John Tavares and the New York Islanders must build off a successful October and keep the good times rolling through November.
The New York Islanders are coming off a successful (7-4-1) October. Last year, they finished 4-5-1 in the month but trending downward. The main thing about the first month of the season is always keeping your head above water. You can’t gain a playoff spot before Thanksgiving, but you can take yourself out of the race that early.
Fifteen points in 12 games places them in a “projected” playoff spot. That’s where you want to be headed into November.
Last year, the Isles were (4-5-4) in November. The 12 points in 13 games put them well behind the eight-ball. The ship wasn’t sunk, but they didn’t see NHL500 until New Years Eve. That was just too little too late, and it cost Jack Capuano his job in mid-January.
The boys will have to keep the ball rolling in November. This is what their schedule looks like:
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Washington Capitals (Away) (5-6-1, 6th in the Metro)
The Islanders fared well against the Caps last year (3-2-0). Washington is off to a slow start. Throw that out the window. These games are usually close. Expect a 1 goal game, and expect that goal to be pretty meaningful in March. Ovechkin, just like another guy in D.C., wins so much he gets tired of winning. Usually, the fatigue sets in about when the playoffs start. But expect Reds to be in the mix at the end, and the Islanders will probably need every point they can get — either for a spot or for home ice advantage.
Colorado Avalannche (Home)(6-5-0, 4th in the Central)
The Avs were by far the worst team in the NHL last year (22-56-4). But an off season full of trade rumors motivated them into the early projected playoff mix. The Isles earned three of a possible four points against them last year. A lot of fans wanted to see Matt Duchene in Brooklyn. They will get their chance on the fifth. Hopefully, Mathew Barzal will show them why Garth Snow just said “no.”
Edmonton Oilers (Home)(3-6-1, 7th in the Pacific)
Josh Ho-sang scored his first goal against the Oilers last year. The Isles earned three of a possible four points against them. They had a nice run that ended in the first round of the playoffs. Ironically, Jordan Eberle was somewhat to blame for that. Eberle and Ryan Strome meet for the first time since they were traded for each other. Griffin Reinhart is long gone, so there will be nobody for Barzal and Beauvillier to impress against.
Dallas Stars (Away)(7-5-0, 2nd in the Central)
Dallas and new coach Ken Hitchcock will be a challenge. The Isles won both games against the Stars last year, but this team is new and improved. Jamie Benn is leading them with a PPG-plus pace. The Canadiens probably wish they had Alexander Radulov‘s four goals as well. Dallas is starting the month with a STI (Special Teams Index) of 121. (PP=31% + PK=90%). The boys will need to stay out of the local jail.
St. Louis Blues (Away)(10-2-1, 1st in the Central)
The Blues have visited Brooklyn already this year. Some late heroics by Ladd and Lee earned the Isles a point, but they eventually lost the skills competition. St. Louis is red hot. They haven’t lost a game in regulation since Oct. 18. Let’s hope they cool some before we get there.
Carolina Hurricanes (Home/Away)(4-4-2, 7th in the Metro)
Things did not start well for the Isles in Carolina last year. They were 0-2-1 in their first three games against the Canes. The last defeat was the last defeat for Jack Capuano as the Islanders head coach. I was there for that one, and it wasn’t pretty. Even though they bounced back with a solid effort against a struggling Boston team the decision to move on from Capuano was probably made in Raleigh. Doug Weight fared pretty well against the stormy franchise. He’s 2-0. The second game of the home and home will be the third in four nights for the Canes. Hopefully, the Isles can take advantage of the team traveling from Buffalo the night before for a 5 p.m. ET start.
Tampa Bay Lightning (Away)(10-2-1, 1st in the Atlantic)
This is the test. This is where the Islanders will get to measure their progress more than any other game in November. The Lightning killed the Islanders season early last year. They were done by Nov. 14. Three games. Three blowouts. Three confidence killers. Three nails in a coffin that was kicked at for the rest of the season, but never opened. The worst part about those three games were they should have been redeemers. The Islanders had to cut their playoff celebrations short after defeating the Atlantic Division champion Florida Panthers because they were no match for the Lightning. The test won’t be easy, as the Bolts have four forwards on a PPG or better pace. Steven Stamkos is close to 2PPG with 24 in 13 games. They ended October winning five of their last six. We should keep our fingers crossed for Peter Budaj, as Andreij Vasilevskiy is having a Vezina type year.
Philadelphia Flyers (Home/Away)(6-5-1, 5th in the Metro)
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The Broadstreet Bullies are somewhat toothless. More due to decay, than violent extraction. They are recovering from a playoff-less season. They’re scoring goals, and their special teams are adequate. They just haven’t been able to string more than 2 wins together so far. To their credit they haven’t lost more than two in a row either. They are keeping their heads above water. Hopefully, by the time the Isles digest their Thanksgiving dinners there will be a substantial gap between the two teams.
Ottawa Senators (Away)(5-2-5, 2nd in the Atlantic)
Erik Karlsson. Watch him as much as you can. Enjoy it. Hope that we draft somebody like him someday. The Isles were 1-2-0 against the Sens last year, but hopefully they can extend their one game winning streak.
Vancouver Canucks (Home) (6-3-2, 3rd in the Pacific)
Both games against the Canucks last year ended in celebratory headbutts with the goaltender. Not a whole lot to see when these boys visit. The Sedin’s will probably be looking forward to getting home (do they have social security in Canada?). They do feature rookie Brock Boeser, who has 14 points in 17 NHL games as the month starts. We maybe highlighting the matchup between him and Barzal as Calder Trophy candidates at that point. Former Islander Anders Nilsson will be visiting, and if he can maintain his .943 SV% he could get the start.