The Islanders started the season with a 4-1-2 start. Islander Country was on the edge of its seat and fans were quickly seen taking snap shots of the Eastern Conference standings and posting them on Facebook to brag about the hold on 1st place in the Atlantic Division. Clearly, this was just a little too premature.
Scott Gordon’s squad has now dropped four games in a row, the latest to the Philadelphia Flyers in an embarrassing 6-1 defeat where they were bullied on the ice and the scoreboard. Several game misconducts were handed out and DiPietro was seen trying to fight Danny Briere after he cross-checked Frans Nielsen in the face right after a face-off in the Islanders end of the ice.
But after the fisticuffs were over and the paper work was finalized by the off ice officials, the Isles coaching staff has to be asking, what’s next?
DiPietro has not won a game since Oct. 21st when the Isles earned a fluky over time victory in Tampa Bay. Many of the players that were riding hot streaks, such as Comeau and Bailey, have been unproductive almost since John Tavares made his return to the line-up. And let’s not forget that injuries continue to pile up as well.
The focal point seems to be the way that the team plays five-on-five. The power play, which was starting to become recognized by opponents as a threat – something that most Islander fans are not used to hearing – was the main reason for the team’s success. But if the man-advantage doesn’t get the job done, then hockey games have to be won with disciplined even strength play.
It is unfair to assume that Rob Schremp will be able to step in and be an automatic difference maker, as he is close to returning to the line-up. He certainly will provide some needed extra offense, but it will likely take him a few games to establish a comfortable rhythm. As for Kyle Okposo, well…he’s still some time away from making a return.
The long and the short of it is that the Islanders need to go back to basics. Their physical play has to pick up when they are fore-checking in the attacking zone; their role players have to continue to play the roles that they are here to fill; the top-line guys (Tavares, Moulson, Comeau and Bailey) have to re-start their engines and pick up where they left off before last night’s game.
As far as Rick goes, these games have to be expected. It is very easy to finger point and blame a 6-1 game on the goaltender. Although there were some goals the old Rick wouldn’t normally have let up, the team did not perform the way they are actually capable of playing. Everyone needs to start with a collective defensive effort when DiPietro is in net. In all fairness to Rick, the 41-year old Dwayne Roloson is more reliable in tough situations just for the simple fact that he has consistently played for the past few years. The skaters need to support their recovering goaltender to help him get through this process as quickly and painlessly as possible.
The Islanders are off until Wednesday when they face the Carolina Hurricanes. A few days to work on things and get away from the ice might not be a bad thing. Road games haven’t been to kind to the Isles so far, but they have to start somewhere if they wish to get out of this recent funk. As far as home games go, it won’t get any prettier. They play the Flyers again at the Coliseum this Saturday after one more road visit to the Ottawa Senators on Thursday.
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