By Mike Carver
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There is no denying that John Tavares and the Islanders top line are off to a good start. Tavares, Matt Moulson, and PA Parenteau have combined for nine goals and 22 points and are consistently buzzing around the net each game. That’s the good news. The problem is that this team has only scored 14 goals in its first six games. Nine from the top line and two from defenseman Mark Streit and Andrew MacDonald are nice. But that leaves three goals from the other 10 forwards on the roster and that’s just unacceptable.
Last year’s breakout star Michael Grabner has two of the three goals. I’ll give him a pass for now since we know that at any time Grabner can carry this team and score goals in bunches. Though it would be nice if the guy could score on a breakaway once in a while; he was once again denied on one Saturday night in Florida. Frans Nielsen has the last of the three goals. Nielsen has been solid so far on the power play, killing penalties and is doing everything he can as the 2nd line center. Kyle Okposo rounds out the second line and he has been a non-factor so far this year. He showed some spurts over the Florida trip, but since his shoulder injury at the start of last year he clearly has not been the same player. I have faith this line will eventually get it going, but it has to be soon. At least they have not been completely invisible, but I can’t say the same for this next group…
The 3rd and 4th lines for the Islanders have been flat out embarrassing. Brian Rolston has contributed to the power play on the point, but the only time you’ve heard his name is when he knocked Rick DiPietro out with a slap shot in practice. Josh Bailey is lost right now. This is now his 4th year in the NHL and I know he’s only 22, but it’s time to show the Islanders the offensive talent they saw when they drafted Bailey 9th overall in 2008. He has four shots on goal, FOUR, that’s embarrassing.
The only thing more embarrassing than Bailey’s four shots on goal is Blake Comeau’s one. Comeau scored 24 goals last season but it seems like he’s the odd man out with coach Jack Capuano. He has been scratched twice already this year and when he has been in the lineup sees limited ice time. The fact that when he does get on the ice he’s invisible probably does not help the situation, but how about showing a little more rope with a guy who was one of your leading scorers last year. Either way, when Comeau does get on the ice, he needs to step it up, NOW. It’s hard to get on the 4th line for not scoring since that’s not necessarily their job, but an offensive rush once in a while would help.
Marty Reasoner was brought in to add some scoring punch to the 4th line along with gritty play; I have not seen either yet. Jay Pandolfo is doing exactly what he needs to, kill penalties. And then there’s Trevor Gillies. Everyone loves Gillies and I understand why. He is tremendous to the fans, an outstanding guy and the team “enforcer”. But is there really any reason at all to dress him if he’s going to play three minutes a night? He brings nothing to the table on the ice besides smashing someone on the opposing team. And when three of your lines are not scoring, you need offense. Matt Martin can play the enforcer role and he has some offensive skills, no need to have Gillies out there, especially when he’s dressing ahead of Blake Comeau. Things will only get more crowded when Nino Niederreiter returns from his groin injury, which is hopefully soon, because they need his spark.
It’s time these guys did some work. The Tavares line and the power play can only get it done for so long. The Islanders are going to need some contributions from the rest of the squad. They cannot keep up some of the miserable offensive play that we saw down in Florida this weekend where they went long periods of time without even a shot on goal. The talent is there on this team, they have offensive firepower, and it’s time to start showing it. If not, it may be time for Capuano to start mixing it up
3 Stars of the Week
3rd Star – Travis Hamonic – After being thrown in the fire last season as a rookie, Hamonic is off to a great start here this season. He logged big minutes as usual against Tampa and Florida and is showing a more physical side to his game. I can’t wait to see him improve further.
2nd Star – John Tavares – Another goal Saturday night in Florida as JT and the top line continue to carry this team offensively.
1st Star – Mark Streit – A goal and 2 assists on the road trip for the captain. You see more and more every game how much the Islanders missed him on the power play last year. His blast from the point to open the scoring Saturday was outstanding, but his feed to Tavares later on in the game was even better.