After having an incredible first half of the season, the New York Islanders find themselves in a somewhat unfamiliar position. The Isles are losers of four of their past five, and barely scraped away with a shootout win over the Philadelphia Flyers on Thursday.
Tonight the Isles will face the Buffalo Sabres, a team that is dwelling at the very bottom of the NHL standings and is also 2-8-0 in their last ten games played.
By all standards, this is a game that the Islanders should absolutely win. However, the Isles need to make sure history does not repeat itself.
Jaroslav Halak is a clear cut NHL all-star. If you tuned into the NHL All-Star weekend, you would have noticed that John Tavares (arguably the MVP of the game last night despite the hometown guy taking the honors) was not the only Islanders player representing the blue and orange.
Halak has gone 25-9-0 this year in 34 games played this season to go along with a 2.41 GAA and .910 save percentage. Halak’s numbers are excellent, and he has been nothing short of spectacular for the New York Islanders this season.
Chad Johnson, who was supposed to be Halak’s co-star between the pipes, has appeared more like a stunt double; he’s only played when Halak’s needed a rest and has dealt with some ugly situations.
It was only a few short weeks ago that the Montreal Canadiens and their contingent of rowdy fans stormed into the Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum and halted an Islanders 4 game-winning streak with a 3-1 victory. Fast-forward to tonight and the Islanders (30-13-1) are on another 4 game winning streak, and once again are set to square off against the Canadiens (27-13-3). Only difference is, the Isles and their raucous supporters are traveling north of the border looking to extend the streak to 5.
The New York Islanders visit the Buffalo Sabres Saturday night as the NHL resumes games after its three day Christmas break. The Islanders will look to improve on its 23-11-0 record, good for second in the Metropolitan Division.
Another weekend, another joyous Monday. Such is the life of a New York Islander fan now.
The Islanders entered play Friday night 21-10-0, about to play the Red Wings in Detroit, the first of back to back games. The weekend would be completed Saturday night at the Nassau Coliseum against the Tampa Bay Lightning. Going into Friday night the teams were a combined 37-17-11, both firmly entrenched in a playoff spot in the Atlantic Division. Surely most Islander fans were a little nervous and would have signed up for a split of the pair in a heartbeat.
So what happened?
Oh, just a couple or regulation wins, 2-1 versus Detroit and 3-1 against Tampa Bay as the Islanders improved to 23-10-0. Ho-hum.
The Islanders will host the Chicago Blackhawks Saturday night at the Nassau Coliseum as they will look to snap their three-game losing streak. It will be a daunting task for the Isles against the Central Division-leading Blackhawks who bring a 20-8-1 record into tonight's matchup.
Man, it only took a couple of days to wipe out so many of the good feelings built up through the first eight weeks of the season. The question is now being asked by many: is it time for the Islanders to push the panic button?
It was only a few short days ago Islander fans and media alike were waxing poetic about the “special” season taking place over in Uniondale. The team was going to close out its time at the Nassau Coliseum with one final hoorah for the fans.
It’s good to root for the New York Islanders now. The team is humming along at 19-7-0, atop the Metropolitan Division, one point off the top of the league. Even the most optimistic of Islander fans could not have predicted this tear the team has been on. It’s been a fun two-month ride to start the season, a feeling that has been absent all too often in recent years.
While people have (rightfully) given large amounts of credit for their success to new-comers like Jaroslav Halak, Nick Leddy, and Johnny Boychuk, is it time to finally give coach Jack Capuano a little love?