At this point, I think we can call it a rough stretch.
The New York Islanders have now dropped three of their last four—all in regulation, so no loser points to help in the standings—and by points percentage have fallen out of a Metro playoff spot and into the first wild card. They’re only a point behind second-place Carolina and equal to third-place Pittsburgh, but both teams have played fewer games. They have a small but not insignificant three-point cushion over the rival New York Rangers, nipping at Metro and wild card heels.
What makes this stretch so frustrating, as Dom hinted at yesterday in the recap, is that these four games were all winnable, and the next six contests are a bit more difficult. The Islanders faced two genuine bottom-feeders and two other bubble teams, one of which was struggling mightily. All three home games were against Central Division visitors arriving on the second half of a back-to-back. They probably should have come away with at least five or six standings points; instead, they took only two.
It’s not like they played terribly or didn’t show up in all the losses. They put up 50 shots against Nashville and 40 against St. Louis. But regression has impacted the offense ever so slightly, and that’s enough to cost standings points. It was far from Ilya Sorokin’s best game last night—the ultimate game-winner was a howler—but that’s going to happen, occasionally.
That all said, we know this team tends to play up to stronger competition and down to weaker competition. Four of their next six come against top-five teams by points, including games against the current top three (by points and points percentage). The other two are against the defending champs and the Arizona Coyotes, who have already beaten the Isles. What I’m saying is that I hope they stay true to form and come out blazing—or, in the case of the goaltenders, come out stonewall-like.
On another note, hopefully, Adam Pelech is okay. I can’t imagine that he didn’t suffer a concussion when Robert Bortuzzo sent his head into the boards, so he’ll likely be out at least a week. But it looked like an ugly one, so it could be longer, in my non-medical opinion. I’d guess Robin Salo would draw into the lineup and a call-up is coming, but who knows?
About last night:
- The Isles nearly came back again, but still lost in regulation to a fragile team missing two of its most important players. [LHH]
- They looked good to start but got lackadaisical and allowed the Blues to pull away. [amNY]
- It was also a rare bad night for Sorokin. But he doesn’t tend to dwell on rough performances—not even in ping-pong. [The Athletic]
- Andrew Gross echoes the general concern about struggling through this stretch with a run of tough games upcoming. [Newsday]
- And coach Lane Lambert predictably did not have an update on Pelech. [Newsday]
- Thomas Greiss, despite giving up four goals last night, was solid in his second game back on Long Island since leaving. His return sparked fond memories for his old mates. [Newsday]
- It was also fellow former Islander Nick Leddy’s first trip back to Long Island since leaving—he was traded by the Red Wings last season before they came to UBS Arena, and he went to the Blues, who had already made their trip to Long Island when they acquired him. He got a nice tribute, a standing ovation, and a “Leddy! Leddy!” chant. I love that guy.
- You said it, brother: Mathew Barzal indicates that it would be “pretty cool” if the Islanders acquired Patrick Kane. [Writing “I will not get my hopes up” a thousand times on the chalkboard.] [NY Post]
- Simon Holmstrom has been getting more comfortable. I must say that he looks very good, and it wouldn’t shock me if he doesn’t go back down to Bridgeport. [Newsday]
- Andreas Athanasiou, a man best described as headed nowhere fast, attempted the lacrosse goal Sunday night against Ryan Pulock and Semyon Varlamov. Pulock refuses to fall victim to that play. [amNY]
- There’s a space on the Islanders Hall of Fame banner waiting to be filled. Who should go there, though? [Audacy]
- Speaking of Islanders Hall of Famers, the Isles hosted the Gillies family as honorary flag captains during Sunday night’s game honoring Clark Gillies. [NHL]
Last night’s NHL scores include a win for the Penguins over the Blue Jackets and an overtime loss for the Hurricanes to the Ducks.
Greg Wyshynski polled his league sources to gauge how warm the seat is for all 32 NHL coaches: Gerard Gallant and Bruce Boudreau must be feeling the heat. [E$PN+]
The World Juniors are coming up—wait, weren’t they just in August?!—and Canada and the U.S. have named their training/selection camp rosters. According to Command-F, no Islanders prospects were invited to either nation’s camp. [NHL]