The Islanders picked up eight more points and ran their winning streak to nine games. That’s great! But their captain is out, their lineup is in flux and their opponents are about to get much, much tougher.
First, let’s look back at the (draining but lucrative) week that was.
Last week for the New York Islanders:
Game 26: 2-1 SO win over the Bruins
Another entertaining, low-scoring Bruins-Islanders game. All won by the Islanders this season so far, which is mindboggling. And a shootout victory to boot! Also mindboggling!
After all these years away, the shootout still reminds me of Frans Nielsen. No matter how bad the Islanders were, I always felt confident in the shootout because they had the Danish Backhand of Judgment, a title bestowed upon him on this very website. I think a lot of people that still hate the shootout do so because they never knew the luxury of having a guy who was this automatic for close to a decade on their team.
This skills competition is no sweat when you’ve got the guy with this particular set of skills.
(How is there not a compilation of all of Nielsen’s shootout goals on YouTube? Someone make that happen for my enjoyment. Thanks.)
There’s no Frans Nielsen on this Islanders team but the shots by Jordan Eberle and Anthony Beauvillier (and later Oliver Wahlstrom) are reminders that this team can win in these scenarios. Overtime, still, not so much.
Game 27: 5-3 win over the Devils
Oh man. This sucked. When you see a dude as big as Anders Lee go down and have that much trouble leaving the ice, you know it’s bad. This is a man that takes abuse in front of the net for a living. The level of pain he must have been in must have been excruciating. To say Lee is a big part of what the Islanders are is an understatement. You can draw a direct line from Lou Lamoriello to Barry Trotz to Anders Lee and see how the team became so in synch.
So will Lou add a pickup now that Lee is out long term? That remains to be seen (I’m gonna say, “no” but trying to predict what Lamoriello will do is folly). One thing we do know is that the Islanders all understand their roles and what to do out there in Trotz’s system. So maybe this team’s familiarity can be their strength once again.
Nearly as hard to watch as Lee’s injury was seeing the Islanders stop playing in the third period with a 4-0 lead and give up three goals to the Devils to make the game too uncomfortable for my liking. In fact, all three of these games were closer than you’d expect from two teams on opposite side of the standings. Bring back the Sabres!
Game 28: 3-2 win over the Devils
Then again, maybe the Islanders’ key pickup is already here! Barzal-Eberle-Lee had been one of the best first lines in the NHL all season. I don’t expect anyone to slide in right away and pick up exactly where the captain left off. And I definitely didn’t expect the guy who hadn’t played for a month to change my mind in the very next game.
I spent the first 60% of this one pretty pissed off about the effort level from the Islanders. Then a wild Kieffer Bellows appeared and made a hell of an impression with his two-goal effort in this comeback win (and a pretty good game the next night, too).
Trotz said afterward that it’s all about consistency for Kieffer and he’s gonna get a run here, so it’s his time to sink or swim. So far, he’s Michael Phelps.
Game 29: 3-2 SO win over the Devils
I’m not even sure where to begin with this circus of a game, that went off the rails an hour before the puck even dropped. The score (TWO shootout wins in the same week?) doesn’t even begin to describe all of the twists and turns that took place over these three hours. There haven’t been too many random regular season games that felt this long or exhausting. And I was only watching from my couch.
The Devils are definitely a pesky opponent and gave the Islanders trouble. Don’t be fooled by the six points they picked up in these three games. This took a lot of work and some lucky bounces. The Devils seemed to get zone time from any Islander mistake, which led to offensive opportunities.
That said, given the amount of games the Islanders have played lately, the loss of Anders Lee, the last minute lineup change, and guys like Bailey and Clutterbuck leaving games temporarily, the fact that they got these points is impressive and important. I hate watching sloppy play, especially against bad teams, but with the run these guys have been on throughout this condensed schedule and with the contributions of prospects like Bellows and Wahlstrom, it’s hard to stay too mad.
