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Islanders Back & Forth: Letdowns, Lectures, Hickey and the Annual Penguins Injury Crisis

A weekly look at the Islanders’ most recent - and next few - games. Mostly.

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NHL: Philadelphia Flyers at New York Islanders Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

With three games in three different cities, the Islanders’ upcoming week feels like a throwback to the old days of... 2019.

First, let’s look back at the (disappointing at first, then better) week that was.

Last week for the New York Islanders:

Game 30: 3-1 loss to the Capitals

Massive Let Down No. 1 this week. A great but scoreless first period preceded a lifeless and uninterested second period that continued into the third. Coming back from 3-0 down with a period to go isn’t a great idea, especially against Washington. That second period was a long wet fart and by the time the room cleared of the stench, it was too late and the Islanders nine-game winning streak was over.

I’m not sure if you’re all aware of this but Islanders coach Barry Trotz used to coach the Capitals. It’s true! Seems like some of their fans might still have some unresolved animosity towards their old coach that comes out for these games. Maybe revisiting the Caps’ 2018 Stanley Cup run might make them feel a little more relaxed.

Then again, probably not.

Game 31: 4-3 loss to the Flyers

Massive Let Down No. 2. Really? Second home game in front of fans, and first in front of season ticket holders and you play for less than 20 minutes? That’s how you lose your first regulation game of the season at home? Really?

I’d love to see a chart of teams giving up goals after icings. The Islanders had an issue with them a few years ago and I think they’ve been better under Trotz but an icing late in a tied game still makes me nervous. This time, it was Oskar Lindblom who cashed in.

Make no mistake, the Islanders didn’t deserve to win this game, regardless of the stirring comeback they mounted. Even if they had won, I feel like Trotz’s post-game presser would have still had that big “I’m not mad, just disappointed” energy that it had anyway.

I mean, look at his face.

I felt bad watching this. I felt like even I had let him down. And all I did was sit on my couch and tweet shit into the ether all game. When he says he can’t explain the lack of urgency, my skin started to crawl. It was like a teacher or boss calling me out for not completing something.

Let’s not do that again.

Game 32: 6-1 win over the Flyers

That’s more like it. The Islanders jumped all over Philly early and took control right away. You can admit that Joel Farabee’s goal near the end of the first put a shred of doubt in your mind (it did for mine) but the Islanders squelched the Flyers push in the second, then put their foot down (somewhat hilariously) in the third. The rout eased what had been a hard week for Islanders fans.

The absolute best part was the return of Thomas Hickey, who played an NHL for the first time in almost two years, played great, picked up two assists and choked up a fanbase with his post-game comments about believing in himself and soaking in the happiness of the moment.

Hickey has long been a personal favorite (remember the fish oils!) and like him, I wasn’t sure if we’d ever seen him on the ice for the Islanders ever again. I had resigned myself to next seeing him play for someone else after a trade, and while that could still happen, I’m thrilled for him that he wasn’t done with the blue-and-orange just yet. The two assists were just gravy.

Even when Noah Dobson returns from the COVID protocol list, I’d like to see Hickey get a game in here or there, specifically for Scott Mayfield or Andy Greene, who sometimes look like they can use a break (sides be damned!). Hickey’s involvement on Saturday night was clearly a huge lift to his teammates, too, so making this more than a cameo might be a good idea.

Record for the week: 1-2-0

Season Record: 20-8-4

Next week for the New York Islanders:

Monday, March 22 at the Flyers

The rubber match for this series takes place in Philadelphia, where the Flyers are going through something of an existential crisis. Fans want the GM fired, the head coach fired, the assistant coaches fired, their “goalie of the future” sent to the AHL, nearly every player traded or put on waivers and the entire franchise burned to the ground.

I’m certainly not going to disparage folks on the edge of a sports breakdown. It feels like I have one every week or so, even when my team is in first place. And I definitely don’t have all the answers for how to fix the Flyers. They have good players, particularly at forward, but something always seems to be missing (my guess is that the “something” might be “defense”).

