Yesterday’s win was huge. The New York Islanders are starting to dominate games territorially, or at least control them, and yesterday afternoon against the Detroit Red Wings was no different. They just couldn’t beat Magnus Hellberg and find the back of the net for the first 40 minutes. And when Detroit scored late in the second to take a 1-0 lead, it felt like it might be one of those unjust outcomes.
But then they exploded in the third period. I knew sitting there that if they could just get one past Hellberg, the dam would crack. Crack it did. The Red Wings’ lead became the Islanders’ lead in a span of two minutes, and New York didn’t let it go. A massive regulation win for the “structure,” which has them winning games again. Their return to a Trotzian, 1-1-3 style of play has them at 4-1-1 in their last six and 9-3-3 in their last 15. Those are the kinds of runs that keep you in the playoff race. And they’re doing it quietly.
Let the Buffalo Sabres and Ottawa Senators (and Red Wings before them) take all the attention. Let everyone hop on their bandwagons. The Islanders have sneaked under the radar while earning points in 12 of their last 15, dating back to the wins over these same Wings and the Vegas Golden Knights just before the All-Star break and just before Bo Horvat arrived. The Islanders seem to do best when the rest of the hockey world doubts them or hates them.
They now have a massive game coming up on Tuesday with probably their second-biggest threat to a playoff spot, the Sabres. Buffalo will have hosted Connor McDavid and the Edmonton Oilers on Monday night, but they have a better record on the road than at home. Not to mention, the Islanders have, for some reason, struggled against teams playing the second half of a back-to-back. Win that one in regulation, please. At least get two points.
About yesterday afternoon:
- The captain had a monster third period, scoring two huge goals to bring about justice. [LHH]
- His two goals put him in sole possession of ninth place in all-time goals in Islanders history, surpassing Bobby Nystrom. [amNY]
- The four-goal rally boosted them to a 13-0 goal differential in the third period over the last eight games. And they just keep winning. [Newsday]
- The defensive structure kept them in control all game long. [3 Takeaways]
- And as Elliotte Friedman would like to say, they keep improving Their Math. As Ethan Sears writes, that win was clinical. [NY Post]
- I did not realize it, but that was Detroit’s fifth loss in a row. [NHL]
- Yesterday was the first time that Igor Sorokin, Ilya’s father, got to see him play live. [Newsday] He put on a show for him. [NY Post]
- Every Islander besides Adam Pelech had a shot on goal, but Pelech’s lack of a shot was fine considering his defensive play (more below). Also, new acquisition Pierre Engvall set a season-high in ice time, playing 17:26 skating on the top line with Lee and Bo Horvat.
- Another big part of the return to their structure is that Pelech is back up to speed after struggling in his first few weeks coming back from a concussion. [The Athletic]
- Lou Lamoriello bet on his roster coming out of a poor January by acquiring Horvat and later adding Engvall. He bet on his defense in not trading for a defenseman before Friday. Now it’s a matter of whether those bets will pay off. [Newsday]
- Hudson Fasching is “100 percent” interested in signing an extension beyond this season with the Islanders. Among the fans, that feeling is mutual. [NYIHN]
- Stefen Rosner answers your questions. [NYIHN]
- On Thursday night, the B-Isles recorded five goals in the third period en route to a 7-1 rout of the P-Bruins. But last night, they got waxed at home, giving up five second-period goals in a 9-0 demolition by the rival Hartford Wolfpack, the Rangers’ affiliate.
Yesterday’s scores featured some important games and less-than-helpful results in them. The Lightning continue to do us almost no favors, losing yet again to the Sabres. The Senators got two goals from old friend Travis Hamonic—his first-career multi-goal game—and Jakob Chychrun’s first with the team as they beat the Blue Jackets. The Penguins lost to the Panthers, but at least that game didn’t need extra time. The Capitals roasted the Sharks, 8-3. And for those that hold out some hope they can catch the Rangers, they lost again, this time to the Bruins.
- Here’s a quick look at the playoff race for the East wild cards.
The Eastern Conference playoff race is getting pic.twitter.com/HJrJT9CnV3— NHL Network (@NHLNetwork) March 5, 2023
- The Lightning picked the worst time (for us, at least) to hit the skids, having lost to Buffalo and Pittsburgh twice each over the last few weeks, and getting waxed by Detroit but pulling out a regulation win solely because of their goalie. It’s been so bad that yesterday in the third period, coach Jon Cooper benched all three of Steven Stamkos, Brayden Point, and Nikita Kucherov. They didn’t take a shift in the final frame. [NHL]
- Here’s a link to a story about how Penguins GM Ron Hextall thinks the roster he has constructed is “capable of winning the Cup.” [NHL]
- And here’s a link to one of many Penguins writers bemoaning the job GM Ron Hextall did at the deadline. Flyers GM Chuck Fletcher, as well. Pennsylvania took a big ‘L’ at the deadline. [Bleacher Report (not a slideshow though)]
- The Flames hosted the Wild in a critical matchup against one of the teams they’d have to chase to make a playoff race out of it. They got shut out, instead, to a serenade of boos. And Darryl Sutter blamed his top players, saying, “I’d boo, too.” [Sportsnet | TSN]
- Elliotte Friedman and Jeff Marek cooked up some new nuggets in a review of the deadline on Hockey Night in Canada. [32 Thoughts Intermission Edition]