02/02/2022 vs. the Seattle Kraken
How could anything bad happen on a date like this? Well... Jordan Eberle returned to Long Island for the first time since being plucked by the Seattle Kraken in the 2021 NHL Expansion Draft and later that night left a happy camper.
This game was by far the consensus worst game of the 2021-22 season and for good reason. The Islanders came out completely flat for a full 60 minutes in Eberle's return. There was no excuse for the Isles in this one either, as a fully healthy roster finally played together and had been so for a few games at this point.
The Islanders were outshot 20-11 through the first 40 minutes of their lifeless effort. Varlamov was the only reason the Kraken were held scoreless through the first two frames. Eberle, of course, found the scoresheet on the Kraken's first goal with a primary assist on Jared McCann's 19th goal of the season giving them a 1-0 lead at 6:04 in the third period. Just over two and a half minutes later, Vince Dunn padded Seattle's lead and in the closing seconds, Mason Appleton hit the empty net to make it 3-0. Varlamov finished the night with 28 saves on 30 shots, but it wasn't enough as he received no support on home ice.
The Islanders defeated the Ottawa Senators 4-1 the night prior, but it was no excuse to lose to the Kraken in front of their home crowd. Seattle finished 30th in the NHL and last in their division allowing 3.46 goals against per game. Philip Grubauer was equally as bad in 55 games this season with a .889 SV% and 3.16 GAA. The Islanders were hopeful that with a healthy roster that they might be able to string some wins together and possibly squeak their way into the playoffs. However, after being shut out by a bottom-five team in the NHL in front of their home crowd, it felt as though their fate was sealed from that game moving forward.
Honorable mentions go to the Islanders' home opener (the debut of UBS Arena) and the 3-2 shootout loss to the Montreal Canadiens on Feb. 20th on home ice. However, they weren't as bad as the previous three. The losses to Minnesota and Nashville were both crushing in their own ways, but losing to a bottom dweller such as Seattle on home ice, with a fully healthy roster, in Eberle's return to Long Island, and aspirations to make a push for the playoffs feels like the worst loss of the season. When Barry Trotz says it's one of the more disappointing games he's coached, you know it's bad.
"To me, it's one of the more disappointing games that I've coached as an Islander coach, to be honest with you. It was quite disappointing. We've had some games where we've got taken apart by a really good hockey team, but the effort's there, maybe we made some mistakes, but I just didn't think that our level of desire today was very good."- Barry Trotz