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Wednesday, October 12, 2016

Opening Night Skinny

"The Skinny"

By Eric Hornick
It's been 172 days since John Tavares' game 6 overtime goal ended a streak 23 years in the making and 158 days since the Tampa Bay Lightning sent the Isles into summer.  It all begins again on Thursday.

[MSG+2 (Islanders pre-game at 6:30pm), 970 WNYM, 88.7 WRHU-FM, 103.9 WRCN]
The Islanders begin their 45th NHL season at Madison Square Garden as they face the Rangers in an Opener for only the second time in their history.

It's the first of four meetings between the rivals this season, and their only trip to MSG until late March. The Isles swept the season series from the Blueshirts four games to none (and eight points to one). It was the first time that the Isles have ever swept a regular season series from the Rangers and only the second time that the Isles have won four consecutive games in the same season from the Rangers (2006-07).

The Isles will be looking to earn at least a point on Opening Night for the 4th straight year (2-0-1); however, they are only 3-7-3 in their last 13 Openers.  Overall, the Isles are 11-21-11 on Opening Night (9-17-8 on the road). The Isles are 11-23-9 in their first road game of the season, but have won each of their last two opening nights played on the road (2013 in New Jersey, 2014 in Carolina)

Should Jaroslav Halak face Hernik Lundqvist in nets, Halak would be looking for his 9th straight win in a head-to-head matchup between the two.  Halak has won all five of his starts as an Islander against Lundqvist; his last loss vs. Lundqvist was on January 17, 2010 when Halak was still a Canadien.

Opening Night Skinny:
The only other time the Isles and Rangers opened against each other in 1997; it was a 2-2 tie at Madison Square Garden.  Bryan Berard and Todd Bertuzzi scored for the Islanders; Adam Graves and Pat LaFontaine (in his NYR debut) scored for the Rangers.

The Isles 11-21-11 (.384) Opening Night record is 3rd worst among current teams; it is better than Carolina (8-20-8, .333, including Hartford entering their game on Thursday) and Anaheim 5-17-0 (.227).

The Rangers will be opening at home for only the 25th time in their 90 NHL seasons (10-9-5). The other five "Original Six" teams have each opened at home at least 43 44 times (Chicago on Wednesday).  Derek Stepan is one of seven eight active players (including Auston Matthews) to have an Opening Night hat trick.

The Isles have used seven different goalies in the last eight season openers (Rick DiPietro-Joey MacDonald-Dwayne Roloson-Al Montoya-Evgeni Nabokov-Evgeni Nabokov-Jaroslav Halak-Thomas Greiss). 

This is the first time in ten years that the Isles are opening the season with a multi-game road trip.  Back in 2006 the Isles began the Ted Nolan era with a 4-game western trip (going 1-3-0) before heading home.  This is only a 2-game trip as the Isles will head to Washington for the Capitals' home opener on Saturday before opening in Brooklyn on Sunday at 6pm against Anaheim.  That game will begin a stretch in which the Isles will play 10 out of 11 on home ice.

The Isles have been involved in three shutouts on Opening Night.  Chico Resch blanked the Flyers in 1976, while the Kings (Stephane Fiset in 1996) and Panthers (Jose Theodore in 2011) turned the trick on the Isles.

A defenseman has scored the first goal of the season for the Isles in 5 of the last 7 seasons. John Tavares scored the Isles' first goal last season.

The Islander club record for the fastest goal on Opening Night is 1:01, set by Dave Scatchard on October 10, 2002 in Buffalo.  The NHL record for the fastest Opening Night goal is 0:10, set by Kent Nilsson of Minnesota (10/11/86 @ Quebec).

And some other Skinny notes:
Lots of Home Cooking Early
The Isles will play 10 of their first 13 at home; it is the earliest in franchise history that they will play their first 10 home games (15 games in 2002-03 and 2015-16).

In all, the Isles will play 34 of their first 58 games at home (through February 18th).  The next day, the Isles will begin a franchise-record nine game road trip, beginning a stretch in which they will play 17 of their final 24 on the road. The season-ending April 9th game with Ottawa will be the Isles' 3,500th regular season game.

82 Games in 179 Days
The Isles will play their 82 games over a span of 179 days.  It's the first time since 2003-2004 that they have played a full season over that short a time span, and the third time since the NHL introduced an 82-game schedule that they have played a full season in only 179 days.

