Tonight commences the part of the schedule that will really challenge the Islanders. They have won nine consecutive games, earned at least a point in twelve straight, and have lost only twice in regulation dating back January 30, a stretch of twenty-two games. To put that in perspective, tonight will be game number 30 for the Isles. So they have been rolling like a freight train for nearly half of the season, with the underlying numbers to back them.
Now, however, the Isles must prepare themselves to face all the teams in the MassMutual East Division that they will be battling for a playoff spot. They did themselves a big favor—a favor that they really needed to give themselves—by earning two points in each of their games this month against the Sabres and Devils. Winning all four home games against the Bruins helps, as well. They have built themselves a nice buffer that could withstand a few losses here and there.
They will play the Capitals tonight. Then, they will take on the Flyers thrice, the Bruins twice, and the Penguins for the final two times this season to close out March. Only two of those games, both against Philadelphia, will take place on the Coliseum ice that the Isles have dominated this season. These teams would love nothing more than to knock the division-leading Islanders down a few pegs. Most of the time, these teams will have the line-change advantage.
But you know Barry Trotz and his staff will be prepared and will have his team prepared. For example, while Washington “played” on the road last night (more on that below), the Isles have been waiting for them in the District of Columbia.
FIG picks go here. Look out for a new episode of Islanders Anxiety today.
- The team site previews tonight’s match-up in Washington.
- Thankfully, Jean-Gabriel Pageau did not appear on yesterday’s COVID-19 protocol list. Unfortunately, Noah Dobson stayed on it. [Newsday]
- In this week’s Back & Forth, Dan lamented the loss of Anders Lee, reflected on the Danish Backhand of Judgment, and examined Pierre LeBrun’s idea that John Tortorella is pulling a Costanza. [LHH]
- Let’s relive Anthony Beauvillier’s derivative DBOJ:
- We have reached the point in the season where all the Isles’ doubters start recanting their statements. But this Emily Kaplan article, at least, got it all right. Matt Martin offers a wise perspective, too. [ESPN]
- Goaltending has always played a large part in the Isles’ success throughout Trotz’s tenure as Islanders coach. This year, it’s Semyon Varlamov and Ilya Sorokin. [Islanders]
- TSN echoes what Arthur Staple said last week: with Lee on LTIR, the Islanders may try more aggressively to add before the trade deadline.
- Staple identified 25 players that he could see the Islanders target ahead of the deadline. Curiously absent from his list: Eric Staal, who, even at his age, could supplement well this lineup and play both center and the wings. [The Athletic]
- The Sound Tigers lost to the Providence Bruins 5–2 in yesterday’s road game, dropping to 2–7 thus far in this 24-game season. Tom Kuhnhackl and Cole Bardreau scored Bridgeport’s goals. [Sound Tigers]
- At least the Islanders’ prospects have had some success. For example, 2016 sixth-rounder Collin Adams enjoyed a five-point night as North Dakota advanced in its conference tournament.
- NEW! The Prospect Report mentioned that his season ended, but it looks like 2016 fourth-round pick Anatoly Golyshev may actually be headed over. 21 years old when he was drafted, Golyshev played eight years for the KHL’s Avtomobilist and leaves holding the franchise’s goals and points records. He is small, but he is a scorer by trade. Not sure if he will play right away—I imagine the Isles will want to get him used to their structure and North American ice—but he could potentially provide an interesting depth option with Lee on LTIR.
Last night’s NHL scores include: the Capitals shellacking the Sabres 6–0 in Buffalo; the Penguins topping the Bruins 4–1; and the Flyers winning an offensive duel over the Rangers in overtime, 5–4. Also, the Flames remained unbeaten in Darryl Sutter’s second stint at the helm, defeating the Oilers in regulation on home ice in the latest Battle of Alberta.
- In the Washington-Buffalo game, Alex Ovechkin recorded goal no. 717, tying Phil Esposito for sixth all-time. He’ll be hunting for no. 718 tonight. Keep him off the scoresheet. [NHL]
- Meanwhile, in Buffalo:
One thing the #Sabres have gotten lucky on this year is the fact there are no fans. A half-empty building and one full of boos would have added urgency to everyone's plate. As it is right now, nobody gives a damn.— Mike Harrington (@ByMHarrington) March 16, 2021
If Gary Bettman has a sense of humor, he will announce tomorrow that ties are back. https://t.co/HljMMPoBeA— Dan (@cultureoflosing) March 16, 2021
- Another East Division Russian foe hit a milestone last night: Evgeni Malkin notched his 1,100th career point. [NHL]
- Speaking of East Division Russian foes: the Kaplan ESPN article above hinted at this, but Artemi Panarin’s absence may have allowed him to rest his weary back. [amNY]
- Despite getting Panarin back recently, COVID-19 protocols depleted the Rangers in last night’s game. Adam Fox, Pavel Buchnevich, and Phillip Di Giuseppe joined the protocol list. [Sportsnet]
- The Rangers, though improved a bit this season, ought to sell off assets at this year’s trade deadline. [Newsday]
- The Jets already made this season’s big trade splash, but they cannot be ruled out of making another one before the deadline. [Sportsnet]
- One reason that fighting has evaporated in the NHL: the risk of broken hands. Canadiens defenseman Ben Chiarot underwent surgery to repair the hand that he broke fighting the Canucks’ J.T. Miller. [NHL]
- Darryl Sutter led the Kings to a Stanley Cup when he took over their bench mid-season in 2012. Calgary will settle just for some consistency. [Sportsnet]
- If you play fantasy hockey, The Athletic has some cheat sheets for you to use.
- Al Trautwig took a medical leave from MSG in September 2019. It turns out that the network took the occasion to not renew his contract, hence his continued absence. [Newsday]
- Joel Quenneville has the Panthers roaring in the weak Central Division. As such, he earned the mid-season Jack Adams, according to NHL dot com.