New York Islanders season preview: Team brings lofty goals to Barclays Center
Plus: Captain John Tavares opens a new era for the Islanders as they’ll move to the Barclays Center in Brooklyn and leave Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum in their rear-view mirror. Tavares recorded 86 points (38 goals, 48 assists) despite having numerous linemates last season, but the two-time Hart Trophy finalist should excel with the return of a healthy Kyle Okposo and upstart Anders Lee. Goaltender Jaroslav Halak posted a franchise-best 38 wins last season, 11 more than his personal high set with St. Louis in 2010-11.
Minus: While many criticize the team’s black-and-white third jerseys — and for good reason — another outfit the Islanders need to address is their special teams. New York’s power-play efficiency (18.7 percent) resided in the middle of the road last season before the team failed on all 14 opportunities in its first-round playoff loss to Washington. The Islanders’ penalty kill ranked a disappointing 26th in the league at 78 percent.
X-Factor: Johnny Boychuk
Boychuk immediately bonded with fellow defenseman Nick Leddy and recorded career highs in goals (nine), assists (26) and points (35) in his first season with the Islanders. The 31-year-old was rewarded for his efforts with a seven-year, $42 million contract, but even more could be on his plate with Thomas Hickey sidelined for another four weeks with an upper-body injury. Travis Hamonic has returned from a nagging knee injury that sidelined him for the playoffs while 38-year-old Marek Zidlicky will serve on the team’s third pairing.
Prediction: The Islanders will reach the Promised Land, well by their standards anyway. After battling for a third-place finish in the competitive Metropolitan Division, New York will secure a berth in the second round of the playoffs for the first time since 1993.