.  Although Hall got the team off the schneid on Tuesday with two power play goals in a 2-1 win over the Ducks during the home opener, the team followed that up with yet another typically annoying loss at Boston, losing 2-1 on a goal from Patrice Bergeron with 75 seconds left in regulation.  In our last several seasons it’s been the same script, with only one meaningful win over the Bruins during that time while they’ve won tight game after tight game, usually with late finishes like Thursday night’s stunner.

Despite dominating early, the Devils fell behind on a fluke goal early in the second period and had zilch to show for all of their first period offensive pressure.  I was already sharpening the knives for this blog until the fantastic finish saved our bacon.  Really aside from goaltender Cory Schneider, it’s been the new guys that have saved our bacon through the first two weeks.  Parenteau’s goal in Florida got us to overtime and was our first point of the season.  Hall’s two goals were the margin of victory against the Ducks on Tuesday.  Of course tonight Hall and Parenteau both scored in another 2-1 win.  Five straight one-goal games to begin the season suggest something we pretty much already suspected – that this team doesn’t have much of a margin for error, but conversely they have a goaltender that will keep them in almost every game.  Even with a defense that is still finding its way with three newcomers, Cory’s been the rock back there a couple of bizarre goals and puckhandling aside.

Tonight’s game marked the beginning of a four-game homestand, with all three games next week to be played at the Rock – against Arizona on Tuesday, the Blackhawks on Friday and Tampa Bay on Saturday.  Despite home cooking those certainly aren’t easy games though the Coyotes with a backup goaltender you would hope could be a salve for our still struggling offense.  After the upcoming week, the Devils play 12 of their next 16 on the road until early December so it’s imperative to keep the early good vibes going at the Rock.

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Game #5 Preview: Rangers visit Capitals

Braden Holtby, Rick Nash

Rick Nash and the Rangers offense has gone missing against Braden Holtby and the Caps. AP Photo by Alex Brandon/Getty Images

Tonight, the Rangers bring their 2-2-0 record to the always loud Verizon Center to face the Capitals. Since losing to the Crosby-less Penguins in a shootout on Opening Night, the Caps have won three in a row and lead the Metropolitan Division with a 3-0-1 mark, which ties them in points (7) with Pittsburgh, who’s played one more game.

The Caps have only allowed six goals in four games. They have yet to explode offensively but have outscored opponents 11-6. Seven of those goals came in consecutive wins over the Avalanche and Panthers. That included captain Alexander Ovechkin’s game-winner in a 4-2 win at Florida when he was able to redirect a very slow Matt Niskanen shot in the third period. It was only his second of the season. You know his eyes will light up when he sees Henrik Lundqvist.

Most of Washington’s top scorers are out slowly. Evgeny Kuznetsov finally lit the lamp. The third-year center who struggled mightily down the stretch last season and was unable to score in the playoffs. Justin Williams tallied his first in Thursday’s win for his 250th career goal. The three-time Stanley Cup winner has always been a clutch performer.

Nicklas Backstrom has three assists so far. Marcus Johansson leads the Caps in scoring with four points (1-3-4). Andre Burakovsky has scored twice and could be a breakout candidate. T.J. Oshie also has two markers in a contract year. Daniel Winnik tallied twice in a home win over the Islanders. Jason Chimera now plays for the Isles. Jay Beagle and Tom Wilson are still around. Lars Eller is without a point.

John Carlson anchors the blue line. After a disappointing World Cup for Team USA, he’s off to a slow start with an assist. He and Niskanen log a ton of minutes in all situations. Karl Alzner and Dmitry Orlov remain underrated performers who can be counted on. Brooks Orpik is still around but doesn’t play as much. He is managed along with Nate Schmidt.

Overall, it’s basically the same team from last year. The Caps are very good. Featuring Vezina winner Braden Holtby, who’s off to a 2-0-0 start allowing five goals on 80 shots, they remain one of the East’s top contenders.

It’s always an interesting match-up. Hopefully for the Rangers, we won’t have to hear that annoying goal siren too much. Between that and those loathsome horns during play, it really makes me hate the Caps.