Record for the week: 4-0-0
Season Record: 19-6-4
Next week for the New York Islanders:
Tuesday, March 16 vs the Capitals
The last time these teams met, the Islanders were on the losing end of two demoralizing defeats; one with a few seconds to go and one with a full team meltdown in the second period. At the time, it looked like this season would be over right then and there. It did to me, anyway.
Things have changed a lot since then, to say the least. The Caps are still dangerous but at least this time, Tom Wilson won’t be available to hunt the heads of any Islander unfortunate enough to be on the ice as the same time he is. He’ll be serving the sixth of a seven game suspension for concussing Boston’s Brandon Carlo. I’m sure Shitbird Junior Grade Garnett Hathaway is more than willing to take up Wilson’s cause in his absence.
Thursday, March 18 and Saturday, March 20 vs the Flyers
Please, Islanders. I’m begging you. Stop going to overtime against the Flyers. It never works out for you. You want regulation wins. Let’s make that happen. For you. Not them.
There’s no telling who might be in or out for the Flyers, even amongst players already on their payroll. For 50-plus years, Philadelphia has been a possibility to acquire literally any player in the league whether they really need him or not. And every lineup decision Alain Vignault makes seems to drive my Flyers fan follows on Twitter absolutely nuts.
This team is fast and young and scares me to death. What comforts me is that their fans seem to feel the same way.
Predicted record for the week: 2-1. Only three games this week? That’s like a vacation.
Canadian Sportswriters Say The Darnedest Things:
Thanks to my friend Steve for reminding me of this:
And then there’s this.— Mark Scheig (@markscheig) March 12, 2021
Pierre LeBrun on TSN tonight on Torts
“I’m starting to wonder if John Tortorella wants to be fired, believe it or not. I know that’s a crazy thing to say, but he’s done a lot of interesting things this year behind the bench and it just makes you wonder.”
Remember when LeBrun tried to will a John Tavares sign-and-trade deal into existence by writing about it once a week for a month and asking everyone who would talk to him about the possibility of it happening even though something like that had never happened in the NHL before, has still not happened and probably never will happen? And then he just forgot about it?
I guess what I’m trying to say is that Pierre LeBrun definitely believes John Tortorella is trying to get himself fired and nothing is going to change his mind.
Besides, everyone knows the only way to truly get fired in sports is to drag a championship trophy through a parking lot. Bad news for the coach of the Blue Jackets then...
Alternate Programming Options:
A trilogy against the Flyers? What is this? Iron Eagle?
Yes, they made three Iron Eagle movies. Four, if you can believe it. I have no idea why either.
The first one was a moderate hit upon release, although it was overshadowed by another fighter pilot movie of 1986 that you may have heard of. The great Lou Gossett, Jr. was the only actor to appear in all four Iron Eagles, which might partially explain why I sometimes wonder, “Why wasn’t Lou Gossett, Jr. in more stuff?” Apparently, he was too busy shooting down bogies as Chappy Sinclair most of the time to do anything else. Star Jason Gedrick didn’t become Tom Cruise but he’s had a long career in Hollywood, appearing in a lot of basic cable dramas your aunt or uncle probably watches.
I’ve actually never seen all of Iron Eagle and absolutely none of the sequels. The original is available to stream on Amazon Prime and Iron Eagle on The Attack (aka Iron Eagle IV) can be watched on Tubi. Iron Eagle III is available for purchase on Fandango but Iron Eagle II is nowhere to be found online. Sounds like the other three will have to organize a rescue mission to find their missing comrade.
Of course, the most enduring legacy of Iron Eagle is its almost-too-good soundtrack. It features songs by Dio, George Clinton, Katrina & the Waves and 80’s soundtrack kings Queen, whose late era classic “One Vision” still gets played on the radio all the time (or is it just on my phone?)
Classic Islanders Clip Just For fun:
Let’s go to the video tape! Thanks to Flyers center Blake Dunlop for taking out Wayne Stephenson and gifting the Islanders a goal. This is pre-Dynasty, BTW. In a little over a year, these two teams would meet again under different circumstances. Islanders would still win, though.