It was another weird week for the New York Islanders, completely befitting a weird season that held high expectations but has delivered only heads cratching and a nice new building.
After a stinker in L.A., the Islanders surprised us with a 4-0 shutout of the Ducks, a tough-luck loss amid a good effort vs. the Avalanche, a maddening loss to the Canucks at home, and a professional close victory over the Blues on Saturday afternoon.
That’s why they play the games, and all that. Speaking of which, the rematch with the Avalanche is Monday night.
About Last Night: Matinee Win over Blues
- A feisty afternoon, and some big Sorokin saves late protect the win. [LHH]
- A scrappy win, considering they were facing a Western contender while missing Anders Lee, Mathew Barzal and Zdeno Chara. [Post]
- Strong defensive effort overall. [Newsday]
- They hung on, they liked their effort and they liked the result. [NHL]
- Three Takeaways: They outlasted the Blues’ comeback push. [Isles]
Blueline Injuries & Moves
Zdeno Chara hit the career games played milestone and promptly picked up his first injury of the season, That created the opening for the return of Andy Greene, who’d been sitting for Sebastian Aho.
On Saturday, Chara was placed on IR and Parker Wotherspoon — not Robin Salo — was recalled from Bridgeport.
Newsday and the Post both have items on Trotz’s comments about why Wotherspoon was recalled. Essentially, the word is “he’s been the best” lately according to Bridgeport staff. Trotz also alluded that Salo “should be the best” down there but “hasn’t been.” Sounds like a little wakeup call to Salo, and perhaps a little “stick with it” boost for Wotherspoon, who is in his fifth full AHL season. It also might not matter at all.
That said, Aho left the bench during Saturday afternoon’s third period and returned for just one shift. Could be a precaution, could be an opening, we’ll see.
Speaking of games without Chara, in The Athletic: More offense from the blueline, but are they missing him in their zone?
Dobson’s on-ice play, now at 10 goals, hasn’t seemed to miss the vet. [Isles]
The Season’s Basically Toast. What Next?
In his Sunday column Larry Brooks revisits a question that has been on the horizon the last few offseasons, but has been punted each year with the Islanders reaching the Stanley Cup semifinal: With several over-30 players signed to multi-year contracts, what moves can be made to reboot? Who should be sold off?
The “Identity Line” is a typical example here: Cal Cluterbuck is a UFA, Matt Martin is signed at a nominal price, and Casey Cizikas, still the most important of the three, is signed long-term after re-upping last summer. Even the biggest fans of this fourth line (outside the organization, at least) would probably acknowledge it’s a surprise that they have been effective for as long as they were. We’ve said this every summer but it certainly feels like winter has come for the trio.
On that note, will Ross Johnston be the guy to fill Clutterbuck’s shoes if he’s dealt or allowed to walk? Andrew Gross of Newsday considered that question among others in his column, which also included reassurances from Barry Trotz that Oliver Wahlstrom and Kieffer Bellows are developing fine — evidently the beatwriters ask about them a lot and Trotz finds the scribes a tad eager.
#Isles Barry Trotz with long, thoughtful, detailed explanation on Oliver Wahlstrom's development. Ends with:— Andrew Gross (@AGrossNewsday) March 5, 2022
"He's got lots of talent. Don't be impatient. Wahlly is going to be good. He's going to be fine. You guys are like McDonald's. You guys want everything right now."
In his reader mailbag, Kevin Kurz of The Athletic noted that he has gathered how important Clutterbuck is in the locker room and as a “pulse” reader for Trotz. So his departure would be felt in that way, and also create an opening for others.
Yesterday’s other NHL scores included tons of high-scoring games (Isles-Blues excluded): the Predators shut out the Sharks 8-0, a guy scored seven points for the Coyotes, and the Flames beat the Avalanche in OT, among many others.
- For the first time in 10 years, a player logged seven points in an NHL game. Nick Schmaltz is the lucky guy, with points on seven of Arizona’s eight goals against the Senators. [NHL | Five for Howling]
- The Leafs have lost two in a row and confidence in Jack Campbell may be shaken. [Sportsnet]
- Always time to rip the Oilers: Turning back into a “soft, loose team” after the coaching change bump wears off. [Sportsnet]
- Always time to praise the Flames, who are showing they can win anywhere. [Sportsnet]
- With some injuries hitting their blueline, the first-place Hurricanes could add at the trade deadline. [NHL]
- And their counterparts in the West, the Avalanche may also be looking to add. [TSN]