This is going to be a brief, but impactful piece as I’ll just show a few stats so I can mentally prepare you for the rest of the month. Was last nights overtime loss to the Flyers a tough one? Of course. Another blown lead, the Flyers looked like they dominated the Islanders for most of the game, the Islanders couldn’t get out of their own defensive zone and you know the rest. Was it a must win? No it wasn’t. Why? Well let’s go over some numbers.
As I’ve written before, I thought now former Islanders head coach Jack Capuano was keeping his job for this season because of the Islanders record against NHL teams not in the top 10 (percentage wise) of the league. With Doug Weight, now 2-0-1 behind the bench and having played three games against non-top 10 teams, the Islanders are 13-5-8, good for a 107 point pace over 82 games. That does explain the recent winning (except in Carolina, Colorado and Arizona which probably got Capuano fired quicker) the Islanders have experienced as it’s been a while since the Islanders have not faced any team in the top 10.
Thomas Greiss has been outstanding as the two-time number one goalie for the Islanders. He has a record of 12-7-3, which puts him at 101 point pace if he were to play every game and his backup, J.F Berube, needs another win to have 2-2-1 record. Any kind of winning streak with him is a huge plus. The Islanders players also respond well when Greiss is in net by averaging just over 3 goals a game. The penalty kill is roughly 84 percent against every team not in the top 10, and we won’t have to discuss the power-play.
So if the Islanders played the rest of the league below the top 10, it may be safe to say the Isles could have been a 100 point team again. Unfortunately, that’s not going to be the case. The Islanders next three games are not only on the top 10, but the top 5 (as of this writing) in the League in Columbus (120 PP), Washington (121) and Montreal (108).
So how bad are the Islanders against the league’s top 10? Sit down before reading this. The Isles are 6-12-1 as of this writing, good for 56 points over 82 games. Since the Isles have the next two games against divisional rivals, the Islanders are 4-7-2 in their own division. Against Montreal’s Atlantic Division, the Isles are 5-6-3, which includes being swept by the Tampa Bay Lightning earlier in the season.
So why wasn’t last night’s game against Philly a must win? Because after these three games, the Islanders are back to playing six out of the next seven games against the rest of the league. There’s still plenty of games for the Isles to make a push for the playoffs, but the Islanders must show that they can win against teams above them, even once.
The timing is good. The offense is clicking, Thomas Greiss is playing like an all-star, and the team overall is improving. However, if the Islanders lose all three games, the trade deadline just got more interesting. It’s time to see how the Islanders look now that most of the necessary changes have been made and the team is on a decent roll. There’s no doubt the next three games are crucial and the Isles must find ways to get any kind of points. Even if they went 1-1-1, that puts them in a great spot to move further up in the standings and not have to dig themselves out of another hole.
So yes, Philly was an important game and they should have won, but the Islanders season may in fact be determined over these next three games. In order to be the best, you have to beat the best. If the Islanders cannot get a single point at home, it may be time to shake things up and it won’t be a coach who gets fired or a goalie getting demoted. The NHL trade deadline may feel like Christmas for a few fans and it can’t come soon enough. However, if the Isles can at least 3 points then maybe a minor deal is all the Isles need, but that’s a write-up for another time.