It has happened a couple times so far this season. The Islanders won some games that some folks expected them not to. They strung some wins together and found themselves in position to take the proverbial ‘next step’ forward. Up until now, all those instances have resulted in maddeningly familiar results, usually with message boards, fan sites, your text message inbox, and Twitter ablaze with rage, fury, and frustration.
Just for fun, lets jog the memory a little, shall we? In late January, the team went 3-2-1 on a five game road trip, finishing it up with consecutive road wins against the NJ Devils and Penguins respectively. They then arrived home to a jubilant and robust Coliseum crowd ready to explode, only to play an absolute stinker against the Devils in a 3-0 shutout loss.
More recently, the Isles went into MSG and stole one in overtime against their loathed division rival New York Rangers and followed that up with a ‘surprisingly’ convincing 5-1 win at home vs. the Devils. Team expectations were once again high for the long time tortured fan base. The divisionally last place Flyers were in town, as were many random mascots from around the NHL (who happened to scare the bejeezus out of my two year old by the way). Result? Worse than before, way way way worse, if you can believe that. The worst shutout loss at home . . . of all time. Ever . . . period.
So here we are again. Before continuing, lets be clear, if you had told an Isles fan when the lockout was lifted that the team would be 8-9-1 at this point and a mere two points shy of the last playoff spot in the conference AND Rick DiPietro was placed on waivers, they would have been amply satisfied. But the reality for much of the fan base that follows the team closely is much much different. Let’s be honest. The rebuild is getting old and some players that are components of the rebuild haven’t played to expectation, and as a result, dammit, frustrations with ownership, management, and the coaching staff continue to mount.
Given the flashes of absolute brilliance this team has shown, with John Tavares as Exhibit ‘A’, mixed in with the long losing streak(s), well, it’s been tough to take. Especially in the wake of the last 20 years.
My fellow staff writer John accentuates the inconsistency of the team in its current place as the most infuriating characteristic of the New York Islanders. I couldn’t agree with him more, it drives fans nuts. And let’s continue to keep it real kids; Snow’s interview prior to Saturday’s Sabres game didn’t exactly inspire warm and fuzzy feelings with many in the way of displacing the aforementioned inconsistent play. It was, in a word: blasé.
Tonight’s (rare Sunday night) home game against the Carolina Hurricanes presents yet another opportunity to ease a jumpy and restless fan base. 2 points would do wonders for the Islanders and the fans. Perhaps the third time is, in fact, a charm in terms of taking the next step.
A ‘W’ won’t solve all the deeper problems the team faces, but by now fans certainly expect the Islanders to have forged some kind of identity that is something other than a young, immature, poorly coached team. A win would work towards establishing that identity.
If the team comes out flat, expect trouble because even without Jeff Skinner, the Canes can make you pay in a hurry, especially on the tail end of back-to-back games. But to be honest, with Kevin Poulin expected to get his first start for the Isles his year, I anticipate a motivated effort from the local team. (Sidenote: Poulin was 2-0 with a 2.5-ish GAA against the Canes last year).
What are your expectations?