Long Island is snowed under, to the point that the Long Island Expressway was closed most of yesterday to plow the road and remove all the stranded cars. Heck of a time for the Canes to make their first visit to Nassau Coliseum this year, no? For today's Three Questions we say hello to Dominik of Lighthouse Hockey, SBN's excellent Islanders blog, to preview tonight's game.
- The Islanders rank fifth in the Eastern Conference with 32 goals, despite being in 13th place in the conference. Which of those stats is more likely to move: will the goals keep coming and a move up the standings to go with it, or will they cool off a bit in the scoring department as the season goes on?
I don't think their offense has been a mirage, but it was definitely helped by early success on the powerplay (which has now come back to earth, coming up empty in the last three games). The offense has a variety of threats and could use some more from the blueline (more on that later). Last year the bottom six forwards were a black hole, but this year they have some options in David Ullstrom, Keith Aucoin, Casey Cizikas and possibly Josh Bailey. It's the goaltending and overall defense that's like to keep the team treading water.
- How, exactly, is it possible that Matt Moulson is still as underrated as he is? Is the combination of Moulson and Tavares one that will stay together no matter what, or has there been any thought given to breaking them up and spreading the scoring wealth around the lineup a bit?
Moulson is a funny story because people think his success is all Tavares-generated, but in reality his first 30-goal season came when Tavares was a very raw and flawed rookie. It's only in the last two seasons that Moulson's 30-plus goal seasons were inseparable from Tavares' magic. As a player, Moulson isn't a puck carrier or dynamic skater, so he's not someone people notice until he's finishing from the slot or around the net. Their chemistry is so good that I wouldn't mess with it. It's the other wing on that line that is a challenge after the Isles let P.A. Parenteau walk.
- What, if anything, do the Isles anticipate Lubomir Visnovsky bringing to the defense corps? Is he a one-year roster spot fill-in, or will the Isles try to re-sign him after the season?
Visnovsky instantly upgrades their top four, offers a much-needed second powerplay threat from the blueline, and hopefully a defenseman who is better able to rush and gain the zone. Isles fans wounded by him taking his sweet old time to get here clearly saw in his first game the other night why the Isles acquired him last summer.
That said, given his "home" comfort in previous stops in Southern California and this season in Slovakia, it's hard to picture him staying past this season. He'd have to fall in love with Long Island (which sometimes happens), and the Isles would have to make a call on two offensive defensemen on the back end of their careers in Visnovsky and Mark Streit, a fellow pending UFA.