Andy Graziano, SNY.TV Twitter
It didn't take long for the puns to start via social media regarding Doug Weight and his head coaching debut for the New York Islanders as they prepared to take on the Stars in Brooklyn on Thursday night.
Admittedly, I joined in leading up to faceoff and at select times throughout the game. After all, why should you have all the fun?
After New York kept their structure and confidence, even though the immense struggles of a power(less) play that was 0-for-7 on the evening and is 0 for their last 22, legendary Stan Fischler got into the act when his first question to Weight was, 'Coach, how much of a weight off your shoulders is this win?'.
Weight went on to say he was more nervous than he expected to be and was proud of how his team battled, before laying out some ground rules.
"It was a tough couple of days, Jack's a popular coach, great man and a great mentor to me. It's always tough, but I just want some swagger and some confidence from these guys. I think I'm going to make them accountable and I think they're going to hear about it. A couple got it on the bench, some between periods tonight and they have to react in a good way. If it keeps happening, they'll sit the bench."
Weight, per multiple sources, is said to not be keen -- at present anyway -- for a long tenure behind the bench. But as the good company soldier he is, will continue to do everything he can to get this team back on track and at least in some semblance of a race to close out the second half of the 2016-17 season before a permanent replacement is found.
Thursday night's victory, the Islanders' third in four games after dropping three straight, was led by captain John Tavares. Weight rode his horse for a season-high 24:17 and boy, did he respond. A highlight-reel goal in the first, going outside-in on John Klingberg before roofing over Kari Lehtonen, followed by a game-sealing shorthanded breakaway goal in the game's final three minutes -- the first shorty of his career. It gave Tavares seven goals in his last four games, pushing his season total to 18.
Thomas Greiss was once again fantastic between the pipes, earning his second-straight shutout, stopping 23 Dallas shots, the lowest 60-minute total the team has allowed all season. After also picking up an assist on Calvin de Haan's empty net goal that determined the final score, he was still the consummate teammate.
"It's a nice personal thing (the back to back shutouts) but more important is the two points for the team, no matter if the score is 1-0 or 10-9," Greiss said. He also praised himself on the 'pass' to de Haan, calling it "Easy- - a great drop pass."
Tavares called the past day and a half, "Pretty emotional, a significant change. We wanted to come out and give a good effort, respond and play some good hockey. Everyone contributed in a big way and Greisser was great again". When asked about his shorthanded tally, "It only took seven and a half years, nice to finally get one."
Some questioned when Weight was named interim coach if there would be any change systematically to a team close to the bottom in possession and special teams. Some of the players tried to answer honestly with respect to outgoing coach Jack Capuano Thursday night in the postgame locker room.
"There are always differences -- different types of people, different personalities. There's some, but there is also a good understanding of Dougie since he's been here a while," added Tavares.
Thomas Hickey offered some additional color on the coaching change after taking a minute to needle Ryan Strome as a 'wild man' for wanting to jump into his second period fight.
"We played fast tonight," Hickey said. "Got great goaltending, but protected the front -- a quick and efficient game."
In speaking directly about the change at the top, Hickey continued: "Cool, calm and collected. Dougie is excited, he told us to make mistakes if you have to but be sure of yourself in all situations. On the bench, it was the same things since I've been here. It's how hard you want to play and compete. We've all been coached by the same group for a long time. Biggest thing with Dougie is his enthusiasm and how he tells us to be confident and play with the puck. Other than that, we didn't change much at all."
The Islanders still have a mountain to climb -- let's not go making playoff plans just yet. But after back to back shutouts and with a new coach, it could be an interesting second half of the season.
In any event, it won't be long to see if the Islanders can continue to throw their weight at the opposition as a six-game homestand continues this weekend with back to back games against the Kings and Flyers.
You didn't think I'd make it through 850 words and not throw just one in, did you?