One game left in the regular season and there is at least a little intrigue still left. Third place? Fourth place? A win against someone good? Who knows?
First, let’s look back at the (pretty crappy) week that was.
Last week for the New York Islanders:
Games 52 and 53: 4-2 loss to the Sabres and 4-3 SO loss to the Sabres
Really? Really. I guess this is what I get for making proclamations about taking these wins or else it’ll be a huge letdown. Letdown: Achieved.
Barry Trotz said it best after the first game: what was a good story for the Buffalo Sabres was a bad story for the New York Islanders. Goalie Michael Houser, who hadn’t played above the AHL-level in five years and in any game for over a year, looked like an NHL starter, and the Sabres, out of playoff contention since about the second week of the season, looked like a quick, determined team on the rise. Meanwhile, the Islanders, hoping to tighten things up before the post-season starts, looked like they needed and wanted a vacation.
Both games played out in eerily similar ways despite the different scores. The Islanders came out blazing and tried to blitz Buffalo into an early submission. But once they were down by two goals, the Sabres stormed back aided by an almost endless string of mental mistakes by the Islanders. Failed clears, soft east-west play, bad net front coverage, you name it. And when the dust settled, the Islanders were left with one measly point for the efforts, which is about all they deserved.
Was Game Two better than Game One? Sure, I guess. Were they both uplifting stories of perseverance from a Sabres perspective? Yes. Were they both excruciating to watch from an Islanders perspective? Oh yeah.
We all had a good laugh at the Leafs’ expense after the David Ayers game last season and now it’s our turn. This is probably worse considering it was back-to-back losses to an essentially non-NHL goalie. But credit the Sabres for playing well and Houser for making the most of his moment. And shame on the Islanders for not putting up at least a little more fight.
Game 54: 2-1 loss to the Devils
Was this the most boring game the Islanders have played all season? For all the complaints about their “boring” style, when the Islanders play their game, I find it anything but boring. Of course, the Islanders didn’t really play their game in this one (again) and the whole thing just sat there like an old kaiser roll going stale in a deli window.
High danger chances for and against were both even between both teams (per Natural Stat Trick), and the Islanders had a slight advantage in possession. They had shots but few seemed particularly threatening. It was a classic “Didn’t give up much, didn’t do much” game, which in some cases, would be fine.
But when you’ve lost five of your last seven and are a week or so away from starting the post-season and with questions growing by the day about your ability to go deep in it, maybe not doing much isn’t such a great thing.
Of their recent losses, this was the one I was the least angry about. It’s pretty clear that, with first place now out of reach, Trotz is in full preseason experimentation mode with the lineup. I don’t like it, but I get it. Had they played better over the last month, maybe they wouldn’t be pulsing the line blender right now. But they didn’t and now they are and that’s just how it is.
Game 55: 5-1 win over the Devils
Hey, whataya know? The Islanders showed up. And it wasn’t even against the Rangers. This was the kind of game I was hoping to see four times in this week against also-rans. Once will have to be enough.
This might have also been the best the two new forwards have looked in Islanders uniforms. Kyle Palmieri scored his second goal since the trade and Travis Zajac looked comfortable skating on the fourth line with Matt Martin and Casey Cizikas. It was nice to see four lines rolling again and it felt like a typical “boring” Islanders game as opposed to the actual boring game these two teams played on Thursday.
This was the last regular season game at Nassau Coliseum and I know for myself, that doesn’t mean all that much this time around. I kinda emptied that tank back in 2015 when the Islanders left the first time, and this stay was always temporary, like crashing on a buddy’s couch on a trip or after being kicked out of your apartment. Rather than “The Last [X] at Nassau Coliseum,” it feels like we’re all looking forward to celebrating “The First [X] at UBS Arena” starting next season. Man, I can’t wait.
Record for the week: 1-2-1
Season Record: 32-17-6
Next week for the New York Islanders:
Monday, May 10 vs the Bruins
So which Islanders team will we see in this one? The focused, detail-oriented buzzsaw that wrecked the Rangers season (and maybe beyond) and should scare the crap out of other playoff teams? Or the sloppy, offensively impotent group we’ve had the unfortunate “pleasure” of watching since the beginning of April?
