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)
Making Ilya Bryzgalov the story for every game has become tiresome to the fans, the front office and Bryzgalov himself.
But when he does something as special as he's done the past couple of weeks, it's hard to just take all the focus away from the Russian netminder, nicknamed the $51 Million Man.
The Flyers have been winning, and they have been playing a brand of hockey many expected them to play down the stretch. Scoring, defense and goaltending - those are the three things that win championships.
So why does the focus all come back to Bryzgalov? Because of the franchise shutout streak that he just broke that stood tall for 13 years midway through the second period.
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.
For the 3rd time in the past 6 days the Islanders will play the Devils for an Atlantic division match up. The two teams split the first two games in the series so with baseball season approaching I will consider this the rubber match with the winner of this game winning the series. The Islanders will look to rebound from Thursday night’s embarrassing lose to the Devils and get back to some winning ways.
The Islanders come into the game still only seven points out of a playoff spot with 15 games left to play. This doesn’t leave any room for bad play if the Islanders want to be serious about making the playoffs. The lines may change slightly from Thursday’s game as Matt Martin is questionable. He left Thursday’s game early and wasn’t allowed to travel back to Long Island with the team due to a sickness. I have not heard a report yet this morning about his condition and whether or not he will play tonight. If he doesn’t play then Grabner will be placed back in the lineup. Grabner I feel was missed in the last game with the Devils (healthy scratch) because to beat the Devils defense you need speed and to have our fastest skater in the press box doesn’t help the situation.
A lot of Islanders fans are upset that Garth Snow didn’t do more for the Islanders during the Trade Deadline yesterday and I am here just to give you my opinion on the moves that were and weren’t made. Garth Snow stayed rather quiet throughout the day before moving Rolston and Mottau just at the deadline. I have seen a lot fans on twitter and message boards screaming at Garth because he didn’t do more to help the team at the deadline. I just want to look at a few possible deals that could have been made at the deadline and how they could have affected the Islanders.
One of the Islanders biggest needs is a solid young D-man. The closest one moved at the deadline was Quincey to Detroit for a 1st. Not a bad move for Detroit since their first pick will most likely be at the bottom of the round. Now if the Islanders did that it would have been an AWFUL move because despite our hopes that pick still has a very big chance to be a lottery pick and Quincey isn't worth that!
In this installment I discuss my take on why the Islanders should look to trade Kyle Okposo to the L.A. Kings for Dustin Brown. And with the trade deadline less than 48 hours away, what should GM Garth Snow do with P.A. Parenteau and Evgeni Nabokov? All that and more in this week's edition of On The Couch!
The New York Islanders officially announced today that they have signed two-way center Frans Nielsen to a four-year contract extension with their hockey team. According to TSN's Bob McKenzie, as the story leaked throughout the Twitter world last night during the Islanders game vs. the Philadelphia Flyers, the contract is worth an affordable $11 million.
Kudos to GM Garth Snow who has done an excellent job of locking up the organization's youngest and brightest talent. Nielsen now joins a crew of players that includes Michael Grabner, Kyle Okposo and John Tavares; these four will be wearing an Islanders jersey, at the minimum, for the next four years.
Now if only Garth could get some UFA's in the summer time to help his club take the next step...but that's for another day.