Islanders head coach Jack Capuano made a couple of changes to his middle two lines at Friday’s practice, putting Mathew Barzal on the line with Anders Lee and Ryan Strome and moving Shane Prince to the left with Brock Nelson and Josh Bailey.
That leaves Anthony Beauvillier as an extra. Beauvillier showed some nerves in the opening period at the Garden on Thursday, taking a needless penalty in the neutral zone in the final minute after an earlier shift with a pair of fumbling giveaways.
Of course, he wasn’t alone. The Islanders mishandled the puck all over the ice in the first two periods Thursday night. The advanced numbers tell a slightly different story than what we all saw. The Islanders actually had the edge in Corsi (shot attempt differential while on the ice) at even strength and, at least until Brandon Pirri’s dagger power-play goal in the final four minutes, were equally unsuccessful on the power play as the Rangers, though the home side did generate more on their power play.
Beauvillier may have been ticketed for a seat in the press box in Washington on Saturday all along so the Islanders could see where Barzal fits. It doesn’t help that most of the forwards outside of the Casey Cizikas line had ugly nights, so it may appear as though Beauvillier is taking an undeserved seat.
We’ll see what Capuano chooses to do with his teenagers after Saturday. He intimated that plenty of Islanders were subpar Thursday night.
Perhaps the focus falls on Strome, who likely shifts to the wing with Barzal on Saturday. If Strome already is losing his grip on the center spot that Capuano and Garth Snow both said he’d be better in, that doesn’t bode well for him if he doesn’t start producing fast.
Not as bad as you think
The advanced numbers (courtesy of the Corsica Hockey site) show that the Isles’ worst defenseman Thursday night was Johnny Boychuk. The best, by that Corsi measurement, were Nick Leddy and Travis Hamonic -- the two who were on for Chris Kreider’s game-winner in the third.
Corsi doesn’t measure quality of scoring chance, of course, and you could give up one Corsi event against and still lose. But the numbers, Boychuk’s -10 aside, were encouraging. The Islanders generated more than initially thought and perhaps, as John Tavares noted, the problem was in the Isles missing on a few chances from in close or having pucks bounce the wrong way with forwards buzzing Henrik Lundqvist.
So, despite the nature of opening nights -- it’s a very anticipated game and the outcome brings some fans to conclude “We’re the best! Plan the parade!” or “We’re the worst! Fire/trade everyone!” -- it was one game, and it wasn’t as bad as we may have thought or felt while watching it.
Net in mind
Jaroslav Halak was pretty strong despite giving up four goals. Capuano likely will split the games this weekend among Halak and Thomas Greiss. Halak hasn’t had much success in Washington, so perhaps Greiss gets the call Saturday and Halak goes in Sunday’s home opener against the Ducks.
Speaking of goaltenders, it seems there’s nothing doing just yet on the trade front with the Isles’ three netminders. You’d think Kings GM Dean Lombardi would have dialed up Snow immediately on learning Jonathan Quick is out week-to-week (read: several weeks) with a lower-body injury, but it appears to be quiet for now. Perhaps after the Kings play a couple games with Jeff Zatkoff and Peter Budaj, things will change.
J-F Berube was Kings property when the Isles claimed him off waivers last October, so it’s possible Lombardi will want Berube back. It’s also possible Snow will demand a decently high draft pick in return with L.A. in desperation mode.