The New York Islanders are hoping that their first game offensive flame out isn’t a harbinger of offensive challenges to come. Rookie goaltender Ilya Samsonov stopped 25 of 26 Islanders’ shots en route to a 2-1 victory by his Washington Capitals on Friday night. Now the Islanders host a team that will come in playing a completely different style as the decidedly *not* offensively challenged Winnipeg Jets come to town.
Winnipeg’s upside and downside has been readily apparent in their first two games of the season. Their offense has been scoring goals fast and furious with 9 in their first two games. Now the bad news–they’ve allowed 10 in their first two games. Due to a variety of circumstances, the Jets have very little veteran depth at the defenseman position and their goaltending tandem doesn’t instill much confidence either. Starter Connor Hellebuyck struggled last season and allowed 5 goals in the Jets’ opening night loss to the New York Rangers. Backup Laurent Brossoit will start here after allowing four goals in the Jets shootout win over New Jersey on Friday night.
That makes this game an interesting ‘contrast of styles’. The Islanders had the best team goals against average in hockey last season (2.33) but were borderline inept offensively. Winnipeg was a top 10 offensive team last year and while they were just mediocre defensively ranking #14 in team goals against average there’s any number of reasons to expect a higher team GAA this year. Backup Thomas Greiss will start here for the Islanders after recently acquired starter Semyon Varlamov played well in the 2-1 opening game loss to the Capitals. The teams split a pair of games last year with each winning on the road. Interstingly, the teams lost the game played at their preferred tempo–the Islanders won a 5-4 shootout in Winnipeg with the Jets taking a 3-1 win at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn.
The Jets aren’t likely to go deep in the playoffs without a dramatic improvement on the blueline and in net. In fact, they’ll be hard pressed to make the playoffs in a brutally tough Central Division. That being said, their ‘video game hockey’ style can give opponents trouble in the early part of the season. Winnipeg has one of the most potent offenses in hockey and if they can push the tempo they can win this game. We’ll call for the Jets and the ‘Over’.