The deceptive allure of the NHL's version of ".500" is it's so polluted with shootout wins (and losses) that it's not a meaningful target. And that's not because "Hey, 4-4-3 is actually 4-7, 'cause you LOST those breakaway drills!"
Rather, it's because the NHL takes what is usually a two-point game and, when tied after 60, makes it worth 50% more: Suddenly a whole standings point is determined by the coin-flip or, as sometimes ... happens, officiating incompetence.
So 82 point after 82 games isn't .500 anymore. (Granted, this is not exactly news.) Failing to add points above your games played total is how teams quickly fall behind. Applied to the Islanders' record, one extra win or two SO/OT losses instead of regulation losses would have the 4-6-3 team at a nominal points parity position of 13 points in 13 games.
Which still isn't good enough. If the players look at that cosmetic record and say "just two wins and we're 6-6 and on our way," then they risk missing just how productive you have to be to even be in playoff contention in this league.
They need to start winning four of six, reduce regulation losses and hopefully steal their own share of coin flips. The quarter pole is 7-8 games away. Going 5-3 would put them at just 9-9-3 after Thankgiving, at the 21-game mark, which is usually only good for fourth place at best in any division.
Not Last Year
What's overlooked by the fans understandably having nightmare flashbacks to last year, at least record-wise, is 2010's 21-game death march was marked by just three OT/SO losses. The Islanders weren't just "losing" in the NHL's ambiguous definition of the word, they were failing to pick up points at all, piling up 17 regulation losses in that stretch. (Incidentally, their "strongest" stretch in that streak was a three-game run where they lost in OT to Atlanta and Columbus and mercifully, finally, won a game against New Jersey. Three bad opponents.)
So yeah, they can rightfully tell themselves that a mere 4-6-3 start is "not last year," not by any stretch.
But what is this year? In preseason I had them down for not making the playoffs but for keeping themselves in that bubble conversation until the end. That's not a bad step in a rebuild where many of the gems are still on the farm or in juniors, after another summer where your Martins and your Ehrhoffs refuse you flirtatious advances.
Alas, it won't be very meaningful if it requires another second-half resurrection (unless that resurrection were led by the eventual successors to the current underperformers).
We're a few weeks from the quarter pole. Red Wings GM Ken Holland always says he doesn't know his team until Thanksgiving. The day after Thanksgiving, the Isles will be at 19 games and begin a home-and-home with the Devils -- after playing the Canucks, Rangers, Flyers, Bruins, Penguins and Canadiens in the interim. They were 4-12-5 on that day last year. What'll it be this time around?
Links of Diversion
- Post-Game Coverage, Avs 4, Isles 3 (OT): Our recap and plus/minus | Mile High Hockey | Newsday | Denver Post's gamer and "Avs saved Sacco" piece; Also: combatants Matt Martin and Ryan Jones are old friends, which might explain their not-quite-violent fight | Okposo Net | NYIFYI
- Newsday bit from Staple saying Andrew MacDonald's offense needs to come around.
- Botta on potential changes, and realistic questions...
- ...and Botta with Jaffe on identity, physicality, call-ups and such.
- FanShots: The 3rd jerseys are coming Nov. 16 | On the Bettman-Fischler interview aired last night (but taped a couple of weeks ago) | Cablevision's HD appeal denied
- Flyers-Lightning-gate: Guess which side Lemaire is on? | Oh, and longtime ref Kerry Fraser doesn't appear to know the rules on this any better than anyone else ... problem is, he thinks he does.
- Watch Ryan Strome in the [mass sandwich] Super Series.
- In praise of Strome.
- The All-Star Game ballot, if you care. Here are the Islanders who made it.
- A critical look at the absurd Pekka Rinne extension: Driving Play: A Look at the Pekka Rinne Extension
- Fun stuff here, Jack Johnson is the one who stands out to me as cold, hard truth: The 7 NHL players with mind-blowing career plus/minus ratings - Puck Daddy
- Grab-bag of topics: Five Hole: Playing 'breakout or fluke' with Corey Perry, John Tavares and a pair of Maple Leafs - NHL - Sporting News
Goalie Dramas: From 6 to 4 in 60 Seconds?
Mikko Koskinen is not on the trip for Worcester today, but no update on whether there is a loan for him in Finland. Follow Michael Fornabaio there for that and for blow-by-blow of today's Sound Tigers day game.
Evgeni Nabokov has not been asked to waive his no-trade.
To quote Fat Sam (George Wendt) in "Fletch": "When it comes, it comes." So chill.