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New York Islanders

In Wins and Losses, Islanders Raise More Red Flags



New York Islanders bench after Washington Capitals' forward Alexander Ovechkin scored an empty-netter in the final sections of a 2-0 loss on Jan. 15

On Saturday, the New York Islanders were rather sloppy in their 2-0 loss to the Washington Capitals. The regulation defeat put an end to a three-game win streak for the Islanders, as well as a five-game point streak.

And although collecting points is at the top of the New York Islanders “To-Do” List given their position in the standings, their point streak masked many red flags.

In the loss to the Washington Capitals, the Islanders were outshot 36-23, won 49% of their face-off, and gave the puck away 11 times. Interestingly enough, in the win over the Devils this past Thursday, the Islanders were outshot 32-25 won 42% of their face-offs, and gave the puck away 11 times.

The reality is that New York overcame mediocre play to beat a weaker Devils team but could not do the same against a stronger Capitals team.

And that was the storyline over four of the last five games.

Prior to the three-game win streak, the Islanders defeated the Boston Bruins 3-1 on Dec. 16.

Against Boston, the Islanders were heavily outshot 41-28 but capitalized on their opponent’s mistakes.  The Islanders turned the puck over 12 times in that contest, but netminder Semyon Varlamov was up for the challenge.

Boston was missing a handful of players due to COVID-19, including captain Patrice Bergeron and scorer Brad Marchand, along with netminder Jeremy Swayman.

After a loss to the Vegas Golden Knights in what was a stronger effort on Dec. 19, the Islanders were back on their same pattern against Buffalo, the first of three consecutive wins.

In a 4-1 win over the Buffalo Sabres, the Islanders were outshot 37-32 but made the most of the Sabres mistakes to put the game away.

The second win came against an Edmonton Oilers team in free fall, with the Islanders still needing a third-period equalizer before they came through in overtime,

And the final game of the winning streak was that Devils game, where the Islanders winning goal came with a little over five minutes to play.

There were no dominant wins on that streak, no standout efforts that breathed optimism or life into this bewildering season. Nine of the Islanders’ 11 wins have come by two or more goals, only four have come by more than two.

And only 11 wins isn’t nearly good enough. Not for a team that had visions of Stanley Cups dancing in their heads.

The four wins that came by more than two goals came against the Chicago Blackhawks, Arizona Coyotes, Montreal Canadiens, and the Buffalo Sabres, who exclusively fall into the bottom-tier of the NHL standings.

The Islanders are also part of that bottom tier this season. While that should change based on the number of games in hand, a playoff spot is increasingly doubtful and the lack of offensive production is squarely to blame.

After being narrowly eliminated by the Tampa Bay Lightning in Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Final, 1-0, optimism soared last summer. Barry Trotz’s New York Islanders took successive steps each season.

They outlasted the beasts of the Metro, Pittsburgh and Washington. They were one bounce away from the Stanley Cup Final and getting a brand new arena.

However, it appears this fairy tale was written by the Brothers Grimm, not Mother Goose.

The Islanders have nine more games before the NHL All-Star Break with points on the table as six of the nine contests come against teams on. outside of the playoff picture.

Three of the remaining nine contests are against divisional rivals in the Philadelphia Flyers, who currently sit five points up on the Islanders with seven games in hand.

The Flyers have lost their last seven contests and the Islanders meet them back-to-back Monday and Tuesday before another contest on Jan. 25.

The Arizona Coyotes (Jan. 21), the Seattle Kraken (Jan. 29) and the Ottawa Senators (Feb. 1) are the three other opponents the Islanders face who are not in a playoff position as of Sunday, Jan.16.

The other games against the Toronto Maple Leafs, Los Angeles Kings, and Minnesota Wild will be challenging if the Islanders fail to put together stronger efforts against those weaker teams. Because lackluster play against talented teams will lead to steps back in the standings, not forward.