For seeding, the make-up game gives the Islanders a chance to jump into third place. If they can beat the Bruins on Monday, and Boston loses to Washington on Tuesday, then the Islanders will clinch third in the East Division and face the Capitals in the first round of the playoffs. If one (or both) of those things doesn’t happen, then we’ll be seeing the Penguins in Round One.
Perhaps more importantly, the Bruins are a playoff team and the Islanders could use a good performance against a good team to boost a lot of people’s confidence. I wouldn’t be surprised if both teams just decide to just throw this one away before it even begins and focus on making sure no one gets hurt. I’m not sure if I’d prefer the Islanders take on the Caps or Pens so I have no idea if I even want them to win on Monday.
A few weeks ago, I harbored dreams that this game might decide who wins the East, with the Islanders coming out on top to take their first division crown since Terry Simpson was their head coach. Alas... the wait continues.
Predicted record for the week: 1-0, I guess.
Canadian Sportswriters Say The Darnedest Things:
It’s pretty remarkable that it’s taken this long to work Darren Dreger into one of these segments but the NHL’s week-long Tom Wilson-New York Rangers TV mini series finally brought us together.
My opinion on Wilson’s antics mirror many of those here in that I’d like to see him loaded into a refrigerator and launched directly into the sun. The NHL and the Capitals have done all they can to coddle, sanction and excuse his nonsense for years, and of course, many in the greater hockey world are always quick to note that Tom Wilson is a good player who’s beloved by his teammates. If he sometimes loses control and nearly incapacitates another player, well, that’s just the kinda guy he is.
Dreger, of TSN’s Insider Trading, reported that both Wilson and Alex Ovechkin reached out to Artemi Panarin to make sure the Rangers winger, who will miss the remainder of the season, was okay after Wilson body slammed him to the ice and punched him a few times in the head. See, the whole situation was really out of Wilson’s control, even though it was Wilson’s own fists raining down on Panarin’s helmetless noggin.
“Despite what some think about Tom Wilson, he did want to make sure that Panarin was okay because that did not go the way that Wilson was hoping.”
You can watch the video here if you don’t believe that Dreger actually said that. He did. Unfortunately, Dreger didn’t elaborate on how challenging the entire Rangers bench to a Bunkhouse Brawl was expected to go by Wilson.
Dreger ends the segment by saying that the calls mean that “Tom Wilson does have a heart.” Well that’s just swell, Dregs. We’ll all remember that heart the next time a different part of Wilson’s anatomy ends another guy’s career.
Alternate Programming Options:
We’ve been watching The Mighty Ducks: Game Changers on Disney+ and it’s a very cute family sitcom that cleverly subverts the standard Mighty Ducks formula. The dialogue is very good, even from the kids, and it proves once again why Lauren Graham should have been given an Emmy years ago for her incredible way of delivering pages of lines in hilarious rapid-fire ways. I don’t know how many other actors can do that, and she’s the master. I also like how the kid who’s dressed head-to-toe at all times in Leafs gear is a huge phony.
The show wouldn’t work without getting Emilio Estevez back as coach Gordon Bombay and it’s a rare on-camera appearance for him over the last decade or so. He’s been a director, producer, writer and cameo maker in the years since his stardom waned, and it was easy to forget how funny he was in his younger days.
When I think of Emilio Estevez comedies, I don’t think of The Mighty Ducks, I think of Men at Work, his 1990 directorial effort in which he starred alongside his brother Charlie Sheen as two dopey sanitation workers who find a dead body in a barrel and get embroiled in a murder plot, municipal corruption and the, uh, kidnapping of a witless pizza delivery guy.
That doesn’t sound all that funny but, believe me, it’s amazing. It also stars the legendary Keith David as an antagonistic supervisor sent to keep an eye on Estevez and Sheen and who ends up becoming an ally.
Men at Work is currently streaming for free (with ads) on the Roku channel. It seems to come and go on other services from time to time. Check your on-demand cable channels, too.
Classic Islanders Clip Just For fun:
Here’s the intro to the last last game at Nassau Coliseum, Game 6 of the first round against the Capitals in 2015. They won this game in exciting fashion, then lost Game 7 in Washington. Let’s hope their playoff run lasts much, much longer this time.