The Rangers are still without Pavel Buchnevich and Dan Girardi. Buchnevich didn’t even make the trip. Girardi still isn’t ready. What does that mean for Sunday when they host the Coyotes? That’s for Alain Vigneault to answer along with whether Lundqvist gets back-to-back starts or rests tomorrow for Antti Raanta.

Vigneault has been pleased with his team’s play. They could easily be 4-0. However, strong performances from back ups Carter Hutton and Jimmy Howard prevented it. Instead, they enter play .500 with a chance to get back on track against one of the league’s best teams. I like the fact they’re getting tested early.

Certainly, offense isn’t the problem. In their two wins, the Blueshirts have scored 12 goals, including a seven-goal eruption against the Sharks. In their two losses, they’ve been held to three. Hot goalies kept them from scoring which explains the 2-2-0 record.

Chris Kreider leads them in scoring with seven points (3-4-7). He notched an assist in Wednesday’s 2-1 loss to Detroit extending his season opening point streak to four. His 20 shots also pace the team. Kreider and newcomer Mika Zibanejad have formed great chemistry on the top line. Zibanejad is second in points with five (2-3-5) while cleaning up on face-offs (62.1 percent).

After working with Buchnevich the first two games before back spasms sidelined him, they have teamed with Rick Nash. Nash recorded his lone goal in the third game. He might be tried with Derek Stepan and Jimmy Vesey. If that’s the case, Mats Zuccarello gets a shot with Zibanejad and Kreider.

The other lines remain the same. Kevin Hayes centering J.T. Miller and Jesper Fast while Josh Jooris works with Brandon Pirri and Michael Grabner. I’d like to see Miller get a shot with Stepan and Vesey. Or maybe eventually see how Vesey looks with Hayes.

The defense will have Nick Holden paired with Ryan McDonagh. That means Holden will see plenty of Ovechkin with McDonagh more familiar with The Great Eight. Personally, I’d rather see Kevin Klein with McDonagh. But Vigneault prefers him with Marc Staal, who’s looked better so far. Until proven otherwise, Brady Skjei remains with the better skating Adam Clendening, who continues to see power play time.

As for Dylan McIlrath, the former 2010 first round pick finds himself the odd man out. It’s sad because he showed that he could be a solid NHL regular last year. This is all about the stubborn Vigneault’s preference. So, McIlrath got into one game and took a double minor for roughing after daring to stand up for Raanta. He didn’t see a shift in the third period. A game they nearly blew to San Jose.

I have plenty more to say about McIlrath and how wrong Vigneault is. For some fans, it falls on deaf ears. They just can’t admit the truth. Mostly due to McIlrath going ahead of “Vlad Tarasenko.” A player the Rangers were never picking at number 10. They wanted to go D. So, it was either Cam Fowler or McIlrath, who they went off the board for.

I’ve had it up to here with the fair weather fans who keep mentioning Tarasenko. They were going defenseman. Wake the hell up. The Rangers weren’t the only team to miss the St. Louis Russian sniper. Teflon GMs. That’s what I call them.

It isn’t about Big Mac not being capable. He is. This is about Vigneault and his style. He likes skating D. Skjei has a bright future and is better than almost anyone not named McDonagh. But he’s still a rookie. So, there will be ups and downs. I’d much prefer McIlrath over Girardi.

Tonight’s face off is at 7:08 in D.C. Lundqvist vs Holtby. It should be fun.

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Bruins to honor Orr on Golden Anniversary in home opener


Bobby Orr flies airborne after scoring at 40 seconds of overtime to win the Stanley Cup for the Bruins in 1970. Number 4 will be honored tonight commemorating the 50-Year Anniversary of his NHL debut with the Boston Bruins. Photo by Wikipedia

When the Devils visit the Bruins in Boston tonight, it’ll be a special moment for hockey. Fifty years ago yesterday on Oct. 19, 1966, Bobby Orr made his NHL debut for the Boston Bruins at the famed Boston Garden. He recorded an assist against the Red Wings en route to winning the Calder Trophy by posting 13 goals and 28 assists totaling 41 points and 102 penalty minutes in 61 games.

