The Islanders were 20 minutes away fromIn the final tally, the Islanders head into the Olympic break tied for 12th place in the mediocre East, a full six points behind the 8th seed. It didn't look that way after a strong first two periods left them up 3-1 at home on the Senators, but that up-and-down teasing nature is how Year 2 of the rebuild has gone.
The Islanders had tantalizingly close missed opportunities from John Tavares and Kyle Okposo -- and a third-period-opening 5-on-3 -- that all could have extended the lead and changed this game. Instead, the Senators steadily chipped away: A get-me-back goal at 3:47, a tying powerplay goal at 9:13, and an "Are you still stunned?" game-winner just 1:33 later at 10:46. Reeling, the Islanders' best chances at getting it back came in the dying minutes, when Brian Elliott and Anton Volchenkov's puck-smothering hand were enough.
So much for pre-Olympic rest: There we were, theorizing that Scott Gordon had cut Mark Streit's minutes back to a more humane 20+ leading up to him carrying Aucoin-like minutes for Switzerland. Well, this afternoon Streit logged 26:34 -- way more than recent minute-munchers Andy Sutton and Andrew MacDonald. I notice Streit plays Gordon's Team USA on Tuesday, mwahahaha.
Maybe this is a lesson this young team needs: You cannot take periods off, you cannot take leads or opponents lightly. Particularly when you're a thin team with little margin of error, you need urgency, urgency urgency. Perhaps the bitter taste of a blown lead and two huge points lost, tasted throughout the Olympic break, will serve as a lasting reminder of just how important every shift is.
Game Highlights (NYI feed)
Rollin' Roli Railroaded: In a wild shootout of a game (shots: 37-35 Isles), both Dwayne Roloson and Elliott made some big saves throughout. With the Islanders backing up, I'm not sure if Roloson could have staunched the bleeding even if given another chance. But you know giving up a 3-1 third-period lead kills the goalie more than anyone.
Comeau Scores Again: Blake Comeau, which player are you? The one who drives the net and converts like Matt Moulson with pretty hands like the second goal, or the guy on the perimeter prone to paniced passes? The last two games were easily the former (although that first goal was another shot from outside, dependent on Freddy Meyer creating a screen). The nearly check-from-behind boarding penalty was physicality taken just a bit too far, or a bit too carelessly.
The Right Side: The topic of right wing depth has come up from time to time and on the topic of Trent Hunter's long-term place; during the intermission break Comeau said he now feels about as comfortable on the right as on the left. If true, and if he can play more consistently (always the big IF), that's a needed bit of flexibility.
Speaking of Hunter: It was a very sweet play by Hunter to steer around two Senators and get the puck over to Moulson for the goal, made possible by the Great and Trusty Dane Frans Nielsen.
Speaking of Moulson...: Cheers to Matt Moulson, closing the first three-quarters of a storybook season in style by scoring his 22nd goal -- from where? Right in front of the net, of course.
Martin Devotion Continues: Kudos to Matt Martin, who threw two big checks -- This one's for Tim Jackman, Mr. Carkner -- when the rest of the team seemed shellshocked after blowing the lead. I don't think anyone doubted this back in training camp, but the kid knows his job and he's determined to do it.
Damn the Luck: If Elliot doesn't rob Tavares twice, if Sean Bergenheim converts on the shorthanded breakaway, if Kyle Okposo doesn't shank that wide-open-net shot on the third-period powerplay, if Okposo is able to finish the dramatic break he created while shorthanded ... any of those probably puts the Islanders one point short of last year's 82-game total, and four points short of a playoff position heading into March.
Staff Assignments for the Break: Fix the power play. Please. (In fairness, it has looked a little more dangerous at times in the last few games, though still frustratingly unsuccessful.)
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So here we are: 62 games in, 58 points compiled, a few more blown third-period leads suffered. All in all, I'd say the Islanders are about where most people would have expected heading into this season: Within shouting distance of the playoff bubble, but also another losing streak away from a secure lottery pick. I'd venture this is overall progress and the expected warts, stops and starts of the rebuild, but that's a topic for now and the rest of the break.
Speaking of the Olympic Break, we'll have random game threads here as well as Islanders-focused content. Several reader have taken to the live game thread format, so if there's an Olympic matchup or even an off-topic riveting curling match you'd like to keep tabs on, feel free to create a FanShot for real-time discussion. Otherwise, if you have any requests, send them my way in comments or via email.
Thanks to everybody for reading, for participating, and for keeping it cool while rooting and debating with an Islanders heart on your sleeve.