In their latest embarrassing showing and arguably their ugliest loss of the season, the New York Islanders continued the disturbing, escalating futility that they have exhibited over the past two months Wednesday night in Toronto.
This time, though, they really turned it up to 11.
(Note: The coach did not see it that way. Not at all. More tweet/quotes from Newsday’s Laura Albanese at the bottom of this post.)
The 5-0 loss to the Maple Leafs was never in doubt. It wasn’t so much how they were dominated, it was how unstructured and chaotic they were. Sure, this continues their run of form, but occasional goaltending thefts or refreshing-mediocrity-and-luck performances have helped their record slightly mask the death spiral.
After tonight (and last night for a one-two punch), hopefully the powers that be running this franchise see where they really are.
No Weight yet. Longest lag time I’ve personally experienced going into a regular season NHL locker room. Make of that what you will.— Laura Albanese (@AlbaneseLaura) February 1, 2018
It doesn’t just raise the question — it vaults it to the top of NHL headquarters and blares the question out across the continent: What the hell is this team doing on the ice? What is this franchise doing with its on-ice product?
They have promising assets — enough, even, to think the franchise can turn it around quickly in a salary cap league and give John Tavares good reasons to stay and finish what he probably hopes he started.
But they so clearly need changes. From the top. Without friends and insiders who will perpetuate this constant self-sabotage. Without people who will sit on the things they got right (or stumbled into?) while hoping everything else will just fall into place.
I’m not going to waste too much space here unpacking the events of this game. After a lifeless showing at home against a weak team last night, traveling into Toronto for a back-to-back against a team playing its optimal lineup had all the makings of a disaster.
And so it went.
Shots were 13-3 for the Leafs in the first period. Control of the puck and shot attempts weren’t quite that lopsided, but the Isles’ approach to defense was its usual mind-boggling mess, while the Leafs did a good job of short-circuiting the Isles through the neutral zone and on zone entries.
Even when the Isles had pressure (so, like if John Tavares or Mathew Barzal had the puck, basically), the Leafs limited the danger. It’s almost like Cronin Theory, except applied successfully, and with enough possession the other way to not ever feel under siege.
That was how it started. That was how it was all gonna go.
Andrew Ladd was back in the lineup (Shane Prince was place don IR as Ladd was activated, if you missed it). Rather than return Ladd to the Barzal line with Jordan Eberle, they left Anthony Beauvillier there and put Ladd next to Brock Nelson and Jason Chimera.
Casey Cizikas in his second game back remained on wing (mostly) with Tanner Fritz and Cal Clutterbuck, likely protecting the hand/wrist/whatever injury he’s recovering from.
Oh, and Dennis Seidenberg was in for Sebastian Aho on the blueline. Speaking of which...
Seidenberg Is the (a) Reason for the Season
The first goal 5:37 in was just great. So great. Seindeberg sets the tone behind the net, teammates follow suit.
First TOR goal starts when they dump it in and Seidenberg, with unpressured help on the other side, loses the puck instead of moving it pic.twitter.com/rzmZi83Yof— Alex Novet (@AlexNovet) February 1, 2018
Let’s Leave Matthews Open
The second goal was bad in different ways. You don’t see the first mistake in the gif below, but Nick Leddy was split way too easily, then he and Scott Mayfield both chased ... leaving Auston Matthews all alone in the slot, where he is kind of good.
Barzal probably should’ve stuck closer to him, but maybe Barzal doesn’t expect both defensemen to abandon ship.
Shots? We don’t need no stinking shots
The second period was...oh why bother. The Isles didn’t.
Shots are 18-3 for the Leafs after 24 minutes.— James Mirtle (@mirtle) February 1, 2018
They reached the halfway point with an impressive six shots on goal for the game. Mitch Marner made it 3-0 with a deflection at 10:32.
Someone named Travis Dermott -- a 21-year-old rookie who played really well on defense all night — scored his first NHL goal to make it 4-0.
Justin Holl made it 5-0 in the third period, a real stinker given up by Thomas Greiss, for Holl’s first NHL goal in his NHL debut. In accordance with the prophecies.
Taking this one off. In no mood for a blue and white bloodletting. Congrats to all the Leafs scoring their first goals of the season tonight.— Dan Saraceni (@cultureoflosing) February 1, 2018
The Leafs pulled some crap with Barzal late, some high-sticks and stupid away-from-the-play stuff that went uncalled. Sure, show off your toughness for the dads.
It was one of those games where everyone across the continent — new school analytics fans and old school grumpy columnists — could see the Islanders for the absolute mess that they are.
The Islanders are actually the only NHL team with a worse All Situation xGA60 than Toronto (2.63 vs 2.57).— Stephen Burtch (@SteveBurtch) February 1, 2018
But that is the Leafs with Polak and Hainsey and no Zaitsev... I think this team is better than that defensively.
This defensive performance by the Islanders tonight is the worst I’ve seen since.. the last time I watched the Islanders play— Dimitri Filipovic (@DimFilipovic) February 1, 2018
Since Dec 18, (an 18 game stretch), the Isles top line has a Corsi of ~45%. John Tavares + Nick Leddy has a corsi of 41%. Something has gone horribly wrong, but it's not just missing players. #Isles https://t.co/iLYqPx0IQB— garik16 (@garik16) February 1, 2018
The Islanders have been abysmal tonight. Getting beaten to every puck and outworked by an enormous margin. One and done in the offensive end and a complete disaster in their own.— Ken Campbell (@THNKenCampbell) February 1, 2018
(Had to get an old-school grump in there, ya know?)
Granted, Wednesday night was a special brand of futility, but it’s interesting that many outside observers still don’t realize that they’ve been that way for going on two months now. But those of us suffering through this season’s particular route to futility know.
Where We Are
Take it away, Carey:
Genuinely curious to know what L&M are thinking seeing a tailspin for the second straight year under Snow. As a fan, can honestly say it feels pretty hopeless right now. This front office needs fresh faces in the worst way, but does ownership agree? Will they stomach a buyout?— Carey (@habermetrics) February 1, 2018
Again, this is agnostic of the final result of this game. They win or lose every game depending on how 5-6 players perform. If JT/13 score a bunch the next 40, they’ll win. Any deeper look at this team shows the massive gaps that exist.— Carey (@habermetrics) February 1, 2018
(There were more tweets in that thread, but these capture the spirit of the thing.)
I swear I watched a different game.
2/2 “We didn’t just drop a game. We worked & we didn’t succeed. They had a lot more jump than we did...If anyone knows how important it is, it’s the guys in that room. This wasn’t an effort that was lax or lazy. It wasn’t. It was disappointing.”— Laura Albanese (@AlbaneseLaura) February 1, 2018
Despite the lag time getting into the dressing room, Weight said he did not speak to the guys.— Laura Albanese (@AlbaneseLaura) February 1, 2018
"I had plenty of messages this morning and they didn’t need to hear from me after the game."
Death, taxes and a loss Saturday against the Blue Jackets?