Prior to the game, the Bruins will honor the Golden Anniversary with the 68-year old Orr dropping the ceremonial first puck for the opening face off. Discovered by the Bruins organization at the young age of 13, they pursued Orr immediately even sponsoring his minor hockey team. He signed with Boston in 1962. Already having owned one junior hockey franchise, the Bruins owned the Oshawa Generals who Orr would play for.

His agent Alan Eagleson forced the Bruins to pay top dollar signing Orr for a then league record deal worth just under $100,000 over two years. Instead of making a rookie max salary of $8000, Orr was getting between $25,000 to $40,000. Ir’s ironic that Eagleson played such a pivotal role becoming in charge of the NHLPA. When his career was over, Orr discovered the truth about Eagleson, who embezzled money and was convicted of fraud and racketeering in 1980. The ugly split included Eagleson removing himself from the Hockey Hall of Fame as a builder after Orr threatened to resign.

Orr the hockey player was fantastic. Choosing the number 4 after he was given 5, he became the greatest defenseman to ever play the game- revolutionizing the sport with his amazing skating and attacking style which allowed him to eclipse 100 points six straight years on a talented Boston roster that featured Phil Esposito, Johnny Bucyk, Ken Hodge, Wayne Cashman and Derek Sanderson.

How special was Orr? He dominated the sport offensively and defensively using his amazing speed to play keep away while killing penalties by himself. He did everything leading the Bruins to two Stanley Cups with the first one a sweep over the Blues with the infamous overtime goal he scored from Sanderson that caught Orr in mid-air celebrating. Perhaps the greatest image the NHL has ever seen.

Orr won two scoring titles, three Hart Trophies as league MVP and a record eight Norris Trophies as the league’s best defenseman. The numbers are staggering. In his last full season with the Bruins in ’74-75, he scored a career best 46 goals with 89 assists and 135 points to win the Art Ross and his final Norris along with a Lester B. Pearson as the best player as voted by his own peers. He also won two Conn Smythe’s for the Bruins two Cups including skating the Cup at the old Madison Square Garden in 1972.

Had knee problems not plagued his career, there’s no telling how many more big seasons Orr could’ve had. Sadly, he was basically done after a decade with Boston. His final three NHL seasons, he totaled 36 games with the Bruins (’75-76) and Blackhawks (’76-77, ’78-79). Orr still was over a point-per-game with 45 points (11-34-45).

For his career, Orr finished with a remarkable 270 goals and 645 assists totaling 915 points in 657 games with 953 penalty minutes. In 74 postseason games all with the Bruins (’68-75), he had 26 goals and 66 assists for 92 points with 92 penalty minutes.

Some of the records Orr holds include a ridiculous plus/minus (+124) in ’70-71. His 139 points are the most ever for one season by a defenseman as are his 102 assists. All set during ’70-71. His famous overtime goal that beat the Blues in 1970 for the Stanley Cup is still the fastest goal ever recorded to start overtime in a Cup clincher.

Orr’s record of 46 goals in a season were the most by a defenseman until Paul Coffey shattered it with 48 for the Oilers in ’85-86 playing with a guy named Gretzky. The four major awards he won in 1970 (Hart, Art Ross, Norris, Conn Smythe) make him one of just two players to hold four awards for one season. Alexander Ovechkin is the other doing so in ’07-08 when he led the league in goals (Maurice Richard), points (Art Ross) and swept the Hart and Pearson.

For my father, he’s always said Orr is “the best player I’ve ever seen.” He ranks him number 1 over Gretzky and Gordie Howe. It’s because Orr was the most complete player he ever saw. He also was tough. How many more goals, assists and points might he have had? Could the Bruins have won more Cups if he didn’t have bad knees? Would he have reached 10 Norris Trophies? We’ll never know.

Tonight will be a special night for hockey. They will celebrate one of the greatest athletes. It will overshadow the game. Enjoy it.

