A few notes and thoughts after four Isles games, with No. 5 coming up Saturday against the Sharks:
John Tavares, still the man. He certainly was the most vocal about the Barclays Center ice after Friday's opener and he's still not thrilled with the ice sheet, even though it's better than it was Friday. But he's also the Islander who's adapted best to the new playing surface.
Tavares doesn't try anything too fancy when the ice starts to break down, and especially on Thursday night, he was hunting for bouncing pucks below the hash marks. He caught Shea Weber trying to pick the puck out of his skates, turned it over and turned that play into a terrific feed for Anders Lee's tap-in to make it 2-1 Predators. Huge shift right after Nashville's second goal.
And on his eventual game-winner, Tavares tried a no-look pass that Ryan Ellis laid out to block. On cleaner ice, that puck could have slid off anywhere. At Barclays, it sat. Tavares waited for it, got it and roofed it.
So it's no surprise he's already tied for third in the league in points. He may not be able to sustain his fourth overall ranking in penalty minutes however.
Thomas Greiss' greatest strength seems to be his positioning and his ability to direct pucks off long shots. He looks very confident in his crease, even when he gives up the occasional juicy rebound. There isn't a lot of diving or swimming. He's such a big target, too, that good positioning takes so much away from opposing shooters.
Nashville's 47 shots certainly were a lot Thursday night, but about 30-35 of them came from the perimeter. And when Greiss is blockering so many of them out of harm's way, that number is even more deceiving. No doubt he'll start against the Sharks.
As for the uglier side, the Brian Strait-Marek Zidlicky pairing was pretty bad Thursday night. Zidlicky had an off-night all the way around, from slamming home the Preds' first goal to an inability to set anything up from the point on the power play. These home games allow the Isles to get their first and second pairs on the ice when needed, but that third pair needs to be average at least until Thomas Hickey returns.
Zidlicky is 38 and he's playing top power play. There are going to be stumbles. The only way Ryan Pulock supplants Zidlicky is if Pulock plays so well in Bridgeport that Garth Snow has no choice. That should be the standard for promotion. It hasn't always been that way, but no sense getting used to mediocrity.
Ryan Strome is going to be a star in the NHL, maybe even this season. But his role as Tavares' right-hand man may not last too long if he keeps turning the puck over the way he has through four games. For the Lee-Tavares-Strome unit to work, Strome has to be able to take some puck-possession heat off the captain. It hasn't been there yet, except for the Winnipeg game, and as Capuano points out often, you have to be able to handle the opponent's best defensemen when you play with No. 91.
We'll leave aside Strome's end-of-game brain cramp for now, because there's no explanation for not even getting an attempt on an open net with a partial breakaway. The ice was bad, sure, but I hear you can shoot the puck so it flies just above the ice surface sometimes. I can't do it myself, but still.
As for attendance and the Nelson Muntz attitude of lots of non-Isles fans (or Isles fans who don't go to games) on Twitter... No one ever said the move to Brooklyn was going to bring in more revenue and promise a packed house every night.
Even if every seat in Barclays Center were perfect, there still would be empties. It's October, which means the Islanders are getting the Nashvilles and San Joses and Winnipegs of the NHL, one-off visitors who don't attract much attention around here.
That was true after the 2004-05 lockout. It was true last season, when the Isles drew around 11,500 for every weeknight October game in the hallowed final season at Nassau Coliseum. It's true this year, with the Mets siphoning off a few potential ticket-users and everyone wondering what was going to happen in Brooklyn.
This move was, to paraphrase Bryan Cranston in "Argo," the best bad option the Islanders had. Brett Yormark and Barclays are trying to make the best of it. So are Charles Wang, Jon Ledecky and Scott Malkin. So are the diehards trying to figure out the best train times.
All complaints are not invalid. But this whole season is one long work in progress when it comes to the arena. Better that, perhaps, than the arena being perfect and the team being a work in progress.