New York Islanders Need to Stay Focused to Keep Winning
By Andrew Eichenholz
After losing a heartbreaker on Long Island before heading out on a road trip on the west coast, the New York Islanders were in trouble. Two tough teams later, and the Islanders were in the dumps, stuck in a three-game losing streak, with plenty of questions to be answered. One of those losses came against the Colorado Avalanche, and a big loss it was, a 5-0 beatdown. Twelve days later, the tides were turned.
When the Avalanche, a speedy team who many thought would be amongst the elite of the National Hockey League, paid a visit to Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum last night, they saw a team that in a way is a bit in itself. Well, in the consistency department at least.
Nov 11, 2014; Uniondale, NY, USA; New York Islanders left wing Nikolai Kulemin (86) beats Colorado Avalanche goalie Semyon Varlamov (1) for a short-handed goal during the second period at Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum. Mandatory Credit: Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports
Much like the Islanders, Colorado has a lot of talent, widely considered a playoff hockey team. However, their porous defense so far this season yielding a seemingly impossible number of shots has left them in a hole in the standings early on in the year. A couple of weeks ago, as the Islanders looked to be struggling both offensively ad defensively, they had plenty of worries as well. 40 shots came off an Islanders stick, and none of them got past Semyon Varlamov.
Yesterday, the Islanders got 46 shots on Varlamov, again under plenty of pressure. This time, it was a different Islanders team on the ice, with a far different result. Six different Islanders, none of whom are named John Tavares, scored a goal, leading the team to their 6-0 victory.
By the way, Long Island’s own have not given up a goal in over two games, and they only gave up one in that matchup with the defending Stanley Cup Champion Los Angeles Kings.
“A team could play well one night, and have all the talent and recognition in the world. If they do not show it on the ice, however, good luck to them.”
All success comes with joy, of course, but there are still plenty of things to work on for the Islanders. One of the most important things is puck possession, and where else to look for that than the face-off department. All season up until this point, a constant theme has been the Islanders getting beat, if not dominated in the circle. Now what exactly does that mean?
For starters, it means that the team has to work to get the puck in the first place. It is much easier to play the game of hockey with the puck, not without it. Obviously, it is pretty hard to score on your own net, and that almost always happens by accident when the other team is attacking in your zone, anyway. Furthermore, in the offensive zone, winning face-offs enables coach Jack Capuano and company to instill plays, specifically made for causing havoc and opening up scoring opportunities.
Now, the last two games have been better, with the Islanders doing a far better job of hanging in there on face-offs, tying and actually doing better than their opponents the last couple of games. However, if they start to get away from that, other teams will get more opportunities, and the winning theme and great play could start to turn around, and fast. Hockey is not the type of sport in which the ship could be righted in an instant. It takes time to build up solid play, and it is not easy to get it back once a team starts to lose confidence. That is why it is of the utmost importance to maintain the recent intensity.
With Jaroslav Halak and Chad Johnson both playing well in the net, especially Halak recently, it is even more important for the Islanders to stay on track. With two straight shutouts for Halak, teams will start to notice, and try to force the issue instead of playing their brand of hockey, something the Islanders will want. If the defense starts to lose their recent mean streak, however, an opposing team will feel more comfortable, making Halak and Johnson’s life that much harder.
So, as the Avalanche got ousted, in an 11-goal turnaround compared to their 5-0 win not so long ago, there is a lesson to be learned. A team could play well one night, and have all the talent and recognition in the world. If they do not show it on the ice, however, good luck to them. The Islanders can only hope that that does not become them.