A game against the Florida Panthers in game eight is far from a ‘must-win’. But Jordan Eberle’s comments about how important this game is for the New York Islanders reveals a negative change to a narrative.
Starting the 2018-19 NHL season, the thought was that the New York Islanders weren’t going to do well. After the loss of John Tavares and then acquiring a parade of bottom six players the idea of a winning season wasn’t on the cards for the Isles.
Of course, management and players know this. They all saw the speculation surrounding the team before a puck was even dropped on the season. Which lead to an uniformalised rallying cry: “we’ll show them!”
The New York Islanders had something to prove to everyone in 2018-19. They were going to show that everyone was wrong for dismissing them so early. Eberle’s statement shows an early fissure in that narrative.
It’s Early But…
With seven completed games and a 3-4-0 record, it seems early in the season to start talking about must-win games. And Jordan Eberle knows that. But that sub-0.500 record doesn’t necessarily instill the sense that the New York Islanders are going to be a winning team this season.
Their three wins were all big positive statements for the team. Against Carolina, they showed that they could win even if they had less than half of the possession. At home to the San Jose Sharks, they demonstrated that solid zonal play and sticking to the system can work. And then against the Kings, the Islanders showed that they shouldn’t be underestimated. Putting up seven against a typically solid defensive team.
But with that came a greater number of losses some with equally negative statements. Like both games against the Predators. The Isles aren’t good enough to check out of a game for a few minutes. A loss that came from a poor three-minute display against the Preds proved that. The loss against the Sharks on the road showed that they’re still prone to major mental mistakes defensively.
With a 3-4-0 start to the season, they aren’t proving anyone wrong. In fact, they’re showing everyone that the New York Islanders are who we thought they were.
What Jordan Eberle is saying is that a win tonight, while only literally keeping them at .500 would at least cast reasonable doubt that the Islanders might not be that bad. A loss on the other hand, and falling 3-5-0 to start the season puts a big damper on the Islanders ability to change the narrative.
It’s by no means over for the New York Islanders if they lose tonight. The season is still in its infancy. Turning it around is entirely possible. Remember what happened in the second half of the 2015-16 season when Doug Weight took over?
But we also know that since 2011 78 percent of teams who are in a playoff spot by American Thanksgiving end up in one come the end of the season. Creating whole to dig yourself out of early in the seasons doesn’t usually end well.
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Making this game a must-win might sound a tad dramatic, but with the expectation that the New York Islanders cast on themselves at the start of the season it makes sense.