Sunrise, Fl- When the New York Islanders entered last night's contest with the Florida Panthers it was with the knowledge that failing to get a point would mean mathematical elimination from the playoffs. While the chances of seeing a playoff run this season is unfortunately a long shot, a regulation loss would have eliminated all hope. However, Frans Nielsen and the rest of the Islanders team had other plans in mind. (Photo Credit: AP/Newsday)
The Islanders traveled to Montreal last night and finally came out with two points. After being winless in their last five games, the Islanders faced off against the 14th place Montreal Canadiens.
For the Canadiens, this season could have gone much smoother and produced a better result. They are a team that underachieved, especially them being a team that made it to the Stanley Cup playoffs for multiple seasons in a row.
Many were immediately calling for the removal of head coach Jack Capuano at the start of the season once the New York Islanders' record began to slip from 3-1 to way below .500. However, there were some, like myself, who argued that it was premature to blame the coaching staff for the poor start due to the fact that the roster from last season hadn't changed much and for the other simple fact - the season was still young. (Photo Credit: Robert Kowal/Flickr)
Since then, the Islanders have managed to be a consistent below .500 team for the year. They have come close on a few occasions from jumping over the hurdle but would then find a way to take two steps back after taking one step forward. This past week has been the most disheartening of the year for Isles fans in relation to how the team has continued to perform. Not only have they lost games, but they have done it with such depression that even the U.S. economy cringed.
Three of the last eight games saw the Islanders either blow a three-goal lead or lose the game in the final few minutes of the third period. It started when the Islanders went into the second period against the Washington Capitals with a 2-0 lead on February 28th. The Caps would score two goals in the final three minutes of the game and then go on to have Alexander Ovechkin score the early game winning goal in the extra frame. The Islanders also had a 1-0 lead against the New Jersey Devils just this past Saturday, only to see their opponent score two goals just 14 seconds apart in the final two minutes of the hockey game. And most recently, the Islanders blew a 4-1 lead last night against the Caps to lose 5-4 in the shootout.
There's John Tavares with 66 points, just one goal/point shy of tying his career high from last season; there's Matt Moulson with 58 points, continuing his increased season output this season so far by five points; and of course there is P.A. Parenteau with 61 points, having the best season of his NHL career being tied for fifth in the league for assists (46) with Evgeni Malkin. And after that?
Well there's Mark Streit with 36 points, likely to finish 10 points less than he did two years ago. Streit has had his most disappointing season in an Islanders uniform. He's a -23 and only has two power play goals this year. He had nine and ten in his previous two seasons, respectively.
There lies your biggest problem heading into the end of the season. The Islanders offense was expected to be one of the team's bright sides going into 2012. To the contrary, they have the third worst offense in the NHL and have suffered a major drought when it's come to secondary scoring.
New York, NY- After suffering a heartbreaking loss Saturday night at the Coliseum the Islanders entered the Garden last with their hopes of making the playoffs almost in shreds. Although the playoffs are looking almost out of reach, a win last night, against the Rangers, could have spun the Islanders' momentum back in their favor and kept them within nine points of the final seed. (Photo Credit: AP/Kathy Kmonicek)
The game started off as what seemed would be a defensive battle, the teams combined for three shots in the first five minutes of play. The Rangers would eventually go on to out shoot the Islanders 11-5 in the period but that would not reflect on the scoreboard. Just 2:!4 into the game the Ranger-Islander rivalry lived up to its hype as the Rangers' Stu Bickel and the Islanders' Michael Haley squared off at center ice and had a go.
It's still a long shot, but the Islanders have pulled themselves back into playoff conversations with a 1-0 win yesterday over the New Jersey Devils that has put them within five points of the last spot in the Eastern Conference. But even so, there are plenty of questions that surround the New York Islanders hockey club, ranging from the uncertain future of the arena to whether or not Tim Horton's will ever return to the concession stands. The most important questions, the ones that impact the immediate future, are the ones that need to be answered first; GM Garth Snow has to figure out where certain players will fit on his roster as the rebuild pushes forward.
I've already talked about the possibility of Evgeni Nabokov re-signing with the Islanders, as well as teammate P.A. Parenteau returning in an orange and blue sweater. But Snow will have to take a long look at some of his current regulars and decide where they fit with the team long term as some young, fresh faces are pushing for NHL jobs.
The stage was set for an emotional carry over into Saturday morning regardless of the outcome of Friday night's Islanders/Rangers game; a win for the Isles against their biggest rival and top team in the Eastern Conference would keep their playoff hopes alive, but a loss to their number one foe would have been a crushing blow to their confidence and chances.
Fortunately, the orange and blue would come on top with a 4-3 shootout victory with Matt Moulson netting the finally tally in the fourth round.
Tensions were high at the start of the game and Matt Martin decided to ease things up a bit by fighting Stu Bickel just over two minutes into the game. Both got their licks in before Martin swung and missed, falling to the ice to end the fight early. A fair draw would set the tone for how evenly the game would be played.
Thomas Vanek and Tyler Myers both scored and Ryan Miller made 30 saves as the Sabres spoiled interim head coach Doug Weight’s coaching debut 2-1 on Tuesday Night.
Weight was appointed interim head coach for the game as head coach Jack Capuano dealt with a flu that has ravaged his lineup in the past three games. Evgeni Nabokov missed his third straight game dealing with the illness.
An all too similar start to the game forced the Islanders into an early 1-0 hole. Tyler Myers opened the scoring just 1:21 into the game. After a initial stop on Derek Roy, Myers found the rebound and snapped it over a prone Kevin Poulin. For the second straight game, the Islanders fell behind within the first 90 seconds.
The Islanders could not have rebounded from their 5-1 loss on Thursday night better than they did last night. The Hurricanes came to the Island 22-24-11, and they would start goaltender Cam Ward for the 51st time this season.
The New York Islanders went into today's game looking to complete a back-to-back sweep on the weekend, taking a total of four points to increase their hopes of a playoff berth for the first time in a long time. But the Isles would end up losing 4-1 to the Florida Panthers, putting a dent into their never ending climb up the standings.
The loss keeps them eight points out of the playoffs; not an impossible number to climb, but one that seems to grow larger with every loss, especially against opponents like the Panthers who are looking to accomplish the same goal.
Frans Nielsen would get things started with an early goal assisted by P.A. Parenteau and Andrew MacDonald. Nielsen wisely cut across the neutral zone to be met by a perfect pass from Parenteau. He would then walk in and snipe one over Jose Theodore's glove to give his team the early lead. Despite the early goal, the Panthers would establish plenty of pressure in the Isles end of the ice and answer back towards the end of the period. (Photo Credit: Cassie Madonia/Flickr)