After two thrilling, fan-affirming, metrics-fulfilling wins over Metropolitan Division rivals this week, most New York Islanders fans might forgive the club if they have a letdown in Montreal tonight, less than 24 hours after completing a 6-3 comeback win over the Penguins at the Coliseum.
Whether or not the players succumb to that kind of thinking -- or "narrative" depending on how actual events play out -- will add another data point in the "Man, this team is for real for real" chart that's in the consciousness of every Isles fan. While we can debate the legitimacy of such things, the fact is swings in concentration and collective effort -- added to the usual travel grind -- are part of human nature. So it will be interesting to see how the Isles start tonight.
What they'll face in the Canadiens is another of the East's stronger and hotter teams, but one missing its top goaltender.
With the Isles flying out last night and having no morning skate, you won't hear from coach Jack Capuano until 5 p.m. Other than a possible goalie switch for the back-to-back, expect no lineup changes, barring injury.
Last meeting, the Isles swarmed the Habs in the first period, but Carey Price did his thing and kept the damage to 1-0 at the first intermission, enabling the Canadiens to push back and take the win. No Price tonight, but possibly no Jaroslav Halak either. Chad Johnson was in goal for that 3-1 loss at the Coliseum.
A weird thing from this morning: Alex Galchenyuk has apparently told his coach he's more comfortable at wing. Via nhl.com:
"As a coach and with a young player I've got to make sure that he's developing well, his confidence is there. I asked him where he felt comfortable, because it's a lot of responsibility to be a centerman, and he told me that right now he believes that he's going to feel a lot better on the wing," Therrien said. "He's going to be able to play his game better than he was at center, less thinking, less responsibility, so together we took the decision that moving on the wing, and I'm going to support Alex 100 percent. We're going to work with him and I'm sure the kid is going to be fine."
Galchenyuk, groomed as a center, has played mostly wing since entering the NHL. But the plan always appeared to be to Nelson him -- easing him in at wing while taking over a pivot depending on how the depth shakes out in the future. Something to watch.
Meanwhile, from HEOTP's fearless leader:
I know he plays with Tavares but Kyle Okposo is clearly frigging amazing and no one ever talks about him. Why?
— Andrew Berkshire (@AndrewBerkshire) January 17, 2015
A four-goal night and the sudden gush of media coverage of the Isles might change that.
Anyway, both of these teams are 7-2-1 in their last 10, but Montreal has just three points from its last four games, including a 4-1 loss to Ottawa last time out (which itself was the second half of a back-to-back). A lot of traditional themes in play for this one...and then over here you have plain ol' hockey.
Mark Guiding the Isles
By the way, LHH's Mark D.'s charge to the Cup (or, the 1993 NHLPA "EA Cup") in the name of fighting cancer is on-going this afternoon. He's doing this in the memory of a friend who died at age 26 earlier this month (the same day J.P. Parise passed, in fact). At the time of this posting, he was trying to eliminate the Penguins in a tense seven-game series with...yep, Montreal looming. Find the details and how to contribute in this post. Cheers to everyone who has stopped by to encourage him.
Leave your First Islanders Goal picks here. It's okay, the winner doesn't have to score four.