I think that when we all looked at the New York Islanders’ schedule for the last week of the season, we penciled in eight points with hope for home-ice advantage, if not the East Division title.
Well, now they can only earn two points from four games against the Buffalo Sabres and New Jersey Devils; right now, I doubt they even get those two points. Even if they do, they likely still will finish in fourth place in the East, taking on the division-winner. This is the NHL’s version of load management.
Barry Trotz gave some guys a rest tonight. Leo Komarov remained out for the second straight game, while he was joined by Jordan Eberle, Michael Dal Colle, and Andy Greene. Mathew Barzal returned, as did Matt Martin. Braydon Coburn took Greene’s spot. Semyon Varlamov stepped into the crease opposite Mackenzie Blackwood.
Here’s how #Isles ran through drills this morning:— Arthur Staple (@StapeAthletic) May 6, 2021
Trotz said he’d rest a couple of regulars and Palmieri/Zajac would play vs. NJ.
Ross Johnston remained in the lineup and Travis Zajac and Kyle Palmieri got to play together in their first game facing the Devils since the trade.
First Period: Ebb and Flow
Tonight’s top line had a couple of good shifts early in the game and Brock Nelson and Josh Bailey played give-and-go with Nelson cutting to the net alone, but he put his backhander right into Blackwood’s pads.
While the Isles started strong, the Devils gained control of the game and ended up with the game’s first goal. Jesper Bratt won a pretty easy board battle against Scott Mayfield in the corner and Bratt fed it in front of the net to Pavel Zacha for the goal.
Second Period: Tied for a Bit
Early in the period, the Islanders tied up the game. Anthony Beauvillier recovered the puck in his own zone and skated through the neutral zone, dropping off the puck to Nelson at the New Jersey blue line. Nelson gave it to Mayfield cross-ice and Mayfield threw it toward the front of the net, bouncing it off Beauvillier’s skate and in the net.
Right after the goal, Coburn took a pretty egregious cross-checking penalty. The Islanders killed off most of it before Nelson forced a turnover for a shorthanded break that was impeded by the hook of Damon Severson. The Islanders did not score on the power play.
The Devils regained the lead after the Isles turned over the puck at their own blue line. Nathan Bastian caught the puck and fired wide. Mayfield recovered but failed to clear. Ryan Murray fed diagonally to Severson. Zajac took his time getting to Severson and Mayfield lost sight of Michael McLeod, allowing Severson to find McLeod cutting to the net for a tap-in.
Off a face-off in the final seconds, McLeod high-sticked Casey Cizikas, giving the Islanders a full power play to start the third.
Third Period: Good Night
The Islanders did not score on the power play but had a few chances. Palmieri, in particular, had a couple of good looks, though none ended up on goal.
Unable to generate much for a prolonged time, Trotz swapped Johnston and Barzal to try to get a little spark, but to no avail. The Islanders held onto the puck most of the period and did not threaten much.
Nelson and Beauvillier entered the zone on a quick two-on-one against Matt Tennyson. Nelson danced around his first man and had plenty of room to shoot but tried to pass it to Beauvillier. Tennyson broke it up. It was that kind of night, again.
The Isles could not pull Varlamov until there was around 1:20 remaining and threatened very little.
Notes and Thoughts
- So, the Islanders will begin the playoffs on the road.
- I can only assume that they have begun saving their bodies for the playoffs because they did not get to any dirty areas tonight. They controlled play but did almost nothing with it.
- Palmieri and Zajac have played decently in their time on Long Island, but it is starting to feel like they will never score. Hopefully, Palmieri, at least, heats up in the playoffs.
- I am not too mad at this point—the two losses in Buffalo sort of killed the Isles’ chances of home-ice, hopes that are now officially dead—but I am getting concerned that there is no switch to flip as I had previously hoped. The Islanders had a great season until April, but have been ice cold since and never have heated back up.
- They are running out of space to get hot in the regular season and you would hope that they would start looking playoff-ready in the last week of the regular season. But maybe they still have another gear to hit in the first round.
The Islanders and Devils will dance again on Saturday night at 7:00 p.m. ET. It will be the last regular-season game ever, probably, at Nassau Coliseum.