The Isles will play 16 back-to-back sets, including four in March alone. They played 15 sets in 2015-16, 16 sets in 2014-15 and 18 sets in 2013-14. 
The Isles went 5-5-5 on the front-end and 9-3-3 on the back-end of their 15 back-to-back series.  That included a franchise record streak in which they earned at least a point on 11 consecutive back-ends (8-0-3).

Youth Be Served
Jason Chimera (5-2-79) is the only player on the Islanders 23-man active roster born in the 1970s. Denis Seidenberg (7-18-81). is the second oldest player on the roster and is one of nine players born in the 1980s (Johnny Boychuk, Jaroslav Halak, Andrew Ladd, Thomas Greiss, Nikolay Kulemin, Cal Clutterbuck, Thomas Hickey and Josh Bailey).  The other 13 players were born in the 1990s.

The youngest Islander is Anthony Beauvillier, who turned 19 on June 8th.  He is 13 days younger than Mathew Barzal.  Ryan Strome, who turned 23 in July is the youngest returning player.

Of the 23 players, Travis Hamonic is "middle-age".  Hamonic, born August 16, 1990 is older than 11 teammates and younger than 11 others.

Two Teenagers
The Islanders have two teenagers, Anthony Beauvillier and Mathew Barzal, on the roster.  Both have Junior Eligibility left; they can play up to nine games with the Isles without "burning" a year off their Entry Level Contract. 

Nino Niederreiter was the last Islander to play a game before he turns 20. However, the Isles have not had two teenagers appear in the same game since the 2000-01 season.  Tim Connolly appeared in every game that season while fellow teens Taylor Pyatt and Rick DiPietro played in 78 games and 20 games respectively.

Barzal, the older of the two teens, will be 19 years, 140 days on Thursday.  The Isles have never had two players that young appear in the same game.

Chhh, chhh Changes
The Islander 23-man roster looks quite a bit different than it did last October.

Of the 23 players on this year's roster, only 15 were on the Opening Night roster last year: Josh Bailey, Jean-Francois Berube, Johnny Boychuk, Casey Cizikas, Cal Clutterbuck, Calvin De Haan, Thomas Greiss, Jaroslav Halak, Travis Hamonic, Nikolay Kulemin, Nick Leddy, Anders Lee, Brock Nelson, Ryan Strome, and John Tavares.  Thomas Hickey started last season on Injured Reserve and is on the Opening Night Roster this year.  The seven newcomers are:   Andrew Ladd, Jason Chimera, Alan Quine, Anthony Beauvillier, Matthew Barzal, Shane Prince, and Denis Seidenberg.

Eric Boulton begins the year on Injured Reserve while Mikhail Grabovski failed his physical and is not on the roster.

The 23 players represent six nationalities: American (Leddy, Lee, Nelson, Prince), Canadian (15 players), German (Seidenberg & Greiss), Russian (Kulemin) and Slovakian (Halak)

Stability at the Top
Jack Capuano begins the season as the 4th-longest tenured coach with his current team (behind Claude Julien, Joel Quenneville and Dave Tippett) while Garth Snow begins the season as the 5th-longest tenured GM with his current squad (David Poile, Ken Holland, Doug Wilson and Dean Lombardi).
Of the nine New York head coaches/managers, only Joe Girardi was appointed before Capuano (210-175-56 in 441 games), who assumed his role with the Islanders eight days before Terry Collins became the manager of the Mets.
Snow celebrated his 10th anniversary as Islander general manager on July 18th.

A Look Back
The Isles finished the 2015-16 regular season with a 45-27-10 record, finishing with at least 100 points for the second straight season. These are the only two seasons in the Post-Cup era that the Isles have reached the 100 point mark.
The Isles went 25-11-5 in their first season on Barclays Center Ice; with 55 points the Isles matched their highest point total at home since 1984-85 (57 points in 40 games).
The Isles went 20-16-5 on the road.  The Isles have won at least 20 road games in three consecutive seasons for the first time in franchise history.
The Isles earned 20 points (7-22-6) in games that they trailed after 2 periods. Since 1987-88, the Isles had won at least seven games when trailing after two periods only once, winning 10 times in 2013-14.
The Isles had the best record against the Western Conference of any Eastern Conference team last season, going 19-7-2, including 12-0-2 at home.

Second to The One
Jack Capuano, the 2nd winningest coach in Islander history, is 210-175-56 behind the Islander bench.  Among the 9 New York area teams, only the Yankees' Joe Girardi has led his team longer than Capuano. 

