What follows is a closer, gritty look, at the New York Islanders season from Sunday, February 3rd to Monday February 11th. The following events may not be suitable for some readers, especially those Islander fans who were walking on proverbial sunshine just a week prior. You have been warned.
…And just like that the optimism of the first two weeks of the season flat lined.
What’s most alarming about this three game win streak is how the team has looked completely different from the one a mere week previous.
Special Teams Not So Special
This was a team with an explosive power play. The Islanders over the last three games haven’t scored a single power play goal, and at times, the special team looks lost and uncertain of how to set up a sustained attack.
The Penalty Kill has become mortal. Power Play goals let up to the Devils late in a 0-0 affair was their undoing. And another to open the Penguins scoring put the Islanders behind early and errantly.
They’re going to be amazing this year… wait… maybe not.
Keith Aucoin and Michael Grabner stopped scoring. In fact, the Islanders have lost all that secondary scoring this week. Michael Grabner still gets his breakaways, but routinely is being robbed. Keith Aucoin has come back down to earth and the only player to consistently find a way to score is John Tavares. The fear was he would be there only offensive threat, and this week, the scoring played out proving just that. He was on the ice for all the Islanders goals this week, if he wasn’t scoring them himself.
Hard Work Pays Off… for the Rangers.
They were out played by a harder working Rangers squad out played the Islanders handedly on Thursday night. For this Islanders team to have any success, this can never be the case. They must be the aggressive ones, who stifle and win the little the battles. They don’t have the talent to not be urgent at all times.
By the time the game ended Thursday night at Madison Square Garden, the Islanders had fall out of a play off spot for the first time this season. In years past, Islander fans have groaned as they’d see their team so far out of the playoff picture and wonder when did this happen. For the 2013 team, look no further than the week of February 3rd as the time they fully fell down.
Close but not close enough for points in the standings!
They aren’t being blown out. All three games this week could have been won by the Islanders if they had found that urgency. The Devils loss was a heartbreaker, but it’s clear that this team needs to capitalize when they are given golden opportunities, be it Grabners failed breakaway attempt on Johan Hedberg late in the game, or on the all their power play opportunities against the Rangers and Penguins.
Kyle Okposo is not Ok.
Another key to the Islanders success rests on Kyle Okposo. He’s now been put on the 2nd line with Frans Nielsen, another player struggling. It feels like year and year out, the team is waiting for Okposo to blossom and find consistency, but now one has to wonder if that’s really in the cards for Okposo on this team.
New Blood Same Outcome. But at least they played better… right?
The Islanders looked to finally fill out their season starting projected line up when both Josh Bailey (injury) and Lubimor Visnovsky (it’s complicated) finally joined the team for Saturday night’s tilt against the Buffalo Sabres. The Islanders had a spirited effort against a Sabres team who is also searching for consistency so far this season. The Islanders peppered Ryan Miller with 43 shots, but ultimately, three timely goals by the Sabres was enough to send the Islanders to their fourth straight regulation loss. The final score 3-2. Even with the buzzing of Visnovsky as he played his first game, and a hard 60-minute effort finally, the Islanders felt the frustration of not winning a game in which they outplayed their opponent.
You Can’t Lose If You Score 4 Power Play Goals! Oh, you can.
Finally, on Monday night, the Islanders faced the Carolina Hurricanes to close out their week. Rick Dipietro got the nod to start for only the second time this season. The Islanders saw their power play come back alive. Four, count them four goals with the extra attacker. Unfortunately, this would not be enough as they let Caroline score five on Dipietro and one into an empty net. So on a night the offense clicked again, they didn’t have the ability to ever go up by two goals, shut down the Hurricanes surges, or get the big save from their goalie. They lost 5-3.
And finally, in what predominantly seemed to be a move to get to the salary cap floor, the Islanders acquired controversial goaltender Tim Thomas from the Bruins. Thomas has been taking the year off, and may not even play for the Islanders at all in this last year of his contract. If he were to join the team, this would mean the Islanders would have a 37 year old goalie in Nabokov, and a 38 year old Thomas, and as usual, Rick Dipietro 31. As of now, there has been no word that Thomas will join the Islanders for any part of this season. GM Garth Snow has the option to roll Thomas’s final year of his contract until next season since he is under a suspension from the Bruins. It remains to be seen if the three-headed goalie monster from last season could return. It’s hard to imagine how such a scenario could help the team at this point.
The Answer? Unknown.
The New York Islanders have fallen behind thanks to a quick forming five game losing streak. In their future is another game against the Rangers, then the Devils and their first match up against there other division rival, the Flyers. There is no easy stretch. This team has to figure out ways to tighten it’s game or it’s up to GM Garth Snow to decide if this is the team he’s going to sit on for the rest of the season, or try something drastic. A trade? (And not for a semi-retired goalie who doesn’t want to play here). A roster call up? (Nino Niedereitter?). Or if the losing streak becomes more ingrained in the culture, is it time to make a coaching change? Coach Jack Capuano seems uncertain how to fix each night’s new problem. At any rate, the questions need answers and fast. Catch up begins Valentines Day at Madison Square Garden.
Jeff is a writer of short stories, screenplays, comics, and plays. He’s also a filmmaker, and a mens division 4 ice hockey goalie in Los Angeles, California. Originally from New York, he is a life long Islanders fan and excited to see them move to Brooklyn in 2015!