Andy Graziano, SNY.TV Twitter
While I still try to digest how disappointed I am at the New York Yankees' loss in game seven of the American League Championship Series last night to the Houston Astros, my thoughts quickly turn back to hockey.
The New York Islanders are now eight games -- almost 10% -- into the 2017-18 season and are likely where they deserve to be: right in the middle of the pack at 4-3-1 for nine of a possible 16 points. But that doesn't mean there aren't interesting storylines surrounding this organization. Are they ever none? Let's dive in.
1 - Joshua Ho-Sang had a rough night Thursday at Madison Square Garden and paid the price last night, sitting as a healthy scratch for the second time already in the young season. While the entire team was a turnover dumpster fire that evening, head coach Doug Weight also mentioned shift length and body language as the reasons. The assists mean little in the grand scheme of things, let's remember that.
2 - Can't say I like the idea of playing with 11 forwards and 7 defensemen -- it failed one game, worked another -- as the Islanders continue to show little faith in the defensive prowess of Ryan Pulock, sheltering him. The rookie has played under ten minutes in both his games thus far, and pretty soon it's going to come time to ramp that up and see what New York is dealing with over a larger sample size.
3 - Calvin de Haan seemingly has gotten over his early-season jitters and has played much better over the course of his past four games. His game scores, via corsisles, have been steadily on the upswing and you can see the confidence coming back into his game.
4 - Well, the power play finally broke through, netting the first goal of the game in an eventual 4-3 shootout win over the Rangers, but it's still an adventure in futility. They flailed away at their next four opportunities (two versus Rangers, two last night). With all that talent on the ice, the coaching staff continues to look for answers to five guys who all would rather pass than shoot. I still say it all comes down to zone entries, which have been extremely poor.
5 - The Islanders have been outshot in each of their past four games, 140-109 in total, and in five of eight overall. Jaroslav Halak has seen some late-game lack of concentration seep in over two of his past three starts, the winner in Anaheim and the tying goal in Manhattan. Thomas Greiss continues to be extremely solid, stopping 68 of 72 shots in his past two starts, both wins, both versus the Sharks. Last night, it took Logan Couture to beat him, the last coming off a quadruple deflection.
6 - Mathew Barzal is pretty good, huh? Seemingly growing in confidence shift to shift, he was the best player on the ice versus the Rangers, netting his first NHL goal and missing three to four additional opportunities before again, coming up big last night with a quality assist on Andrew Ladd's third period tally. Most impressive was a terrific two-way shift in the third where he helped generate and sustain offensive zone pressure before hustling back and making a solid defensive play on the left wing boards to help New York clear the zone.
7 - Andrew Ladd, healthy this season, played his best game of the season last night and showed tons of jump. With five points in eight games (2-3), Ladd could pay big dividends on a third unit to help equalize the Islanders scoring.
8 - Product of John Tavares, not a product of John Tavares. Who cares? Anders Lee is making quite the name for himself as a true goal scoring power winger. It bears repeating that if he continues this torrid pace (five goals in eight games), he won't be on the underrated list much longer, if he even still is. Sure, the shooting percentage (23.8%) will regress, but as long as he is willing to pay the price in front, the opportunities will be there.
9 - Jason Chimera is beloved in the clubhouse. A positive influence to help keep things loose, his play on the ice has certainly suffered, however. Not making much of an impact, I can't see Chimera being part of the best lineup the Islanders can field on a nightly basis. He and Nikolay Kulemin should be the rotation moving forward, as long as Ho-Sang figures things out.
10 - Can't end without mentioning that ridiculous goal by Josh Bailey in the first period last night. It will be on highlight reels everywhere today and should be the top effort when NHL network does their weekly recap. A creative effort by Bailey, who now has 3-3-6 in eight games playing without Tavares.
Follow me on Twitter, @andygraz_SNY, and let me know any storylines you want focused on for next week's scratchpad. Also, Arthur Staple of Newsday will be our guest tomorrow on the Secondary Assist podcast, so be sure to look for that Tuesday morning.
Thanks for reading.