The excuses are certainly there. Semyon Varlamov, the starting goalie for the night, left the game early after getting up gingerly from making a save, and recent depth defense pick-up Robert Bortuzzo left in the second period unable to put any weight on his right leg. The Colorado Avalanche generally don’t lose at home, and they have the firepower to overcome most goal deficits. Clearly, the Avalanche outplayed them and probably would’ve won more comfortably if Alexandar Georgiev played better. The officiating was particularly atrocious, even by NHL standards. And when you play in the mountains, the altitude is always a factor.
But the fact of the matter is that the New York Islanders, yet again, blew several leads, including a two-goal lead, on the way to giving up a point. It’s commendable to take a point from a road game in Denver, and maybe normally, given all the above issues, you let this one slide. The point is always important. However, I believe that was the 15th game in which the Islanders have blown a lead. It hasn’t happened as frequently of late, but it’s still a problematic trend. They don’t appear to know what to do to lock down a lead, especially in their own zone. Those are critical standings points they need in order to stay in the race—and who knows where they would be if they didn’t blow half of those leads.
Well, they play again tomorrow in fabulous Mullet Arena against the Arizona Coyotes, who are holding down a wild card spot in the West by the slimmest of margins. They’re certainly no pushovers, but it’s a good opportunity to right the ship and get two road points before visiting the defending champion Vegas Golden Knights on Saturday.
- Andrew Gross notes the difficulty of the opponent and altitude in a preview story. [Newsday]
- He also wrote a preview story about Varlamov returning to the lineup. Oops. [Newsday]
- Pierre Engvall returned to the lineup and scored the opening goal. As Dom says, the coaching staff will probably think they did a good job, but there’s a better way to teach a lesson than handicapping your team in an important game. [Newsday]
- A rare side of Lane Lambert: He called out the officiating in his post-gamer, singling out the Mike Reilly penalty that allowed the Avs to tie it as “terrible.” And he’s right. [NY Post]
- So, seriously, who the hell are these guys? [The Athletic]
- At World Juniors, Team USA is moving on to the semifinals after beating Latvia 7-2. Scoring the third goal for the U.S., which was his first of the tournament and went on to be the game-winner, is the Islanders’ 2023 second-round pick, Danny Nelson. [Islanders]
- Peter Baugh, previous of The Athletic’s Avalanche beat, is moving over to New York hockey coverage like Arthur Staple. [The Athletic]
- Great news: The Islanders and Pat LaFontaine are mending their relationship after a long estrangement. [amNY]
- In the latest Islanders Anxiety, Dan regrets having faith in these Islanders, and Mike is anxious about this road trip. [LHH]
- It’s worth asking at the rate they’re going:
Does 34-24-24 get you into the playoffs? Just wondering— Arthur Staple (@StapeAthletic) January 3, 2024
Last night’s NHL scores at least featured some games that ended in regulation. The Capitals jumped out to a 4-0 first-period lead over the Penguins and managed to hold on for a 4-3 win. The Hurricanes decimated the Rangers. And the Oilers, led by a five-point night for Connor McDavid, helpfully dispatched the Flyers.
- Midseason award check-in: Noah Dobson was the only defenseman not named Cale Makar or Quinn Hughes to get a mention in the Norris category. And Nathan MacKinnon, who scored the game-winner last night and otherwise looked dominant, is in pole position for the Hart Trophy. [E$PN+]
- Here are 12 storylines that will help define the NHL in the year 2024. [Sportsnet]
- One of them is William Nylander’s contract status. He was right to bet on himself because he’s boosting his AAV, and apparently, progress is being made on an extension. [Sportsnet]
- Also at World Juniors, the Canadians are done after the quarterfinal round, losing to Czechia. [Sportsnet]