Now how shall we spin this relative hot streak? A 4-1-1 homestand? The Islanders have won 4 of 5? 5 of 8? Taken points in 6 of 8? Since they ended January's 8-game losing streak with that Yann Danis-stolen victory over Anaheim, they've earned 22 out of a possible 40 points -- which is by no means playoff-like, but is far off a Tank for Tavares pace. Thank goodness for a miserable December.
The Islanders now embark on a six-game road trip -- with some serious opponents -- which may temper the
enthusiasm newly emerging fan worry that the long-sought reward for all this losing -- the Tavares-weighted lottery pick -- will somehow slip away.
Today's offensive stars will sound like a broken record through the rest of the season: Kyle Okposo, Josh Bailey, Jeff ... Tambellini? Passer Bailey potted a rare goal after the again-impressive Mike Iggulden started the rush and created a wide-open rebound. Tamby's goal came from -- get this -- going to the net, as ordered.
But it's funny: The Islanders' top six forwards are now purely the young core because all the old veterans have left the building: Doug Weight and Richard Park are still injured, Bill Guerin and Mike Comrie are dealt away, and now even Trent Hunter is injured for the year. It's the young kids' time now by design but also by accident.(Incidentally, Guerin had a big day on Sidney Crosby's wing and looked positively 96 World Cup-ish with his enthusiasm. His long search for meaningful hockey is over.)
Homicidal Penalty Kill
But it wasn't just the pretty shots that made the day. Danis naturally took first star with his career-high-tying 40 saves. But he and other penalty killers (Mark Streit, Bruno Gervais, Radek Martinek, plus forwards Andy Hilbert, Dean McAmmond and Okposo) helped squash Coyotes power plays, including two 5-on-3s and one 6-on-4 with the goalie pulled.
Granted, the Coyotes' two-man advantage leaves much to be desired and leads one to question exactly what it is Wayne Gretzky teaches this team.
"We didn't capitalize on either five-on-three," Phoenix coach Wayne Gretzky said. "I believe you should score on every five-on-three situation."
Well, OK then. He at least teaches them what should happen. But the way the Coyotes used the two extra men reminded me more of a middle school fire drill rather than the Oilers' dynasty interruptus that received the torch from the Islanders but fell a Steve Smith'd 1986 short of replicating it. OdinMercer of Coyotes blog Five for Howling suggested that the 'Yotes PP will never improve while Ed Jovanovski is on the point.
Whatever the answer, we won't see it. This is the modern NHL, so we won't see these desert dogs for quite some time. Why, the fact we even saw them twice this season was just a scheduling accident that reminds us the league's more glamorous teams want their extra games to be against other glamorous teams. So it goes.