Islanders Take Predators Downtown; Mature In Process

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at the Barclays Center on October 15, 2015 in the Brooklyn borough of New York City.

Macklemore & Ryan Lewis lyrics filled the halls leading to an energetic New York Islanders post game locker room: You don’t want no beef, boy/Know I run the streets, boy/Better follow me towards/Downtown…/ Ain’t seen nothing yet until you’re/Downtown

After last night’s performance against a previously unbeaten Nashville Predators, one that capped the Islanders second victory in Brooklyn, there are reasons to be humming such tunes.

With the Mets-Dodgers Division series vying for New York City’s attention, a small but lively crowd joined the action at the Barclays, bearing witness to a change in the Islanders’ maturity level, and hoping to have their anxieties quelled after what some are deeming a “slow start.”

For the first 30 minutes of the hockey game, the ice was clearly tilted towards Islanders goaltender Thomas Greiss, as Nashville’s Austin Watson and Filip Forsberg scored almost identical goalmouth scramble tap-in goals to give the Predators a 2-0 lead at the 4:22 mark of the second period.

But just 40 seconds later, the Islanders John Tavares showed why he is a favorite among many to make a strong run at both the Art Ross and Hart Memorial trophies this season. Working magic in the corner alongside Anders Lee, Tavares took a return pass from Ryan Strome and wheeled to the left of Nashville netminder Pekka Rinne. In a situation where most players would have tried to force the puck through the keeper and across the goal line, Tavares, instead, instinctively knew to put the puck into an area Anders Lee would be in. Result? Lee converted the deft pass and scored a huge goal, giving his team both new life and a notch on the scoreboard.

“We outworked them the entire shift and we needed that after going down two. Johnny and Stromer worked it around low and we were all moving our feet. I’ve seen Johnny make that play tons of times and I know where to go. We connected,” Lee commented after the game.

While Kyle Okposo connected on his own brilliant goal to knot the game at the eleven-minute mark of the middle frame, the Islanders’ momentum continued to struggle, nevertheless. Losing the possession battle and letting the visitors pile up shot after shot against Greiss, the game had the makings of an all-too-familiar ending for Islanders fans, mainly, one defined by defeat and frustration.

Thus, the third period proved a carbon copy of everything witnessed in the previous two frames, with Nashville dominating the corner boards, being dogged on their forecheck, and coming at the Islanders’ defense with speed through the neutral zone.

But what do you know, Nikolay Kulemin connects for his 100th career goal and John Tavares nets his 3rd goal of the season, which ended up being the game-winner after Nashville’s James Neal converted a deflection with a little over five minutes to play.

NEW YORK, NY - OCTOBER 15:  Austin  Watson #51 of the Nashville Predators tries to get a shot past Thomas  Greiss #1 of the New York Islanders in the first period at the Barclays Center on October 15, 2015 in the Brooklyn borough of New York City.  (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)

NEW YORK, NY – OCTOBER 15: Austin Watson #51 of the Nashville Predators tries to get a shot past Thomas Greiss #1 of the New York Islanders in the first period at the Barclays Center on October 15, 2015 in the Brooklyn borough of New York City. (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)

The Islanders of seasons past would have certainly lost this hockey game. Heck, the Islanders team of 2014-15, which accumulated 101 points, might not have fared much better.

But this team won a game they had no business winning, let alone keeping things close on the scoreboard. And they did it all by continuing to mature, believing in themselves, and sticking with head coach Jack Capuano‘s gameplan and system.

You can even hear it in the way forward Anders Lee described the Islanders struggling power play – 0 for 2 tonight and 2 for 12 on the season – “It’s still so early in the season, we are trying to figure each other out, the timing. If it continues, then we will take a closer look at it, but for now, we stick with it and continue to work at it.”

That seems to be the ongoing mantra around these parts. Stick with it. Continue to work at it. All lessons that Capuano has preached during his entire tenure coaching this hockey club.

Kyle Okposo, second only to Ryan Strome in ice time among forwards last night, continued beating the drum: “They are a very good team over there [Nashville]. We were outplayed most of the game. But that’s the sign of a good hockey team, when you are able to gut it out and win games like that. When you are not at your best.”

Johnny Boychuk, sporting a newly cropped, low-maintenance dome, closed out the preaching for the evening by telling the assembled media, “Once we stopped turning pucks over and working their defenseman down low, we were able to get more success, generate more chances and fire more pucks on goal. We kept with it, never quit on our gameplan and that ultimately gave us a chance to win.”

Maturity. Sticking with it. Gutting it out.

Signs of a good hockey team.

That is what you have here, folks. Are the Islanders perfect? Hardly. Is Barclays Center perfect? Fans, and some select media, have driven that point home to no end, and it’s all insignificant to the play on the ice.

After an opening weekend that saw them drop two games (one in overtime) to the defending Stanley Cup champions Chicago Blackhawks, the New York Islanders find themselves with five out of a possible eight points at these early stages of the 2015-16 campaign.

A fine start, if you ask me, given all the circumstances.

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