Andy Graziano, SNY.TV Twitter
Last night at Barclays Center in Brooklyn, the New York Islanders opened up the home portion of their 2016-17 schedule by defeating the Anaheim Ducks in overtime, 3-2. It was a game that featured a first period where New York could do nothing wrong, outshooting Anaheim 16-3, John Tavares' first goal of the season, the continued early season excellence of Cal Clutterbuck and another strong performance by Josh Bailey, who would score the game winner 54 seconds into the extra session on a fantastic individual performance.
Last year, in their first year playing at a new home, with all the pomp, circumstance and yes, distractions too, the Islanders managed to pull off a 25-11-5 home record, tied for fourth best in the entire Eastern conference. The ability to secure 55% of their season points total in comfortable surroundings clearly is what led them to a second consecutive playoff appearance and first series win in 23 years.
This year, the schedule makers have been kind to New York yet again (perhaps a tip of the cap to the Brooklyn Nets for forcing the NHL's hand?), putting the Islanders at home 14 times in the season's first 22 games through October and November. This includes remarkable, and perhaps unheard of, stretches of 10 of 11 and 12 of 14 games in Brooklyn.
The coaching staff knows they have to make good with the opportunity presented to them to find similarities and further success from last season. "I've always said, if you want to be a team that makes the postseason, you have to win at home, there's no question," head coach Jack Capuano said. "There are teams that have struggled in recent years on the road, but had a great home record and they got to the dance. There's a lot of hype here, lots of home games coming up. Hopefully, this success will continue for us. We have to take advantage."
They certainly took advantage of it in the game's opening 20 minutes, riding a wave of emotion to a first period that you don't see too often, if at all. Not only the shot advantage, but out-attempting a team 28-4 is just ridiculous domination. The game leveled out in the second period, but the Islanders managed a comfortable even strength score adjusted Corsi advantage for the duration, even in allowing two third period goals before the Bailey overtime winner.
"I thought the last game was better and tonight another step in the right direction", said Bailey, one of the better Islander forwards through three games. "Pace usually isn't a concern for us, we use it to our advantage. You can see that tonight in the first period. We were motivated and ready to go and wanted to get into the win column here at home. We didn't view it as a 'must win' but you definitely want to get one as things can snowball quickly and we relied on being home tonight".
The overreaction to the opening night loss to the New York Rangers is fading a bit as the team has played better game to game, culminating with last night's victory. One of the mistakes is New York getting into penalty trouble in the second period that allowed the Ducks to hang around and eventually tie the game with a minute left.
"We got better in Washington, tough result there, so it's good to come back home with the fast start I think we came out and played a good first period but fell off a bit. We need to work on finishing that out through the second period, no lapses, limit them and hold the lead. We'll take a deep breath, enjoy the win at home and come back ready to play Tuesday", is how Brock Nelson accurately described the feeling in the locker room.
There are always things to tighten up, more film to review, mistakes to correct. But the trend, especially 5v5 this year, has been edging upwards in the early part of the season. And if you ask winning goaltender Jaroslav Halak about exactly why or how the Islanders got into penalty trouble in the second period in the first place, he'll gladly answer. "In the second period, refs started favoring their team, but in the third period we came out hard and earned the win".
Beyond the box:
- Dennis Seidenberg led the Islanders in 5v5 ES corsi last night at plus-10. Johnny Boychuk was worst at minus-4, one of only five Islanders in negatives.
- Nick Leddy played a monstrous 26:19 to lead Islanders defenseman and was second on both teams, trailing only Cam Fowler (26:42). Bailey led New York forwards at 23:30, including 4:44 on the power play and 1:50 on the penalty kill.
- Tavares had 10 shot attempts and scored his first goal on a magnificent effort by Clutterbuck and was 8-12 on faceoffs. The Isles, as a team, struggled in the faceoff circle all night, winning only 24 of 62 (39 percent).
- Casey Cizikas took a slapper off the inside of his knee in the second period, didn't miss a shift but retired to the dressing room early in the third and didn't return. Capuano said today "X-rays last night were good news" but could not commit to the center playing tomorrow against the San Jose Sharks.
- Expect Mathew Barzal back in the lineup tomorrow night in Brooklyn, as the Islanders continue to alternate between their two 19-year-olds. Anthony Beauvillier played his second game last night and had three shot attempts in 8:06.