Columbus Blue Jackets: Staring Down the Barrel – Eyes On Isles

COLUMBUS, OH - FEBRUARY 25: Oliver Bjorkstrand #28 of the Columbus Blue Jackets and Nick Leddy #2 of the New York Islanders battle for position on February 25, 2017 at Nationwide Arena in Columbus, Ohio. (Photo by Jamie Sabau/NHLI via Getty Images)
COLUMBUS, OH - FEBRUARY 25: Oliver Bjorkstrand #28 of the Columbus Blue Jackets and Nick Leddy #2 of the New York Islanders battle for position on February 25, 2017 at Nationwide Arena in Columbus, Ohio. (Photo by Jamie Sabau/NHLI via Getty Images) /

The start of a new season is here. The Columbus Blue Jackets begin the 2017-18 campaign Friday with a home game against Metropolitan Division foe, the New York Islanders.

Friday’s matchup between the Columbus Blue Jackets and New York Islanders is a very realistic potential Stanley Cup Playoffs series. The Isles missed out on the postseason last year by just one point while the Blue Jackets made the playoffs for the third time in franchise history after an incredible 108-point season.

Ahead of the teams’ impending battle, we talked with site expert and longtime Islanders fan Michel Anderson to discuss his favorite team, the matchup at hand and more.

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What’s your experience as an Islanders fan and writer?

Michel Anderson: I’ve been an Islanders fan for years. My dad got me into them. Growing up in Ottawa, we didn’t have an NHL team yet. We had ties to the Potvins in Ottawa who, as we all know, one of them became a pretty famous Islander himself. When the Senators came to town, Dad shifted to the Sens on day one and I just stuck with the Isles.

I’ve been with FanSided for almost two years now. My experience here has been pretty positive. Though as a self-proclaimed Josh Bailey fanboy, it doesn’t always go over well on social media.

How do you feel about opening up the season against the Columbus Blue Jackets?

It’s good to get divisional rivalries started on day one. It felt weird opening against the Blackhawks a few seasons ago. I get that it was to hype up the new arena and such, but it just felt weird.

What’s the strongest part of this Islanders team?

The offense. Our top line is dynamite with John Tavares, Anders Lee and Jordan Eberle. Well, it should be dynamite. Who knows how Eberle and Tavares mesh. It didn’t go well with Andrew Ladd last season, but we’re stuck with him on the books at $5.5 million for the next six seasons.

What’s the weakest part of this Islanders team?

Our goaltending. It’s not to say that our goaltending is bad. It’s pretty good. But if I had to pick a part of the team I’m less confident in, it’s that. The 1A-1B tandem of Halak and Greiss has yet to work, but then again we had three goalies then. So we’ll see how they get on with just the two of them this season.

I remember there being a lot of hype around Joshua Ho-Sang last season when he was called up. How do you think he will fare this year now that he’s made the opening night roster?

He’s going to be a Calder Trophy candidate. That’s a prediction I made on our blog a few weeks back, and one I stick to today. We might even have two in the mix this season with Ho-Sang and Mathew Barzal challenging for top rookie honors. Just you and your followers watch.

Something that has surrounded the Islanders is the John Tavares extension. How concerned are you about your captain leaving in the offseason? Do you think it will affect the team this season?

I guess Tavares is going to be asked this question wherever he goes and so will Islanders fans, eh? Am I concerned? Yeah, a bit. Nothing is ever a sure thing with the Islanders. We thought Barclays would work out, but here we are two seasons later and both the Isles and Barclays can’t stand each other. Or at least that’s what the rhetoric from both sides suggests.

Will it affect us this season? For sure. Will it affect us negatively? Probably not that much. It’s going to be a nuisance–that’s for sure. But in terms of dropping points and missing the playoffs, I don’t think that will happen.

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Do you see the Islanders as a playoff team this year?

Yes. My co-expert Matt O’Leary and I talked about that a few times on our podcast. We firmly believe that the the Islanders will be a playoff team. We think the Rangers slide this year and the Isles take that first wild card spot.

What do you think the keys to victory for you guys will be?

Control the zone. The Islanders are trying this new defensive tactic of not always allowing the opposition to take more shots than them. It’s pretty avant-garde stuff.

Seriously though, that’s the new plan. It’s not a bad one by any means. It just sounds so simple when you say it out loud. The Isles will press the puck carrier high, and they’ll also not be so quick to block a shot. They’ll let the goalie see the show rather than get in its way and alter its trajectory. If they can do that, they’ll set themselves up to win.

What’s your prediction for this season opener?

Isles win 3-2 in overtime with Josh Bailey proving to be the winner. Did you expect anything less from an Isles fan?