Tonight, the Isles take on the New Jersey Devils in Newark to kick off the team's 2013-14 regular season. We've waited patiently, Isles fans, and we have finally made it.
Our time is now. Spectators are anticipating the Isles to have their best season in over a decade - something I see as a very real possibility for this organization; however, nothing's a given in the NHL.
Before the season begins, I present you, the readers, with ten questions that must be answered if the Isles are going to make themselves contenders this season.
1) Can the Islanders win at home?
The Islanders pushed themselves out of a much higher playoff because of their abysmal play on Nassau Coliseum ice last season. While they did finish hot on home ice to end the year (5-0-1 in final six home games), the Isles still finished 2013 with a losing record at home (10-11-3). That has to change.
2) How do the Islanders stack up against the rest of the Metropolitan Division?
During the past couple of 82-game seasons, the Islanders have intensely struggled against their division rivals. Last season, the Isles finished 7-9-2 against the Atlantic, which was an improvement over prior years. The Isles are going to have to do better than that if they want to make a statement in 2013-14.
3) Will Evgeni Nabokov steal games for the Islanders?
I'm a Nabokov supporter. I believe he has done a great job keeping the Islanders in games throughout his tenure on Long Island. The Isles need him to steal games for them, which he didn't do much, at all, last season. That is reflected in the following statistic: the Isles finished 2-13-4 when scoring 2 goals or fewer last season. Nabby will have to win a few low-scoring affairs for the Isles to make the playoffs.
4) Can the Islanders fourth-line continue scoring goals?
I think they can. After scoring 4 goals in all of 2012-13, the newly formed fourth-line of Matt Martin-Casey Cizikas-Colin McDonald increased the line's offensive output by over 500% in 2013. They must continue to score goals for the Islanders to have success.
5) The power play can still produce without Mark Streit, right?
It's a key question. The Islanders have used Streit as their power play quarterback since the 2008-09 season. Streit produced when he was called upon, but now he's gone. Lubomir Visnovsky and/or Matt Donovan will be looked on at the point, and they'll have to run the unit efficiently in 2013-14.
Any other questions you have for the Islanders heading into the new season?
I'm Chris Triants, and this is my blog.
Let's go Islanders!