The New York Islanders victory Sunday, March 3rd against the Senators may have been via a shoot out, but it was a much needed win at home, where they have been dreadful this season. This was the fourth game in a seven game home stand, and they had already lost the first three. The last one was an overtime loss to Toronto, so they salvaged at least one point. A 3-8-1 record at home isn’t going to cut it. The team is currently 3 points behind the 8th spot, with two teams above them.
The end of February saw the team cut away some internal distractions. Rick Dipietro was infamously put on waivers, cleared, and sent to Bridgeport to find his game. Chances are this is the end of Islander and NHL career. Even after misconstrued reports of his mental health emerged, the team sits in a better position with Kevin Poulin as back up. He’s not necessarily ready for full time NHL action, but he gives Nabokov a stronger support system than Dipietro was able to contribute.
It’s not a playoff spot, but the Islanders are still within striking distance of a playoff spot, and have the final two months to show they belong in the chase for the Stanley Cup, or are to be sellers at the trade deadline and stock up on youth for the future.
A shoot out win at home against the Senators is a great start to the most important month of the Isles’ season. They must take this momentum and run with it.
Tonight, Tuesday, March 5th, the Islanders host the Eastern Conference leading Montreal Canadiens. Less than two weeks ago, the Islanders won at overtime game against the Habs in Montreal. It was a come from behind, 4-3 win on Thomas Hickey’s first ever NHL goal. One change for the Islanders as the season has progressed has been more overtimes. This means the Islanders are gaining points. They’ll have to keep it up, and when playing teams below them or just above, they need to find ways to win in regulation.
Thursday they face their crosstown rivals, The New York Rangers for the third time this season. They dropped the first at Madison Square Garden, but took a shoot out win in the second meeting in Manhattan. This is a game the Islanders will need to win in regulation, as the Rangers are one of the teams between them and the 8th spot.
The week closes out the 7 game home stand with their first matchup against the Capitals on Saturday afternoon, followed by a game in Pittsburgh on Sunday. They’ll call on Poulin to make one of these starts and prove he can help this team make their needed push.
Next week starts with a rare three days off. A good chance to reflect on the first five games of March, and for Garth Snow to access what he may need to add or subtract from this lineup to make the most of this season for the team’s future. April 3rd is the NHL trade deadline and the Islanders’ March will determine if unrestricted free agent players like Brad Boyes, Lubomir Visnovsky, and even captain Mark Streit might be on the block if they fall out of contention.
Welcome to the do or die month where the Ides got nothing on the Isles.