Hockey from the Blind Side, Thoughts and Observations for the Coming Season, the Defense

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Continuing on with my “thoughts and observations” about factors that might impact the level of success the New York Islanders will have this season, I will now turn to the defense. I wrote about the need to find a right winger to play with JT and Moulson, and I spent some time on the subject of secondary scoring in my previous post. It’s now time to talk about the back line.

The loss of Mark Streit is what probably concerns me the most when it comes to looking at the defense. Particularly, Streit’s impact on the power play. The defense is going to have to really step up and bring some additional scoring. I don’t think that losing Streit “hurts” the defensive side of the game all too much, so in that regard, the eight who have made the 23 man roster for the season should be fine.

With that said, I am going to mention some guys who will need to be counted on or who could play pivotal roles in what kind of success the defense for the Isles will have during the season. Obviously, injuries can certainly play a role in things, but I am writing this as far as the current roster stands and what could happen. It is, of course, opinion only, yet I feel that the defense could make or break the Islanders this season just as much as the other factors I have and will touch upon.• Lubomir Visnovsky, the new QB on the power play.

Lubo is going to have to step up and most likely be the real quarter back on the power play. He had a great season for the Islanders and paired with Thomas Hickey, they turned out to be, I believe, the best defensive duo statistically. Visnovsky has had some pretty impressive numbers on the back line in the past, particularly for Anaheim, and he has the potential to put up 40 points.

Without a doubt, he is going to be counted on when the Isles are a man up. He has a good, accurate shot, and he distributes the puck well. These are skills the Islanders are going to need with the loss of Streit, though, in my opinion, Visnovsky’s defensive game is notches above having Streit on the blue line.

• Travis Hamonic and Andrew MacDonald, still the “shut down” pair in my view.

The Isles split them up in some preseason action, but I would think they will be united again for the season. Both of these guys do have some offensive skill, but it is also the defensive part of their game that will be critical for the Islanders. They will most likely be facing the top lines of opposing teams and it will be their job to help keep the puck out of Nabokov’s or Poulin’s net on any given night.

I’ve read about about advanced statistics and I am, in no way, thumbing my nose at the numbers. However, I think Hammer and A-Mac are the guys that will be counted on and will also see some power play time. MacDonald is in his last year of his contract, and I expect him to show why most of us feel that he belongs in the group of six of the back liners for years to come. Offensively or defensively, both he and Hamonic are the future of this team as the “go to” guy in any defensive situation.

• Matt Donovan, is he going to fill Mark street’s shoes?

Some people were surprised by Donavan making the final roster. At least, I have read this in other places. To me, from what I have heard from Gary and other folks who have seen him play, he could very well be become the QB or one of the counted on QBs for the power play.

The bottom line is he impressed the coaching staff enough that he is part of the group of 8 defensemen the Isles are carrying at the season opener. I personally feel he deserves to be part of that group, and I am looking forward to his progress and his impact on the Islanders. Again, he could be a factor that will very much effect the defense during the current campaign, particularly when the Isles are man up. Perhaps, he won’t fill the vacancy on the blue line that Streit’s departure has left and Lubomir Visnovsky may be the guy counted on in the short term, but make no mistakes that Matt Donovan is a guy who has a bright future in the NHL and could very well be a part of a successful Islander power play as time goes on.

• Griffin Reinhart, will he stay with the Isles after 9?

Reinhart was another guy that apparently impressed the coaching staff. Again, by virtue of the fact that he is part of the 23 man compliment available for opening night indicates that he impressed during training camp. From what I have read, he played both ends of the ice well and used his size effectively.

With that said, the question then will need to be answered if he will only be given a look for 9 games before being sent back to junior or will he continue to earn a spot among the roster for the season? A lot will be determined over the first 9 games of the season, but Griffin Reinhart could be a guy who ends up coming out of nowhere to make his mark with the team. He has an excellent shot from the point, and if he can provide some scoring from the blue line, as well as play positionally well in his own end of the ice, he could be a big surprise and give the Islanders another asset that could increase their level of success during the season.

What they get out of the back line, in my opinion, will be yet another area that will either help or hurt the New York Islanders. Making up for the loss of Streit on the power play and playing a solid defense in front of their goaltending will be important “keys” to any long term success. The Isles were 20th in the NHL in team goals allowed last season, and to me, this is an important stat that needs to be improved. The offense, hopefully, will come by way of Lubo and a supporting cast that will generate shots and points. If the Islanders get both of these ingredients from the defensive core, it will only make them that much better and enable them to be playing hockey beyond the beginning of April.

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