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Islanders Back & Forth: From Heavenly to Humiliating

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

NHL: APR 24 Capitals at Islanders
Yes, they’re laughing at you.
Photo by Gregory Fisher/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Thing started with such promise. And then... straight garbage. Coming up, the same two teams. Great.

First, let’s look back at the (whiplash) week that was.

Last week for the New York Islanders:

Game 46: 6-1 win over the Rangers

Complete. Satisfying. Beautiful. However you want to describe it, this win over The Other Guys was the best game the Islanders played since the deadline and it couldn’t have come at a better time. That it effectively put the kibosh on the Rangers’ playoff hopes for this season made it even better.

It was great to remember that the Islanders can play well for three full periods in the same game. I had forgotten that was possible. It was also nice to see Josh Bailey score twice in what feels like a somewhat quiet season for him. Funny how guys always seem to look much better once they have J-G Pageau as their center...

This game was so good, I wished it was their final game against the Rangers this season, just so we could enjoy it all the more. Alas, it was not. I hope the next few are just like this one.

Game 47: 1-0 SO loss to the Capitals

Maybe I was watching another game. I saw a lot of “at least they got a point,” and “that was like a playoff game,” comments after this one and all I could think about was how the Islanders played a great first period, then just basically skated in place for the next two and let the Caps tee off on Semyon Varlamov. The score and result weren’t unexpected or even that irritating. It was that the Islanders had the Caps chasing them for the first 20 minutes, decided that was enough, and barely tried to score a goal the rest of the way. Kyle Palmieri had a few chances, as did Mat Barzal. Brock Nelson was active. Everyone else save Varlamov, who was terrific, took the rest of the game off.

It bothered me. A lot. Especially coming after a pretty dominating performance against the Rangers two nights earlier AND the chance to jump into first place in the division.

For once, I felt like the one angry face in a sea of smiles. Maybe it’s me and my expectations and anxiety about just how long this team’s window will be open for. Maybe I’m just sick of watching 20 minutes of hockey and 40 minutes of trash. Maybe I was just tired. Or maybe I was watching another game. I don’t know.

Game 48: 6-3 loss to the Capitals

“This three game series could be a fight for first place in the division.”

Well, so much for that. The Islanders looked mostly unprepared and generally uninterested in a fight for first place and gifted the Capitals four points. Aside from the game against the Rangers, this has been a different team since the trade deadline. A slow, sloppy, disorganized, ineffective team. There’s a trial period and there’s “this team is broken.” The Islanders right now look very much like the latter.

Maybe they thought that winning the trade deadline a week ahead of time was good enough? The moment I heard Alex Ovechkin would miss this game, I knew a loss was incoming. We’ve seen that movie before, as recently as this season.

Even Barry Trotz, apparently coming to you live from a prison laundry room, seems befuddled by his team’s recent play. You guys need to figure it the hell out, coach. Time is running out.

Record for the week: 1-2-0 (again)

Season Record: 29-14-5

Next week for the New York Islanders:

Tuesday, April 27 at the Capitals

I have to disagree with Butch Goring, who said during Saturday night’s broadcast that with a playoff berth all but locked up, the Islanders moving up or down doesn’t matter that much since either way, they know they’ll be taking on the Bruins, Penguins or Capitals.

I mean, on a practical level, I get that. Still, wouldn’t you rather be playing these teams well and giving yourself the confidence that you can beat them in a seven game series? Wouldn’t getting, say, two wins out of three against the Caps go a long way in putting a scare not only them but the other two teams as well? It’s bad enough the Penguins kicked their asses all season and the Bruins just swept their two game series last week. Now this?

Not to mention the huge difference between the Islanders’ results at home and on the road. Having a Game 7 at the Coliseum would probably mean a lot.

When the Islanders lose this game (heck, even if they win it), their performances in the first two and over the last few weeks will put a lot of doubt in a lot of people’s minds and confirm that this team will be one and done in the playoffs. With four games coming up against the Sabres and Devils, there might be a few confidence builders left on the table. But these games, against the teams they’ll be seeing again in May, are gonna be hard to forget about.

Thursday, April 29 and Saturday, May 1 vs the Rangers

Let’s change the subject. And ooooohhh boy, we have big DRAMA at the normally staid and stale New York Post.

Brooksie thinks people need to calm the hell down on expectations for Zac Jones, the latest NCAA-bred-superstar-in-the-making to debut for the Rangers. Ol’ Larry’s HAD IT up to HERE with people comparing every young defenseman to the great Brian Leetch, then comparing even younger guys to THOSE guys, thereby comparing them to Leetch by proxy.

Brooks is so hopping mad that he even calls out people at his own paper!

The idea is not to be the youngest team in the NHL. It is not to have the most young defensemen in the lineup at the same time. It is not to promote every young player as the second coming.

