(For lineups and general game information, check out Jeff Chapman’s game preview here)
This is an Islanders team that has gone through quite a few changes the past few seasons. Their beloved captain jumped ship to Toronto, Barry Trotz and Lou Lamoriello were brought in as the architects, and they lost their vezina finalist goaltender, Robin Lehner, in free agency this past summer.
It is definitely a different Islanders team than what we are used to, but that is why I want familiarize ourselves with “5 Things To Know About The New York Islanders”
1. New Season, New Goalie
As I mentioned, the Islanders have a new face between the pipes this year. Gone is Robin Lehner and in is, longtime Avalanche net-minder, Semyon Varlamov.
Varlamov has had a few rocky seasons in Colorado, posting records just above .500 in his last two seasons. He was brought in by the Islanders this past July on a deal that will pay him 20 million dollars over the course of the next 4 seasons. The Islanders obviously think that Varlamov is the short-term answer in net. This contract doesn't come without some concerns.
Varlamov will be pushing 35 by the time his deal ends and there is a really good chance that he starts a harsh decline before then. We have already seen signs of that happening, as his sv% dropped from .920 in 2017/18 to .908 in 2018/19 on a good Colorado team. He has only played one game with the Islanders so far, losing 2-1 to to the Washington Capitals, and he is the probable starter against the Oilers tonight.
His backup will be Thomas Griess, who is entering his 5th season on Long Island.
2. Barzal Will Give Edmonton Trouble
When Barry Trotz was asked about how he felt about his team lining up against Connor McDavid he had a very straight-forward answer:
Barry Trotz on the #Oilers' Connor McDavid coming in tomorrow night: "Maybe the most talented player in the league. He's really a pretty full package, the ability to skate, the 0-60 speed. But we've got one too. We've got the guy right there with him (Mathew Barzal)." #Isles #NHL— Brian Heyman (@bheyman99) October 7, 2019
Matthew Barzal is quickly establishing himself as one of the premier young stars in the NHL. Drafted by the Islanders in 2015 with the pick they got in the Griffin Reinhart deal (DAMN YOU PISTOL PETE) Barzal has only gotten better with each season in the league.
He only has 1 assist in 2 games so far but he has looked extremely dangerous in both games. Just take a look at this spectacular move he made against the Jets this past Sunday.
Edmonton’s short-handed defence will have their hands full with Barzal tonight.
3. Dobson Gets The Nod
There will be a brand new NHLer in the lineup for the Islanders tonight, one that Oiler fans might be a bit familiar with.
Noah Dobson, who went a few picks after Evan Bouchard in the 2018 NHL draft, will make his NHL debut against the Edmonton Oilers tonight. Dobson has spent the last 4 seasons in the QMJHL with the Rouyn-Noranda Huskies and the Acadie-Bathurst Titans.
Scouts describe Dobson as “A talented two-way defenceman that can play in all situations and stay productive” (source). Not too sure where he will slot in, but he will be wearing the number 8 jersey. Watch out for him.
If you are a betting man/woman you should have money on Dobson getting his first goal tonight.....because why would anything be different in OilerLand.
4. Trotz Passes Arbour
Islanders HC Barry Trotz reached a major milestone in his career after last Sunday’s game against the Winnipeg Jets. The game was his 1608th behind the bench, good for 3rd all-time and passing, Islander legend, Al Arbour.
Trotz is one of the games finest coaches, receiving rave reviews from Nashville, Washington and, now, New York. When he arrived on Long Island the team had just lost the face of the franchise and was undergoing an identity crisis. Trotz’s ability to implement a system focused on using defensive zone play go generate offence did wonders for the team and helped them advance to the second round of the playoffs.
Edmonton could use a guy like Trotz and, hopefully, Dave Tippett becomes that guy. Nonetheless a huge congratulations to Mr. Trotz and I hope to see him raise the cup one more time before he retires from hockey.
Truly one of the game’s best.
5. Arena Drama Hasn’t Stopped
Who doesn’t like a good Arena fiasco.
Alberta is all too familiar with the headaches that come with getting a new arena built....but it never got as bizarre as it currently sits for the New York Islanders.
They are unable to get a new arena built and the returns on their move to the, brand new, Barclay’s Center have been awful. The arena is located in Brooklyn (not Long Island) and was not built for hockey, which has caused a variety of problems from terrible vantage points to problems with the ice surface.
The end result of this? Splitting the season between the much maligned Barclay’s Center and Nassau Coliseum, which they played in before the move to Brooklyn. In two games this season the attendance has been lacklustre...probably due to confusion as to where the Islanders will be playing.
Edmonton will be visiting Nassau Coliseum tonight in what will, hopefully, be a packed arena with Connor McDavid in town.