In preparation for tomorrow’s season opener, here are five points to watch for when the Islanders take the ice against the Dallas Stars at Nassau Coliseum.
John Tavares 2.0
I admit I didn’t have to dig to deep for this one, but it’s tough to overlook former No. 1 overall picks. Everyone’s excited to see what Tavares can bring to the rink this season. Can he equal the Steven Stamkos-redux hype? How much better can he make his teammates? If the Isles want a shot at the playoffs this season, Tavares will have to far surpass his freshman point total of 54. It’s only one game, but tonight we’ll get a chance to see how far he’s come since last season.
Two reasons to watch the wunderkind: The first is sheer talent. He’s the team’s top prospect for a reason and fans will want to see what he can do in a regular-season environment. Second is whether he can hack it in the NHL or whether he’ll be sent back to juniors to save a year on his contract. Given the current injury predicament, Niederreiter has ample opportunity to stick with the big club, but if he looks overwhelmed, there’s no sense forcing the issue and holding him beyond the nine-game trial run.
The Islanders’ single biggest deficiencies last season came with an uneven number of skaters on the ice. New York ranked 27th on the power play and 29th on the penalty kill. In Game 1 we’ll see if there’s been any improvement or whether the units are still works in progress.
Is anyone there?
Tickets to the opener are being heavily discounted (up to 40 percent off). The Stars aren’t exactly a sexy opponent, but it is the season opener. If the place is half full (maybe I should say half empty), that would be another sad note on which to start the season.
With a nod to Johnny Drama, let’s be honest, after the past month of injuries, the Isles need some good news in a bad way. Beating the Stars won’t win the Cup, but it will generate a little positivity and break up the steady stream of punches the team’s been absorbing since Mark Streit went down. And hey, the kids in Edmonton got it done against the Flames last night (behind a beautiful goal by rookie Jordan Eberle), so why not the Isles too?