FROM THE ISLE by Youngblood
I hope all your Islander fans had a wonderful Christmas. I hope you received all the gifts from friends and family you wanted. Unfortunately, the gift from the Islanders is a confusing one. They've given us so much over the course of the year that they could be the relatives that say, "I'm given you enough already...no present for you". I think we all would have accepted that -- this season has overall been an absolute pleasure and Christmas joy has been in the Islander air since early October. But being the nice guys they are, they did go out and get us something. Unfortunately, it's not a good gift. It's not good at all. When you unwrap the present you uncover a mentally fragile group with a thin Defense and group of goalies. A team we thought may be elite, is now proving itself to be simply, 'good'. Above average if you will, but not elite.
Let's start with the numbers. The Islanders are 5-4-1 in their last 10 games. That's average in this league. They are 9-5-1 in their last 15. OK, that's a little better, but not crazy good. As I said earlier...just good. And hey, we'll all take "good". "Good" is great...for this team. "Good" is the team that can be called "dangerous" going into the playoffs. The only issue here is that not very long ago we were wondering if they're actually "elite" - amongst the league's best. We can now officially say they are not. And why is that?
3 major issues have been uncovered over this last stretch of 15 games. First off, they have now officially proven the issue they've struggled with the last few years of not being able to hold a lead is still here in a big way. They've dropped multiple games with a 3 goal lead. That's unheard of in this league. You hoped for a while it was just a fluke - like all the other teams were getting their bounces in these situations, and eventually the teams won't get the bounce. But that's not the case anymore. The players and the league are all aware of this issue. When teams like Minnesota or Buffalo score their first goal making it 3-1, they don't celebrate like teams normally would. They're pumped. They know getting that first one means much more against the Islanders, and some magic may be happening. And the Islanders players only get tighter. They know what's happening as well and cannot figure out a way to stop it. It's like a collective, "here we go". It's almost at the point where they can't jump out to a big league - and that's just a ridiculous problem to have.
Also we saw major breakdowns in their game when key members of their D and Goalies have been injured. Some teams 'rise up', or prove their collective spirit is stronger than any one player. Not this team. They look for mediocre when they didn't have Hamonic or Boychuck. And they seem to have a major problem now of only one good goalie that you can trust. Christmas wasn't a good holiday for this team - let's hope some solid New Years resolutions can bring them back to elite. Some other notes:
- Nice to see the top line producing. Tavares is getting better, and Bailey fits well in that line. Now that feels good.
- Bailey is good up there, but top line needs Grabovski to be it's most offensive. He'll get there eventually.
- Kulemin can be a little sharper
- How does a team possibly score a shorthanded goal when they're down 2. It makes no sense. If you're the offense, just play regular!
- Boychuck needs to be on PP. Need that shot out there.
- PP2 needs an identity
- Not having Grabner really hurts the PK
- Butch seems like a nice man and an Islander hero - but I long for the days of Billy Jaffe and some true hockey analysis
Follow me @skizzle16 for more insight. Happy holidays everyone.