Well, the day we waited all these months for finally arrived Friday night. The Blackhawks came to town to take on the Islanders at their new home in Brooklyn. Unfortunately, just like that October day in 1972, the Islanders came out on the wrong end of the score. Just like that game 15,707 days ago the Islanders fell 3-2. While the Atlanta Flames no longer exist, the Chicago Blackhawks do, and that\’s who the Isles fell to tonight.
Things started out very nostalgically. Bryan Trottier, Bob Nystrom, Billy Smith and Mike Bossy, along with the three owners of the Islanders, were on ice for the ceremonial face off between John Tavares and Jonathan Toews. After the pomp and circumstance was over, it was time to get on with business.
Let\’s face it, this is not the Nassau Coliseum. It will never be the same feeling. It is always going to be a different experience walking into Barclays. As some fans put it, it feels like you\’re walking into another team\’s building. While the Islanders may feel like visitors, they are not. This is home for them and for the fans now. But, a building can\’t be judged on first impressions. It\’s not a person. It will take time to settle in and figure things out for the players and the fans.
For their part, Barclays did a great job with making fans feel at home. Paul Cartier, the Islanders\’ organist, is now with the team in Brooklyn. Public Address announcer Roger Luce is also with the Islanders. It\’s very apparent they are trying to move the raucous Coliseum atmosphere to a new home. The chants were still very prevalent, as was the YES! YES! YES! screams after an Islanders goal. The more things change, the more they stay the same.
You could tell players were sometimes surprised at the reaction of what some players said were very \”lively\” boards. It will take time to figure out every nuance and every nook and cranny of the ice that makes it home.
As for the actual action on the ice, you have to remember that the Blackhawks already played two days ago. They got the opening night jitters out of the way. This was the Islanders\’ first game of the season; in a new town, in a new building. They came out of the gates with some energy and actually outshot Chicago early on, finishing the first period tied at 12 in shots.
With the Islanders on a Power Play, Brock Nelson turned it over and Artem Anisimov raced in and beat Thomas Greiss for the first ever goal at the Barclays Center. That shorthanded goal put the Hawks on top 1-0 after one period.
The Islanders played very well for long stretches of the first, but the power play unit looked very disorganized, leading to a key turnover. There has also been some speculation, according to Arthur Staple, that the ice was in very bad shape. One player called it a \”giant slushy.\” The so-called \”awful\” ice is definitely an issue that the team needs to look at. That could cause serious injuries to a player.
The Islanders found their legs again in the second though. They came out strong once again and it finally paid off. 5:22 into the period John Tavares became the first Islander to ever tally at Barclays. He got the puck in front and waited out Corey Crawford. Once he got the right angle, he fired it at the Hawks\’ netminder. Crawford made the save, the puck came back to Tavares who then lifted it over the goalie to tie the score at one.
Just under six minutes later, the Hawks would look to take the lead back. This is where what i spoke about earlier, in terms of getting to know the arena comes into play. Patrick Kane took advantage of Thomas Greiss losing sight of the puck and buried one behind him. It wasn\’t even really close. The puck was bouncing all over the choppy ice, and Greiss had no idea where to find it. He actually had his head turned in the complete opposite direction. But, it\’s hard to blame him, the puck took a funny bounce and he just couldn\’t find it.
So, we entered the third with the Islanders down 2-1. This is game one. We have no idea what to expect. Is this the kind of team that is resilient and will come back down a goal? Or are we dealing with a team that can\’t get out of its own way when it\’s time for a comeback. We got our answer pretty quickly, and it\’s a good answer at that. Just 1:18 into the period, Marek Zidlicky ripped a shot from the blue line. It either hit a Hawks player or just skipped by everyone including Nikolay Kulemin and flew right past Crawford to tie the game at two, and send the Barclays crowd into a tizzy.
Play would go back and forth the rest of the period, with the last three minutes of the period producing some very exciting hockey. But, after 60 minutes of hockey, it was time for OT. But, the NHL in an effort to minimize shootouts has gone to a 3-on-3 OT for five minutes starting this season. Both teams would have their chances in the opening 75 seconds or so of the extra period. With Marion Hossa streaking towards the net alone, Nick Leddy slashed him on the wrists, giving Chicago the 4-on-3 man advantage. No team ever plays with under 3 men.
It took just 25 seconds for the Hawks to beat Greiss for the Power Play goal in overtime to end it. It wasn\’t that Greiss was bad, it\’s just very hard when you have just three guys on the ice.
All in all a pretty solid opening night effort for the Islanders, as they come away with one point. They will look to take three out of four points in the weekend home-and-home when they travel to Chicago tomorrow night.
A pretty good showing by Greiss as well. He stopped 32 of 35 shots on the night and did not look overmatched at all. He will take some time to get settled in, but he hardly looked lost out there and he gave his team a chance to win.
Again, John Tavares was the Islanders\’ best player, but that\’s no surprise. His goal was vintage Tavares. JT has perhaps the best hands in the NHL. and he can wait for his shot like few others can. His patience is incredible.
A nice showing in the first game of a new arena. Something to build on for sure. They will be back in Brooklyn again on Monday afternoon.
One thing I do have to say is the attendance was very disappointing. It was registered as 15,795. There were not that many people there. This is one of a handful of weekend night games for the Islanders. There were a lot of empty seats in the lower bowl. But, let\’s see what happens. For now, all we can do is urge fans to give Brooklyn a shot, and see what everything is all about.
Insight\’s Three Stars
1. Patrick Kane-2 goals will get you the first star of the game
2. John Tavares-JT had a pretty goal to tie the game at one, and he was a very effective on-ice leader.
3. Marek Zidlicky-In his first game as an Islander, he had a beautiful slapshot to tie the game at two early in the third.