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Islanders Back & Forth: Barzy’s Choice; Watch out for Wilson

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

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NHL: APR 01 Capitals at Islanders Photo by Gregory Fisher/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

A blowout and a blown lead equal four points after a disappointing trip to Dracula’s tomb. Oh, and the obnoxious cousins are coming over this weekend.

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

Last week for the New York Islanders:

Game 36: 2-1 loss to the Penguins

These vampires have finally extracted enough blood from the Islanders, so we won’t have to be haunted by their ghoulish undead corpses until, potentially, the playoffs. The other (barely) good thing about this game was that the first period didn’t give way to a blowout. The Islanders played better in periods two and three but it still wasn’t enough.

There’s just something about these guys that just ticks me off. Maybe it’s how they always manage to replace an injured regular with a guy from the minors no one’s ever heard of that somehow plays just as well as the guy he’s replacing. Maybe it’s how Pittsburgh media types act like this doesn’t happen every season. Maybe it’s how their goalies go through awful stretches every year, magically start making saves, and everyone suddenly calls them a dark horse contender again (funny how that works).

Maybe it’s just the smug, shit-eating looks on all the Penguins’ faces all game long. It’s like someone cloned the biggest asshole in your high school 22 times and put them all on skates. Maybe it’s just me.

Sweeping the Penguins two seasons ago hasn’t alleviated these feelings, neither did taking the season series from them last year. Every season is a new boxing match with them and the Islanders lost this one convincingly. If they do meet in the playoffs, I trust Trotz to have a plan using what they learned from these games. Unfortunately, that doesn’t make me any less worried.

Game 37: 8-4 win over the Capitals

I was lucky enough to be in attendance at Barclays Center for Mat Barzal’s first career hat trick, against the Winnipeg Jets back in 2017. It was a family outing with my wife and daughter and my best friend and his family and it couldn’t have been more fun. The kids still talk about it, and my daughter still has the hat we had to buy afterwards after we threw the one she was wearing on the ice.

Now, it’s a toss up as to which will be more memorable: the one I saw live and and still picture in my mind or the insane display of skill I saw on TV in this game.

It’s hard to pick a favorite. The end-to-end rush through every Capital on the ice (including Hall-of-Fame defenseman Zdeno Chara and Hall-of Shame dipshit Tom Wilson) only to score off of one foot? The turn around whip into the far side of the net that Arthur Staple called a “fadeaway jumper?” Or the baseball swing to complete the trick just before the end? There’s no wrong answer. Barzal already had two or three Goal-of-the-Year candidates this season. Then he just casually decided to add three more entries in the same game just to solidify that he’ll be in the conversation.

He was on a cold streak coming into that game but if there’s anyone who could bust a slump in the most dramatic way possible, it’s the guy who deserves to have roses thrown at his skates after every game

Game 38: 3-2 SO win over the Flyers

They got the two points and that’s what matters. The Flyers played one of their better games recently, but the Islanders did what they needed to to get the win.

There are periods where the Islanders forecheck for what feels like hours at a time. They’re capable of just grinding and cycling and forcing and keeping and driving the other team into madness. Whether all that results in a goal is almost irrelevant. The other team is pinned in its own zone and away from the Islanders net and is slowly breaking down over time, which works to the Islanders’ advantage.

And then there are periods where they... don’t. That was the third period on Saturday night.

In his post-game comments, Barry Trotz didn’t seem too concerned about the Flyers coming back to tie the game, pointing out a few lucky bounces and opportunities that allowed Claude Giroux to score twice in the third. The Islanders still had three high danger chances in the period, so it wasn’t a total breakdown or anything. It just seemed like they came out of the second intermission with less of an edge than they had played with earlier.

It might have had something to do with missing Ross Johnston and Oliver Wahlstrom for a little while, or because Carter Hart rediscovered the form he had in the bubble last year. Doesn’t matter. They overcame those issues and secured the points.

Record for the week: 2-1-0

Season Record: 24-10-4

Next week for the New York Islanders:

Tuesday, April 6 vs the Capitals

I don’t expect the Islanders to win 8-4 again but I do expect Wilson to do something incredibly reckless, potentially dangerous and flat-out stupid in this game. The Caps were upset about... something at the end of the last one (probably the score, first and foremost) and tough guy Wilson could be seen chirping the Islanders from the Washington bench before they finally filed off the ice.

Wilson is a loose cannon in most games. With a grudge and a blowout on his mind, he’ll probably be gunning for the first head that he can drive an elbow into. All the while, Caps fans will no doubt sanction his buffoonery because the Islanders have [insert player with less suspensions than Tom Wilson here] on their roster. He’s just as bad!

[Note: “He” is nowhere near “just as bad.”]

