The Islanders have been without Johnny Boychuk and Travis Hamonic for over a week now. While they were able to survive without them at first notching a couple of victories. The last two games have shown us that it will be a never-ending fight until these guys return. There is no timetable for their return yet as the NHL is very vague when it comes to injuries. All that is known with these two is that they are suffering from upper body injuries.
The Islanders acquired Boychuk on October 4th from the Boston Bruins in exchange for a couple of draft picks. Upon arrival, Boychuk automatically became the Islanders number one defensemen. He hasn’t disappointed since arriving on Long Island as when he has been healthy he has been the rock the Islanders needed on the blue line and been a weapon on the power play as well. He is someone who also clears the crease for the goalie, something most of the other Islanders defensemen don’t do which has burned the team multiple times this season. Most importantly Boychuk brought a winning pedigree to the team that they otherwise lacked. His absence is being felt both at special teams and at even strength and he can’t get back soon enough.
Prior to the acquisitions of Boychuk and Leddy, Hamonic was all set to be the Islanders number one defenseman. Hamonic has improved leaps and bounds over the years and was rewarded for that with a 7 year extension prior to last season. While he has improved a lot, injuries are starting to become a concern for him. Hamonic has already suffered two concussions in his career which is definitely concerning with him being just 24 years of age. While he doesn’t provide the same crease clearing presence on the blue line that Boychuk does, he definitely brings grit and snarl back there that the team is really lacking right now.
With the team down two defensemen, they have decided to make Brian Strait a regular in the lineup over former top prospect Matt Donovan. The Islanders claimed Strait off waivers from the Penguins prior to the lockout shortened season two years ago. Early on, the claim of Strait seemed like a steal as he played really well. His played earned him a 3 year contract extension from the team. However, soon after, Strait suffered an ankle injury and would miss a majority of the rest of that season. Since returning, Strait has not been anywhere near the same player he was. To put it plainly, he has played very poor.
The absence of Boychuk and Hamonic has given top prospect Griffin Reinhart another chance to show the Islanders and fans what he has after a brief stint with the team early this season. Since being recalled, Reinhart has played pretty well all be it with very sheltered minutes. In last nights loss to the Wild, Reinhart played just 12:50. The absence of Boychuk and Hamonic hasn’t only had effects on the teams play but it has also effected the ice time distribution. It has caused guys like Brian Strait to play nearly 19 minutes a game which is way to much for a guy like him. It has also caused the team to feel like they need to shelter top prospect Griffin Reinhart even though they aren’t in a position to do so. Rather than sheltering him, this should be the time the Islanders give Reinhart a chance to step up and see if he can handle additional responsibility much like Travis Hamonic and Calvin de Haan did early in their careers.
Will the Islanders Survive This?
Missing their top two defensemen is a huge problem for any team. So, will the Islanders be able to overcome this? Or will these injuries derail what had been a remarkable start to their final season at the Nassau Coliseum? While it will be tough as we have seen the last two games, I think the team is capable of overcoming this. The main thing for them is that they need to remember they have to play their game for 60 minutes, not for 1 period and then take the following two periods off. If they are able to do that consistently I think they will be fine.