The Canadiens are playing the second of a back-to-back tonight, so no excuses for the Islanders. True, the Habs trounced the Hurricanes last night, and chances are they'll have their share of fans in the building. But the Isles should be angry, and focused, to end this slump before it elicits deja vu.
The Canes, by the way, are pretty much a mess lately and should never have been expected to be very good this year. Some are calling for Paul Maurice's head, though I'm not sure he has the pieces to do much better. Or rather, they were a somewhat fortunate team last year, so a regression in results was expected by many. It will be interesting to see where they shake out vs. the Isles this year, since they usually steal points from the Islanders no matter how good or bad they're playing.
Anyway, back to the Habs: It wasn't but a couple weeks ago when people were calling for their coach's head. (Gee, do fans and pundits in this league panic much?) They won only one of their first eight games, and the torches were out, and everything was wrong, and "I can't believe X, Y and le Z."
But then they won four in a row, and in fact seven of their next eleven (two OT wins, one shootout loss), so they're at a more respectable 8-7-3 today.
They are not staying afloat in the traditional Markov-era way, i.e. through a fantastic powerplay (still at just 13.2%). They are not doing it through fortunately high shooting percentage (8.1%, bottom third of the league). And they're not even doing it through Carey Price scene-stealers, as their team save percentage is a solidly middle-of-the-road .912.
They're outshooting teams, not giving up but one or two goals most nights, and generally holding their own with possession despite some pretty inconvenient injuries. This isn't a "bad" team like the opening Fire-Martin weeks of the season, and it's not a dominant team. It's just another solid opponent that will require -- get this -- full effort and focus from the Isles.
Think they can manage that, even after a Rangers game?
The Islanders tweet that Evgeni Nabokov starts, Rick DiPietro backs up, and the lineup remains the same (i.e. Kyle Okposo scratched again, as is Mark Eaton).
$30 ticket deal: Quite a lot for $30 tonight.
- Arthur Staple at Newsday talked to Kyle Okposo about what he needs to do when he returns to the lineup.
- We hashed out the official (finally) unveiling of the 3rd jersey last night...
- ...and had great fun when Puck Daddy confused an Islanders legend for an Islanders owner.
- The Islanders called the event a success, and Matt Moulson riffed on modeling.
- The retail director explains the thinking behind the third jerseys.
- The Isles and players' wives are joining the Love for Lokomotiv effort.
Josh Bailey turned over the game winning goal two nights ago, yet at every turn Nikita Filatov still looks like a worse 2008 bet. Crazy.
- Speaking of strugglers, The Cannon addresses Rick Nash and the ways out of a funk.
- A topic that's come up around here: Players (like Blake Comeau the other night) effectively running their own goalies.
Leave your FIG picks for tonight's game here.