Are The Isles Better Than .500?

Once again the New York Islanders fell to the Florida Panthers last night in a 4-2 loss to end their Florida road trip. The 2nd, 3rd and 4th lines were held scoreless as John Tavares and Mark Streit did all they could with the support of strong goaltending coming from Evgeni Nabokov in net. For a full recap, read Evan Pivnick's post-game report here at TCL.

The Isles currently sit with a 3-3-0 record, placing them at 10th place in the East and fourth in their division. The New Jersey Devils sit in third with seven points, trailing the second placed Philadelphia Flyers with nine points. The Pittsburgh Penguins sit in first with 14 and the Rangers sit in fifth with six. All indications refer back to the point that it's still an early season, and the Atlantic division could be a tight race.

Let's take a look at the past six games:

Matt Moulson and John Tavares (HockeyBroad/Flickr)The opening night loss to the Panthers saw a shutout for the visiting team with the Islanders looking absolutely flat and unmotivated in front of sold out crowd of 16,234 fans. They followed up that game with a 2-1 win over the Minnesota Wild; a win that only saw 14 shots for the Isles and a somewhat boring attack from both sides. It was a win, but it wasn't the most decisive, nor impressive.

Then the Tampa Bay Lightning came into town in what was expected to be a difficult match-up. Surprisingly, the Lightning looked like a shell of the team that went all the way to the Conference Finals last year and lost 5-1 in a game that was completely dominated by head coach Jack Capuano's squad. A full 60-minute effort, a four-point first period from John Tavares and stellar goaltending from Al Montoya was enough to storm off with a win.

Next would be a tilt against the team's biggest rivals; the New York Rangers were fresh off a European road trip, still searching for their first win of the year. The Isles would make sure that it wouldn't be against them as Tavares would score a hat trick and have another four-point evening while Evgeni Nabokov looked anything but rusty Mark Streit (Dan4th/Flickr)in a 4-2 win. A 3-1-0 record with two complete victories started to display that the opening night loss that they had suffered just a week before could have possibly been a fluke.

But then the Islanders would hit the road for the first time for not one, but two re-matches against their opponents in the sunshine state. Tampa Bay would control the game from the get-go, winning 4-1 with the lone goal coming from Michael Grabner. And then there was last night's game against the Panthers; a head-to-head battle that many Isles fans thought would light a fire in their bellies, searching for redemption after being embarrassed on their opening night. To the contrary, the Islanders only controlled the opening ten minutes with a power play goal from Mark Streit. Although the Isles went into the third period tied at two after Tavares struck again with the man-advantage, the visiting team only compiled 10 shots through two periods to the Panthers' 24. The Isles would come out and get 18 more shots in the third but were incapable of regaining the lead. With the Panthers ahead with a goal from Tim Kennedy, they would take a score of 3-2 to the end and seal the night with an empty netter after killing off a 5-on-3 situation where the Islanders could have - and should have - forced overtime.

Thus the Islanders are now 3-3-0.

The Islanders in-game effort is like a roller coaster that loops, swoops and never stays fact, you almost want to vomit at times.

Jack Capuano (OneTigerFan/Flickr)Shots have been hard to come by; and you have to take shots in order to score goals. Offense was not a problem on this team last year and most of the same guys are here looking to build on what they finished on in 2010. But with Kyle Okposo and Grabner being notorious for slow starts and Josh Bailey, Blake Comeau and Brian Rolston struggling to rack up points, the Islanders have put themselves in a place where they are in danger of falling back to below .500.

Mark Streit and the line of Moulson-Tavares-Parenteau cannot be relied upon to do it all themselves every night. It seems as if it's time for Capuano to shake up the lines and search for new ways for this team to generate offense. Although Nino Niederreiter should be nearing close to his start on the season, it would be unfair and simply unrealistic to expect an inexperienced rookie to step in and take charge. He will certainly be an advantage to have, but in time. The aforementioned players who have been dressed every night are the ones that are supposed to be making the difference.

It's up to them. Are the Isles better than a .500 hockey club?

-Rob McGowan

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Chuck Gaston Jr's picture

Pittsburgh and Philly are mixed up here, Pitt - 14 points 1st in atlantic, Philly - 9 points.

While this team is very talented, they are still young and trying to find their way. Their depth isn't the greatest on the blue line and goaltending questions still loom, but only they will prove if their ready to be better than a .500 club. With a home and home next week against Pittsburgh, we will see what they are made of.

Rob McGowan's picture

Honest mistake there, thanks for the heads up - all fixed now!

But I agree with you. With what transpired between these two teams last year, and the fact that it's an early divisional match-up, the next two games will be a BIG test for the Islanders. It will be the first time they face an opponent that is significantly higher in the standings to them. It will definitely be a fun home-and-home series.

Chuck Gaston Jr's picture

It is always a fast paced game and really fun to watch. Two of the best Penalty killing teams in the league and two of the best short handed scoring teams in the league make every second a blast to watch.
Frankly, I want to forget last season. I was embarrassed as a hockey fan about that debacle on the Island. The other games were so much fun to watch and then we had a stupid goon fest that ruined it.

But yes, this club has enough talent to be better than .500. I can't tell you if it will be this season, next season, or the season after, but I can tell you it will happen.
Looking at the Islanders schedule, they have a hell of a test ahead of them. Pens, Pens, Sharks, oh my haha.