Heading into this season, there was some question as to whether or not the New York Islanders could have secondary scoring. Now that question has been answered, to a degree. The Islanders had to go to a shootout to come away with a 4-3 victory over the New Jersey Devils, but in order to get there, they needed the secondary scoring. They got a big boost from Michael Grabner, who hasn’t looked as good over the last two seasons as he did in his rookie year. Grabner had a three-point night, on two goals and an assist.
Now with Grabner, he hasn’t been able to find the back of the net as frequently as he had in his rookie season. Known as the breakaway king, because of his ability to use his speed to his advantage, Grabner often gets great chances to score on the breakaway. Somehow he never seems to really be able to finish on a breakaway, though. Well, Grabner had four of them last night, scoring on two against Devils goalie Martin Brodeur. He scored the first two Islanders goals and got the primary assist on the third goal scored by Frans Nielsen. So, it’s a safe bet to say that Grabner was the best skater on the ice last night for the Islanders.
This is something that the Islanders have been needing for a while now. I know they got it at the end of last season, which really helped them get into the playoffs, but it’s nice to see and know that the secondary scoring is going to be in place from the start of the year. Grabner was using that great foot speed all night long to generate scoring chances. Using that speed led to his two goals.
And it wasn’t just Grabner’s play in the offensive zone that was the story last night. It was also his sound defensive effort as well. What I mean by that is, Grabner was all over the ice, giving support to his teammates in the defensive zone as well as his play on offense. That’s an element of Grabner’s game that has been a little lacking over the last year or so. Now he has that to his game, which is going to make him a more effective player in the long run.
Grabner’s two-goal performance marked the second two-goal game in his last seven games. His last came on April 16 against the Florida Panthers. His first-period goal marked the first time since 2008 that a forward scored the first Islanders goal of the season. Current Islanders assistant coach Doug Weight was the last forward to score the first goal of the year. Ever since then, it had been a defenseman who scored the first goal of the year.
For the second year in a row, the Islanders and Devils faced off in the Islanders season opener. New Jersey won last season’s meeting, with the Islanders getting revenge this year. Now that the first game is under their belt, Grabner and the rest of the team can switch focus to tonight’s opponent, the Columbus Blue Jackets in the home opener.