Now that the book has been closed on the 2014/15 NHL season, and the Cup has been lifted and the draft results are in, our thoughts can shift toward…well, the 2015/16 season. The NHL this past week released the schedule for it’s upcoming slate of games, and so let’s take a look at what the New York Islanders can look forward to heading into their inaugural season in Brooklyn.
Fri Oct. 9
Home vs. Chicago Blackhawks
The NHL certainly has provided fans with one whopper of a home opener for the Islanders in their new arena; a date with the defending Stanley Cup champion Chicago Blackhawks. It’s hard to imagine that this game won’t receive a national broadcast, and it provides Islanders fans with an opportunity right off the bat to show that even though the team no longer calls the Coliseum it’s home, the feel remains.
Sun Nov. 1st/Sun Feb. 7
Home vs. Buffalo Sabres
Home vs. Edmonton Oilers
There were no shortages of articles written over the past year with regards to which team was doing their best to sabotage themselves into being able to select Connor McDavid with the first pick in the NHL draft. Edmonton (somehow!) received another opportunity at the first overall pick, with the Buffalo Sabres left to take the consolation prize of Jack Eichel. These two players enter into the league with the most buzz arguably since Sidney Crosby; how they perform in Year 1 is going to be a fascinating story to follow. (Sidenote: the Oilers game will also feature the return of Griffin Reinhart, who was dealt to Edmonton during the draft)
Sat Nov. 28
Away vs. Tampa Bay Lightning
Tampa Bay is the team the Islanders should hope to emulate moving into the 2015/16 season: while the Lightning didn’t have a tremendous amount of playoff experience entering into the 14/15 tournament, they managed to knock off Detroit, the Rangers, and Montreal before finally succumbing to the Blackhawks in the Final. A young team, led by a superstar center, flying up and down the ice to outstanding offensive numbers, and backed by a solid goaltender….well does anyone else see the potential similarities there? No better way for the Islanders to prove they are the Tampa Bay of this season by showing it against the Lightning.
Wed Dec. 2
Home vs. New York Rangers
And the rivalry is reborn with the first game the Islanders will play against the Rangers in their new home. There’s going to be a lot of “first time in Brooklyn” stories that come out over the course of the season, but this is one of the few that absolutely merits a mention. Note the timing of the game as well: by December we should have a pretty good indication of what kind of team both the Islanders and Rangers are.
Sat Jan. 2
Away vs. Pittsburgh Penguins
One of the more interesting developments of last season was the fact that Pittsburgh Penguins followed a very similar arc to the New York Islanders, at least in terms of performance. Both teams started off the season strong, but definitely faltered as the months wore on. Now, one could argue the reasons for those declines were different; Pittsburgh was devastated by injuries while the Islanders more or less lost their legs, but both squeaked into the playoffs only to lose in the first round. Rumors of a major shakeup in Pittsburgh have abounded this spring into summer, including the possibility of Evgeni Malkin being dealt away, so the Penguins could find themselves looking very different come October. That being said, this is a team that still has Sidney Crosby, and won’t stay on the mat for very long.
Thu Jan. 7
Home vs. Washington Capitals
January 7 marks the first time the Islanders will play the team that eliminated from the playoffs this past season, and will almost assuredly be one of the squads standing in the Islander’s way again next April. The Capitals have reached the point of where their regular season accomplishments mean little if their playoff performances continue to be disappointing; last year’s 7 game series defeat to the Rangers was definitely a cut above their usual playoff woes, but was yet another year in which Alexander Ovechkin failed to reach the Conference Finals.
Tues. Feb 2
Home vs. Minnesota Wild
Last year, both times the Islanders played Minnesota, the results were thoroughly entertaining, mixed in with the potential for a little bad blood developed between the two non-conference teams. The games themselves were highly competitive with blown leads and goal scoring abounding, but the fact that both former Islanders Thomas Vanek and Nino Niederreiter remain in Minnesota means that Isles fans can save a little extra vitriol for February.
Sun Mar. 6
Away vs. New York Rangers
March 6 is the seventh game of a seven-game road trip for the Islanders, a jaunt that includes a march across western Canada with games against the Flames, Oilers, Jets and Canucks. It is the longest road swing of the year for the Islanders, and it will be an interesting test of their resilience to finish it off with a game against the hated Blueshirts.
Sat Apr. 9
Home vs. Buffalo Sabres
The 15/16 regular season for the Islanders comes to a close in Brooklyn against Buffalo, and the obvious caveat for this contest is the hope that the Islanders will be playing long into April and May. There is a great deal of change coming this year, and it is impossible to predict just what the next year holds for New York. But rest assured, the answers to those questions will come faster than you think, and then it’s game on in Brooklyn.