Most games coached (Islanders):
1.      Al Arbour 1,500
2.      Jack Capuano 441
3.      Mike Milbury 191
4.      Terry Simpson 187
5.      Scott Gordon 181
Most wins by Islander coaches:
1.      Al Arbour 740
2.      Jack Capuano 210
3.      Terry Simpson 81
4.      Peter Laviolette 77
5.      Ted Nolan 74

Capuano is the 86th coach in NHL history to coach at least 400 games. His 210 wins places him 67th all-time, 5 behind Brent Sutter and 9 behind Herb Brooks.

The Captain Shall Lead Them
Islander Captain John Tavares turned 26 in September.  His 471 points are the most of any Islander before his 26th birthday since Pat LaFontaine had 566 points with the Islanders before being traded to Buffalo four months before his 26th birthday.
Since Tavares entered the NHL in 2009-10, only four players have scored more goals than JT's 207 (Alex Ovechkin 306, Steven Stamkos 289, Corey Perry 239, Joe Pavelski 208).  Phil Kessel has also tallied 207 goals while Sidney Crosby has 206.

The Big 3
The Isles are 92-55-7 over the past two seasons.  When Nick Leddy, Travis Hamonic and Johnny Boychuk are all in the lineup, the Isles are 76-38-4.  They are 16-17-3 when at least one misses a game.

While 5 Islanders played the first 79 games last season, none played all 82.  Josh Bailey begins the 2016-17 season with the longest current Islander streak, having played the last 67 games.
However, the current ironman on the squad is Jason Chimera.  Chimera, who begins the season just 49 games shy of the 1,000 game milestone, played in every Capitals game last season and has played in 105 consecutive games in all – a streak that began against the Islanders on February 21, 2015.

All-time Islander Leader Boards:
Games Played (skaters)
1.      Bryan Trottier 1123 *** 2. Denis Potvin 1060 *** 3. Bob Nystrom 900
13. Kenny Jonsson 597 *** 14. Garry Howatt 596 *** 15. John Tonelli 594*** 16. Josh Bailey 557
22. Pat LaFontaine 530 *** 23. Kyle Okposo 529*** 24. Dave Lewis 514 *** 25. Mick Vukota and John Tavares 510

1.      Mike Bossy 573 *** 2. Bryan Trottier 500 *** 3. Denis Potvin 310
9. Derek King 211 *** 10. John Tavares 207 *** 11. John Tonelli 206

1.      Bryan Trottier 853 *** 2. Denis Potvin 742 *** 3. Mike Bossy 553 ***
11. Pat LaFontaine 279 *** 12. Bob Nystrom 278 *** 13. John Tavares 264
25. Ziggy Palffy 163 *** 26. Josh Bailey 157

1.      Bryan Trottier 1353 *** 2. Mike Bossy 1126 *** 3. Denis Potvin 1052
10. Derek King 499 *** 11. Pat Flatley 488 *** 12. John Tavares 471
24 Jason Blake & Steve Thomas 258 *** 26. Josh Bailey 250

New Voice, New Place
No matter how you follow the Islanders there are some changes this season.  On television, Brendan Burke is Butch Goring's new partner. Brendan replaced Howie Rose, who after two decades of covering both the Islanders and the Mets has cut back to one sport.  Howie rode off to the sunset after calling three playoff wins over Florida in a week – the only three playoff overtime wins he ever called for the Islanders.  Follow Brendan on Twitter @brendanmburke

On radio, the broadcasters (Chris King and Greg Picker) remain the same but the big news is where you can find the games. Thirty Islanders games, including Sunday's home opener, will be heard on WFAN 660AM/101.9FM.  WNYM 970AM will have most of the rest, including the season opener on Thursday.  Saturday's game will be heard on WMCA 570AM, which served as the Isles' flagship station from 1974-1975 to 1983-84.   On Long Island, all games will air on WRHU (88.7FM) and WRCN (103.9FM). 

Eric Hornick has been the statistician on Islander home game telecasts since 1982. Information contained in "The Skinny" has been gathered from various sources.  Follow Eric @ehornick on Twitter & on his blog www.nyiskinny.com.
Forever1940 is the nom de plume of Eric Hornick, statistician on Islander home telecasts since January 21, 1982. Visit my blog: NYISkinny.com and follow me on Twitter @ehornick

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