It was the best of times it was the worst of times...
After a 2-1 victory over then 2nd seed Boston Bruins, the Islanders continued their NHL Best 8-1-1 record in their last 10 games (Tied with Washington and San Jose). As Islanders fans we are used to hearing that the Islanders have gone on an NHL best record but that was always the start of the season the last couple of years. It has been some time since the Islanders have had a meaningful run this late in the season.
Since the inception of the John Tavares Era the Islanders have jumped off to either lead the Eastern Conference or Atlantic Division during the first month of the season. Each of those years, Islanders fans gets excited because they believe its finally the year to break the playoff drought. Instead the Islanders have dismal second months that always seems to bring about another losing record instead of a winning one.
Through the years, Islander fans have made many excuses to why the team goes through this losing month and ruins the season. One of my favorites is having an inexperienced NHL coach (which one long losing streak cost Scott Gordon his job and brought in Jack Capuano). Another is the Old Barn , which is exactly what it is...old, and because of that no NHL worthy player wants to come and play for the Islanders. My favorite excuse of all...Rick DiPietro and his contract. Only the diehard fans realize when it comes to building a team, there are going to be long hard years with many growing pains. If people think I am nuts, look at the Chicago Blackhawks and Pittsburgh Penguins, both teams had long playoff droughts and drafted properly and both teams are part of the NHL elite and a Stanley Cup. So why can't the Islanders do the same?
The 2013 season starts (Damn lockout stopped it from being the 2012-1013 season) and the Islanders look like a team on a mission. In January 2013 they started 4-1-2 with a huge win over the powerhouse Penguins. But it's not as impressive as it seems with only a +4 goal differential (27 gf and 23 ga). When we watch the games and look at the Islanders closer we see a mediocre (old) goalie, a defense that looks a bit to shaky with too many parts in and out of the games. At that time the only line scoring was the Tavares line, but let's be honest Tavares and Moulson were the only two scoring. Okposo looked out of place and didn't seem to have much chemistry with the two scoring machines. Any Islander fan that has watched the team closely the last few years and with the mediocre play of all but two Islanders can assume what's about to happen.
What's next for the Islanders, build off their good start? Not a chance. What comes next is the dreaded second month of the season. The Islanders second month looked as bad as the games looked, 4-9-1 with 35 gf and 45 ga. Well that doesn't look like a playoff team for the first month. Against unbalanced scoring and a defense that didn't look in sync, Nabokov was not playing like the goalie of old or the one we hoped he can be.
Could we blame everything on Nabokov, of course not but he was not nearly as bad as the tale the numbers tell. As I have heard family members call him Mr. Softy, Nabokov for 55 minutes a game will stand on his head but every game it seemed like for 5 minutes there would be 2 goals I am sure he would like back. Being a former goalie I feel for him, but again I am sure he blames himself. Even so, those five minutes would ruin games and any hope of the playoffs.
Through the first two months of the season the Islanders are floating between 9th and 13th place in the east with a horrible minus goal differential. But something is about to change...