The Islanders officially move into their new home at UBS Arena in Belmont in the 2021-22 season. While this certainly is exciting for the team and fans alike, this new arena does present a massive roadblock for the team early on. Construction on UBS Arena is not expected to be completed until mid-November. This in turn has forced the Islanders to have to play 13 road games in a row to start the year.
Who Do They Play?
Unfortunately for the Islanders, this road trip will have no shortage of quality teams for them to play. Nine out of the 13 teams the Islanders will have to play made the postseason last year. This includes both of last year’s finalists in the Lightning and Canadiens. The other seven are the Hurricanes, Golden Knights, Jets, Predators, Wild and the Panthers twice. The four non-playoff contending teams they will face are the Devils, Coyotes, Blue Jackets and Blackhawks. Though it should be noted that the Devils and Blackhawks both made major offseason upgrades, making them tougher than their previous record may suggest. The Coyotes and Blue Jackets present the only teams that should be relatively easy wins for the Islanders.
What Do They Have To Do To Survive?
This combination of teams on a long road trip could put the Islanders in a hole early on. They’re going to have to be sharp if they hope to come out of this road trip with a decent record. One thing that should be a point of focus for the team in these games is scoring first. It may seem trivial to consider the first goal as a point of emphasis, but in this context it is paramount. Surrendering the first goal will drastically swing momentum to the side of the home team and their army of cheering fans.
In addition, it is a lot more taxing to try and come back from a deficit than to protect a lead. Given how taxing this long road trip already will be for the team on its own, constantly trying to come back from deficits won’t do them many favors. Scoring first also favors their style of play. They’ll be able to spend more time keeping the puck deep and focusing on locking down their opponents. Simply put, getting on the board first allows the Islanders to be in control of the game and play their way while also silencing the home crowd.
The most likely outcome of this road trip is a record somewhere around 6-7. The talent of this team and head coach Barry Trotz will keep them near the .500 mark. But going on the road for 13 straight games is not an easy task for any team in the league. They’ll likely start off well as they’ll play most of the lesser opponents early on. But as the road trip wears on and they face higher quality opponents, they may drop off a bit.
They’re going to be away from home for an entire month before returning to Long Island for the home opener. That’s an exhausting endeavor without even considering the games themselves. Add the barrage of quality opponents to that, and it’s not difficult to see why the team may struggle. Not to mention this is a team also readjusting to the departure of a few quality players, and building chemistry with the new ones. All things considered, it’s hard to see a scenario where the Islanders come out of this road trip with a winning record. The fortunate part is that they only play one Metropolitan division team on this trip. That will leave them plenty of time to make up ground in the division once they’re back on a normal mix of home and road games.
Projected Wins and Losses
Wins: Hurricanes, Blue Jackets, Coyotes, Predators, Canadiens and Devils
Losses: Panthers (x2), Blackhawks, Golden Knights, Jets, Wild and Lightning
Featured image courtesy of NHL
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