It is going to often be said as the season continues. The win in Raleigh was a BIG win for the Islanders. It was 2 HUGE points for them. Make no mistakes about that fact.
Realistically, I see no need in discussing the various statistical “chances” the Islanders have or don’t have in making the playoffs. I am a realist, and I understand the math. I know it’s not an easy proposition, and I am aware of what the total points that were needed for teams to have grabbed the 8 spot in the Eastern Conference over the last few years.
The bottom line is it’s not over until it’s over. The hockey “experts” can discuss all they want about the proverbial fat lady warming up and what teams are “out of it” or not. Until the actual math demonstrates that the Islanders cannot make the playoffs, then I will believe that they still have a chance. No matter how many teams are ahead of them, and no matter what their record must be to make a run, I believe that in the world of probability, ANYTHING is possible and NOTHING is impossible.Before I make a few more comments on the rest of the season, while it is on my mind, let me first throw out some “blind observations” in regard to the Islander 5-2 win over the Carolina Hurricanes on Tuesday. Gary did a recap of the game and discussed John Tavares’s continued dominance, but here are some of my reactions to the game in no particular order;
• John Tavares is now tied in 4th place among the points leaders in the NHL. He totaled some 22 points in 13 games in January to win the NHL player of the month. How big was his first goal to put the Isles on top 3-2 after the Hurricanes had come back to tie the game?
• The top line continues to get the job done. Let’s not overlook Matt Moulson and Kyle Okposo. Both guys had themselves solid nights as well. That is a powerful, dominating trio that takes the ice right now.
• Rhett Rakhshani played extremely well on the third line in place of Brian Rolston. He had several shots on net and I heard is name called multiple times by Howie Rose. Additionally, he seemed to have chemistry with Matt Martin and Josh Bailey. I will get into this in a bit, but I am glad the Islanders are giving him a chance to show his stuff.
• Kevin Poulin got the job done. His 2 big saves in the first period should not be forgotten. Also, he shut the door after the Canes tied the game. It is still a mystery to me why he was recalled and played when there apparently is no injuries to Evgeni Nabokov or Al Montoya, but he did not disappoint at all.
• Blowing a 2-0 lead was a bit troubling when the Isles had the game under control. Fortunately, JT came up big when Cam Ward made his only mistake of the game. Still, Al Arbour used to talk about the “killer instinct”, and the Isles need to adopt that trait to their games down the stretch.
• It was nice to see the Islanders cash in on empty nets for a change. I’m sure that must have felt good to Jack Capuano.
• Matt Martin and Nino Niederreiter continue to impress me. Both guys seem to improve their play each game and prove that they are a part of this team’s future.
Now, as for some “blind Observations” as they pertain to the last 33 games of the season and what I think about a variety of subjects, the opinionated big mouth, that I am;
• We need to see more of the younger guys get a chance to play. David Ullstrom, comes to mind. No, this is not abandoning the season either. I simply believe that there are roster spots that can be filled by hungry younger players looking to make their mark that will benefit the team’s effort to make the playoffs.
• I would still not be surprised if Evgeni Nabokov is moved before the trade deadline. This, to me, is a possibility, and could be why Poulin was called up and started. One can say that Nabokov should be thrown out there every night and see how far the Islanders can get riding him, and I would not be adversed at all to this approach. However, my gut tells me that Garth Snow will try to get some value back from him while he is playing well. With Montoya and Poulin, I don’t believe this would “harm” any sort of playoff push.
• At this moment, I would not declare the Islanders as potential “sellers”. I think, if the avenue is there, in fact, that Snow should be looking to upgrade and improve the team. Realistically, and not to be glib here, but it’s not like the Isles have a lot they can offer to trade anyway as far as “extra pieces” go.
• Frans Nielsen and PA Parenteau need to be signed and extended. In the effort to establish a “core” group of long term Islanders, both guys have shown their value and have expressed their desire to play here. Nielsen might be one of the most underrated two-way centers in the league, and Parenteau is showing that last season was not a fluke. I’d like to see long term contracts a done deal in the very near future.
• Play to win. I don’t care about draft position or getting a “top 5″ talent. The rebuild of this team needs to progress. Settling for another top 5 guy is failure, as far as I am concerned. I think that is going backwards. Perhaps, the odds are the Islanders won’t make the playoffs, but I’d rather see a 10 or 11 finish in the Eastern Conference standings and 80 plus points. The goal should be to play like every game the rest of the way is the most important game of the season, and just keep on winning.
• With that said, secondary scoring needs to be a focus down the stretch as well. The first line cannot be relied on to do it all. Grabner, Nielsen, Bailey, Martin, and whoever else gets put on the third line has to step up their game. Nino has to be given more ice time and placed in positions to develop further and be a potential impact player.
• At the very least, the goal should be to finish over the .500 mark in the end. To me, if anything else, this accomplishment would be a great indicator of a “successful” season within itself.
Of course, though, these are all opinions. It is going to be an interesting few weeks to see what this team does in the standings and what management does that will signal their position on the current state of the team. It’s going to be a fun and entertaining ride, at the very least.
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