The New York Islanders are coming off two emotional, hard-fought games in New York against their closest rivals in the Metropolitan Division standings. They won both of them, then had to hop on a plane last night to visit TARANA, where the tanktastic Maple Leafs await.
They also lost their #1 goalie -- for a minimum of six weeks -- though the backup Thomas Greiss has league-leading stats thus far. They are missing two regular defensemen in Calvin de Haan and Marek Zidlicky, though that provides an opening for Ryan Pulock to continue his maiden NHL audition.
Speaking of defensemen...one-time Islander TJ Brennan, the guy who can NEVER get a fair NHL chance, is finally getting another NHL look with the Leafs tonight. Good for him. Good luck to him. Hope it doesn't cost the Isles tonight but ends well for the perennial AHL star.
Islanders (37-20-7, 3rd/Metro) @ Maple Leafs (21-33-11, TANKST)
7 p.m. EST | MSG+, WNYE 91.5 FM, WRHU 88.7 FM, LI NEWS 103.9 FM
[air, land, patriotism] Centre
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If Mike Babcock took this job because he was excited to build something from the ground up, then he's getting what he asked for. The Leafs are on the very ground of the NHL, now in 30th place with a six-point cushion, and they're tanking so hard while learning valuable "lessons" and stuff, I'm sure.
But they're improving, in baby steps, doing what Mike Babcock can do while the rentals are shipped out for picks.
Light moment in Babcock presser as NY reporter notes there's so many ?s about future but Leafs do have game tonight; Mike: "Great point!"— Mark Masters (@markhmasters) March 9, 2016
The Islanders, of course, have been there. Not quite so well, not quite so nakedly intentionally (catastrophic injuries also marked their Kohn-and-Sim days), but definitely there, as we all remember. Back in those days, tanking wasn't spoken about in polite company; only vulgar fans could speak of it. The aristocracy would avoid it, or only speak of it in indirect "we like our youth" terms. But these days even Proud Proven Winner coaches are permitted to acknowledge it. Why, even Proud Proven Winner Lou Lamoriello will tacitly acknowledge that it is a thing.
Anyway, the Isles are not there now. They're in a playoff hunt. They have expectations from within and death threats from without if they don't at least win a round this year. If that round should come against their cross-town rivals, all the better.
But they have to keep this going. They've quietly won four in a row, seven of their last eight, 11 of their last 14. That includes a 7-2 stretch in their last nine road games, including a few clunkers-but-we-won against teams like the Leafs.
The Leafs. Leo Komorov is their leading scorer. Garrett Sparks is their goalie. Matt Hunwick's loss for the season is considered a major injury. The Leafs!
Still, danger. A trap. Be careful out there, in TARANA.
Former Isles Update
- Brad Boyes: out
- P.A. Parenteau: expected to return tonight
- Poor Michael Grabner: also in
- Brennan: in
- Wendel Clark: retired
Leave your First Islanders Goal picks here.