This one really felt like a must-win game, and the New York Islanders... did not win it. With Mat Barzal out due to COVID protocol (yeah, that again), the Isles played a road game with only 3 natural centers. Zach Parise filled in as a “center” but that ended up mostly creating a mishmash of lines throughout the game.
The offense struggled with the loss of Barzal, no surprise, and Ilya Sorokin was the reason this game was really as close as it was. This team just isn’t clicking right now, and the injuries and COVID and everything else is just contributing to make this season an example of Murphy’s Law.
Ilya Sorokin was needed early to keep the game even at 0-0 in a mostly uneventful first period.
Anthony Beauvillier had a few decent chances in the first, but couldn’t convert on any. He at least looked more engaged than he has in the past few games prior to his healthy scratch, so maybe the game off helped him get his head back into things.
Scott Mayfield took a hooking penalty with about 5 minutes left, but the Islanders were able to kill the Red Wings’ power play.
Late in the period, Noah Dobson gave the puck away, and Beauvillier was solid in backchecking to break up the 2 on 1.
The Islanders had some good chances to start, and Casey Cizikas was able to draw a penalty about 5 minutes in while driving to the net, sending Jordan Oesterle to the box for tripping. The Isles didn’t do much with that power play though, which would be their only one for the night.
Later, Sorokin made an amazing save after the Islanders couldn’t clear the puck, and Palmieri went to the box for slashing.
On the power play, Dylan Larkin took a shot that deflected off Scott Mayfield and in to make it 1-0 Red Wings.
After that, Adam Pelech broke up a Sam Gagner chance, and the pressure from Detroit led to Barry Trotz calling a timeout.
A high stick on Cal Clutterbuck was missed by the refs and went uncalled, but a high stick from JG Pageau gets spotted, and the Red Wings went to the power play yet again.
Sorokin made big saves on shots from Tyler Bertuzzi and Moritz Seider on the power play, and the Isles were able to kill.
The best offensive chance for the Islanders came when Brock Nelson, Anthony Beauvillier, and Josh Bailey were on a 3 on 1, and Brock Nelson’s shot was saved by Nedeljkovic, and then Bailey picked up the rebound and got it to Robin Salo up high, who hit the post on his shot.
The second period would end with the Red Wings up 1-0.
The Isles came out strong in the third, with a Dobson shot saved by Nedeljkovic, followed by Pius Suter batting it out of the air with his glove to ensure it didn’t bounce behind his goaltender.
The Islanders had a bunch of chances, though many of them from less-than-ideal angles, and Nelson created a great chance on his own in the offensive zone that was saved by Nedeljkovic.
Zdeno Chara pinched deep into the Red Wings’ end to try to set up some offense, but his pass didn’t work out as intended, leaving Noah Dobson stuck defending a 2 on 1 with Michael Rasmussen and Filip Zadina. Rasmussen then scored to make it 2-0.
Oliver Wahlstrom had a shot saved by Nedeljkovic, and with 3 minutes left, the Islanders pulled Sorokin for an extra skater. Noah Dobson’s shot was deflected by Anders Lee to make it 2-1 with a little over 2 minutes to go, but the Islanders couldn’t get a second goal, with JG Pageau getting a nice shot off right after the buzzer.
- Uhhh... don’t look at the standings now, but the Islanders are 16 points out of a wild card spot. I know everyone cites the Blues comeback, but they were 15-18-4 (so they had 34 points) at the end of the year. They went 30-10-5 (a 118 point pace!!!) in 2019 to make the playoffs. The Islanders would have to win all 7 of their games to end the year in order to get to 33 points and 14 wins, though with a few less games played than the Blues at that point in history. And that’s all without Mat Barzal for the next few while he’s stuck in Detroit because of COVID.
- Obviously the Islanders aren’t in a position to do it now, but Josh Bailey and Kyle Palmieri are going to need turns in the press box, just like what Beau got. These are three of our top six wingers, and they have all been pretty putrid this whole season.
- The Islanders also aren’t in a position to tear this roster down. Almost everyone we’d want to get rid of is signed for a while, and the guys who aren’t are mostly not good enough to fetch anything beyond a 7th round pick, and even that might be generous.
- The Red Wings’ strategy for getting zone time today was to just dump the puck in around Chara and skate around him. This team needs an answer on LD that isn’t the ghost of a first ballot Hall of Fame defenseman.
Next, the Isles will head home to UBS Arena to take on the Boston Bruins, assuming the league hasn’t shut down due to COVID issues by then. Tons of teams are coming down with cases now, with players being pulled mid-game, so a problem we already know is terrible is getting even worse. If that game goes on, though, it’ll be another must win for the Islanders.