Wow, who could have seen this coming? Less than two weeks into the NHL's 2010-11 regular season and the battle of New York is being won by ... the Islanders!?
Monday's controversial win over the Leafs left the Isles in a tie for top spot in the Atlantic with Pittsburgh; and they're doing it despite the absence of their best defenceman, Mark Streit, and one of their most promising young players, Kyle Okposo. Goaltending, from both Dwayne Roloson and Rick Dipietro, is a factor in the Islanders' surge, as is an unexpectedly potent offence, keyed by Blake Comeau and Josh Bailey.
The Devils, meanwhile, are muddling along after a 1-4-1 start, with their goaltending tandem of Martin Brodeur and Johan Hedberg ranked 27th out of 30 teams. So much for the new run-and-gun era. Even Brodeur was going on about that the other day - that the Devils need to get back to the smothering defensive style that's made them effective in years past, and if they do that, the goals will come. For now, Ilya Kovalchuk and Zach Parise have been split up; what looked like a superior line in camp (that also included Travis Zajac) has been mediocre thus far in the season.
If anything, it's worse across the bridge in Manhattan, where the Rangers were dead last in goals against and lost at home Monday to the visiting Colorado Avalanche. Without Marian Gaborik, Chris Drury and Vaclav Prospal, they need to go with kids the way the Islanders have. So far, it hasn't worked out - and all-world goaltender Henrik Lundqvist's GAA is just a shade under 4.00. Ugly - and at a time when the Original Six looks pretty good in five other precincts, it looks grim in New York, bad right now and with the prospects of it getting a lot worse until Gaborik and Co. finally return.