I think we can all agree by now that the NHL’s COVID protocol is stupid. Every guy on the team is vaccinated, or else he would have been sent off to Siberia like prospect Bode Wilde, the lone holdout from Lou’s organization-wide mandate. And yet, the team is essentially being punished for the misfortune of having positive tests of likely asymptomatic COVID in the middle of a pandemic. There should have been way more protections to ensure that this protocol wouldn’t leave teams crippled for multiple games.
Of course, even with those guardrails, losing two defensemen and a center to injuries would hurt, too, and the Islanders have lost Ryan Pulock and Brock Nelson for the next few weeks, while Noah Dobson is day to day. All of that, in the middle of a rough patch luck-wise as the Isles’ shooting has dried up. Nothing is going the Islanders’ way this year.
But with Anders Lee, Josh Bailey, Adam Pelech, Andy Greene, Zdeno Chara, Kieffer Bellows, and Ross Johnston all out due to COVID protocol, the league should have granted Lou Lamoriello’s request that these next few games be postponed. This combination of COVID and injuries is too much for any team to deal with. When the Ottawa Senators had 10 players out due to COVID, they had three games postponed. The Islanders are just going to have to try coughing on each other a little bit more, I guess, or else just drop more points to division rivals with a very AHL-heavy roster.
Well, the recap of this game is simple. For one period, the Islanders looked pretty good, but eventually the reality that a defense with Thomas Hickey, a guy who hasn’t played full time in the NHL since the 2017-18 season, as its most tenured player is likely to be a disaster sunk in. Hickey has been a good Islander in his career, and it was nice to see him get to play a game at UBS Arena, but he’s never had a role on the contending version of the New York Islanders under Barry Trotz, and his previous experience wasn’t going to change that fact.
Andy Andreoff picked up his 14th NHL goal, his first in years, and Otto Koivula picked up his first NHL point with the assist, on the Islanders’ lone tally of the evening. Chris Kreider scored twice, as did Kevin Rooney, for the Rangers’ four.
Notable for the next time these two teams meet on Sunday is that JG Pageau caught a lot of attention from multiple Rangers after a hit on Ryan Lindgren that sent him briefly to the locker room. It wasn’t a bad hit, maybe slightly late, but the Rangers took exception to it, with Adam Fox jumping Pageau after, with both players getting roughing penalties. After that, Alexis Lafreniere intentionally tripped Pageau, then skated up to him to pick a fight with under 5 minutes left in the game. He somehow avoided an instigator penalty which would have given him an automatic one game suspension despite his actions almost certainly applying to the rulebook definition of that penalty:
46.11 Instigator - An instigator of an altercation shall be a player who by his actions or demeanor demonstrates any/some of the following criteria: distance traveled; gloves off first; first punch thrown; menacing attitude or posture; verbal instigation or threats; conduct in retaliation to a prior game (or season) incident; obvious retribution for a previous incident in the game or season.
I mean, this league.
It’s the seventh straight loss for the Islanders, and the seventh straight by more than three goals. The Islanders have scored 7 goals and conceded 31 (!!!) in those 7 games. To be fair, four of those games precede the COVID breakout, but they also were at the tail end of the grueling 13 game road trip to open the season. If you were hoping the team would find their rhythm at UBS Arena, unfortunately COVID’s had other plans. 10 points out of a playoff spot with a -19 goal differential is just hard to be optimistic about right now.
- What’s it gonna take for the coaching staff to realize that dividing up the talented players isn’t helping? Might as well just sit Barzal if he’s going to play with Panik and Parise instead of Beauvillier and Palmieri or Wahlstrom. At least let these guys get a little bit of confidence offensively.
- Not much you’re going to be able to do about defensive miscues with just one regular defenseman in the lineup.
- Varlamov’s been struggling this season and the offensive woes have made that more pronounced. Sorokin played really well in Varlamov’s absence after a shaky start to the season, and should definitely be getting more of the workload.
Next, the Islanders host the Pittsburgh Penguins at UBS Arena on Friday. Hopefully some more players will come off of COVID protocol and the roster can start to get back to full health, we’re gonna need it.