Islanders Squeak Past Panthers 4-3


SUNRISE, FL– The New York Islanders will have a much needed two-day rest before returning for a critical four-game home-stand–a stretch of games that will determine (no hyperbole here) their playoff chances.

But, tonight’s victory against the Panthers have put both the Islanders and five other teams in the most precarious and turbulent (albeit necessary and equally exciting) standings position.

With tonight’s victory, the Islanders are at 29 points, ahead of the Rangers (28) by 1 and the Flyers (27) by 2, chasing Carolina (31), New Jersey and Toronto (both with 32). And with the Devils, Leafs, ‘Canes, and Rangers all on losing streaks and scoring slumps, the Islanders couldn’t have picked a better time to awaken.

At the risk of sounding redundant, this upcoming home-stand is the season entire for the Islanders: winning three out of four, and those aforementioned teams tanking, may very well seal fates for all those involved.

The Capitals and Panthers are about 4 losses away from elimination, if the teams above them win, especially the Islanders.

Look, let’s put it this way, if you look at the standings right now, the Islanders are in the middle of the pack of those teams hunting for or hovering over the 8th and final playoff spot.

And only the Islanders are moving in the right direction. If the Islanders buckle-down and take three out of four next week, and all the other teams, especially the Devils, Rangers, and Leafs, continue their winning/scoring droughts, the Islanders may see the post season.

So, there are exactly 20 games left. If the Islanders make the playoffs, it will be because they win 15 to 17 games. You decide if this is possible, and decide if my math is correct.

Considering that any of the aforementioned clubs go on winning streaks between now and then, the Islanders cannot under any circumstances, repeat the start to this upcoming home-stand as seen on the previous one. Lights out, if they do.

To secure a playoff berth, you have to be streaky, and it starts by taking care of Ottawa and Montreal, accepting another defeat from the Penguins (if you will), and burying the Panthers, before hitting the road again.

No optimism. No pessimism. Plan facts. If you’re an Islander and an Isles fan, the truth is you have to basically sweep the home-stand to secure your future. That’s it.

Game Recap

The Islanders and Evgeni Nabokov played a solid and somewhat tightly-wound 40 minutes of hockey, and then decided to kick up their heels and take in the South Florida sun, apparently. For in less that 90 seconds, all of their hard-work in the previous two periods, amounting to 3 goals and 15 SOG, evaporated. And if not for Casey Cizikas, the Islanders season could have ended last night. Not in terms of points, mind you, but spiritually and emotionally eradicated. The death knoll indeed.

For all the “critical” and “important” games this season, this victory was the dictionary definition of one, the caption/picture is Cizikas scoring that 4th goal stick side against Panthers goalie Scott Clemmensen:

Might I remind everyone reading about the roller-coaster metaphor. How’d you like this evening’s romp? How’s that stomach holding up? Ha!

Kyle Okposo opens up the scoring with the help of a wonderful and extremely fortunate blind pass by Frans Nielsen at the 15:26 mark of the first:

The Islanders would steal the momentum for the next period and a half, as Radek Martinek and Brad Boyes both score what appeared to the deal-breakers.

But at the 5:09 mark of the third, Florida opened the floodgates and all Hell broke lose within the span of approximately 90 seconds:

Islander country held their breath for another six minutes and change, and the energy line once again shows its prowess and undeniable importance to this club’s success (something of a truism I and others close to me have been ushering since early February) as Cikias buries a 15 ft. wrist shot and sends the Islanders past the Panthers this evening, and then the Rangers in the standings.

Afterthought 

The Islanders are 1 game over .500 in the general standings, but an astounding 4 over .500 on the road; only six teams have the same or slightly better record on the road than the Isles.

For anything to happen post-season-wise, the Islanders need to improve upon 5-8-2  in a hurry. So, once more for good measure: this homestand IS the season. Yes, this time it is, Isles fans. It really, really is the season.

In all, as I’ve said in the past, the Islanders are a blue-collar team with their share of blue-collar wins; this evening’s “ain’t” one them. Tonight was a victory by a team they cannot hold a three goal lead, and needed to fight an unnecessary fight to stave off a tremendous loss.

Unlike most, I don’t think this victory is something to savor; more like landing on the surf, covered in seaweed, gasping for breath, and then looking back at the entity, if you will, that almost swallowed you alive–an escape of which to be grateful but not something one would ever want to remember any time soon, or ever.

–RD

Follow Rich Diaz @eyesonisles

 

NOTES

  • Would like to take some time to thank Scotty Bonner for all of his hard-work and contributions to the site this past week, keeping Isles fans in the ‘know’ as I waded through one stressful week. Thanks Scotty. Thanks for keeping the site going. Again, this Bud’s for you.
  • How wonderful is the team, win/lose/draw?  If nothing else, they’re intriguing, yes? Win this, lose that, 3 goal lead gone in seconds, then win it anyway. Go Isles.
  • Oh, and remember boys and girls: KEEP CALM AND CARRY ON! Good day to you.

Tags: Casey Cizikas Florida Panthers Islanders New York Islanders NHL

  • http://twitter.com/tobysmithny Toby Smith

    Rich – I think you’re pretty close on the 15 wins. They will definitely need to be better than. .500 over the 20 games to get in.

    I don’t think it’s possible; not with the injuries and lack of defensive depth. Be nice to have Strait right about now.

    Good stuff!

    • Rich Diaz

      Agreed on all points! Strait’s absence pretty much crippled the isles’s chances of making a SOLID run to the postseaon. No blue line no chance. There only 3 reasons the Isles are even in a hunt for a playoff spot: a) John Tavares b) Nabby 3) Cizikas’s line

      thanks for reading and the support…always!

  • psu3700

    I definitely agree about the importance of this four game stretch at home. One game at a time. “Just fight the good fight” . All they need to do is squeak’ in.