Thursday, April 8 vs the Flyers

The great thing about the Flyers is that we have no idea what they’ll be like when the rematch happens this Thursday. Will they be the competent team with the quality goaltending that scratched out a point against the Islanders on Saturday? Or will they be the disinterested dead men walking that seemed determined to give the Sabres multiple ways out of their epic losing streak last week? Who knows?!

The Islanders need to be prepared for those two or any option in between.

Friday, April 9 and Sunday, April 11 vs the Rangers

It’s been so long since the Islanders have played the Rangers that I nearly forgot they existed. What a fun reality that would be.

The Rangers are doing their annual thing where they piss away most of the first half of the season and turn it on late just to put a scare into the rest of the division (Flyers fans will be traumatized for a while thanks to the back-to-back blowouts they suffered at their hands). That said, the Islanders shouldn’t take them lightly; they’re fast and can score in bunches, and both goalies are capable of stealing a game.

There’s a very odd dynamic between these two rivals these days. The Islanders are the veteran team with the established coach and GM and designs on winning a championship soon. The Rangers have more works-in-progress in their lineup and are a few years away from being a true contender. Of course, some things never change. The Rangers’ best player was a free agent signed to an enormous contract, Brooksie says the sky’s the limit or it’s falling, and their dopey fans still hate Denis Potvin because of a clean check.

These are now games the Islanders need to win. They can, but they shouldn’t take them for granted, either.

Predicted record for the week: 3-1. Still need points so just get em.

Canadian Sportswriters Say The Darnedest Things:

When I was growing up, it felt like the Yankees used other major league teams as their own personal farm clubs. Someone like the Royals or Rangers or Tigers would draft and develop good players, watch them become All Stars or at least quality regulars, and then the Yankees would swoop in and steal them in trades for their cast offs. Then again, I might be misremembering. Maybe it was just their fans (of which I was one at the time) that were wish-casting or armchair GMing those All Stars into pinstripes for peanuts.

I thought about that era when I read James Mirtle suggesting the Leafs trade for Chris Driedger, who happens to be the Panthers starting goalie, because Toronto could use a third option should Freddie Andersen or Jack Campbell falter in the playoffs.

I mean, why would a team having the best season it’s had in half a decade - as of this writing, Florida sits in first place overall in the league - want to hold onto their starting goalie when they can send him to Toronto to sit in the pressbox? This is the Leafs we’re talking about! They’re only team that matters.

Now, Florida is playoff-bound, and Driedger has been its best goaltender, so it’s no given that he’s available. But his name is out there in enough places around the league that it’s worth at least seeing what the asking price would be. (And super prospect Spencer Knight is on the way to South Florida.)

Driedger is a rental, but the Leafs are going to need another netminder next year, assuming Andersen isn’t coming back. Could he make sense as a test-drive backup to the backup?

I say yes.

I say you’re a huge dork, Jim.

The other trades he suggests all involve players that have been rumored for the Islanders, too, like Kyle Palmieri and Nick Foligno. How would the Leafs fit almost $7 million under their cap? By having the trading clubs retain half of every players’ salary, of course. Why wouldn’t they? It’s the Leafs! Everyone loves them!

Except when they don’t.

Alternate Programming Options:

The Islanders partnered with Nickelodeon last weekend for a broadcast of their game against the Flyers. You had to download the HomeTurf app on your tablet and watch the game on your TV or PC to experience the Nick stuff. It was trivia games and polls and hockey rules with slime graphics and cartoon characters and it was kinda neat even if it was a little generic.

As the father of a 10-year-old (and a person who often thinks like a 10-year-old), Nickelodeon is on in my house pretty often and there are a few shows that I don’t mind. The best of them is the All New All That, an update/revival of the old sketch comedy show some of you may have grown up with. The original was a little after my time, but the new one is consistently very funny and the kids are all uniformly good. The sketches never outstay their welcome (which would be hard to do at only a half hour per episode, minus a short musical act) and are usually very creative.

The bit that makes our entire family laugh out loud every time we see it a three-part Behind the Music parody about “DJ Salad” and his “beef” with “Cardi Beef.” It’s absurd and ridiculous and puntastic and, most importantly, hilarious.

This is Part II, where the beef heats up (!) but check out Part I and Part III (featuring Toast Malone!) also. If you have kids and want to watch something with them that won’t melt your brain, the All New All That is definitely worth seeking out.

Classic Islanders Clip Just For fun:

First of all, if you haven’t already listened to Joe’s interview with IslandersPride founder Steven Niciforo (who is also @IslesHistorical on Twitter), you definitely should. Steven is obviously a massive Islanders fan and his insights into the underground marketplace of old hockey games is fascinating.

This short ESPN preview of the 1994 Rangers-Islanders playoff series belongs in a time capsule. That series would change the dynamic between these two teams forever, and in many ways, the Islanders have still not quite recovered.