Goals win hockey games; there is no question about it. But in order for the Islanders to defeat the Washington Capitals in their opening round of the playoffs, goaltender Jaroslav Halak will have to be playing at the All-Star level he was at back in February.
Halak has gone 38-17-4 on the year with a 2.43 GAA and .914 save percentage. These are all respectable numbers, especially the 38 wins, which are the most by any Islanders goaltender in team history.
But the team only went 6-8-5 over their last 20 games of the regular season. This is not to say that Halak is at fault, but many feel that he was not playing at the elite level that he was at prior to the All-Star break.
The New York Islanders will have a welcomed face back in the line-up tonight as Kyle Okposo is set to return as they take on the New York Rangers for the last time at Nassau Coliseum tonight.
This will also be the last time that these two teams will meet, barring a match-up in this year’s playoffs.
Okposo has missed the last six weeks of the season due a detached retina that required immediate surgery. According to Newsday, the surgery was so serious that he was unsure of whether or not his vision would have officially been restored to his eye.
The Jack Adams award is given out each year to the coach who is judged to have contributed the most to his team’s success in the National Hockey League. If you were to ask Isles fans about Jack Capuano’s name being thrown into the list of candidates for the award a year ago, you would have received plenty of laughs.
Despite being the next winningest coach for the Islanders after Al Arbour, Capuano had drawn the ire of the Islanders faithful for his inability to provide Nassau Coliseum ice with a winning hockey team after making the playoffs the year before.
But considering the success of the Islanders this season, it would be inconsiderate of the league to not take a look at Capuano when deciding who should be nominated for the award.
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.
The Islanders have already surpassed the midway point of the season, embarking on the second half of a year that is marking the end of an era for this organization.
There are currently 40 games remaining of the regular season, leaving only 24 games left to be played at the only building they have called home for the past 43 years; Nassau Coliseum.
With the off-season moves that GM Garth Snow made this summer, many predicted that the last year at the Madhouse on the Meadowbrook would be a memorable one. But it’s doubtful that many Islanders fans and hockey pundits expected the Islanders to be sitting atop the Metropolitan Division as they prepare to face their biggest rivals tonight, the New York Rangers.
Last night’s loss to the Edmonton Oilers is not one where the Islanders could skate away believing that they played their best despite an unwanted outcome. Defensive breakdowns, a few bad goals let up by Jaroslav Halak, and an inability to capitalize on scoring chances led to their 5-2 defeat.
But there is one major positive that can be taken away from a 5-2 loss on the road to a team that has had a horrible start to the season.
The New York Islanders played in a packed house filled with two fan bases that were seething with animosity towards one another. In previous years, a visiting division rival fan base would overtake the Coliseum and diminish most “Let’s Go Islanders” chants.
Not this year.
On a night where the team was honoring Islanders legend, Denis Potvin, Isles fans quickly extinguished the chants from New Jersey fans and drowned out their support (as well as throw in many other chants as well) with ease as the home team fought for a 3-1 victory in front of a sold out Nassau Coliseum crowd.
The Islanders are on a losing streak to start off the month of November and every Islanders fan is clutching their forehead in a panicked frenzy expecting this team to drop to last place in the Eastern Conference standings overnight.
Two words everyone: calm down.
It cannot be denied that seeing the Islanders drop three games in a row is not a good thing. Nor is it good to see a team that started 4-0 suddenly hovering one game above .500. But it is a very long season and it is still very early.
And despite their recent struggles, the Islanders currently sit at third place in the Metropolitan Division.