"The Skinny" … on the Schedule
By Eric Hornick
The NHL opens the 2017-18 season on Wednesday. Islander fans will have to wait until Friday for the first game of the Islanders' 3rd season in Brooklyn and their 46th NHL season.
The Islanders are coming off a 6-0-2 pre-season and are 12-0-2 in their last 14 games (regular season/pre-season); the Isles will look to match their longest (multi-season) regular season win streak since 1990 with an opening night victory.
The Isles will open the season on Friday, October 6th at Nationwide Arena in Columbus. It will be the first time that the teams have faced each other on Opening Night. All-time, the Isles are 11-22-11 in 44 previous openers, including 2-1-1 in their last 4. The Isles are 11-24-9 in their first road game of the season.
The Isles are opening on October 6th for the fourth time in their history (all on the road), having previously done so in 1988, 1992 and 2000.
In 1988, the Isles began the post-Denis Potvin era with a 4-4 tie in Calgary; in 2000 the Isles knotted Tampa Bay 3-3.
October 6th will be the 25th anniversary of their 1992 opener in New Jersey. While the Isles lost 4-3 that night, that season included an upset win over the two-time defending Stanley Cup Champion Pittsburgh Penguins (sound familiar?) in the Patrick Division Final.
The Home Opener:
The Isles will begin their third season in Brooklyn on Saturday, October 7th as they face the Buffalo Sabres. It will be the second time that the Isles have faced Buffalo in a home opener; in 2007, Mike Comrie completed a huge opening weekend (6 points in 2 games) as the Isles completed a sweep of a season-opening home-and-home series. The Isles are 26-12-6 all-time in home openers (1-0-1 at Barclays Center) and have gone 2-0-2 in their last 4 home openers.
The home opener extends an Islander streak of home openers on either Friday, Saturday, or Sunday. The last midweek opener was on Thursday, October 16, 1986 vs. Washington; the Isles defeated the Caps 7-4. Six months later the Isles would need 7 periods to win their 4th game of the series against Washington, winning the Easter Epic.
Saturday will also be the 45th anniversary of the first game in Islander history; the Isles lost that night to Atlanta (also playing their first NHL game) by a 3-2 score in their only previous October 7 home game.
Much More Balanced
Last season the Isles opened with 10 of the first 13 at home, playing their 10th home game on November 7th. The Isles will open with 14 of 23 on the road this season, and won't play their 10th home game until after Thanksgiving (November 28th vs. Ottawa). While the Isles will play 18 of their first 29 on the road, by Christmas time (December 27) the Isles will have played 18 at home and 19 on the road.
By mid-February, the Isles will play 31 of the first 61 at home. They will then play 7 of 8 on the road before returning home for 9 of the final 13.
Mostly at Night
Of their 41 home games, the Isles will play thirty-seven night games (including a 6pm start vs. Colorado on Sunday, November 6 and a 5pm start vs. Carolina on Sunday, March 18). The Isles will play four home matinees: Columbus Day vs. St. Louis, Saturday, December 23rd vs. Winnipeg, Sunday, January 7th vs New Jersey, and President's Day (February 19th) vs Minnesota. All four games will begin at 1pm. The Isles have one road matinee, on January 13th against the Rangers (also at 1pm).
An Early Trip to California
The Isles' annual California road trip will take place in the second week of the season as the Isles will go up and down the coast, facing Anaheim on Wednesday, October 11th and then facing San Jose and Los Angeles, back-to-back on Saturday and Sunday.
The Isles will host San Jose the following Saturday (October 21st), meaning they will conclude their season series with the Sharks within the first eight games of the schedule.
Lots of West Early
That California trip is part of a stretch in which the Isles will play 13 of their first 17 games against Western Conference opponents. (After that, the Isles will play 48 of their last 65 games against the East.)
The Isles have had a lot of success against the West in recent years, going 15-9-4 last season and 34-16-6 the last two seasons against Western Conference opponents.
About Those Back-to-Backs
The Isles will play 16 sets of back-to-backs, opening the season with one and then playing the 2nd the following weekend in California. After that they will play 5 back-to-backs in a 5-week period beginning in mid-November.
The Isles will play five road back-to-backs (all by mid-December), seven home-road back-to-backs, and four road-home back-to-backs.
The Isles played 16 back-to-back sets, last season as well. They played 15 sets in 2015-16, 16 sets in 2014-15 and 18 sets in 2013-14.
Out with the Old in Denver
For the fifth straight season, the Isles will play a New Year's Eve game on the road. The Isles have won six straight New Year's Eve games, including a 6-2 win in Winnipeg last season, and are 10-0-1 in their last eleven Auld Lang Syme games.
Better Bye Week
The Isles' Bye Week comes a week later this season than last, and unlike last season, their opponent will also be coming off a bye when they resume play. The Isles will host New Jersey on Sunday, January 7th and will resume play at Madison Square Garden on Saturday, January 13th. Both games are matinees.
Vegas' Arrival Changes the Schedule
With the NHL expanding to 31 teams, there is a slight change in the schedule. The Isles will play all seven divisional opponents four times, will face all eight Atlantic Division teams three times and will play the 15 Western Conference teams, including Vegas, twice each.
To accommodate the two Vegas games (October 30 in Brooklyn and January 25 in Las Vegas) there will no longer be a 5th game against two divisional opponents.
No Long Road Trip
The Isles played a franchise record 9-game road trip last February/March. This season the Isles have no road trip of longer than four games, doing so in October (California teams and Rangers), December (Florida teams, Pittsburgh and Boston) and March (Pittsburgh and Western Canada).
The Isles have two five-game homestands (December 16–27 and March 18-26).
Following their trip to Western Canada, the Isles will play 12 of their final 13 games against Eastern Conference opponents (the only Western Conference game is on March 24th vs. Chicago) and nine of the 13 will be at home. The Isles will end the regular season on April 9th in Detroit, as they become the final NHL team to make their first visit to Little Caesars Arena.
A Little More Breathing Room
The Isles will play their 82 games over a span of 184 days, five more days than last season. Last season's schedule was slightly condensed due to the World Cup of Hockey.
Almost All on MSG Networks
MSG will have 81 of the Isles' 82 regular season games. Brendan Burke returns for his 2nd season and is joined by Islander legend Butch Goring. Shannon Hogan hosts Isles telecasts for the 4th straight season.
The January 15th game in Montreal will be shown on NBCSN.
The Streaking Skinny
Counting a special double edition in March 2013, The Skinny has been published after every Islander game since February 28, 2012 – 396 regular season games (and 24 playoff games). We'll see if we can make it to 400 regular season games on October 11th and 500 games (including playoffs) in early April!
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.