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Game #4 Rangers stifled by Howard in 2-1 loss to Red Wings


Jimmy Howard stops Rick Nash on the doorstep. The Red Wings goalie stoned the Rangers in a 2-1 win making 32 saves to steal the game. AP Photo via Getty Images Sports Nation Mich

Sometimes, hockey is as simple as the hot goalie. Unfortunately for the Rangers, they ran into one tonight in Jimmy Howard, whose 32 saves backstopped the Red Wings past the Rangers 2-1 at MSG on Rivalry Night. The 32-year old American goalie outperformed Henrik Lundqvist, whose big mistake behind the net cost his team at least a point.

Never good at playing pucks, Lundqvist made a terrible miscalculation in a tie hockey game which led directly to Drew Miller scoring into a vacated net for the game-winner at 59 seconds of the third period. That was enough to lose a game the Rangers controlled throughout out-shooting the Red Wings 33-18 and out-attempting them 74-44.

It didn’t matter because Howard was splendid throughout making several sparkling stops, stealing the Original 6 showdown on NBC Sports Network. As I alluded to in the game preview, he’s had success before against the Rangers. The win improved his record to 5-3-2 against our team. Howard entered with a 1.49 goals-against-average and .949 save percentage in nine career starts.

So, it didn’t surprise me that he stoned them. He once was an All-Star before Petr Mrazek replaced him as Detroit’s number one goalie. Lundqvist dropped to 5-4-2 against the Winged Wheel. He came in with three shutouts, a 2.17 GAA with a .932 save percentage. He only faced 18 shots. So 16 saves on 18 isn’t great. Especially when he was at fault on Miller’s winner from Luke Glendening.

I didn’t catch the first period. Too bad because Mika Zibanejad scored the Rangers’ lone goal 1:09 in from Ryan McDonagh and Chris Kreider. Coincidentally, those have been the three best players in the first four games (2-2-0) so far. With a helper, Kreider increased his point streak to four straight. He leads the team in scoring with seven points (3-4-7).

Zibanejad continues to play well. The ex-Sen is making fans quickly forget Derick Brassard. Brassard will get his points in Ottawa, which is where he’s from. But the younger and bigger Zibanejad clearly is a better overall player. He was the Rangers’ most dangerous forward creating numerous chances with his blinding speed and quick release. He scored his second and finished with five shots, 10 attempts and again was strong on face-offs going 13-and-10. He also drew a penalty.

Zibanejad was together with Kreider and Rick Nash, who played a second consecutive strong game on the top line finishing with a game high seven shots. If Pavel Buchnevich returns for Saturday at the Capitals, Alain Vigneault has an interesting decision. Does he keep Nash with Zibanejad and Kreider or move him down to Kevin Hayes’ third unit and put Buchnevich back on the top line?

The chemistry continues to be good between Derek Stepan and line mates Jimmy Vesey and Mats Zuccarello. The fourth line remains solid. Josh Jooris played a second straight game. He’ll probably come out if Buchnevich returns with Jesper Fast moving down to checking unit.

For the most part, the Rangers’ penalty killing has been much better. Nick Holden has added quality minutes as advertised. Marc Staal was a beast on a Detroit five-on-three. However, the Red Wings did cash in on a power play with Thomas Vanek connecting from Frans Nielsen and Mike Green to even the score in the second with Adam Clendening off for boarding.

Following Lundqvist’s gaffe which led to Miller’s goal, the Rangers had every chance to tie it but couldn’t. They didn’t get as many shots through in a tighter checking third with Detroit shutting it down. They held the Rangers to six shots. As a team, the Wings blocked 20 shots. The Rangers also missed the net 21 times. So, 41 of their 74 attempts never reached Howard.

It didn’t help that J.T. Miller took a needless hooking minor with Kreider already in the box halfway thru the third. The Rangers easily killed it off.

The problem was Howard. He made several spectacular saves point blank, doing his best Hasek. The Rangers really hurt themselves when they failed on a two-man advantage in the second. In fact, the Wings took three consecutive penalties. Special teams proved costly.

