Tonight was Semyon Varlamov’s first game back in Colorado since he signed with the Islanders this summer. He spent eight seasons there, and they gave him a nice tribute video.
But the Islanders did not do much to make his return to Denver memorable. Other than it finished off one of the worst road trips in franchise history.
The Avalanche took a quick lead as they dominated much of the first period. They were skating circles around the Islanders before they got a bounce to go their way. Cale Makar fired a shot from the point that caught Joonas Donskoi’s stick and fooled Varlamov for goal no. 1.
To add injury to insult, Derick Brassard took a puck off his face—looked like it caught him above his cheekbone, possibly in or near the temple, but I cannot confirm from the video where exactly it hit him. It was a Ryan Pulock wrist shot that ricocheted off the skate of Anthony Beauvillier. He was crouched on the ice for a while and did not return to the game.
That horrendous first period ended with the Avs on a power play that negated an New York man advantage. It carried over into the second period, and though the Islanders didn’t concede a power play goal, they may as well have.
Colorado is a fast team and they showed their speed in many a zone entry tonight, including on their second goal. Makar hit Nathan MacKinnon with a stretch pass and both his and Andre Burakovsky’s entry speed caused the Isles to back off. MacKinnon dropped the puck off for Burakovsky as he weaved through the slot and Burakovsky let go an electric wrister :45 into the second.
The Islanders had a couple chances through the rest of the period, but didn’t much threaten Avalanche goalie Pavel Francouz spent a decent amount of time in the penalty box. Kieffer Bellows, of note, took his first NHL penalty. Congratulations, sir.
The push was on for New York early in the third, and it looked briefly like Brock Nelson may have scored before the on-ice call of goalie interference was confirmed. But that really just made the game a little more even, and the Avs put the finishing touches on this one.
Makar, again, made a nice individual play—a double-COZO, if you will—to get Mathew Barzal to take a holding penalty, but Gabriel Landeskog tipped a MacKinnon shot before the delayed penalty extra attacker joined the play.
The Islanders pulled Varlamov down 3-0 with just under three minutes to play and Nelson got the Islanders on the board to break Francouz’s shutout and offer a thread of hope. They pressed all the way through their time with the extra skater, but to no avail.
- So, yeah. 0-4-0 road trip with exactly two goals scored and ten goals allowed. Absolutely brutal. Only consolation is that we wouldn’t have to worry about facing any of these teams unless the Isles made the Stanley Cup Final, which, if they manage that, that’d be amazing.
- Speaking of the playoffs, though, not feeling overly confident in their chances of doing anything in the postseason right now. They’re now down to the second wild card and are even or close to even in games played with most of the teams around them—lucky for them, they’ve played two fewer games than the Blue Jackets, so they get to cling to the eighth spot.
- Speaking of ugly, I mean, that game, wow. The Avalanche are a machine. They are dealing with a rash of injuries themselves and they still waxed the Islanders. They’re going to be a scary team in the postseason. But to be fair, New York was supremely disappointing in a chance to salvage a bad road trip, and especially in Varlamov’s return to his long-time home.
- Keep in mind that they were in four different time zones in the last eight days, and that their already-thin roster is severely depleted. You can only hope that Brassard is okay, because you saw how ugly it was having only two real centers playing.
- Here’s the thing: with a bunch of guys into their 30s who are just beginning their contracts, they need to go for it now. They can’t afford to not go for it now, because those guys with the big contracts aren’t going to get any better. In fact, they are going to get worse, perhaps sooner rather than later. Lou Lamoriello needs to go out and get a couple better forwards—especially a center. I don’t know what he’s going to have to give up, but I think he’s going to have to throw a little caution to the wind here.
Furthermore, the Islanders, despite this skid and the tightness of the race, are still good bets to make the playoffs. All the more reason to go for it. You never know what’s going to happen once you get there, but we’d all feel a little more confident with a couple better pieces.
Gonna be at about here when play starts tomorrow. So, overall, it's not exactly bleak. But they had an opportunity on this road trip and, frankly, pissed it away. https://t.co/3DvBc2LAkb— Carey Haber (@habermetrics) February 20, 2020
Friday night is John Tonelli’s number retirement ceremony. It starts at 6:30 p.m., and the puck drop is 8:00 p.m. They’re playing the Red Wings, one of the worst teams ever iced in the salary cap era. If they don’t win that game, when they’re fired up by the legacy celebration and playing a historically bad team, I’m going to throw my laptop out my second floor window.