There are times throughout a season where the head coach will go out of his way to either praise or criticize his team publicly through the media. Last night, following the New York Islanders' 1-0 shootout loss to the Philadelphia Flyers, head coach Lane Lambert chose to focus on the positives.
“The effort was outstanding,” said Lambert. “We’ve played a lot of hockey lately and traveled a lot lately including last night. The four defensemen that played last night played a ton of minutes last night. It wasn't necessarily pretty at times, but I thought we gutted it out. And we battled and I give our team full marks.”
The shootout loss ended the Islanders three-game win streak, but extended their point streak to six games, the longest such streak with Lambert leading things behind the bench.
The Islanders played their third game in four nights and had to travel back to Long Island following Friday night's 5-3 win in Ottawa. Throw the added dynamics of Thanksgiving Day, and that's a tricky schedule for any team to navigate, made more difficult by the number of minutes four of the team's defensemen had to play following the injuries to Adam Pelech and Sebastian Aho.
Even with Samuel Bolduc drawing in and Grant Hutton being recalled from Bridgeport, Scott Mayfield (21:10), Alexander Romanov (22:52), Ryan Pulock (23:33) and Noah Dobson (28:41) all logged 20+ minutes. Hutton played 10:11 while Bolduc skated for 12:44 and received some time on the power-play that struggled to find a rhythm all night.
“Being able to earn the spot to come back up here and play with these guys was awesome,” Hutton said. “It means a lot to me and my family, my wife got to drive up today and watch and that was just a huge opportunity and I'll try to take advantage of it.”
The numbers are especially eye-opening for Dobson, who played just under a full 60-minute game the last two nights, which has pushed his average TOI to over 25 minutes (25:01), which is the seventh-highest in the NHL. For perspective, no Islander has averaged more than 25 minutes a game since the 2013-14 season since Andrew MacDonald and Travis Hamonic both did it.
Heading into last night, you knew it would be a difficult spot for the Islanders to earn two points, but aided by the play of Ilya Sorokin, they kept the Flyers off the board for 65 minutes and do so with a quartet of defensemen that every right to look fatugued and Lambert chose to recognize that.