On paper, what looks like a solid start to the season for the New York Islanders has left many fans frustrated at the effort, perplexed at the lack of discipline, and disappointed in the coaching.
Last night's 4-3 OT loss to the Detroit Red Wings was an opportunity for the Islanders to attempt to pull ahead of one of the teams bound to be battling with them for a playoff spot in the Eastern Conference. But instead of waking up this morning 5-2-1 and on a three-game winning streak, they find themselves 4-2-2 after eight games this season. Good, but not great for a team that continues to feel like a work-in-progress despite so many returning parts from last season.
The Isles will say they will take positives away from last night's game and move on, but it's hard for that to be the focus when you blow a 2-0 lead at home in the third period. They got a short-handed goal, scored on the power-play, and their goaltending was solid. It's a game where you need to lock down defensively, pat attention to detail, and secure the two points.
It just didn't happen that way.
Here's my recap and assessment of the game.
This was a game in which the Islanders started off fairly strong. Halfway through the first period, Ilya Sorokin had seen roughly three shots on net, we saw Bo Horvat have a breakaway opportunity, and this team was not putting themselves in a position to take a massive amount of penalties. The fourth line has gotten off to a fairly strong start this season yet again, despite many (including myself) ready to move on from them. The best opportunity for them comes right at the tail end of the first period.
One of the stronger shifts to this period was at the 9-minute mark when we saw Anders Lee play with Horvat and Mathew Barzal. Husso was brilliant with one sprawling save, along with a couple of others. It is almost like moving to a different country, moving your family to a different country, and having to step up after Barzal goes down had a negative impact on Horvat last year. Who would have thought?
The second period started off strong for the Islanders. It seemed that as the Islanders failed to score on their first PP of the game, the momentum had lost them. They had taken a penalty after a flurry of saves by Sorokin, and confusingly enough, Cal Clutterbuck had gotten a 10-minute misconduct for apparently saying something to a ref. With the lack of discipline this team has had this season, I think to myself whether or not this outburst would have happened under former head coach Barry Trotz.
The Islanders show an immense amount of resistance in the later part of this second period. Holmstrom goes to the box for a slash based on touching another player's stick while Detroit takes a Star Wars-style lightsaber swing, breaking a stick that went uncalled. It was none other than Casey Cizikas who flew down the boards, cut to the middle of the ice on a shorthanded breakaway, and cut to the backhand to put the puck in the back of the net slowly.
This third period was nothing short of a disaster. While it started off with one of the bright spots on this team in Noah Dobson, the team followed that up by allowing three straight goals. Sebastian Aho getting absolutely undressed by Daniel Sprong and Ryan Pulock losing his guy backdoor who snuck behind the net really summed up the difficulties of this game.
At the 4:10 mark, we heard that sweet, sweet song we love to hear, which was Barzal to Horvat. Note that Dobson, yet again, controls the puck strong at the point. It almost makes you want to forgive him for not scoring on his amazing opportunity at the faceoff dot with a little over one minute to go.
Sadly, last night did not end on a positive note. Getting a point out of being down 3-2 with 5 minutes to go is always a good story, but this is a game that really needed to be a win. Horvat fumbling the puck at the blue line, and Dobson falling down way too early led to a goal for Detroit in OT.
There are certainly worse things than blowing a two-goal lead late in the third and still managing to grab a point out of it. Thursday night against Washington will give the boys another shot to get a streak going here.