After losing in devastating fashion to the Bruins at the Garden in October, the Islanders are back in Beantown for another meeting.
Dominik of Lighthouse Hockey joined us to answer a few questions about the Isles, as they seek revenge for their loss to the B's earlier this season.
NESN.com: It hasn't taken a long time for John Tavares to adjust to the game at the NHL
level, as he is leading the Islanders in scoring (8-10-18). How
impressed are Islanders fans by the young phenom so far?
Dominik: Naturally, Islanders fans are quite impressed. He's not only scoring, he handling first-line center minutes (there was initial talk of easing him in on the wing) and he's showing that he's learning more about the league with each game. He's probing defenses to see which moves work and which areas he can get to unimpeded to pick up goals. His much-touted offensive instincts have been as billed.
NESN.com: Who has been the biggest surprise through the first quarter of the season?
Dominik: The biggest surprise has to be Matt Moulson, an old friend of Tavares who has struck up instant on-ice chemistry with the first overall pick. The team wasn't even sure if Moulson would make the team out of training camp, but he's been on the first line all season, racking up points and going hard to the net. He's the kind of bonus find every rebuilding team needs.
NESN.com: Who has been the biggest disappointment through the first quarter of the season?
Dominik: It depends on your angle for "disappointment." Sean Bergenheim has played quite well, and smart, but he has had no luck in the goal-scoring department. Brendan Witt has bounced back a little from an awful year last season, but he still doesn't appear to fit Scott Gordon's system and has had weak results 5-on-5. Josh Bailey, the 2008 first-round pick, has been quiet and was even a healthy scratch recently, but people are patient with this kid and we know he has the head and skills where he'll one day put it all together.
NESN.com: The last time the Islanders and Bruins met, the Islanders blew a
late 3-0 lead before losing. What went wrong in that game that needs to
go right this time around for the Isles?
Dominik: That last Bruins meeting was the first, but not the only time the Isles have blown a 3-0 lead this year (they did it in Carolina last week, but won in overtime). Like a lot of young teams, they need to not take their foot off the pedal and not panic when the other team gets a goal or two back. Missing captain Doug Weight's calming presence on the bench probably hurts such situations.
NESN.com: Martin Biron's record hasn't been outstanding, but his other
numbers are right there or better than Dwayne Roloson's. Who do you
feel more comfortable with in net until Rick DiPietro gets back?
Dominik: Thus far, I'm a little more comfortable with Roloson — he's allowed fewer soft goals so far. But each has had his moments of brilliance and moments of pedestrian play. Neither has fully hit a groove, but they've brought the stability the Islanders sought when signing them.
NESN.com: What has been the most significant difference between this year's
Islanders team that seems to be competing in the Eastern Conference and
the team that struggled throughout the season a year ago?
Dominik: Better health plus Tavares plus Moulson plus goaltending. It's really that simple. This team had moments of excitement early last year, but injury chaos began in preseason and didn't stop all year long, while two career minor league goalies were thrust into the DiPietro void. This season, though they've been without Weight and Trent Hunter much of the first 20 games and just lost underrated Radek Martinek for the rest of the year, they've still had a more consistent lineup thanks to more healthy bodies. Add a No. 1 center and a winger to score with him (plus Kyle Okposo's continued development), and suddenly you have a much more competitive team, one that's been much more fun to watch.
NESN.com: What are the keys to the game for the Islanders against the Bruins?
Dominik: The Islanders need to play their game for 60 minutes. With their
aggressive puck pursuit, they can get other teams off their game and
grab a lead. If they do that in Boston, they need to make sure not to
lay off afterward.
Thanks again to Dominik for sharing his insight on the Islanders. Don't forget to check out his blog, Lighthouse Hockey.