Over the last three weeks, the Islanders have been barely staying afloat, but they have won four of their last five, including a huge 4-2 win against cross-town rival New York Rangers.
One critical moment during this rough patch was in the last game of the team’s three-game west coast road trip, they tied the contest late, only to lose in the end. With under a minute remaining in their game against the San Jose Sharks, the Isles tied the game at two thanks to a goal by defenseman Nick Leddy. The momentum was in their favor and the game was the Isles’ to win, but again, they fell victim to a game-winning goal in the final minute. This time, it was Sharks’ Patrick Marleau who scored with 22.5 seconds remaining, giving his team the win.
Despite the theme of this season being blown leads late in the third period, there have been some strong suits for the Isles recently.
But the tides turned during the last four games. It is very difficult to beat the Stanley Cup Champion Pittsburgh Penguins and the Washington Capitals, but the Isles accomplished this feat on back-to-back days last week. Playing on back-to-back days is tough enough for any team, but to defeat the elite powerhouses of the Eastern Conference is something to be proud of. With a 3-0 lead after two periods against the Penguins, the Isles blew yet another lead as the Pens tied the game at three. With 26 seconds remaining in the third, Anders Lee put the Isles on top 4-3. An empty netter soon after increased the lead to 5-3 and that is where the regulation win would be finalized. Goaltender Jaroslav Halak’s 38-save performance in a 3-0 shutout win against the Capitals was a great sight to see. Even with dwindling playing time for Halak with the team’s three-goaltender rotation this season, Halak came up strong. But Halak did bail the team out of killing off six Caps power plays.
It is December already, and the Isles are still tied for last place in the Eastern Conference with the Carolina Hurricanes. This is not something to be proud of whatsoever. Salvaging a point at this mark of the season will not get the Isles up and out of the basement any time soon. Getting to overtime and not picking up the extra point is what is going to hurt the Isles’ playoff hopes, because every game is crucial with the strong competition the conference has.
The sudden letting-go of Florida Panthers head coach Gerard Gallant shocked the hockey world, but showed that the NHL is indeed a business and a coaching or management change can be put forth at any given time for any reason. The team was over the .500 mark at the time. Coaches and general managers are paid to win. If they have shown they are not capable of leading a team to do so, it could be time for a change. But the Isles’ two wins over the beasts of the east could have saved the front office from making any moves, for now. If they could play the way they did against the Pens and Capitals each and every game, the Isles would have a chance at eyeing the postseason. It only takes a few games and a winning streak to turn a season around.
The next string of games will be a tough challenge for the Isles, who will face the St. Louis Blues, Columbus Blue Jackets, Washington Capitals and Chicago Blackhawks over the next week. All four of these teams rank within the top eight of their respective conferences. This is the time for the momentum to continue and the winning streak to happen and everyone will need to contribute in order to make it a reality, just as they accomplished last season. I can only hope the team chemistry will start coming together during this stretch.
It is hard to actually say that this is my final edition of Home Isles Advantage of my college career. It has been an absolute delight to have the opportunity to write about my favorite team for the last three years. Through the ups and the downs, I will always love this team to death.
Thank you from the bottom of my heart to all of the readers who have picked up the paper or clicked to read this column. It means the world to me when I hear that fellow Islanders fans and hockey fans alike enjoy reading.
With that, I will leave you guys with one final “Yes, Yes, Yes!”