Seriously, Jones has already been compared to Fox, who has already been compared to Brian Leetch. Seriously? This is not all on the Rangers. Media and social media gravitate to high-end kids. Just look at the number of stories The Post has devoted to Jones within the last two weeks. Prospects are new and shiny and represent hope. We live on hope.

We do live on hope. I’ll give him that. Everyone reading this hopes Zac Jones is the next Hugh Jessiman.

Sadly, by writing this, I just guaranteed that he’ll score in one or both of these games against the Islanders.

Predicted record for the week: 1-2. Obviously.

Canadian Sportswriters Say The Darnedest Things:

You can literally set your watch to the Maple Leafs. You knew that once newly-acquired Nick Foligno had finished his quarantine time, he would IMMEDIATELY be hailed as the right player at just the right time for Canada’s Golden Team.

Did you see him wearing his dad’s hat?! Incredible! No other team could possibly experience this type of historical haberdashery! Only The Chosen Ones.

Sure enough, here’s Chris Johnston, the bureau chief for the 24/7 All Leafs Network, making the case that one game was all Foligno needed to cement his status as A Leaf That Matters.

It was only fitting that Foligno helped ice Thursday’s 5-3 victory over the Winnipeg Jets by carrying the puck into the offensive zone, spinning off a desperation check from Kyle Connor and finding Mitch Marner for an easy empty netter. Marner immediately scooped up the puck as a souvenir.

That capped a two-minute shift which allowed the Leafs to halt their winless streak at five games and restored their six-point advantage over Winnipeg in the North Division.

It also underscored why management surrendered a haul of draft picks to acquire the heart-and-soul winger at the trade deadline when more dynamic offensive options were available.

Foligno’s banner is expected to be raised to the rafters at Scotiabank Whatever Center early next season.

Wait. I’m sorry. [touches earpiece] We’re getting word just now that Nick Foligno is a forward and not a goalie. I repeat, Not A Goalie. Okay... so... we’ll see how that works out for Toronto’s NHL team.

Alternate Programming Options:

I’ve tried to avoid highlighting too many Marvel shows in this space, even though they’re basically all I consume at this point because they (mostly) bring me joy. It’s a little too easy for me to drone on about them. Just ask my wife. But it’s been a while so I think it’s okay to go back to the well.

The Falcon and the Winter Soldier (Disney+) finished this week and I found the entire series pretty good albeit slightly disappointing. The finale felt a little rushed and seemed to raise more questions than it answered. At least it had a lot of action and direct comic book shit in it, so I still enjoyed it. It’s still insane to me that the MCU was able to establish Batroc as an actual character and not just a punchline, and now the world gets to learn about the existence of the pretty bonkers U.S. Agent, a relic of Marvel in the 90’s. Crazy times.

I also finished watching Legion (was on FX, now streaming on Hulu), which I did not enjoy. It was loosely based on X-Men and X-Men-adjacent comics and characters, and had a big budget and an overqualified cast and crew. And it chose to do very little with all of them for 27 largely confusing, boring, infuriating episodes. Changing the source material substantially is fine by me as long as the show is, you know, compelling and watchable. Legion did the former and for about 80% of its life, neglected the latter. Don’t watch it.

Now showing is Runaways (Hulu and Disney+), which my wife and I are enjoying quite a bit. I’m not familiar with the Marvel comic at all (and from what I understand, a lot has been changed in the trip to the screen) but the show, about special teens whose parents are part of a shadowy super villain-like cabal, is funny, well-acted and structured for binge-watching. It’s really good at leaving you wanting to watch the next one and so on. Some of the characters’ decisions are headscratchers, though we’re still far from the “Ugh... Come ON!” stage.

We still have two seasons to go but I recommend Runaways, especially if you’re in familiar with or have an appreciation for teen dramas. Its creator and executive producer is Josh Schwartz, whose previous shows include The O.C. and Gossip Girl.

Classic Islanders Clip Just For fun:

This game happened five years ago, on April 27, 2016. The Islanders, hot off their first playoff series win in 23 years, took Game 1 of their second round series against the heavily favored Tampa Bay Lightning. Deadline pickup Shane Prince (!) scored twice in the first period (!!) and Thomas Greiss made about a million saves as the Lightning came roaring back in periods two and three. Also, Jack Capuano took a puck in the eye on the bench. That’s BATTLE LEVEL.

Sadly, this would be the last game the Islanders would win that season and the next two. Tampa Bay won Game 2 4-1, then took two games in OT at Barclays Center thanks to two blown Islanders leads. Game 5’s 4-0 shutout was a really demoralizing end to what had been a very exciting spring for Islanders fans.

But we’ll always have Game 1.