This is the second post by new contributor Doug Detwiler. You can follow him on Twitter right here.
Last Sunday, the Islanders come from behind victory against the Minnesota Wild marked the halfway point of their season. Kyle Okposo, who scored a pair of goals certainly felt at home as he played in his hometown of St. Paul, Minnesota. It was a very important win for the orange and blue as the were able to head into the locker room with some confidence as it also marked their third consecutive win on the road.
“We just kept chipping away and kept chipping away,” Okposo said. “We were down 3-0, and kind of regrouped. We decided to go after them and start moving our feet.” The Isles were then able to head into Boston Tuesday night to win yet another important game as they defeated the Bruins 5-3. The Isles came back from a 3-1 deficit and were able to come out on top.
The winter olympics are approaching rather quickly, and being that Kyle Okposo is on pace for a 30 goal, 80 point season, many fans believe that he would have been a perfect candidate for the US Olympic team. In terms of American players, Okposo is second in points behind only Patrick Kane. Although many may argue that he is a product of his line mate John Tavares, Okposo is still having a great season nonetheless. He is just twelve points shy of breaking his season high of points(52) which he had set in the 2009-10 season.
On Wednesday, the Team USA Olympic rosters were announced. All of Isles Nation sat in front of their television astonished as they watched a child with a Brooks Orpik jersey skate out on the ice after being announced, signifying that Okposo did not make the team as the names were read in alphabetical order according to last name.
Many were furious that not only Okposo was not selected, but many other players such as Bobby Ryan, Keith Yandle, Jack Johnson, Ben Bishop, and Cory Schneider among notables not making Team USA. Many of us are still scratching our heads, however the islanders still have a lot of work to do and many challenges to face.
Despite their place in the standings, the Islanders have been showing some signs of life the past few games. If they continue to play the way they’re playing and continue playing the style of hockey reminiscent of May 2013, the second half of the season could be one where the club can make a run for the playoffs. Though it may seem like a measly three games won for the Isles, there a few notable stats that are beginning to improve as well.
In their last five games, the club has allowed only ONE power play goal in twelve opportunities, resulting in a penalty kill percentage of 91.6%. Evgeni Nabokov is back and healthy and now has a .929 SV% in 8 games since returning from his injury.
If Nabokov remains solid and healthy for the rest of this season (granted Kevin Poulin plays well also) the Islanders’ main focus will be defense. The team’s young defenseman, Aaron Ness was just recently sent down to Bridgeport. Matt Donovan was recalled for his second stint with the big club.
The power play needs some fixing more than anything, taking away the 4 goal performance in Boston. Andrew MacDonald has been far too indecisive with the puck and on the rare occasion where he makes a smart play with it, he often misses the net. MacDonald’s play in his own zone does not make the situation any better.
To fix this problem, many would love to see Calvin de Haan tried at the point instead of A-mac in hopes that the power play will improve. In his short time on the team de Haan has quietly done a great job playing his position and always making smart plays.
This second half could be a handful of things, and none of us know what will happen, but do not count this team out yet. Putting together some wins within the past week was a perfect example of what kind of team they have to be to win games. They need to be pesky, resilient, hold leads when they have them and battle back when they don’t. With a few adjustments, and continuing to play good hockey, this team could be back on track and have a go at the playoffs.
Never say it’s not possible until there is a little mark next to the team name in the standings that indicates such.