It’s no secret where the New York Islanders will finish the regular season. The Isles punched their ticket to the playoffs against the New York Rangers earlier this month, but since then things have gone downhill landing them the fourth seed in the postseason.
The Islanders’ last two games of the season will not mean much in the standings, but they will be one final chance for New York to end the year on a high note and not limp into the playoffs, whenever they may start. They have gone 0-2-1 since clinching and are a paltry 4-6-2 since the NHL trade deadline in April.
Scoring has dried up, with the New York Islanders being outscored 26-24 by their opponents over the last 12 games, and uncharacteristic miscues have cost the Islanders dearly.
“We’re not built where we can just out skill you every night,” Islanders head coach Barry Trotz said on Friday. “We’ve got to play with a lot of heart and dignity and hardness, and it’s a grind. We out-will teams at times and we out defend teams and we out hit teams. It is taxing and that’s the way we were built.
“Mentally I think the guys are taking a little bit of a breather and I understand that fully because they know the playoffs are around the corner.”
Trotz remains confident in his group’s ability to pull it together once the playoffs begin. The Islanders coach did say on Thursday that it isn’t easy to just “flip the switch on” as soon as the postseason begins.
That’s what the last two games of the regular season need to be about for the New York Islanders. New York cannot wait until Game 1 of the first round to find their game and Saturday and Monday provide them with the opportunity to figure things out sooner than later.
The Islanders started Thursday’s game well against the New Jersey Devils, who they’ll see once again on Saturday night. Then things began to slow down. The Islanders’ passing became troublesome and the team found themselves hemmed in their own zone for longer than they would like.
In the end, a soft clearing attempt in their own zone led to Michael McLeod’s game-winning goal in the second period.
That has been the Islanders MO during their current rough patch. While the Islanders beat up on their rivals from Manhattan, they haven’t been able to replicate that same effort against other teams, in fact, they haven’t won against another team besides the Rangers since April 18 when they defeated the Philadelphia Flyers 1-0 in the overtime.
Hardly a comforting fact considering the Islanders played potential first-round opponent Washington three times during their current 4-6-2 span. Before a rough set of losses to the Buffalo Sabres earlier this week, the Islanders had been 22-4-2 this season against East Division teams that did not qualify for the playoffs.
Now they’re staring down four straight losses to teams that have not only missed the playoffs, but missed them by large margins. Not exactly a comforting thought and one that Islanders fans made well aware of on Thursday night as they booed as the team exited the ice following the loss.
Could the Islanders turn it on once the playoffs begin? It’s possible and Braydon Coburn has certainly seen that happen.
“I’ve seen a number of different ways and it’s worked out a number of different ways,” said Coburn, who went to the Cup Final twice with the Philadelphia Flyers and won the Stanley Cup last year with Tampa Bay. ” I’ve been on teams that have played unreal towards the end of the season and then laid an egg right away. I think generally it’s more about the kind of just overall kind of the way the team is playing as you go to the playoffs
“Sometimes results don’t necessarily reflect that, but it’s kind of more about a team dynamic and how the group is coming together.”
Right now, though, why not finish the season strong to instil some confidence for the playoffs.