Mired in a slump of epic proportions for this New York Islanders team, the return of Jaroslav Halak and Nick Leddy brings optimism to the table.
There is no need to do a pregame write-up for the New York Islanders and New Jersey Devils game tonight. The story is the simple fact that the Islanders have Nick Leddy and Jaroslav Halak returning to the lineup.
- Islanders, 43-25-4, 90 Pts, 2nd in Metropolitan
- Devils, 31-29-11, 73 Pts, 5th in Metropolitan
How much was Leddy missed? The Islanders went 0-4 with his absence.
Leddy leads all of the teams defenseman with 10 goals and a plus-17 rating. No one may have ever thought he was such an impact player, his reserved presence is beyond key to the team’s success and has been notably missed.
Leddy leaves it all out on the ice for his team and let’s his play do the talking.
Jaro will be between the pipes and the sigh of relief from Islanders fans may have caused winds reminiscent to hurricane Sandy. Michal Neuvirth had shown some signs of making solid big saves but his play is the obvious crack in the Islanders armor.
The team is going to have to lean on Halak for the remainder of the season as they jockey for position.
It has been conspicuously obvious the team does not play half as well when Halak is not the keeper behind them. Chad Johnson and now Neuvirth seem to have never given the team the confidence that they can be as aggressive when they feel their last line of defense will not bail you out.
The backup goaltender situation is a large hole that the Islanders are going to have to hold their breath on. Garth Snow went out and did make an upgrade, yet it looks as if Johnson has possessed Neuvirth and the kid has not had any solid games like he did with the Sabres.
With that said, when you are in-goal with a team that is the bottom of the league and you are seeing 40 plus shots it makes no difference if the puck hits the back of the net. Far less stressful than being in the middle of division battle. Only time will tell us what the kid is made of. My gut tells me we will not really find that out with the return of Halak.
Coach Jack Capuano loves to give his goaltenders rest but it is go time now. The Islanders have not been in a position to win a division under Capuano and being the top seed is exactly where this team wants to be. Capuano is a fantastic players coach and will know when to rest Halak.
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The Islanders after tonight’s game are going to have to find that playoff gear and find it fast. This coming week is needed to be taken like a playoff series with a tough four game home stand against four teams that are locked in with their own playoff births or fighting for one.
The Isles will face the Minnesota Wild (wild card), Los Angeles Kings who are two points back of a wild card, The Anaheim Ducks (Pacific Division leader) and the Detroit Red wings who are the third seed in the Atlantic.
The Islanders had a tough time last week with the playoff type games. You cannot lose any intensity for sixty minutes, something the Islanders seem to do in the middle of their matches. That is where Halak gives his team the time to snap out of their stupor. The next ten games are going to impact the club and they need to find that pack of wolves mentality on the road and especially at home again.
The Isles already have the respect around the league because they have earned it with the position they are in. It is now time to prove there is even another level of play they can reach and it must start tonight.
It is time to get hot and with the electric feel that the Nassau Coliseum has with the interaction between the players and fans is just special. Driving through the parking booths, watching the fans tailgating, then the walk up to the barn and entering the circular narrow halls sends all of us back to the 80’s. Opening the door to your seated section then you either go left or right to make your way up or head straight and the white of the ice catches your eye.
The echoing chant’s of “let’s go Islanders” already going during the pregame warm ups.
This season the team has given all of us fans one last run at the arena we are all going to miss. They have found a way to not be just good but to be great. The “Yes, Yes, Yes ” chant and all of this adds up to a very emotional end of a season and final playoff at our old barn.
The “Yes, Yes, Yes ” chant and all of this adds up to a very emotional end of a season and final playoff at our old barn.
We must be the sixth skater for our boys and it is going to get frustrating and ugly but I know I am not alone, there is a magical essence about this club and they feel it. They want nothing more but to give the fans back what we have been begging for, a winning team. They did that for us now they need to know they are as good and better than any of the teams they are going to play.
If there is any time to ever get hot it is right now. The team knows it and the fans know it. Let’s play some hockey.