Along with Howard turning into a brick wall, it was enough to lose a very winnable game. The exact reverse of how they started last season. Even though they’re .500 over the first four, they’re getting plenty of scoring chances and quality shots. It’s more positive so far.

Battle of New York 3 Stars:

3rd Star-Mika Zibanejad, Rangers (goal-2nd, 10 shot attempts in 23 shifts-18:36)

2nd Star-Drew Miller, Red Wings, (game-winning goal at 59 seconds of 3rd)

1st Star-Jimmy Howard, Red Wings (32 saves incl. 13/13 in busy 2nd)

Notes: Kevin Klein made his debut pairing with Staal on the second unit. He took 24 shifts logging 19:19 with 16:34 at even strength with the other 2:45 shorthanded. … So far, no truth to a silly rumor that would send J.T. Miller to the Ducks for Cam Fowler. A move which would make no sense. … Rangers again won the face-off battle 33-24 led by Stepan (14-and-6). Glendening and Henrik Zetterberg were each 6-and-4 for the Red Wings. … Of their 20 blocked shots, Green rejected four while logging over 25 minutes and going plus-one with a helper. … There wasn’t much hitting with the teams combining for a paltry 34. Gordie Howe must’ve rolled his eyes from above. What a rivalry. Rangers and Red Wings meet two more times in Detroit Jan. 22 and Mar. 12. … Pavel Datsyuk was missed.

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Game #4 Red Wings visit Rangers as Klein returns for ‘Rivalry Night’


Rivalry Night features the Red Wings and Rangers at MSG. Here, Tie Domi and Bob Probert trade punches in a classic fight during the early 90’s.

Rivalry Night is every Wednesday at 8 EST on NBC Sports Network. Not always conventional due to some of the match-ups they feature, tonight’s match between the Red Wings and Rangers is a perfect example.

If it were the 50’s and 60’s before Expansion, fine. But even then, hockey was dominated by the Winged Wheel featuring the Production Line of Gordie Howe, Sid Abel and Ted Lindsay. Alex Delvecchio replaced Lindsay for Production Line II.

The Rangers had some good teams featuring former Hart winner Andy Bathgate. Those teams also included Camille Henry, Bill Gadsby, Red Sullivan, Andy Hebenton, Dean Prentice, Gump Worsley and one of the franchise’s greatest defensemen, Harry Howell. Sadly, they never won a Stanley Cup with Bathgate as the team wasn’t good enough to handle the Red Wings, Maple Leafs and Canadiens dynasties.

In fact, the franchise only appeared in the Stanley Cup Final once losing in seven games to Detroit in 1950. A series best remembered for the Rangers having no real home ice with the circus at the old Garden, forcing them to play home games at Maple Leaf Gardens. They lost the series in seven in overtime. Eventually, Bathgate was traded to Toronto where he helped the Leafs win a Cup in 1964.

The Rangers didn’t reach another Cup Final until 1972 when they lost to the Bruins in six on home ice. A final that included an injured Jean Ratelle, who returned from injury at less than 100 percent. He had only one assist in six games. Ratelle centered the famed GAG (Goal A Game) Line with Vic Hadfield and Rod Gilbert. The team also featured Brad Park, Walt Tkaczuk, Bruce McGregor, Bill Fairbairn, Rod Seiling, Pete Stemkowski, Ted Irvine along with Ed Giacomin and Gilles Villemure.

What Detroit and the Rangers are old Original Six rivals. Even though they eventually played in separate conferences, the most memorable moment in recent history were the two fights between Bob Probert and Tie Domi. Domi won the heavyweight crown in the first fight but Probert avenged the loss in the rematch. It’s hard to believe it was in 1992. That’s now 24 years ago in what was a very different NHL where real fighters existed. Now, it’s more vanilla with enforcers being phased out. Not as entertaining a product.

