A couple of telling games for the locals last night. We'll start with the Isles, who went to 3-1-2 after John Tavares' OT ripper snapped the Leafs' perfect start in Toronto. Dwayne Roloson looks to be establishing himself as the Isles' No. 1 with another strong performance, but whether Scott Gordon decides to tilt the playing time in Roloson's favor is another story.
-- Of course, it wouldn't be an Islander game without an injury to whomever is playing their best. Josh Bailey left with a hip flexor strain that Gordon said wasn't too serious; we'll see about that, since nothing is minor when it comes to Islander injuries. Bailey was playing with a real purpose and force over the first five games, ably filling the gap left by Kyle Okposo's injury and, along with Tavares getting his ice legs after missing three games with a concussion, Bailey's emergence gave the Isles two legitimate scoring lines.
Still, the Islanders are maturing before our eyes, having established a system in which guys are more sure of where to be and how to be when they get there.
-- And then there are the Rangers... Ugh. The first game without Marian Gaborik was as lifeless and punchless as you might have expected last season, when Gaborik was the Rangers' primary weapon. This season, Gaborik hadn't had a goal before he was lost for a month, but the Rangers still seemed to skate around, hoping for someone else to take over.
That's a bad sign. Henrik Lundqvist was good, not great, and he has to be great when the team isn't scoring, something he knows all too well from seasons past.
Yes, it's early. They're 1-2-1. They were 7-1-0 a year ago and no one seemed to get overexcited. But there's no Gaborik until November, no Vinny Prospal or Chris Drury until Christmas -- I know how everyone out there feels about Drury, but he is a leader, as is the excitable Prospal -- and there's a real void up front and in the leadership department.
Can someone seize this team by the throat before it gets to be a problem?
-- No, that's not where Wade Redden comes in. But he is off to a pretty solid start in Hartford, a goal and five assists in five games, and the Rangers power play -- the one he was brought to New York to run -- is in a shambles. Just saying.
Here's a Hockey Night In Canada feature on Redden's life in Hartford, and how close he came to retiring rather than report to the AHL when the Rangers demoted him. Good stuff from the CBC's Elliotte Friedman.
Also from the Wolfpack: Pavel Valentenko is a plus-5. Hartford is 3-1-1 so far.