Granted that the franchise is a work in progress, but Saturday night’s emphatic 6-2 victory over the Stanley Cup Finalist Nashville Predators offers more optimism for the club than there was at this time last year.
Preparing for the amazingly successful Vegas Golden Knights visit to Barclays Center on Monday night, coach Doug Weight is secure in the knowledge that the pieces are beginning to fit into his puzzle.
“It was refreshing,” said Weight. “Nice getting all the scoring. Nice to see Jordan Eberle get his first goal. His legs got a little lighter after that.”
Even the Brooklynites once futile power play has ignited, playing a huge part in the victory at Music City. Three out of five attempts against Nashville was as good as it could get after the long slump. Overall, the penalty-killers continue to excel.
“The power play units now are going to have an awful lot of confidence,” said MSG Networks’ analyst Butch Goring. “They should succeed because they have a lot of talent in that group.”
Heading into Game 12, the Islanders have revealed the following:
1. The goaltending of Jaroslav Halak and Thomas Greiss has been commendable. Weight’s system of alternating netminders appears to be working. Certainly, Halak was outstanding with a number of big, vital saves against the Preds. It will be interesting to see how the coaching staff handles the rotation if one of them gets really hot. Right now they’re about even.
2. Minus Travis Hamonic, the defense remains a work in progress. The addition of Ryan Pulock has added pizazz to the power play. His laser goal in the second period with the man advantage is precisely what the club needs. “Pulock doesn’t hesitate to shoot,” noted Goring. “His confidence should soar.”
3. The two freshmen gems — Josh Ho-Sang and Mathew Barzal — opened their seasons with a flourish. Barzal continues to impress and was particularly effective as a game-changer in Nashville. Defense-short Ho-Sang was demoted to Bridgeport last week in what was a mild-shocker. Once he learns to play a 200-foot game he figures to return. The Maven says sooner rather than later.
4. Having overcome a mini-slump, captain John Tavares has enjoyed game-winning contests. His Tuesday night hat trick against Arizona was ditto-ed versus the Preds — all three goals in the third period in Nashville. A pair of hat tricks in eleven games is not too bad, is it? (You don’t have to answer that.) He now has eight career hat tricks.
5. Newcomer Jordan Eberle was a playmaking asset in the early going and found his goal-scoring touch in Nashville with a pair of red lights. Overall, his game has been an asset whether he’s on the first line with Tavares or anywhere else. He also got an assist which said it all for his decisive role against the Preds. “We found a way to win,” concluded Eberle, and that said it all as well.
6. Brock Nelson looks like a totally new — and improved — Islander. We all know that he has the shot and is one of the best at winning face-offs. He showed gumption in taking on P.K. Subban after the latter messed up Eberle late in the game. If the new model Brock continues to play this way — with speed and determination — the sky’s the limit for the big guy.
7. Andrew Ladd had a tough time adjusting last year but he, too, has improved by about 20 percent in my book. As my Isles-watching buddy, Rob Taub, notes, “He looks more engaged, more comfortable with the system. He’s using his body more and shooting the puck.”
8. Anthony Beauvillier continues to look like a waterbug on a pond; zipping here and there with consummate hustle. The coach’s faith in Beau and Barzal has paid considerable dividends so far.
“We had a great bounce-back from the loss in Minnesota,” said Tavares. “In Nashville, we had a terrific work ethic.
“The same work ethic is necessary against Vegas. It should be a tough test.”
If any Islander fan cares to take the expansion Golden Knights for granted, The Maven suggests that he — or she — check out the NHL standings!