Two OT wins and one embarrassing blowout. I’m exhausted.
Nevertheless, let’s look back at the (exciting, then excruciating) week that was.
Last week for the New York Islanders:
Game 33: 2-1 OT win over the Flyers
Larceny. That was what Barry Trotz called this one. He wasn’t wrong. Ilya Sorokin straight up stole this game, which is something we haven’t seen all that often in this era of Islanders hockey.
Thomas Greiss and Robin Lehner had a few steals early in Trotz’s tenure but once the entire team got on the same page, having the goalie stand on his head just wasn’t necessary. That’s not a bad thing! In fact, it’s very good.
This game was nerve-wracking at the time. Looking back at it, the underlying scoring chance numbers were much closer than the raw shots and the Islanders had Sorokin, the great equalizer, playing the best game of his young NHL career. In a normal season, most teams and goalies are due for a game like this.
Anthony Beauvillier’s OT goal was just the cherry on top.
Game 34: 4-3 OT win over the Bruins
Two cherries? Is it my birthday? (Note: it was not my birthday. But thanks, Beau.)
A better performance than two nights earlier in Philly for sure, but still a tight-checking affair, as is every game against the Bruins. After going down 2-0 to Boston, the Islanders started to turn things around in the second period, right after killing a double minor. This one easily could have gone off the rails so credit the players for keeping it together and bringing home the two points.
Also giving me confidence is Oliver Wahlstrom, who was oozing it in this one. Maybe it was the excitement of playing in his hometown or the further growth of a good young player. Whatever it is, the kid is really a big part of what the Islanders do now and when he’s on, it’s a sight to see. He’s not afraid to shoot from anywhere or get in the dirty areas or pay the price along the boards. He’s all in and the Islanders are better for it.
Game 35: 6-3 loss to the Penguins
Looks like the goalie police finally caught that thief Ilya Sorokin. Guess in a normal season, every goalie and team is due a game or two like this, too. Feels like they’re more likely to happen against Pittsburgh than with anyone else.
Of the four goals Sorokin allowed before he was pulled, you can make an argument that three probably weren’t his fault (Rodrigues’ on the other hand...). No matter. This was as bad a loss as the Islanders have had all season. This time, they did let it go off the rails and final score was no less embarrassing than the 5-0 hole they were in with half the game left.
Allow me to remove my Islanders fan hat for a moment (because I’ve eaten it in a fit of irrational rage after yet another loss to these goddamn scumbags) and put on my hockey analyst hat (which is very small):
The Penguins seem to have this thing where every time they get possession of the puck, the two forwards immediately make a mad dash to get behind whatever defenseman is on the ice. I’m sure most teams do this. But because their lineup is comprised almost exclusively of fast guys who can skate and who all have names made up by EA Sports, it results in roughly a million odd man rushes per game. They cashed in on one right away here but it felt (and feels) like the Islanders were constantly in danger of getting burned by them all game long.
I’d like that to change.
Record for the week: 2-1-0
Season Record: 22-9-4
Next week for the New York Islanders:
Monday, March 29 at the Penguins
This is the final meeting with Pittsburgh this regular season and I am extremely thankful. I’m sick of them and the constant, “Oh no, everyone’s hurt. Gonna need some guys to step up” pearl-clutching which inevitably gives way to a bunch of call-ups playing like machines, the goalies stopping everything for weeks and the Penguins piling up multiple game winning streaks while climbing the standings.
Other teams lose one guy and their entire seasons hang in the balance. The Penguins lose half a team and only get stronger. And people act like this doesn’t happen every season.
Good riddance, you bastards.
Thursday, April 1 vs the Capitals
Another brutal match up. The thing that bugs me the most about the Caps is almost the exact opposite of what bugs me about the Penguins. On top of also being talented and well-coached, they’ve been together forever. It’s always the same guys doing the same things the same way every time. The Caps never have to look for the open guy because they know he’s gonna be there. It’s infuriating how easy they make it all look.
