The past month and more has been a downright nightmare for the New York Islanders. Can and will they recover in time for the Stanley Cup Playoffs?
Wow. Simply wow.
The New York Islanders have not only hit us with extreme surprise once this season, they’re doing it again.
First they decide to shoot out of gate just about as fast as any other team in the National Hockey League. Once the standings were sorted out a month into the season the Isles had a death-grip on the Metropolitan Division.
Nobody could catch them. Sidney Crosby and the Pittsburgh Penguins? The leading goal scorer himself Alex Ovechkin and his Washington Capitals? Or how about the resurgence from Rick Nash and the New York Rangers?
The Rangers? Please, don’t make me laugh so close to nap time.
Sure they were a great story last season, but this was a different Rangers team during the winter and they toiled in the No. 3 and even No. 4 spot of the division for most of the 2014-15 campaign.
The only thing that was left was to figure out who the Isles would be hosting in the first round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs as the top seed.
That was, until, February 16.
On that night the hated Blueshirts came into town riding a bus full of revenge after the team from Long Island smacked them down the first three games of the season – even humiliating them twice at Madison Square Garden (6-3 on Oct. 14 and 3-0 on Jan. 13).
The Isles were riding a four-game winning streak and winners of five or their last six heading into the showdown.
Mar 26, 2015; Uniondale, NY, USA; The Los Angeles Kings and New York Islanders players fight during the third period at Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum. The Kings won 3-2. Mandatory Credit: Anthony Gruppuso-USA TODAY Sports
They acted like it too once the puck dropped with a full out assault on the Manhattan squad.
Cam Talbot, who just assumed the starting job from an injured Henrik Lundqvist, was scored on by John Tavares only 11 seconds into the game. The Isles also took two separate two-goal leads in the game – 3-1 early in the second, and 5-3 early in the third.
However, this game became the last turning point we have seen in this suddenly worrisome season.
They choked up the lead and lost to the Rangers for the first time all season long, 6-5 on a late goal by Kevin Klein.
Since the that faithful Rangers game collapse, the New York Islanders record is a poultry 14-14-4, blowing bigger leads night after night. During the last 12 games they are 3-6-3.
Since the that faithful Rangers game collapse, the New York Islanders record is a poultry 14-14-4.
Making matters worse is how the Rangers have overcome injuries to key guys, while the Islanders have struggled after becoming whole with Kyle Okpsoso returning to the lineup. And oh yeah, the Rangers still have two-games in hand as they lead the division by a commanding eight points.
You know what the beauty about the NHL is though? As long as you’re in the tournament, you will always be a threat.
No other league boasts a playoff system quite like the NHL. A hot goalie, a hard working team, a bunch of guys who suddenly come together at the most ridiculous of moments – it sometimes equates to a Stanley Cup Championship.
Look no further than the 2014 Rangers. By no means were they world-beaters during the regular season. Hell, they had key injuries at the end of the regular season. After other-worldly stories started to unfold they suddenly became that “ride the momentum” team we see so often during the spring.
There’s no question the Islanders are down. Still, an intelligent hockey fan knows better than to think they have no shot in the tournament. Especially when the character of the team takes on a workmanlike attitude.
And that’s exactly what the Islanders are: an all out, out hustle, relentless forechecking, pain in the ass team to play against.
It might take just one play, or moment, but I assure you, the Isles will have their chance to click during the final seven games of the regular season.
Whether they capitalize on that opportunity or not remains to be seen.