The Islanders kick off the second half of the season against the Atlanta Thrashers on Tuesday night, game #50.
So what should we expect to see from this team in the remaining 33 games?
In my opinion we are going to see the Islanders improve. I think their second half record will be a nice improvement from the first half. I also feel that this second half will be an indicator as to who will remain and who will make themselves expendable in the off season.
Their record through the first 49 games is 15-27-7 for 39 points. I predict their record for the remaining 33 games will look something like 16-14-3 for an additional 35 points.
What to watch for:
1) Watch Michael Grabner make a strong run for top rookie honors. He has everything going for him right now. He had an amazing run to close out the first half. Won the fastest skater at the All Star skills competition. His 15 goals ranks fourth among rookies and he has a strong combination of momentum and confidence.
2) We will see Matt Moulson add much needed consistency to his scoring. I think the trade rumors and upcoming free agency really weighed down on this guy. He was always adamant about wanting to stay out here and I think this contract will take the monkey off his back and he can focus on playing hockey. As the rumors started popping up, so did his scoring. I can’t wait to see what he does.
3) Look for John Tavares to have a breakout second half, like we saw of Stamkos last season. Don’t count on 50 goals, EXPECT 30+ this kid obviously has the skill and we really started to see it as the first half was winding down. With Moulson playing better and the line chemistry getting better by the game, he is unquestionably set for a break out. The question is when? My bet is we will see it much sooner than later!
4) Zenon Konopka coming back with twice the intensity he had in the first half. Here is another player who wants to be here. Watch his make his case to stay.
5) The continued development and growth of Kevin Poulin. He may be 1 or 2 years shy of being “NHL ready” as I hear many people saying, however from his first start to now we have watched him grow and get better. Expect to see the same thing going forward.
6) Rick Dipietro stays in the net. Someone also reminds him he is not a forward. Don’t count on him being healthy.
7) Now that he is healthy again I think Kyle Okposo will quickly return back to his old form. In addition to being out so long he also has to adjust to a new line. He is another one to watch explode in the second half. I like that line A LOT!!!!!!!!!!
8) We are all privileged to watch the development of player like Macdonald, Schremp, Comeau, Colliton, Bailey, Martin, Hamonic, and Parenteau. Hopefully some of these guys will find their stride in the second half. If not, some may not be here next season.
9) Hopefully better health and far fewer injuries.
10) Expect a few apologies from some of your friends, co-workers, and rivals from other teams. Don’t be surprised if you read a few journalists and bloggers retract some idiotic statements they made about the Islanders. The truth here is that we probably will not make the playoffs. Accept it. What we will gain is experience and knowledge. Growth as players and stronger chemistry among teammates. You will see improvement and you will see hope. You will see rookies develop into stars and see others reach their potential. You will get to see firsthand a young team find its way in the NHL and give you something to cheer about.