Dare I say that it’s another must-win?
The New York Islanders enter tonight’s game in last place in the Eastern Conference. They have two wins. They are also 28th in league standings because the Western Conference is a concerted race to the bottom.
The Islanders’ two wins, you’ll be shocked to learn, came against teams nos. 30 and 31 in the standings—with only the pitiful, winless Vancouver Canucks below them. Staring them down is a Friday-Saturday traveling back-to-back against the reigning Metropolitan Division champs (Carolina Hurricanes) and the reigning Stanley Cup champs (Colorado Avalanche).
On the other side of the ring are the New York Rangers, who I begrudgingly admit are contenders for the Stanley Cup and who lost in a shootout to those very same defending champions (and their aggrieved former backup goalie) last night on national TV. Tonight’s game is technically a traveling back-to-back for them, although my writing that is only to acknowledge that it’s out there. It is not a traveling back-to-back.
It is, though, still a back-to-back after playing last year’s Cup winner; hopefully, they let down a little. And thankfully for us, they started their wizard last night, meaning the Islanders once again get to face their old friend Jaroslav Halak, who has not gotten better with age and has struggled mightily against the Islanders since leaving. All this adds up to a great chance to take two points from a rival and, frankly, save their season from needing to be saved—because, and stay with me here, I don’t think they’re getting a single point from this weekend’s games. I would love to be wrong. But I think I’m right because they can’t handle their speed, and there’s no rivalry to stir them like there will be tonight.
So tonight will be the difference between starting a terrible 3-6 or a dreadful, throw-in-the-towel-and-tank-hard-for-Bedard 2-7. Making up three wins and six points against a softer schedule sounds difficult, but doable. Five wins and ten points? Not a chance, and I don’t feel good about them taking just one point tonight either. That would require some real season-saving, like a six- or seven-game win streak at a minimum, and I can’t see this team pulling that off. They’re already four points off the wild card pace, albeit with one fewer game played.
I know this all sounds a bit too histrionic this early in the season, but they’re screwed if they lose in regulation tonight. They say in this league that you can’t make the playoffs in October, but you can sure miss them. And the Islanders are teetering right on the edge of that ledge. It’s good to be back. But I don’t want to stay very long, so it would be nice if they won tonight. I don’t expect to feel comforted if they win tonight, but it would be nice to stave off pointlessness—-both in the standings and in following this team—for a little longer.
- A statistical preview of tonight’s contest. [Islanders]
- Ethan Sears agrees with the above: Tonight’s game is crucial, perhaps more than any October game should be. [NY Post]
- Lane Lambert’s carousel of linemates for Mathew Barzal lands on Oliver Wahlstrom and Josh Bailey. It’s a big opportunity for Wahlstrom. [Newsday | amNY]
- Here are the remaining lines, allegedly.
#Isles lines at practice:— Stefen Rosner (@stefen_rosner) October 25, 2022
- The slow start has raised some obvious questions, like “what’s wrong?” [amNY]
- The press box at UBS Arena will be renamed the Stan Fischler Press Level tonight before or during the game. [Islanders]
- For a long time, we retorted “Potvin’s Cups” when Rangers fans chanted “Potvin sucks.” Now, we have “Potvin’s socks,” which will be available tonight. [Islanders | NHL]
- NFP and the Islanders have entered a multi-year partnership. Someone out there must care about this. [Islanders]
- Islanders superfan Ralph Macchio has a new book coming out. He sat down to discuss his love of the Islanders and New York sports and more. [The Athletic]
- Vegas Golden Knights winger Phil Kessel is the new ironman, suiting up for his 990th NHL game last night. He scored his 400th career goal to help Vegas knock off the San Jose Sharks. [NHL | Sportsnet]
- Kessel is something of a legend, and his former teammates and friends from his stops across the league all have a good story to tell about him. [ESPN]
- Our man Barry Trotz went on the Cam and Strick Podcast and revealed some interesting nuggets; the one that caught everyone’s attention was that he’s not quite ready to come back yet, but he’d be “intrigue[d]” by the prospect of coaching an Original Six team. Please, Barry, don’t go to the Leafs or Rangers. [NHL | Sportsnet | Link to Recording/Video of Podcast]
- Hall-of-Fame goalie Dominik Hasek has called repeatedly for the NHL to ban Russian players. [The Athletic]
- Nutrition is more important than ever in today’s NHL, where players look for any legal competitive edge they can find. [ESPN]