As for tonight’s match-up, it brings the Red Wings and Rangers together for the first of three regular season meetings. The other two are at Detroit. The Red Wings are 2-1-0 so far in the post-Datsyuk Era. It’s sad that he’s no longer part of it. But he wanted to finish his career at home in the KHL and spend more time with his family.

The Wings still have Henrik Zetterberg leading a team that might not be able to extend the NHL’s longest playoff streak. Detroit hasn’t missed the playoffs since ’89-90. They added key free agents Thomas Vanek and Frans Nielsen up front. Both are fitting in with Vanek off to a good start with two goals and three assists. Mike Green recorded his first career hat trick in a recent win. Darren Helm has a surprising three goals. It hinges on Tomas Tatar and Gustav Nyquist– both of who disappointed last year. Dylan Larkin is the best young forward. He’s out slowly with an assist and minus-five.

Detroit’s blue line remains a sore spot. Green has never been good in his end. It’s built around Danny Dekeyser and youngster Xavier Ouellet. Without Niklas Kronwall, they’re counting on Alexey Marchenko, who played for Russia in the World Cup. Jonathan Ericsson and Brendan Smith round it out. Petr Mrazek has gotten all three starts so far, allowing nine goals on 104 shots. More about the players in front of him. Jimmy Howard gets the call tonight. He has a history of playing well against the Rangers.

The Rangers will skate a second straight game without Pavel Buchnevich (back spasms). Veteran defenseman Kevin Klein returns for his season debut from the same injury. That means Dylan McIlrath comes out. At this point, the way he’s been mishandled why not free him from jail? No one can tell me Adam Clendening or Nick Holden are more appealing than our former 2010 first round pick who did nothing wrong last year when he was given the chance.

Clearly, Alain Vigneault has a personal vendetta against McIlrath, who outperformed Dan Girardi last year. Vigneault preferred Girardi even though he was not close to 100 percent. It showed. Girardi is currently out with a hip flexor but is feeling better. Don’t tell me this genius coach is gonna rush him back. There’s no reason to with Klein healthy. He can pair with Ryan McDonagh, who’s off to a good start. That would leave Holden to work with Marc Staal, who scored his first goal in a 7-4 win over the Sharks the other night.

At least Brady Skjei continues to show positive signs. He’ll probably be with Clendening on the third pair. When he’s shortened up, Vigneault has trusted Skjei more than Clendening, who’s more offensive minded and not the strongest in his end. Skjei has gotten big shifts down the stretch including with Staal. Vigneault prefers skating D which is why McIlrath is on the outs. Even though he’s solid position wise and strong in front of the net- a Ranger weakness- it looks like he’ll be traded. Hopefully, he’ll get a better chance elsewhere.

There is a rumor circulating that the Rangers are considering trading J.T. Miller for Cam Fowler. I can’t tell you how stupid that would be. To his credit, Fowler is off to a better start with two goals and two assists for the Ducks, who took him after the Rangers grabbed McIlrath. At the time, I wanted Fowler, who impressed in the U-20 World Junior Championships for Team USA. He’s been up and down. A good skater and left D which our team has plenty of, I don’t see how he’s a fit. He can definitely add offense from the back end.

Why trade for Fowler when the D is deeper? Don’t forget Ryan Graves and John Gilmour are in Hartford developing. It really wouldn’t make much sense to trade our most versatile forward for another defenseman who isn’t great defensively. Miller is coming off a career year and plays with the kind of energy Vigneault likes. He’s now killing penalties and remains on the third line. Miller can be moved around. He can also shift to center and take draws. He’s a good fore-checker. It would be a big mistake to trade him.

Rick Nash again will play with Chris Kreider and Mika Zibanejad while Jimmy Vesey sticks with Derek Stepan and Mats Zuccarello. Kevin Hayes should again play with Miller and Jesper Fast assuming the Rangers don’t make this foolish trade, which I don’t believe. The fourth line has been good. Michael Grabner likes the faster up tempo system as it works perfectly with his speed. Josh Jooris should center the line with Brandon Pirri and Grabner.