The Flyers seem like they’re running on a rechargeable battery that someone forgets to plug in every once in a while. They’ll be at full power for a few games, then the battery drains and they’ll no-show for a couple until someone says, “oh shit, I need to charge that thing” and gets it back to juiced. They’re a little bit like this Flippity Fish toy that I bought for our asshole cat this past Christmas. I charge it, she plays with it until she gets bored and walks away while it keeps on going, just to annoy us. Then it dies, I charge it, and we do it all over again.

I’m pretty sure the Flyers’ plan for this season wasn’t to be an $80 million cat toy, but it might explain how things have gone for them.

Thursday, March 25 at the Bruins

Their Tuesday match up was postponed due to COVID protocols, so this will be the first Islanders-Bruins game this season in Boston, a place that hasn’t been kind to our guys for a long time. The Islanders are good for a big win in Boston once every decade or so. One of the more recent ones was the last game behind the bench for Jack Capuano, which had a few layers of irony to it.

If this game happens, and the Islanders win it (one “If” bigger than the other), it could end up being a huge confidence booster for them.

Saturday, March 27 at the Penguins

Evgeni Malkin is out week-to-week and thus begins in earnest the annual Penguins Injury Crisis, an event as old as time. The Penguins lose key players every year, and every year people pronounce them dead and ready for the rebuild pile but they always somehow manage to rise from the ashes to make the playoffs again so we can all marvel at their tenacity and next-man-up mentality.

I’d love to see the Islanders attack the Penguins the way teams seem to attack them when they’re missing a player but I’ve seen this movie before. Even without Malkin (or Teddy Blueger or whoever), Pittsburgh still has more than enough firepower to beat anyone. In a week of big games, between the opponent and the circumstances, this one might be the biggest.

Predicted record for the week: 2-1. Need points. Get ‘em.

Canadian Sportswriters Say The Darnedest Things:

Scott Burnside demands TRADES! Where are the trades?!! C’mon, you fools, make the trades! Feed Scott Burnside’s gaping maw with player-for-player trades!! His gullet calls for moves. This outrage cannot stand!

What trades? He wants Johnny Gaudreau traded to the Leafs? Why? How? And for what? WHO CARES? TRADES! That’s why!

Burnside wants Dustin Brown on the Penguins and John Klingberg on the Flyers yesterday. Get them trades going already! Why would the Penguins trade for a 36-year-old center with another year left at almost $6 million? Why are you asking and not calling the Penguins now, forcing them to make that TRADE?? Do It, Ron!!

I’d like to trade the portion of my Athletic subscription fee that goes to Scott Burnside to some other writer. Like, any other writer.


Alternate Programming Options:

The point of this section is to offer suggestions for folks who just can’t with the Islanders that night. Hey, we’ve all been there.

Personally, I probably won’t watch Zack Snyder’s Justice League any time soon only because, man, finding a four hour chunk of time with nothing to do is a pretty tall order. Even if I watch it in pieces, it’s also not something I wanted to see nor am particularly excited for. Warner Bros. and DC Comics had their chance to challenge Disney and Marvel at the movies and chose to rush things instead of letting their characters breathe over time.

They also entrusted their billion dollar investment to a director who’s more interested in posing than plotting and who seemingly hates superheroes and comic books in general.

I’m as sick of hearing about this as everyone else is, but if you wanted to skip any of the games this or any other week, an overstuffed, R-rated, four hour long, mostly slow motion, square-for-no-reason-at-all superhero epic is one option. You’ll need an HBO Max subscription, of course, as well as the will to sit there and consume any or all of Justice League’s six (6) dense, dark, scowling chapters.

The consensus on “The Snyder Cut” is that A. it’s better than the theatrical version of Justice League, which is pretty faint praise if you saw that weightless nothingburger of a movie; B. It still doesn’t fix the fundamental problems with the story or villain, neither of which are particularly compelling; and C. it really benefits the character of Cyborg, who gets an expanded origin and actual screen time this go-around.

Our Jenny Berman watched it and wasn’t too impressed. I’d trust her opinion so take this one as a cautious suggestion.

Classic Islanders Clip Just For fun:

I should have done this from the beginning: This clip comes from the indispensable YouTube channel, IslandersPride.

Tom Kurvers! John Blue! A save off his face! Just a typical Bruins-Islanders game.