In the annals of home/road narratives that typify our feeble attempts to characterize with simplicity which forces are at work in a hockey season, the 2016-17 New York Islanders were a bad road team and an okay home team with a road-heavy late schedule that would be their undoing.
When Doug Weight took over as interim head coach and the Islanders immediately cashed in his opening six-game homestand with a 5-0-1 record to climb back into playoff consideration, all looked with horror at the nine-game road trip that would surely be their undoing.
Instead, they came back in good wild card shape, having gone 5-3-1 on a road string spanning two trips to end February and begin March.
You know where this is going because you saw it, and because you know way too much is put into home/road records: Since that road trip the Isles have gone 0-4-1 at home while winning all three away from Barclays Center.
Now they’re in desperate straits again, with talk of “must wins” and “crazed dogs” (a recent Weight favorite) as they play back-to-back tonight in Philadelphia and tomorrow night at home to the Devils.
Standings Outlook: Scary, but Doable
The Islanders are four points behind the Bruins and one point behind the Lightning with seven games to play. Anything can happen, just like anything has happened over previous seven-game stretches in the standings, but the window for those favorable happenings gets narrower with each passing day.
And loss. Especially with each passing loss.
The Flyers can actually tie the Islanders tonight with a regulation win.
The Lightning are home to the Red Wings tonight.
The Bruins are home to the Stars. Gulp.
Somehow, scratching Thomas Hickey has become a thing in the Weight era -- proof that it’s always only a matter of time before each new coach is branded an idiot by fans. Between him and Ryan Pulock, it’s like the Isles are saying “Maybe Vegas will think they aren’t even good enough to be sixth defenseman on an Eastern bubble team.”
On the bright side, Johnny Boychuk is back in the lineup after missing 12 games, and he’ll be paired with Nick Leddy, which is a pairing Weight re-instated after his predecessor Jack Capuano stubbornly broke it up.
But Hickey sits (as does Scott Mayfield), while Adam Pelech pairs with Dennis Seidenberg.
Thomas Greiss starts in goal opposite Steve Mason.
Players to Watch
Jordan Weal has played 18 games with the Flyers and shined. Shayne Gostisbehere is also back in a groove after a mid-season stint in “young fella’s got to learn” press box purgatory. (By the way: Never believe a player who says hip surgery didn’t affect their near-term performance. They always come back a little slow at first.)
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