An independent blog on the New York Islanders, the NHL and AHL by a guy from New York.

Friday, January 15, 2016

Islanders Latest Gut-Check

Your New York Islanders dropped a pair of ugly games against the Capitals & Flyers last week to raise more flags about their consistency and legitimacy on being a top team in the east.  The streaky play and shaky resolve has become an issue for them at different times this season.  While I feel the team is a real contender, I have always felt they lacked the consistency necessary to be a serious threat in the playoffs.  Especially now that they have a much deeper roster and more experience playing together as a squad.  With the new ownership of Jon Ledecky & Scott Malkin coming to power next season, the margin for error for everyone in the organization is closing in.

So much so that head coach, Jack Capuano had questioned the resolve of players and making mention of “compete levels,” far too often.  Capauno had this to say after the 4-0 loss vs. the Flyers, “I think the top guys that are here are playing pretty good hockey to be honest with you, the experienced guys,” Capuano said. “It is some of the other guys that need to find their game. That is a decision that Garth [Snow] will have to make as far as personnel. But we are going to have to sit down and talk about it going into Columbus as far as what we are going to do. Obviously it is not working with some of the guys we have now.”  But even team captain, John Tavares has been off this season and simply needs to be better.  He has 15 & 16 for 31 pts and a -7 in 41 games played this season.  Still good enough for 2nd in points on the team, but not good enough for Tavares.  “We’ve (coaches & players) got to be better,” Tavares said.

So with the back and forth play, the Isles need to try and find the formula to a more consistent effort.  Everyone is indeed accountable and need to direct their efforts to a more focused approach.

So what can they do to be better?  How about win.  They came back and won their next two games against the Columbus Blue Jackets (5-2) and New York Rangers (3-1) to stand alone in second place for the Metro division & 4th in the east with a 24-15-5 record for 53 points in 44 games played.  Brock Nelson scored his first career hat-trick vs the CBJ and helped start the surge the Isles rode into Thursdays tilt against the Rangers.

After benefiting from some dumb luck in their defensive zone and being outplayed in much of the first half of the game, the Isles were able to shrug off a NYR goal with :45 seconds remaining in the second and mount a 3 goal third to beat the Rangers.  They did so with a physical edge and controlled play on both ends of the ice in the period.  Brock Nelson, Nick Leddy (PPG) and Kyle Okposo (ENG) scored for the home team in front of a well-represented, but still mixed sellout crowd.  Nelson now leads the team in goals with 18 and has stepped up to be an offensive force for the Islanders.  They improved their play in the neutral zone and took over the battle for loose pucks late in the game to seal the win.  The Islanders broke the Rangers 15 game winning streak when leading after two periods and won their second straight against their arch rivals at the Barclays Center.

Jaroslav Halak made 34 saves and was absolutely the main factor in the win.  He improved to 12-6-0 vs the Rangers and has an 11-8-3 record (2.17gaa and .923Sv%., 2 s.o) on the season. Halak now has an 8-0-0 streak vs Henrik Lundqvist in their last 8 head-to-head match ups.  Leddy, Nelson and Pelech were named the three stars of the game.  The play of Calvin de Haan continues to improve, especially with the top pairing minutes made available by injuries to Boychuk and Hamonic.  And defensive call up, Adam Pelech is playing well & was credited with assists on the tying and ENG in the Isles big offensive 3rd period outburst.  It was Pelech’s first NHL points in a game where he took a skate to the face and got back out on the ice after getting patched up.  To me, if Pelech’s play continues to be at this level, it should be hard to take him out of the blue line rotation.

So when you look at the latest game against the Rangers, you can see a microcosm of the Isles season so far.  They had elements of offense, suffered defensive breakdowns and got steady goal tending and gritty physical play.  This time, they had scoring from different parts of the line-up and had a strong PK showing with a sometimes erratic PP.  These Islanders have showed a little of what they need to do to be better in their overall game, but still need to find that mark consistently to be taken as serious contenders in this league.  As long as they are able to dig in and give the kind of effort they were able to find late in the game against their arch rival throughout the second half of the season, they should find themselves in just about every game.

“I thought it was a gut-check for our team tonight,” Capuano said. “I thought our team played extremely hard against a good team.”  They are home against Vancouver at 4:00 this Sunday to see if they can do it again.

Isles Notes:

New York Islanders Head Coach Jack Capuano has been named an Assistant Coach of Team USA for the 2016 World Cup of Hockey.

Tavares was named to 2016 NHL All-Star Team:  "I'm excited about participating again. It's a reflection of our team and our team's success." –Tavares

The team has moved its practices to Ice Works from morning arrivals at the Barclays Center.  The team was vocal on the strain that the time away from home can bring, "Just long days," forward Anders Lee said. "Being out all day, I think it got a little long. This way we're home -- can eat around (there) and go in a little bit later for the game."

Isles prospect Söderström auctions off #WJC2016 equipment for children's cancer fund.

The Isles have VAN this Sunday at 4pm and are away at OTT next Friday and back home for a rematch against PHI next Saturday.

Isles fans are making a difference in Maya’s memory.

Sound Tigers Notes:

Ryan Pulock and Joe Whitney are the BST 2016 All-Stars! 

NHL Notes:

Blackhawks extend streak, Joel Quenneville passes Al Arbour for second all-time in wins.

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