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Rosner: Did Robin Salo Already Solidify Starting Gig?

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Robin Salo, New York Islanders

Entering training camp, one of the biggest questions surrounding the New York Islanders was which defenseman would win the starting gig alongside veteran Scott Mayfield. With three training camp days in and one preseason contest under the team’s belt, it seems like Robin Salo may have already won the job, or at the least, it’s Salo’s job to lose.

Maybe the gun is being figuratively jumped, but 23-year-old Robin Salo has skated with Scott Mayfield for the entirety of training camp so far, a more than slight tipping of the hand from head coach Lane Lambert. Even if we see another player skate with Scott Mayfield as we move forward here and inch towards opening night, Salo was given the first look for a reason.

READ MORE: Simon Holmstrom Solid Against Rangers

Ahead of their contest against the New York Rangers, Lambert shared with us what he wanted to see from Robin Salo on Monday night.

“Scott’s, you know, a big defenseman and more of a stay-at-home guy. Salo has the ability to move the puck. So just good first passes, you know, during the rush when he can. Have some power-play time as well,” Lambert said.

After sixty minutes, Robin Salo did exactly what Lane Lambert wanted to see, even furthering the case that he is ready for an everyday role.

In 18:24 TOI in the 4-1 loss to the New York Rangers, Robin Salo took 22 shifts, led the Islanders with five shots on goal, ‘scored a goal’ (may have gone off Cal Clutterbuck), and overall skated like an NHL veteran. He saw power-play time, 2:40 worth, and although plus/- is never a good indication of how a player does, he was a +1.

The former 2017 second-round pick did not have a perfect night, with one giveaway while on the power play that could have been costly, as he dropped the puck to no one just outside the Islanders zone leading to a short-handed breakaway chance the other way.

The Islanders’ power-play units were all out of wack in this first preseason game as special teams have not been practiced at all through training camp so far, so take that showing with a grain of salt.

What Robin Salo did so well in his 2021-22 21-game sample size was not just create shot lanes at the opponent’s blue line but get his shots through. Like a running back looking for a hole on the offensive line, Salo does the same.

He showed off that attribute on Monday night when he got the Islanders on the board late in the second period as his wrist shot from the point snuck by Rangers backup Dylan Garand.

That patience to collect the puck and look for the right lane paid dividends. Maybe he got a break off a Cal Clutterbuck deflection but as Michael Scott once said, “You miss 100 percent of the shots you do not take.”

The Islanders’ offense was stagnant for most of the night, but one of the strongest sequences came from Robin Salo in the first period. He picked off a Rangers past outside the Islanders zone before leading the rush up the ice. Upon crossing the New York Rangers blue line, he sent a nifty sauce pass to Jeff Kubiak, who was cutting in towards goal.

It was an excellent effort, but the pass did not connect. Instead of giving up on the play, Salo followed it up, picking up the puck and taking a hard shot on New York Rangers netminder Igor Shesterkin, forcing him to make a solid save.

That ability to transition is one of the many reasons why Salo has been given the opportunity with Mayfield, a stay-at-home guy, as Lambert shared.

“We got some stuff to better on. I mean, it’s the first game,” Robin Salo said postgame. “So, I mean, I just tried to do my best, you know, that’s, that’s all I can do. Just try to be active. Try to make plays and, you know, play my own game out there, and then that’s what I tried to do.”

Lane Lambert spoke on the play of Robin Salo as well.

“I thought he was fine. You know, he moved the puck pretty well,” Lambert said. “You know, I thought he had some good reads. And I thought he fared quite well.”

Robin Salo will not play in the New York Islanders second preseason game against the New Jersey Devils on Tuesday night. He will scrimmage in the afternoon, likely alongside Scott Mayfield yet again.

His next preseason contest will be in one of the two games against the Philadelphia Flyers next week.

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