UNIONDALE, N.Y.– The New York Islanders open up their first significant homestand of the season, 7 games in 14 days. And if you’re paying attention, here lieth the season, ladies and gentlemen. If ever there was a scenario for the Islanders to make a considerable and honest run for the playoffs, then this homestand is the perfect storm of opportunities.
The Islanders haven’t had success at home (2-6-0) of which to speak, and as of late, the Coliseum has looked like more like a mausoleum of sorts, bearing witness to some of the ugliest loses in team history, and ‘stiffs’ gliding around the ice.
But tonight all of the embarrassment and frustration can be swept away if they play smart, positional hockey, and, of course, Kevin Poulin answers the call between the pipes.
Whatever the case, the New York Islanders needn’t worry about the standings or stats or anything other than winning games, getting rest, staying healthy and mentally tough, all while playing on home ice.
Again, this homestand is the only one of its kind for the Isles this season: the spacing of games, the run of home matchups, etc. If they muck it up, rest assured the season is all but over. If they garner, say, 4 out 7 wins and the Rangers and Devils keep losing, then the Isles are in the driver’s seat, and have a legitimate chance of forging a way to the post-season.
But, and boy is this a big-a*s but, if they were to sweep the homestand, aside from my more-than-likely heart-attack to which I will succumb due to the overwhelming joy, the Islanders can own their division and truly be masters of their destiny.
Tonight the Carolina Hurricanes bring 17 points to the table, equal to that of the Isles, but also a rememberance of things past, as they beat New York at home 6-4, but not before the Isles went 4-6 on the PP and a perfect 3-3 on the PK. (And if you were wondering or simply forgot, Rick DiPietro was between the pipes that night.)
Keep your Eyes on:
- Radek Martinek makes his season debut this evening, coming off a groin injury, and will replace Joe Finley. (Nice to you see you again, RM.)
- John Tavares who is simply relentless regardless of the team in front of him and the previous night’s outcome. Aside from the Flyers 7-0 debacle, in which all Isles team members basically left their legs, heart, and head back in their respective homes, JT has played his best hockey ever. And the more you think about him, the more hope there appears to be even in his team’s darkest hours. May we all stay healthy and happy to bear witness to JT’s arrival at the Barclays Center and true national attention such a move beckons. (Tavares is tied for a league-leading 12 goals this season, catching up with Thomas Vanek, who, again, didn’t show up to last night’s contest.)
- the Islanders D-men: if they continue to ‘pinch’ on the forecheck, goals will come. Mark Streit‘s tally proves it. The best forechecks are those that see at least one d-man coming up on the rush.
- Matt Moulson, who can zip passes to rushing players with as much sauce as anyone in the game. If he can continue opening up the ice for JT, Boyes, and now Streit or Visnovsky, et al., then he’ll continue his tear on Assistants, for he’s now at 12.
- Obviously, Kevin Poulin. (Let’s leave this one alone for just a second.)
- the Islanders’s Power Play: although 1 for 4 last night, is still 4th best in the league. Yep, 4th.
- Eric Staal, who’s always a viable threat, with 18 points for the season.
- the Washington Capitals. Seriously.
- The Islanders are still a ‘one line’ team, maybe a line and half, but as it stands, Keith Aucoin, Kyle Okposo (who is doing next-to-nothing on any line he’s on, unfortunately) need to pick up their game if the Isles ever hope of going on any sort of legitimate winning streak this season. Please note: David Ullstrom was a healthy scratch last night. Keep your eyes on him, as well.
- Kevin Poulin has to play back-up netminding in similar fashion to the Devils’s Johan Hedberg, otherwise they’ll be problems the likes of which will resemble those of a Buffalo Sabres persuasion.
- Under Jack Capuano, the New York Islanders haven’t assembled any formidable winning streaks of which to mention, and having only an anemic handful of them during his tenure. True fact: the longest winning streak during the Capuano era is 4. The Isles and Jack have to do better than that.
- The Isles are still 29th in the league in Goals Against, so don’t let the shutout fool you. There’s TONS of work to be done on 5-on-5. Enjoy the win, but stay focused. Good day to you.