The New York Islanders are in their biggest funk of the season and it couldn’t come at a more difficult time. The Isles dropped to 1-6-1 in their last eight games and are now winless in their last seven home games (0-6-1) after dropping a 3-2 decision to the Anaheim Ducks. The game was not as close as the final score indicated.
It’s not that the Islanders didn’t do some things well. Defensively, they limited the Ducks to 24 shots on goal and kept the dangerous Anaheim attack on the perimeter for most of the game. But the Islanders had trouble clearing the puck out of their zone. Anaheim enjoyed numerous long stretches of possession time that caused the capacity crowd of 16,170 to voice their displeasure at their team’s performance several times during the game.
Offense remains the Islanders biggest problem. In their last eight games, the Islanders have scored more than two goals only once and that was in their only victory during that stretch, a 3-0 triumph over the New Jersey Devils. One of those goals came with an empty net. In total, the Isles have just 12 goals in their last eight games.
There is no doubt the team is pressing offensively right now. Each small setback is now magnified for this young team.
Captain John Tavares is clearly trying to do too much to right the ship and he is far from alone. Tavares has just one goal and one assist in his last eight games and is a minus-5 in his last two contests.
“When you’re not having success and you’re not getting results, you can kind of feel those mistakes,” Tavares admitted. “Just one mistake or one unfortunate bounce or you make a pass and you put it in the guy’s skates, you feel that and certainly you can see that it’s been frustrating. We’re trying to bear down but at the same time stay more relaxed and more composed.”
Coach Jack Capuano continued to defend his team to the media after Saturday’s loss, reminding everybody that during this slump, the Isles have not been blown out in any of their games and reiterating what the team is doing right.
Still, even Capuano had to admit the team is pressing right now, especially offensively. “They’ve got to find a way, he said. “They know they have to score a goal. They get it. They’re doing what they can. It’s a little bit of adversity but adversity is a springboard for success.”
Veteran leaders in the locker room like defenseman Johnny Boychuk are trying to remain calm and lead by example. “You can’t come in and start screaming. We know what we have to do. You have to come in and do the simple things,” Boychuk said. “There’s a lot of skill in here. We just have to limit the turnovers and do the right things. We’re a good team but when we try to get a little bit fancy, we usually hurt ourselves. We just have to get it in deep and grind it out because our skill will come out if we do that.”
The turning point in Saturday’s loss to the Ducks was a 5-on-3 power play chance that lasted a full 1:54 midway through the second period. Despite being outplayed, the Islanders were only down 2-1 at that point thanks to Lubomir Visnovsky’s goal late in the first period that deflected past Ducks’ goalie Frederik Andersen. Although the Islanders had plenty of chances, they failed to convert the two-man advantage. A few minutes later, Andrew Cogliano scored on a breakaway and it was 3-1 Ducks.
A third period goal by Casey Cizikas made the score close, but the Isles couldn’t get the equalizer.
With the loss, the Islanders fell behind the Pittsburgh Penguins and dropped into third place in the Metropolitan Division.
The Isles close out this four-game home stand Sunday afternoon at 5 pm when they host the Detroit Red Wings.
“They’re going to battle through this and they’re going to be fine,” Capuano said of his team. Both the coach and his club have to hope that happens sooner rather than later.
With this loss, the Isles failed to pick up a point for the first time this season when allowing the first goal but scoring the second. They are now 13-1-1 in such situations.
Visnovsky returned to the lineup after missing the past four games.
With the win, the Ducks officially clinched a playoff berth.