Unless Rangers brass is considering recalling Cristoval “Boo” Nieves and feels he can replace Miller, I’m not enthusiastic. What’s the rush? Oscar Lindberg will be back by the end of the month.

It seems like the organization finally has quality depth. So, why mess around? Henrik Lundqvist returns to net for his third start. It would be nice if he gave up less than three. A product of the high risk style Vigneault plays. Defense isn’t his specialty. No wonder McIlrath is in the penalty box.

The game can be seen exclusively on NBCSN with face off around 8:12. It only goes up against the Cubs/Dodgers with Chicago facing a must win Game 4 in the National League Championship Series. Nobody ever said NBC was smart. There will be a lot of channel flipping.

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Islanders lacking offensive punch for Tavares

Thomas Hickey, John Tavares

New York Islanders defenseman Thomas Hickey (14) leaps in the air with New York Islanders center John Tavares (91) after Tavares scored the winning goal in the second overtime period of Game 6 of an NHL hockey first-round Stanley Cup playoff series against the Florida Panthers in New York, Sunday, April 24, 2016. The Islanders defeated the 2-1. (AP Photo/Kathy Willens)

So far, the Islanders are off to a slow start in ’16-17. Unable to hold off the Sharks who were fresh off a 7-4 loss to the Rangers, they fell to San Jose 3-2 at Barclays Center Tuesday night.

Now 1-3-0, their only win came in overtime 3-2 over the Ducks on a beauty from Josh Bailey in Saturday’s home opener. That in itself was a struggle with the Islanders blowing a one-goal lead with a minute left in regulation on Ryan Getzlaf’s tying marker. Brock Nelson and captain John Tavares scored to put them up 2-0. But the Ducks rallied on goals from Cam Fowler and Getzlaf.

In losing to the Rangers and Capitals away from home to start the season, it put them behind. A five-game home stand followed. A victory over Anaheim was a good start with Bailey undressing the Ducks to get the winner at 54 seconds of overtime from Nick Leddy and Cal Clutterbuck.

Even with San Jose back up Aaron Dell making his NHL debut, they were unable to muster enough offense to win a second straight on home ice. In truth, the Sharks are one of the league’s elite teams who should be strong contenders again.

If there was a positive, 2015 first round pick Anthony Beauvillier scored his first career NHL goal to tie the contest in the second period. The 19-year old forward has been a bright spot. With no real number one right wing for Tavares to play with, coach Jack Capuano tried the versatile Beauvillier with the Isles’ best player and Bailey. It paid dividends with Beauvillier scoring his first from Bailey and Tavares.

Anders Lee followed 2:10 later with his first goal giving the Isles a 2-1 lead. The 26-year old is one of the keys to the season. He followed a 25-goal, 41-point rookie year with 15-21-36 last year before getting hurt and missing the playoffs. With Frans Nielsen and Kyle Okposo gone, the Islanders are counting on Lee, Brock Nelson and Ryan Strome to supply offense. All three are capable. It’s more about consistency.

The Islanders blew a one-goal lead for a third straight game allowing goals to Tomas Hertl and Joe Pavelski, whose tip in front came with 2:11 left in regulation. Pavelski’s delay of game minor penalty handed the Isles a power play with 1:06 left. But they were unable to cash in despite pulling starter Jaroslav Halak for a six-on-four.

With home dates left with Arizona Friday, the Wild Sunday and the Canadiens next Wednesday, they can still make it a successful home stand and build momentum. In fact, they’ll play another five in a row at home following a visit at the Penguins Oct. 27. So, the Islanders can really take advantage of the schedule at a place they’ve had success at.

The question is is there enough scoring punch to help superstar center Tavares. Andrew Ladd was a good addition in the off-season. A former captain who has won two Cups, the 30-year old is a gritty in your face player who should mesh well. Thus far, it hasn’t worked with Ladd minus a point in the first four games. Once he gets comfortable, that should change. The Isles are counting on him for production.

