It’s that time of year that fans of playoff bubble teams are used to. The time when points slip away in ways that make you tear your hair out.
It’s troubling that the Islanders under coach Barry Trotz mix in poor streaks of bad play at bad times. After sweeping the Penguins, the Islanders underwhelmed in the second round and got swept by the Hurricanes. This season, they are treading water as the playoff race is gaining intensity. Although they’ve banked points and are still holding playoff position in the WC #1 slot, the last two games have resulted in disappointing OT losses, letting the chasers even closer.
You can’t really fault the Isles’ effort against the Rangers on Tuesday. As usual, the NYC rivalry was an entertaining, highlight-filled affair. It ended in overtime on a great blast from Mika Zibenejad from Artemi Panarin, who all 3 Islanders skaters were staring at and chasing. Despite the loss, the Islanders had a great push to tie the game with their goalie pulled to steal the OT loss point.
Last night, though, they blew an opportunity for 2 points on the road in St. Louis. The Islanders came out buzzing, and Jean-Gabriel Pageau scored his second goal in his second game with the team about 10 minutes in, making Lou Lamoriello look like a goddamn genius. (Pageau even won the faceoff to start overtime, giving the Isles their only OT possession). The Islanders had the better of the play and added a second goal when Jordan Eberle walked in untouched from the top of the circle and beat Jordan Binnington with a backhander off a move that dropped the goaltender.
Then, with less than a minute to go in the 1st, the disciplined Barry Trotz Islanders gave up a goal to cut the lead in half.
The Islanders then only managed ONE shot on goal in the second period and THREE in the third period. That’s four shots in two periods. That’s not very good. Still, the Islanders held the lead thanks mostly to Thomas Greiss, who finished with 29 saves on 32 shots.
Then, with 1:44 to go in the 3rd, the defensively sound Barry Trotz Islanders gave up a goal to blow the lead. It was a slapshot from the high slot by Vince Dunn, right where Mika Zibenejad blasted past Semyon Varlamov from on Tuesday. The Islanders tried to clear, but Colton Parako kept the puck in after it stopped right on the blue line, waiting for him. Ryan Pulock poked it off a Blues stick, lightly through traffic to the point, where Vince Dunn fired through a screen.
Parako twisted the dagger in overtime by scoring on a wraparound that was a tough look for Thomas Greiss. He went for a poke check and didn’t slide far-post in time, ending up out of position with his stick flopping partly behind the net..
The goals given up were all disappointing. But, four shots in two periods? That’s not very good.
Ultimately, they still earned a point on the road, but the way it played out was really disappointing to see. The Islanders usually bring more effort than that.
And, of course, the Rangers won last night to gain some more ground. However,
Looking ahead, the Islanders still have seven divisional games, five of which are against playoff contenders. It’s gonna be a fun finish in the Metro with everyone (except the Devils) jockeying between 74 and 84 points.