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A blog by a long time New York Islanders fan who stays true to the fellas wearing orange, white and blue…but thinks the Islanders organization has some shaping up to do.

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Sunday, October 4, 2009

Tavares, Streit Deliver, But Isles Falter in Season Opener

Well, it's hockey season once more, and the 2009-10 season opened up in high style, with a showdown between division rivals. The Islanders took to the ice in their own arena for the first season opener in quite a while at Nassau Coliseum against the defending Stanley Cup Champions, the Pittsburgh Penguins, and it proved to be exciting, disappointing, and promising all in the same game.

A sold-out crowd watched as the Isles eventually dropped the game, 4-3, in a shootout after having a 3-2 lead in the third period. However, the game was not without its high points.

Captain Sidney Crosby scored first for the Penguins, breaking in alone on goaltender Dwayne Roloson on a 2-on-1 to make it 1-0. A couple of fights commenced afterward, first between Tim Jackman and Mike Rupp, and then again between Jay McKee and Brendan Witt after Witt laid a monster hit on former teammate Ruslan Fedotenko. Evgeni Malkin also initiated a shoving match with Witt, resulting in a 5-on-3 penalty that the Islanders made good on. Mark Streit got the puck from fellow point man Kyle Okposo and blasted a shot from just behind the blueline that got past Marc-Andre Fleury, tying it up.

The Islanders carried that tie into the second period, and then came a great moment for both a young player and for Isles fans. John Tavares, the No. 1 draft pick and would-be star center for the Isles in a few years, was able to get the puck and backhand it past Fleury for the first goal of his NHL career. This came after he got his first NHL point in the first period (second assist on Streit's goal). The goal gave New York a 2-1 lead and electrified the Coliseum crowd. Shortly afterward, Tavares had another opportunity as Okposo sprung him on a breakaway, but Fleury made a brilliant glove save to keep it at a one-goal lead.

Mark Eaton would tie the game once more at 2 with a shot that went off of Jon Sim's stick and past the goal line, but 27 seconds later, the Isles would answer back in the form of Trent Hunter (remember him??!), who shot a one-timer from Josh Bailey (who otherwise was strangely quiet last night) to take the lead once more.

The Isles felt pretty good about themselves, going into the third, no doubt. But the good and bad thing about games between New York and Pittsburgh is that, as division rivals, things can get pretty intriguing- and usually do not end up in the Isles' favor. And so it was that the Pens worked hard to get the score even again, with Fedotenko all better from his hit by Witt and getting the puck past a sprawled-out Roloson. With that, the game went to OT, and then uneventfully to a shootout, where Jeff Tambellini, who usually comes up big in the SO, struck out, and then John Tavares never even hit the mark. Meanwhile, Kris Letang and Crosby both got the puck past Roloson for the win. I don't want to be a downer on Rollie here, but other than perhaps one good save, I didn't see much I liked out of him. I would be much more secure in starting Martin Biron, who has proved his mettle as a #1 goalie many times, especially against us. We have nothing to lose if we start him. But we shall see.

That said, it's still very early in this hockey season, and we've got plenty more action to come. So far, it looks as though there's a lot of promise in the youth, especially considering how well KO and Tavares worked together. That will be tested again on Thursday in Ottawa, as the Isles face off against the Senators.

Notes: The Penguins outshot the Islanders by nearly double, 42-28... new captain Doug Weight was a scratch (groin injury), along with Blake Comeau (illness) and Frans Nielsen (knee surgery)... Mark Streit predictably led all Isles in ice time with around 26 minutes... new Isle Matt Moulson led in shots with 5... G Rick DiPietro was conspicuously left out of the Isles' opening roll call. Think it's a sign? Just something to chew on until next time.

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