I watched them beat the Devils 4-0 on Friday night and they looked like they barely broke a sweat. New Jersey didn’t even play that poorly. They just couldn’t do anything. They were like the little brother and the Caps were pushing against their foreheads while the Devils were running in place and getting nowhere. Any mistake you make against them will be capitalized on.
The Islanders are gonna play the Caps five times in April, and they have the potential to be what the Penguins were to them in February. I hope the Islanders are ready. The season is far from over and they still need all the points they can get.
Saturday, April 3 vs the Flyers
Man, I feel a little bad for Flyers fans. No, wait! Hear me out!
Their team is stuck in this weird phantom zone where they have good players and are tantalizing close to a playoff berth but everything is going wrong for them. They can’t get a save, their powerplay has stopped working and their defense is nonexistent. The coaches don’t seem to have any answers and everyone wants someone fired. It’s not a good scene.
Does that mean that I’m confident the Islanders can beat them again? Hell no. The Flyers are still capable of good, if not dominant, stretches of play. They still have guys that know how to score. They even managed to beat the Rangers on Saturday afternoon, which you know we all appreciate.
The Flyers are good enough to make people say, “now, if they can just continue to play like THIS, they’ll be okay going forward.” Then, of course, they’ll inevitably fall flat on their faces again and everyone will do the dance one more time.
I’m hoping the Islanders can catch them in one of those falls.
Predicted record for the week: 1-2. Big games against big opponents. I’m not confident.
Canadian Sportswriters Say The Darnedest Things:
I had to check a few times to make sure this was the actual Jim Matheson - longtime Oilers beatwriter for the Edmonton Journal - and not some Twitter joker who changed his screen name and avatar to match Matheson’s. Believe it or not, it is Matty. Fun!
Gaudreau for konecny right now https://t.co/5OV9h4ZUSc— Jim Matheson (@jimmathesonnhl) March 27, 2021
I have no idea if Matheson is kidding or if he’s being serious, or if a deal between the Flyers and Flames swapping Johnny Gaudreau for Travis Konecny even makes any sense.
It just blew my mind to see a for-real hockey journalist casually throw out the kind of fantasy trade we’ve been seeing since the birth of the internet. This is HF Boards-level analysis. Matheson-level writers usually not only avoid that kind of stuff but actively dismiss fans who do it.
Not our Matty. He just goes for it. This would be like Arthur Staple or Larry Brooks tweeting out “Bailey, Donovan and a 5th for Evander Kane” about six years ago while RTing some throwaway criticism by Jack Capuano or Garth Snow.
BTW Gaudreau had an assist and an overall energetic game in the Flames’ 4-2 win over the Jets on Saturday. Cancel the trade!
Alternate Programming Options:
Baseball’s back again, huh? Okay. While I stopped being a fan a long time ago, it’s hard to not follow along the various twists and turns of the locals. So I’m looking forward to the Yankees’ annual search to acquire some other team’s superstar for peanuts to add to an already potent lineup and the Mets’ decades long quest for competency and legitimacy. The Amazin’s have got new players and a new owner and I’m sure both will work out swimmingly and not somehow go horribly awry. It’s a new day!
Anyway, if you’re in a baseball and movie mood this week, I recommend maybe my favorite combo of all time, Eight Men Out. It’s a dramatization of the 1919 Black Sox scandal, written and directed by the great John Sayles, and packed with a ton of actors you’ve seen a million places all wearing very uncomfortable suits and hats.
It’s also compelling and fascinating even though you probably already know what happens at the end. It doesn’t seem to get as much attention as Bull Durham, Major League or A League of Their Own, all great in the own rights, but it should. Eight Men Out is streaming for free on Tubi and Pluto.
Just don’t watch Field of Dreams. That movie sucks.
Classic Islanders Clip Just For fun:
This one was more dramatic than I remember. Christopher Gibson started in goal for the Islanders and gave up a bit of a softie in the first period, then two more in the third. But the Islanders stormed back to tie it and Gibson came up strong in OT. Hickey took his own teammate’s stick in the face just prior to scoring the game-winning, playoff-clinching goal. An important one for the still-sorta-rebuilding club.