"You got to lose to know how to win."
Those lyrics from Aerosmith's Dream On may very well be the mantra for the New York Islanders these days.
We learned a lot about these young Islanders during the Philly game, as well as the two matchups with the Caps. This team is a resilient bunch that can, at the very least, contain an elite team and take them to overtime, and can keep up with the fast pace those opponents bring.
The Isles are oh so close to reaching that level, and with some more time and development, and a top prospect from the upcoming NHL Entry Draft, this team may be playing meaningful games next February and March.
For now, the Isles have vastly improved the on-ice product, and that has shown in the form of attendance figures. The team has drawn at least 12,000 fans to the last couple of home games, and should the team continue to impress, those numbers should trend upward.
Tonight, they face a Minnesota squad that currently finds itself just two points out of a playoff spot in the Western Conference.
The Wild are led by their goaltender, Nicklas Backstrom, one of the elite netminders in the NHL. That will make this one a fun challenge for New York's offense, which has been firing on all cylinders since the All-Star break.
Michael Grabner, one of the stars on that offense, was named the NHL's Rookie of the Month for February today, so kudos to him. Grabner has done nothing but produce since Isles GM Garth Snow picked him up from waivers.
As was just mentioned, the Islanders offense has been spectacular during the last few weeks, but despite getting the same amount of scoring chances, it has recently struggled to cash in and put goals on the board.
New York has been sound defensively, so it needs to get to Nicklas Backstrom early and often, and that should do it for the Isles.
Players to Watch
Tavares has been setting up plays, as well as driving to the net. It's got to pay dividends sooner or later, so why not tonight?
Fresh off being named "Rookie of the Month," Grabner will be out to prove he's worthy of the praise. He's been robbed on so many occasions in the last few weeks, and he's going to change things in this game. If there's an Islander who deserves a goal more than anyone else, it's Michael Grabner.
Hamonic's been performing so well lately, shutting down opposing players and making excellent plays, both defensive and offensive. If you didn't know better, you might have thought he's been in the league for 10 years now, that's how poised he's looked. Hamonic will prove me right in this one.
I'll recap after the game.
Comments are welcome.