Tom Szczerbowski-USA TODAY Sports
A woeful November all but forgotten, the Islanders have rebounded with strong play in late December through the mid-way point of January. Now, having won eight of eleven overall and seven straight games on the road, the team is riding a hot streak and approaching an historic game in team history.
With a win over the Florida Panthers on Tuesday the 2013-14 Isles will have tied the franchise record for consecutive road wins with eight. The record was established during the 1980-81 season, and would put today’s incarnation of the franchise in some pretty elite company. The roster of the record-setting Islander team reads like a who’s who of Islander history, featuring such luminaries as hall-of-famers Billy Smith, Denis Potvin, Mike Bossy, Bryan Trottier, and Clark Gillies. To be included in any discussion with such esteemed names would obviously be a huge achievement for a squad led by John Tavares, Kyle Okposo and Thomas Vanek.
Rounded out by a solid supporting cast consisting of a nice mix of veterans and raw rookies, the team has finally begun to show the huge promise with which they entered the season. Following last spring’s surprising run up to the playoffs, to say nothing of the near-ouster of the Pittsburgh Penguins in arguably the finest first round matchup, expectations were high. A mediocre start was compounded by injuries to some key players and slumps by some others, and the team free-fell from contention and were written off by a small but vocal segment of the fan base and even much of the media. Hot streaks by a number of key players, including current Player of the Week Tavares, have seen the team’s offense rebound to the point where they can skate with any team with a reasonable expectation of a win. Trailing late in a game doesn’t even generate much concern lately, as evidenced by Sunday’s superb come-from-behind 4-2 victory over Dallas.
Tuesday’s game against the Panthers is the first meeting of the season for the two teams. Should the Isles emerge victorious, the potential record-setting ninth game would be Thursday’s matchup with the Tampa Bay Lightning. The Isles dropped the first and, to date, only meeting of the season with the Bolts in a shootout on December 17.
– JP (Joe_SoWhatElse)