The New York Islanders are in the home stretch of the season -- though about to head on the road for a long while -- and things are a bit absurd in the Eastern Conference. I'm here to be the "professor" of the Isles in their last week of play, where they went 2-2 with two huge wins, and two upsetting losses. All four games were in the Eastern Conference, and only one was against a team they weren't in the race with (Rangers).
Some report cards from the past week:
The question among Isles fans has been the same for the past year and a half and many have been left scratching their heads. In a brilliant sophomore season where Strome hit the 50 point mark, last year he seemed lost and obviously butted heads with Capuano. The skill is there, but at most times the effort and drive doesn't seem to be evident in his game.
Strome started out slow this year too, but he's been killing it under the realm of Doug Weight. It really makes you wonder how bad Cappy's relationship with some of the players was and how he could not push them to perform at the highest level (Accountability HA).
Strome has been shooting, fore-checking, keeping his head on a swivel and doing everything else that makes someone blessed with his skills put up points and play a solid game in the NHL. He was all over the Ice in Sunday night's 6-4 win and finished with 2 goals and 1 assist. Those were the only points he put up all week, but he did get in a fight in Toronto which gives him a half grade up in my book.
Grade - B
It surely went unnoticed when the Islanders picked up Gionta in the off season for a tryout, as he was more of a depth player if he even made the team. He's a small, speedy and gritty player, playing in ALL 82 games last season for the Devils. A
Rochester. New York native, Gionta plays with that NY grit that every fan loves. His insertion into the fourth line with Cizikas and Kulemin was a gem for the Isles this week. That line has tremendous speed and a tantalizing fore-check, which was evident in Gionta's strip from Staal to feed Ladd for the tie-breaking goal in an eventual 4-2 win against the Rangers.
Averaging under 9 minutes per game in the week. those few minutes were enough to get on opponents heels, and really didn't make you miss Matt Martin too much (Well, a little).
Grade - B+
This has been a concern the last few seasons with the Isles, as it seems they try to make the perfect pass way too often. If you shoot, you will get chances, and that needs to be done more. They also have a tough time getting in the zone unless Leddy is flying or Tavares is deking out the whole defense, and that needs to be fixed. The dump and chase really doesn't work for them, so something has to be done.
The Isles went 1 for 11 in on the PP in four games this past week, and that's unacceptable. Will a move before the deadline to bring in another scorer -- or how about bringing that 100 MPH shot in Ryan Pulock up -- fix this PP?
Grade - C-
Isles' Play At Home
For anyone who has been watching this team all year, we know how different they look at home. They look especially good when they wear their black third jerseys, which makes you think that maybe the opposing team can't see the puck.
The Isles are now 9-0-2 under Doug Weight at home, bringing their overall record at Barclays Center to 20-8-6. They beat the Rangers and Devils at home this week, and look remarkably different in Brooklyn.
Grade - A
Things weren't as good on the road this week, again, as the Isles got crushed against the Leafs and played a disappointing game visiting the Devils. There were a ton of Isles fans in Jersey and Jersey sure is close enough to Brooklyn, but the team just doesn't seem to come out ready to play on the road, especially the first 10 minutes.
We don't want to really mention the Toronto game, even though the game could have had a totally different score after the first two periods (thanks goal posts). With a franchise record nine-game road trip starting Tuesday in Detroit, Weight and the Isles better figure out a way to fix this or the next time we see them in Brooklyn they will not be in playoff contention.
Grade - C-
The Look Ahead
Overall, it was a so-so week for the Isles. I wouldn't have minded if they went 3-1 and only lost to the Rangers, as that game was not as important as the other three. It was jaw-dropping to see how the Isles played in Toronto, where a win would have leapfrogged them to the second wild card spot in the East.
We are getting secondary scoring, Ladd and Chimera have been lighting the lamp, and the team looks motivated again. But the powerplay and road play need to get better immediately or it doesn't look like the Isles will climb into the playoffs for the third straight year.
We'll check back next week, after the beginning of this historic nine-game road trip gets underway!