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Islanders News: What’s required for the 8th-place Islanders to concoct a miracle?

The long schedule break continues, so we gawk at the Oilers and pose another Islanders question.

Edmonton Oilers v New York Islanders
For the Oilers, things did not get better after this.
Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images

The New York Islanders continue their longest break yet, though it’s a chance for them to work on flaws that teams normally don’t get to work on in January of a season. #brightside They’re also seeing injured players work their way back.

However the league makes up their 10 postponements, the schedule is gonna suck. But at least they’ll feel prepared jumping into that fire.

Speaking of which, that’s our question of the day. The Islanders put themselves in quite a fix, at the bottom of the Metro by points (26 in 28 games) and by points percentage (.464). It’s not impossible for them to climb back and make the playoffs, but it’s a tough ask and would require several hot stretches over the remaining 54 games. So: What are the top three or four ingredients for that to happen? I can think of a few:

No more key injuries: Ryan Pulock is still out but is skating, and he may get to play as many as 10 games he’d have otherwise missed. Still, the Isles can’t afford anymore injuries like that.

The power play has to remain effective: The power play was horrible for the first stretch of the season, one of many factors the Isles were at the bottom of the league in offense and why they could never buy a break in close games. But as the Isles Fix newsletter pointed out, the PP is third-best in the league since Dec. 2, converting at 34.6% over that span.

The Russian goalies need to be stellar: This is the timeless cliche, just like pitching in baseball, but the goaltending has to be there. Semyon Varlamov and Ilya Sorokin both have it in them, but each has had tough stretches this season where they were unable to bail out the struggling team.

Someone in the Metro or Atlantic has to falter: This is probably the least likely of the above, but...to make the leap the Isles not only have to play at an outstanding pace, they need some team in the top four of either division to swoon. With COVID and unpredictable injuries, anything can happen. But the Capitals, Hurricanes, Penguins and {curses} Rangers have all continued to pile up points in the Metro (though the Penguins have had their skids before their current winning streak). Given that top four, the Isles will need to hope both wild card teams come from the Metro, which would require Boston to nosedive again. The Bruins have had their struggles this season and are currently “only” eight points above the Isles, so maybe Boston is the crack that lets the light get in.

Islanders News

  • The Islanders were supposed to be in Seattle yesterday morning, instead they were at home practicing, working on things, and welcoming back Brock Nelson and Kyle Palmieri. Lane Lambert ran things again and handled the post-practice media availability. [Isles]
  • Our latest Islanders Anxiety podcast: Dan and Mike ponder the latest pause, the quality play in wins over a depleted Buffalo squad and an Oilers team that’s constantly searching for a solution in goal, and how Kieffer Bellows and Noah Dobson have taken big steps.
  • Noah Dobson has blossomed over the last month, with encouragement and partnership from Zdeno Chara and others. [Post | Newsday]
  • Prospect Report: “Cameron Berg and Eetu Liukas light the lamp, while Henrik Tikkanen earns his ninth win of the season.” [Isles]
  • Yesterday in Isles history: Mike Bossy scored his 500th, an empty netter. [Isles]

Elsewhere

  • The NHL does not believe there will be additional postponement of Canada-based games beyond the middle of January. [Sportsnet]
  • The Flames added three more players (bringing them to nine) and a coach to COVID Protocol, so their game with Seattle was postponed. [TSN]
  • The Wild lost Cam Talbot in the Winter Classic, and he will be out indefinitely. [NHL]
  • If you were expecting the once-struggling Johnny Gaudreau to die under Darryl Sutter, he’s actually become a “200-foot player” earning heaps of uncharacteristic praise from the gruff Flames coach. [Sportsnet]
  • The Stars got 10 players out of COVID Protocol at the same time. [NHL]

There was only one (non-postponed) game on the schedule last night, but it involved the Islanders’ hated local rival and the franchise whose media-fanbase-team disconnect has been the most fascinating to watch and read for {checks calendar} 15 years and counting.

Since the Edmonton Oilers’ Pronger-and-Roloson-fueled run to the Stanley Cup final in 2006, where they lost to a team captained by Rod Brind’Amour and featuring a semi-healthy Doug Weight, the Oilers have been an annual tire fire. Tons of lottery luck, first-overall picks, two of the most dominant forwards in the world, and still the best they can manage is “This team may be, or ought to be, at least a playoff team, I think.”

Last night they faced the Rangers, who were playing on back-to-back nights. It did not go well. The Oilers got swept on their NY/NJ swing.

Former Islander Mikko Koskinen cleared the puck over the glass for a penalty in the opening minute. After they killed that penalty, Koskinen was caught behind his net to retrieve a puck that never made it to the trapezoid, leading to an easy goal.

Head coach Dave Tippett, who according to many Oil fans does not rip Good Old North American vets like Mike Smith or the Shell of Duncan Keith, pinned the loss on Koskinen in the post-game presser.

  • Tippett says the team is actually playing better at 5-on-5 than it was early in the season, when it’s power play was at an absurd 50% and covering for that. [NHL]
  • Reliable Company Line Guy Spector also put it all on Koskinen, though the Oilers managed one goal and have generally scored one or two goals throughout their monthlong swoon. [Sportsnet]
  • Gawk at Oilers fan reactions in Copper & Blue’s recap,
  • How can anyone be confident in the Oilers? [Oilers Nation]
  • Should the Oilers make a shakeup? “Despite Holland’s off-season efforts, the same issues plague this roster as before.” [Sportsnet]