Islanders Messy Home-Opener is Perfect Sign of the Times

ELMONT, NEW YORK - NOVEMBER 21: Ilya Sorokin #30 of the New York Islanders makes the save as John Tavares #91 of the Toronto Maple Leafs looks for the rebound at the UBS Arena on November 21, 2021 in Elmont, New York. (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)

Coming out of their 13-game road trip to start the season, the Islanders home-opener at the brand new UBS Arena couldn’t have been any crazier. Six players entered covid protocol on Friday, a day before the first game at the new arena. This caused massive call-ups from their American Hockey League affiliate, the Bridgeport Islanders. The Isles entered their back-to-back home games already at a disadvantage. The opening of the new arena was supposed to be a turning point of the Islanders’ season. Instead, their play was a continuation of the Isles lackluster start.

Isles vs. Flames

The Islanders faced the Calgary Flames on Saturday to open UBS Arena. The broadcast started with a large ceremony that included Islanders’ franchise legends. If only the game were as monumental as the celebration. Brad Richardson and Andrew Mangiapane put the Islanders into a 2-0 hole early in the first. The team played with a lot of energy, and the fans were loud, but they didn’t play well.

Brock Nelson holds the honor of the first Isles goal in the new arena. He scored on the powerplay with less than 30 seconds remaining in the first period. He would add a second goal unassisted in the second, but there wasn’t enough offense to keep the Islanders in the game. Down 3-2 late in the third, coach Barry Trotz pulled Semyon Varlamov twice, and the Flames netted two empty-net goals.

Trotz mixed the team’s lines due to the covid cases holding the regular starters, but the main complaint should be the Islanders aren’t getting the puck to the net. They are back into the groove of moving the puck around, looking for a perfect play that will never come. Their hesitation in shooting the puck was also a trend in their loss to Toronto on Sunday.

Isles vs. Maple Leafs

The Islanders suffered a 3-0 shutout to the Maple Leafs to drop their sixth-straight game. Like John Tavares’ return to the Nassau Coliseum during the 2018-19 season, Islander fans showered him with boos. He, however, had the better team last night, as the Islanders couldn’t generate much offense. Joseph Woll, a former 2016 third-round pick for Toronto, faced just 20 shots and stopped all of them.

Besides Matt Barzal hitting the post and a few near chances that missed the net, the Islanders mainly were subdued. Toronto’s Mitch Marner set the game’s tone when he scored a short-handed goal three and a half minutes into the first period. The second period saw the Islanders take back-to-back penalties, causing the penalty kill to stay on the ice. In turn, Barzal and Nelson saw considerable decreases in ice time, further hindering the offense.

Islanders’ play-by-play announcer Butch Goring summed up the theme of the game. Goring lamented the lack of shots sent towards Toronto’s net as the time trickled under two minutes in the third period. He said the Islanders didn’t test Woll enough, and it starts with how the team enters the offensive zone. A regular of Goring critiques, he is not wrong about the effect it has on the game. When the strategy isn’t working, the Islanders need other ways of getting on offense. As the final horn sounded, UBS Arena echoed with boos from fans.

The Verdict

Islander fans will have to wait a bit longer to see if this team is for real. Honestly, the team gained more reasons for excuses with the players lost to covid protocol. The hole is just getting deeper, and somewhere down the line, a decision on the future of the team will need to be made. Coach Barry Trotz is trying everything he can to put a winning team on the ice, but the complacency of the current Islanders’ players has cast doubt on a future playoff run.

With a fanbase that loses patience by the day, the pressure on the team to perform may become too much to handle. Going into this season with high expectations, the Islanders’ strategy seems to be figured out. They lack scoring in the worst way right now and losing this weekend put a damper on the opening of the new stadium. Without a drastic turnaround, that needs to happen soon, the Islanders are in for a brought season ahead.

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