It's hard to watch our New York Islanders flounder at the worst possible time of the season with incomplete efforts in the final games. The excuses are running out and so is the time to correct their mistakes. They have allowed the 1st goal and only scored 8 goals in their last 6 games. And the awkward loses aren’t even gathering loser points or helping the Isles keep pace. The things they are doing well haven’t been enough to compensate for their MIA offensive production. Even Boychuk and Leddy have failed to score recently. To make it worse, the surging Rangers, Penguins & Flyers are threatening the Isles fading playoff chances. You would assume it a necessity to take the next step and salvage the season for Garth Snow and Jack Capuano before the new ownership takes majority control next year. They remain in the 7th spot (38-24-9 with 85pts) for the eastern conference with a dicey 4-4-2 record over their last 10 games.
The Isles are 1 in 6 since Jaroslav Halak went down. That is not a discredit to Thomas Greiss who has played very well all season long and has kept his team in many close games. In my opinion, it’s simply what seems to be a component of more inconsistency, injuries and odd lineup changes that are seemingly too much for Coach Capuano and the Isles to compensate for. Even a resurgent Mikhail Grabovski is back on the IR again after possibly being rushed back into the line up to try and regain some sort of offensive spark. Matt Larkin chimed in on the season’s shortcomings from some of the Isles younger players, “Anders Lee and Ryan Strome have COMBINED for 20 goals. Who knew? Did lack of off-season signings breed complacency instead of confidence?”
Captain John Tavares is aging on the vine much like the Rangers Henrik Lundqvist and if team mediocrity keeps the Isles from taking the next step, JT may look elsewhere when he becomes a free agent for the 2018-19 season. Tavares has looked as out of sync this season and wasn’t much better than many of his team mates in the recent loss to Philadelphia on Monday. It marked the 3rd consecutive loss for New York. Three for the first time in 3 months and the first time the team has been winless in 4 since March of 2015. The Islanders need to execute their game plan and play much harder than they have been in recent games. I don’t know if a stop gap solution exists on the current roster, in Bridgeport or is even possible for the season. But there is confidence in the Isles locker room. The players believe in each other. Travis Hamonic, “Last years was last year. This is this season and we've played some really good hockey. We're confident in our group."
My opinion on the coach is well known, but it eventually needs to fall on their Captain. John Tavares is an elite player, but has struggled in keeping the team sharp on the ice. Tavares isn’t happy with the team’s efforts, "It's not like we aren't trying. I think we just have to execute better.” Accountability. The Isles have 7 of their next 11 games are home where they are 21-9-4. They are 1-4-2 in their last 7 games and on a dangerous pace to drop out of the playoff picture if some changes aren’t made. Erick Hornick points out that the Isles also need to finish ahead of Philadelphia, Detroit, the Rangers or Pittsburgh in order to clinch a playoff berth. Their games at hand have fallen to 1 against the Pens and 2 against the New York Rangers. Their 4-1 (Okposo) loss to the Flyers put both teams at 71 GP and was a 4 point gain of sorts for Philadelphia with the win. The loss even snapped a 6-0-1 home point streak. Things are not well in Isles country at the moment.
The Islanders have games remaining against the Penguins, Rangers and the snowed out make-up game against the Flyers on the final day of their season which could end up being a much larger 2 points than first anticipated. Or, may not matter at all. Their magic number is at 19 to clinch a spot while falling behind Pittsburgh by 3 and now only 3 ahead of Philadelphia. They still hold their own leash, but are we sure how long that will last? When will roster decisions like playing the erratic Brian Strait over and over again hold Capuano accountable for the questionable coaching decisions? Will not acquiring a top forward to play with J.T. cost Snow more than just frustration into a vital summer for the Isles organization? All is not lost just yet.
The Isles will look to play the next biggest game of the season against the Ottawa Senators tomorrow night at home before traveling to Tampa Bay and Carolina on Friday and Saturday.
Per Eric Hornick, “Tavares, the only 2009 draftee to score 200 goals, 250 assists and 450 points, is also the first to play 500 games.”
Ryan Pulock scored his 1st NHL goal against the Nashville Predators.
Josh Ho-Sang has 82 points in 66 games with Niagara of the OHL.