The Devils are famously 21-3-2 over their last 26. The Islanders are anonymously 10-3-3 over their last 16, with an Atlantic-high 49 points since Dec. 16. Two points separate them, yet one is the darling and the other is that team of thugs that is playing with "no pressure." Heh.
When last these two parried, the Devils had a slight edge in play but the Islanders took them to the shootout, a long shootout, where Brian Rolston's deke was the difference. If there's something to be learned from that game, it was the tactical discipline the Isles showed against a red-hot (and even more disciplined) Devils team, as well as the immeasurable quality of not giving up: Twice the Isles scored late equalizers, including Blake Comeau's to send it to OT.
I mention their comeback not for the nebulous traits known as "heart" and "never say die" attitude, but because, well, the Islanders don't give up. Yesterday I'd given up -- after 39 minutes of play it looked like Tim Thomas was stealing a win despite the Islanders controlling play. Then the Isles got one back with two seconds left in the second period and then started the third period like a team intent on taking the game that was rightfully theirs. The comeback win was a perfect example of the blurry line where skill and luck flirt with one another:
The first goal was a fantastic bit of skill by John Tavares and Matt Moulson -- who not only scored the goal but battled to prevent a clear just seconds before. Yet the tying goal was not Michael Grabner's best opportunity of the night -- probably not even in his top three -- nor was it a good moment for the otherwise-great Tim Thomas And the go-ahead goal by Jack Hillen required the generosity of Dennis Seiderberg's torso to beat Thomas.
Play hard and play well, and sometimes you'll still be down 2-0. Keep playing hard and playing well, and sometimes your luck and the averages will come back to your side.
So where are the rightful averages for tonight's two squads? Where is the mean?
Both had horrendous first halves that cost their coaches in the season's only firings to date. In one sense, we know neither the 21-3-2 or the 10-3-3 are sustainable. In another sense, all those runs have gotten them is 25th and 26th place overall. Lady Luck totally screwed them this year, causing mid-winter break-ups, and she is only now paying her debts and returning that Pink Floyd album now that all have moved on to happier places.
|7||Buffalo||NE||67||33||26||8||74||28||194||193||+1||14-15-3||19-11-5||5 - 1||6-2-2||Won 1|
|8||NY Rangers||ATL||69||35||30||4||74||28||195||169||+26||15-16-3||20-14-1||7 - 2||4-6-0||Lost 1|
|9||Carolina||SE||68||31||27||10||72||27||194||206||-12||18-10-4||13-17-6||4 - 5||4-4-2||Lost 1|
|10||Toronto||NE||68||29||29||10||68||25||178||209||-31||15-13-7||14-16-3||4 - 5||4-2-4||Lost 1|
|11||Atlanta||SE||68||28||28||12||68||25||189||219||-30||15-14-7||13-14-5||3 - 7||3-5-2|
|12||New Jersey||ATL||67||31||32||4||66||28||143||172||-29||16-14-3||15-18-1||3 - 1||8-2-0||Won 1|
|13||NY Islanders||ATL||69||27||32||10||64||24||192||218||-26||16-15-5||11-17-5||3 - 5||5-2-3||Won 2|
|14||Florida||SE||68||27||32||9||63||23||169||188||-19||13-14-7||14-18-2||4 - 4||2-6-2||Lost 1|
|15||Ottawa||NE||68||25||34||9||59||24||153||209||-56||11-18-5||14-16-4||1 - 4||7-3-0||Won 3|
For those of you still hoping for a miracle playoff run, don't let my pessimism sour you. This site is first and foremost rooted the joy of hockey fandom, in whatever non-antagonistic expression that takes. I see the Islanders with one fewer games left and the biggest mountain to climb -- 10 points and five teams -- as a sign that time has effectively run out. But we all remember April Dubie's Week, and there's a reason they play the games.
I think the Devils are also out because this run is due for some speed bumps. But their proposition is much greater if they win tonight, particularly in regulation: They'd be caught up with Toronto and Atlanta, and they'd have more non-shootout wins (the tiebreaker) than everyone else in the bubble except the Rangers and Sabres.
But really, the different ways you can twist it is why this time of year is so fun even for teams likely but not mathematically on the outside. Tankers want an honorable loss, playoff hopefuls want a regulation win, and I just want another hit for my intrigue fix. Oh, also: For Moulson and Grabner to make the 30 Goal Club.
Links and Notes
- Great quick write-up from Brett Cyrgalis of the Post, asking Jack Capuano how he felt about the Chara decision. Where quotes, questions, and legit context meet. Also: Quotes from his gamer.
- Dee talked to Matt Moulson about his hitting game last night, where the stat keepers only credited him with two.
- Unstated yet whether Al Montoya will play back-to-backs again. He wasn't worked too hard by the B's last night. UPDATE: Yes, he's starting.
- Mikko Koskinen is hurt. Fornabaio: "As usual, no real disclosure on Koskinen." The Sound Tigers have signed another goalie to a PTO as the Year of the Goalie Turnstile continues up and down the organization.
- Nino Niederreiter's WHL Player of the Week has been upgraded to CHL Player of the Week.
- From LHH user NHL_Fan: Apparently a whole lot of great Bryan Trottier memorabilia is up for auction. I don't gamble and I don't bid on auctions for the same reason, so I'm just gonna stuff my wallet in the dog's chew toy.
- Our SBN Devils friends at In Lou We Trust have their game preview here.
- I don't know how to break this to you, but Evgeni Nabokov is not walking through that door. He's a scratch tonight due to Carl Lipbaum's Syndrome (severe anxiety attack, day to day).
Leave your FIG (First Islanders Goal) picks in this FanShot here, and add a haiku or poem with the names of Devils if you're feeling up to it. (It's JP's idea, inspired by the PPP quotes the other night after the Leafs game, and it's a way to spice up the FIG threads. And to celebrate the frivolity of living and dying through the athletic achievements of 20- to 34-year-olds.)
Game Thread: This post will serve as the in-game comment thread too. I'd have had this one up earlier, but Ma Bell wouldn't cooperate on the Internet front, and these weekend back-to-backs always mess up my routine anyway.