There are mitigating circumstances — so, so many circumstances — but after a frustrating 1-0 loss at home to the Pittsburgh Penguins, the New York Islanders have now lost a tenth of their regular season schedule in the last 20 days.
For the Islanders, it was their eighth regulation loss in a row, which makes it so much worse since they haven’t salvaged regulation points from even one or two or three of these efforts, some of which were never good enough and some of which could’ve really used a nice bounce or two.
For the Penguins, who’ve had their own spells of struggles and injuries this year, it was their fifth straight win to pull them back to 10-6-4. That’s still only good enough for fifth in the Metro Division, an ominous reminder to the Islanders of how deep this hole is.
As much courageous talk as there has been about the potential of this team righting the ship once its litany of regulars start to return to the lineup, my goodness, for that to pay off then everything in the rest of the season will have to go as extremely right as it’s gone wrong through the first 17 games.
To go eight games without a regulation point is hard to do even for a terrible NHL team, but the Isles, in addition to dressing so many AHL callups and players in unfamiliar roles, have also been remarkably snakebitten.
Isles last 10 games.— Bleuchz (@Bleuchz) November 27, 2021
Expected goals: 26.17. Goals: 15.
Just not fair with everything else the team is going through to be snake bitten on top of it.
Tonight was no different. Though they didn’t deserve to win, of course — you know, not scoring any goals and not doing jack with your power play does that — they still played well enough, or “in it” enough, where had the result been different you couldn’t say “they had no business winning that game.”
Trotz: "This is one of the biggest challenges I've faced (in my career). And I started with an expansion team."— Andrew Gross (@AGrossNewsday) November 27, 2021
They made it nearly 40 minutes keeping the game at a “anything can happen” 0-0 score. But their first power play was futile, and was followed not long after by the only goal of the game: A Penguins 4-on-2 (with Matt Martin as one of the “2”) became a 2-on-1 where Kasperi Kapanen wasted no time taking the resulting gap, after Martin went for the hit, and whipped a quick shot inside the far post.
That made it 1-0 with three minutes left in the second period: Still a totally winnable game, but undeniably deflating given everything else that’s happened since their confident swing through Montreal and Winnipeg.
Late in the third, with the Isles in their last desperate pushes, Otto Koivula was robbed by Tristan Jarry’s toe on his way to a shutout. Yes, Jarry! You know, the goalie they torched last spring to the point people thought he’d be run out of town. That guy, he shut them out.
Ilya Sorokin made 29 saves, including a stop on a Sidney Crosby breakaway that would’ve iced the game with two minutes to go. But that’s an afterthought, it’s all an afterthought, because the Isles are down to 5-10-2.
They’ve lost the first four games at their new arena amid a Covid- and injury-addled lineup carnage that has yet to abate. Their minus-20 goal differential puts them in the company with the worst teams in the league, which is the company they now keep with just 12 standings points through 17 games.
Even on nights where the effort’s been there, the offense and most glaringly the power play has not been, which results in lopsided scorelines against the top teams and frustratingly close but still convincing losses to the average teams.
This spell will break, surely it will, we keep saying. This is not Scott Gordon’s final roster...it’s just in the middle of a nightmare streak that smells like it.
Here’s Barry Trotz’s post-game. He said the young guys are “doing what they can” and he had even nicer things to say about Otto Koivula and Grant Hutton, and some conditionally nice things about Robin Salo. (He was also asked about Anatoli Golyshev, and said he feels others are still ahead of the Russian callup.) Regardless, he sees this as the biggest challenge of his storied career, which began with a terrible expansion roster in Nashville:
Trotz Postgame Availability pic.twitter.com/dMl9dFQjb3— New York Islanders (@NYIslanders) November 27, 2021
The Isles play at the Garden on Sunday, in Philadelphia on Tuesday, and back at home to face the Sharks on Thursday. Will they get some points before some of the regulars come back?