Islanders Puck Talk – Weekly Review
The New York Islanders started out the month of March with two bad losses, one to the team on their tales the Washington Capitals, and a disheartening loss to the Philadelphia Flyers. They got lucky with a break in their schedule as they played the lowly Ottawa Senators, who had just fired their coach and traded away their three top scorers. Even so, the Islanders struggled with the Sens in both games but came away with four huge points. They’re still in first place and eight points clear of the playoff bubble.
Washington Capitals @ New York Islanders – March 1st, 2019
Score – 3-1 Capitals
Player of the game – Tom Kuhnhackl
Team Grade – B
It’s not that the Islanders had a bad game against the Capitals, it’s that they fell asleep at the wheel in the third period and let the defending Stanley Cup Champions back into the game. Tom Kuhnhackl scored early in the first on a very weird non-offside call. It looked like the play was over so Kuhnhackl casually backhanded one over Braden Holtby. The Caps didn’t challenge the offside, and that was about the only offense the Islanders produced.
The Caps came back storming in the third, tying the game early and then had two late goals to put the game away. Thomas Greiss played well but was caught out of position for two of the goals and the defense didn’t help in any way. A win against the Capitals could have boosted the Islanders into sole possession of first place. You can’t win them all.
Philadelphia Flyers @ New York Islanders – March 3rd, 2019
Score – 4-1 Flyers
Player of the game – Adam Pelech
Team Grade – C-
The Islanders played a pretty rough game after a bad loss to the Caps, but they had plenty of opportunities to score. One play in particular was when the Islanders were already down three goals and Brock Nelson flubbed a wide open pass from Anders Lee in the slot. He missed and the Islanders were doomed.
Most of the damage was done by the time the second period started but the Islanders had plenty of time to come back. However, they were loose in their own zone, couldn’t get pucks out, and weren’t strong enough on the puck. Half of the Flyers goals were in the slot when the Islanders had an opportunity to clear and they couldn’t. They needed to rebound against the Senators and they did just that, even though it wasn’t pretty.
Ottawa Senators @ New York Islanders – March 5th, 2019
Score – 5-4 Islanders (SO)
Player of the game – Michael Dal Colle
Team Grade – B-
The Isles caught a break against the Sens but looked mighty tight in a game against one of the worst teams in the league. These are the kinds of games that they should rise to the occasion on, and they just didn’t even though they got the win.
Brock Nelson had the lone goal of the first period. After Ottawa tied it at one in the second, Devon Toews took a beautiful saucer pass from Michael Dal Colle to his glove and deposited it in the net. Anders Lee increased the lead to two but Oscar Linberg cut the lead back down to one. Ross Johnston drove to the net towards the middle of the second period and scored on a deflection off his body to make it a 4-2 game.
The Islanders once again fell asleep at the wheel, giving up two goals in the third to bring this game to overtime. The tying goal was quite controversial, as Brady Tkachuk drove towards the net and barreled over Robin Lehner. Lehner left the game with possible concussion symptoms, and J.G. Pageau took the puck and put it in the open net while Lehner was down. The goal was originally ruled no-goal but Ottawa challenged the call and the goal somehow counted.
Regardless, the Islanders won in a shootout with goals by Mathew Barzal and Jordan Eberle. Thomas Greiss made a nice toe save and Bobby Ryan missed the net to seal the deal. The Islanders won, but it wasn’t pretty.
New York Islanders @ Ottawa Senators – March 7th, 2019
Score – 4-2 Islanders
Player of the game – Val Filppula
Team Grade – B+
The Islanders got lucky again on their schedule as they headed to Ottawa for the home and home with the Sens. This time they were up for the challenge, or at least Val Filppula was. Fil scored two goals in the first and nearly had one in the waning moments of the third period to secure his first hat trick ever.
The game was back and forth just like the one on Tuesday but this game felt different. It felt like the Islanders were going to push through at some point. They eventually did, as Anthony Beauvillier snuck one through Anders Nilsson’s wickets with just over seven minutes to go. Brock Nelson laid his body on the line with a little less than a minute and his blocked shot resulted in a Casey Cizikas empty net goal. It was a hard earned victory and one that hopefully puts the Islanders back on track.
The Islanders are fully in the driver’s seat when it comes to the Metro Division crown. They have a relatively weak schedule, upcoming games with the Blue Jackets and Penguins, and are still in first place. If they can play good hockey down the stretch they can win the division for the first time since ’88-’89 when it was still the Patrick Division.
This week wasn’t pretty but a team that’s been this consistent all year is going to have its lulls. Let’s hope that by the end of next week we’ll be talking about seeding rather than if the Islanders will even make the playoffs. The standings are ever shifting in the Eastern Conference and one bad week could spell doom for any team. Just ask the Columbus Blue Jackets.
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