Jason Chimera was also added for depth. A character player who possesses good speed on the fore-check and can be a threat on the penalty kill, the 37-year old vet has two assists. That Capuano tried him with Tavares is puzzling. He’s not skilled enough to play on the top line. Chimera is suited for a third line checking role. He picked up the primary assist on Lee’s goal last night.

For the Isles, it’s about outworking opponents. That’s how they’ll be successful. Still boasting a effective fourth line anchored by mainstay Casey Cizikas and crusher Cal Clutterbuck, Nikolay Kulemin has been a good fit so far replacing Matt Martin. While not ideal, his speed gives the line more of a scoring threat. He narrowly missed a goal yesterday.

The problem is younger players such as Strome can’t be a non-factor. The 23-year old former fifth overall pick (2011) must be more consistent. One shot and a minus-one in just 14 shifts (10:31) won’t cut it. More was expected of a talented player who put up 50 points (17-33-50) and two goals and two assists in the ’14-15 regular season and postseason. He plummeted to 8-20-28 in 71 contests last year even going down to Bridgeport. At some point, they need to find out if he can make it.

Mathew Barzal has gotten into only one game. Despite a promising preseason, he has been a healthy scratch three times. If Capuano is gonna play Alan Quine  (8:53 in 13 shifts) so little, what’s the point? Shane Prince has also played just two games. What exactly is the thinking?

You could say the same for the Isles going with just six defensemen while keeping three goalies. Yes. Halak has gotten three of four starts with Thomas Greiss getting the other. Jean-Francois Berube is third on the depth chart. They obviously like him. But unless there’s a trade coming, it doesn’t make a whole lot of sense.

Meanwhile, the organization opted to go with experience on the back end. In inking Dennis Seidenberg late following a good World Cup for Team Europe, they sent back Ryan Pulock. A 22-year old first round pick in 2013 who impressed when he was recalled last Spring. At some point, he’ll be up and get into games rotating with Seidenberg. It doesn’t make sense to carry six D.

Travis Hamonic is off to a bad start. The shutdown defenseman was minus-two last night making him a team worst minus-seven along with partner Leddy. They’re supposed to be much better. The blue line is supposed to be a strong suit for the Isles with Calvin de Haan and Johnny Boychuk rounding out the top four with the underrated Thomas Hickey on the third pair with Seidenberg.

The biggest issue remains who plays with Tavares. Let’s face it. He had a great sidekick in Okposo, who signed with the Sabres. The Isles didn’t even attempt to keep him. Tavares and Okposo were a potent 1-2 punch. He was that right-handed shot that Tavares could rely on. Nielsen was a strong second pivot who did everything well. Now a Red Wing, he should become a fan favorite in Hockey Town.

The Isles are counting on Nelson to replace Nielsen. He’s off to a good start with two goals and two helpers. Having only missed one game the last two years, the 25-year old center totaled 46 goals and 82 points. He was disappointing last Spring going 1-4-5 in the postseason. He has the tools to become more consistent.

Still, you look at the roster and unless Strome fulfills his potential or either Beauvillier or Barzal stick, where’s the help for Tavares? In two years, he can turn unrestricted. That’s not a long window. The Isles’ 2009 first overall prize has been everything expected. A bonafide star who has carried his team. It was his goal that sent them to the first second round since ’93. He tied the game and won it to beat the Panthers. A signature moment.

At 26, Tavares is entering his prime. He currently is in the second to last year of a deal that pays him $6 million in both ’16-17 and ’17-18. The cap hit is a bargain at $5.5 million. In two years, he’ll get his payday. A player who has put up 208 goals, 265 assists and 473 points over 514 career games could be even better with more talent. Something the Islanders haven’t provided. The 24 playoff games in which he’s gone 11-11-22 are proof.

What if he was surrounded by better talent? Might the hometown Maple Leafs be attractive in the summer of 2018 with headliner Auston Matthews and Mitchell Marner? It’s worth wondering. Tavares has never been about himself. But rather the Islanders logo. But at what point is enough enough? If they don’t get the players and become serious contenders in ’17 and ’18, he could leave.

Something the organization and its fans don’t want to think about.

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