I must confess that I found myself, along with my two older brothers and youngest brother, actually believing that the Islanders were going to go into the olympic break sweeping their weekend home games. Yes, with a 3-1 lead over the Senators going into the third period powered by goals from Matt Moulson and a pair from Blake Comeau, it appeared as if the Isles would beat a team that has been playing great hockey over their last 15 or so games. Although the Sens had come out controlling the first ten or so minutes of the game, the Islanders began to skate and found their rhythm to turn the tide, especially in the second period.
But, alas, it turns out that someone forgot to tell the boys they had to skate through another twenty minutes to earn the victory. Once again, the lack of a consistent, sixty minutes cost them 2 points. The Senators scored three unanswered goals in the third period to beat the Islanders 4-3. While the Isles jammed the front of the net in a desperate push during the closing seconds of the game, the equalizer just could not be popped home.
So, at the 62 game mark, the Islanders now are 25-29-8 with 58 points and some 6 points out of the 8 spot in the Eastern Conference standings. They’ve lost 9 out of their last 11, and have missed a serious opportunity to pick up points and put themselves in the 7 or even 6 spot in the conference. Too many guys have seemed to cool off, and even when they manage to score 3 or more goals, they are giving up more with more than a few defensive blunders hanging the goaltenders out to dry. On top of that, plain bad luck hitting posts or missing great scoring chances have hurt them as well.
Is it all doom and gloom, though? No, not in the least. Can the Islanders still make the playoffs? Anything is possible. There are still 20 games to go, and the way the conference has inconsistently been playing, a nice run of 10 or 15 points over a 10 game stretch could put the guys right back in the 7 or 8 slot. Ten of the twenty games are at home, and with only one Islander going to the olympics in Mark Streit, the team will be able to rest and, perhaps, get themselves reenergized.
I’ll leave it up to Gary to write a “what will it take” kind of post, but, to me, the simple answer is getting back to the system and playing with confidence and consistency as they did a short time back. There can’t be any quit in the boys, and guys like, Tavares, Hunter, Bergenheim and Streit have to get their scoring touch back. Without a doubt, the Isles are way ahead of the expected, development curve, and not making the playoffs will not be a “disaster”, yet somehow squeezing into that final 8 spot would be a tremendous achievement for this young team.