Joshua Lindsey-USA TODAY Sports
We’ve been down this road before, Islanders fans. It’s the beginning of December, and had the season already ended, the Islanders would be well out of a playoff spot.
The Islanders have been riddled with injuries all season, dating back to mid October when Lubomir Visnovsky went down with a concussion in a Saturday game against the Carolina Hurricanes. Visnovsky has not played since then.
For the most part, since Visnovsky’s injury, the Islanders defense has struggled terribly. They have lacked experience and at times, effort, and it’s shown on the ice. The Islanders’ defense is without doubt the biggest and most profound cause of their terrible November struggles.
Certain players struggled more than others, as demotions were made on the defense. While the move certainly surprised many, rookie defenseman Matt Donovan was sent down to the Bridgeport Sound Tigers of the AHL on Thanksgiving Day, and Calvin de Haan was recalled from Bridgeport for the second time in his career.
Donovan hadn’t really done much to be sent down for: there were some defenseman he had played better than, but being the rookie on the team was the guy to take the fall.
However, whether you agree with the roster move or not, there is no denying the brilliant play of Calvin de Haan. de Haan certainly has earned his stripes in the two games he has appeared in, arguably playing the best defensive style on the entire squad.
The young blueliner wasn’t just thrown into the ice against struggling players, he got legitimate ice time against arguably the two best hockey players in the world in Sidney Crosby and Alex Ovechkin.
While de Haan’s play has been brilliant, the same could be said about Anders Nilsson.
Nilsson was recalled to the Islanders on November 17th following an injury to Evgeni Nabokov the night before. Nilsson made his first of the season against Washington last Saturday, and played very well. He held superstar Alex Ovechkin in check for most of the game, until one defensive breakdown lead to an open shot for Ovechkin in the slot who scored and won the game in overtime.
Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports
Nilsson was angry after the loss. He put much of the blame hmself,something that he definitely shouldn’t have given his tremendous night in goal. Nilsson’s evident desire to win and work ethic are very evident in the locker room, as the Islanders have lacked serious sparks of life the last handful of weeks.
Head Coach Jack Capuano decided to go with Nilsson against the Pittsburgh Penguins for Tuesday’s game after what he saw on Saturday night. Nilsson played absolutely amazing against Pittsburgh last night, stopping 31 out of 34 shots, and nearly stealing the victory for the Islanders yesterday.
He had me jumping out of my chair last night at the Coliseum. His play was outstanding, and had he not been in net with his size, the Islanders easily could have surrendered five goals, as the Penguins piled scoring chance on scoring chance.
One can definitely make the case that both Nilsson and de Haan have been the Islanders best players in the last two games however their presence has yet to result in any victories in the standings.
However, with both Evgeni Nabokov and Lubomir Visnovsky, two large pieces of the goaltending and defensive core, likely coming back in the next few weeks, the season for these two players may be in jeopardy.
The Islanders need to make decisions on who’s staying with the team soon. Whether or not we’ll see de Haan or Nilsson after the injuries affecting the Islanders subside remains to be seen and is hanging over the club.
There is certainly not a day gone by that things are not interesting on the Island.
What do you guys think on this siutation? Who do you want to stay with the team. Let me know in the comments below, and we’ll discuss it in the comments below. And of course, thanks for reading.