After a 6-2 record to start their season, the New York Islanders went up against the Winnipeg Jets at the Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum last night and were exposed once again for their lack of focus, and undisciplined play which cost them the game by losing to a score of 4-3. A young team that knew who were coming into town and playing in their building that was looking pretty full should have been a win. Maybe they were taking things for granted or maybe a little over confident which included the fan base. The worst part of the lack of focus was that it was the veterans who were making mistakes and cost them the game. Whatever the case was, it backfired and now they must embark on a five game west coast trip that includes the heavy weights of the league.
Jaroslav Halak needs to be better. Period. The Islanders are entering the 10th game of the season and the goals against average is looking like something out of 1995-96 season. Halak cannot expect the Islanders to keep up this kind of offense for an entire season and expect to win. He is now going up against teams he played last year on a regular basis and knows how to beat them. If Travis Hamonic is not yet ready to play, then Halak needs to take on that added responsibility. He may only need one good game to get tings going.
The penalty kill is going to be an eye sore until Michael Grabner comes back but getting game misconducts like the one Nikolay Kulemin received is such a game changer that the Islanders must be reminded that thinking “Out of the Box” and be more disciplined will win the hockey games. When your penalty kill is second to last in the league, the more time you spend out of the box, the likelier chance you have of winning and you may score more goals for it. Andrew Ladd and Paul Postma scored two goals for the Jets during that long penalty kill.
The Islanders should be scoring on all four lines. I’m going to say this now as I did last season when I ripped him for his overall performance last year. Casey Cizikas will be replaced with someone like Johan Sundstrom from Bridgeport because he simply cannot get anything going on offense. Brian Strait, the Islanders defenseman and whipping boy for most fans, has more points through 9 games than Cizikas and is on the verge of having a better on-ice corsi rating for five on five hockey. Read that again, BRIAN STRAIT!! Sundstrom adds more size, grit and maybe a better scoring touch to better compliment the bash brothers, Clutterbuck and Martin.
I’m not going to take anything away from the Jets last night, they did something that the Islanders need to do more often and that is to take advantage of their opportunities. They scored two goals on their ensuing powerplay and when it came to crunch time in the third period, the Jets just looked hungrier and they played like a playoff berth was at stake. They did the grinding and it paid off.
So now the Islanders embark on a west coast trip that includes the Kings, Sharks (again & they will be ready), Avs, Ducks, and Coyotes. If the Islanders continue to play the way they are, all these teams need to do is take a page out of the Penguins and Jets playbook and the Islanders could sit 6-8 when this road trip is finished. The Islanders need to look themselves in the mirror and ask how great do they want to be this year. Once the mindset is in play, it’s time to play like a mature hockey club, a team that has already been the playoffs past the first round. It starts with playing some simple, fundamental hockey which includes staying out of the penalty box. One thing will come of this, when this road trip concludes, everyone, including the players will know what the Islanders are all about.