Sorry folks but it's officially desperation time for the 2007-2008 New York Islanders and no hiding from it any longer.
Even the coach and players feel this way and most of the reasons to expect this club to go quick and quiet from here are very vaild ones.
So let's take a look at the problems and what things are in the Isles favor.
Scoring: Worst kept secret this team cannot score when it needs to but to have two games like this in a week where they throw fifty plus shots at the opposing goaltenders and not only fail to produce points but cannot get the puck into the high quality areas is just something they cannot overcome beyond a handful of game and has to be very disheartening.
Isles worked as hard as they could in the second period yesterday firing a club record twenty nine shots, most of them were angle shots and easy saves against a team struggling that could barely get out it's own way playing a backup who has played well recently but rarely saw a rebound. We saw the desperation from the defenders all weekend as they stepped up and tried to make a play that led to a goal.
Does not make a lot of sense after they scored five against Atlanta to not be able to build on that but this has been the story all season. Islanders are twenty ninth in team scoring for a reason.
Powerplay: Islanders powerplay is ranked twenty eighth with only forty three powerplay goals, they have allowed the most goals with the man advantage with thirteen in what is completely unaccecptable. Many games it seems the Isles powerplay gives the opposition momentum as they do not have a legitimate first line offensive defender.
Isles rank in the bottom ten in powerplays draw.
Even Strength: For myself the biggest factor and the biggest difference from last season. This is where the Isles survival skills in games a year ago got games to overtime and produced a streak where they lost only three times in twenty regulation games. This year most of the roster is deep into minus territory and cannot get games to overtime for a critical point.
Depth: To expect a club to stay in contention with the depth problems they have at this point and a schedule that allows for vittually no rest is almost asking for the impossible to say nothing at asking for them to play at a very high level that will be required to win the games. Isles played three games in twenty four days in October and had three defenders on the sideline who could not get into the lineup. Rangers by contrast had a five, four and three day break in the past three weeks at a time a club needs the rest most. Isles get on a run into next week, they have a heavy travel schedule and little rest.
With Bergeron traded, Bruno Gervais likely going to be out for a while, Andy Sutton on the shelf and Brendan Witt not looking good as he gutted out yesterday's game where is the depth on defense going to come from that can not only fill out a lineup but give the team not only defense but the offense it desperately needs?
Speaking of the forwards most of the prospect have been recalled, how does this team survive any more injuries without Ben Walter and the prospects being put into key roles in the top three lines to say nothing of a playoff series?
Standings/Schedule: We all know the standings and how much ground the Isles have to make up on the club's ahead of them. Philadelphia is officially out of their slump and accumulating points again. The Rangers and Bruins are on long winning streaks and the Sabres even though they have been spotty still can score in bunches. Islanders having one of the worst goal differentials in the league do not control the tie-breaker with Buffalo and have already lost to Buffalo and Boston in that department which means they must gain an extra point unless they beat them out in overall wins which is not likely.
Worst of all it's fair to write Islanders need not only to win but do it in regulation to the teams they are chasing which presents an even tough challenge. The games in hand situation and other head to head games involving the teams ahead of the Isles make for no other alternative.
So what can the Isles do?: There is no doubt they have been competitive with the Flyers, Rangers in the head to head games and no doubt they are getting shots at the opposing goaltenders in these games. The defense and goaltending have kept the club in games by keeping the shots down and the penalty kill has been solid all season. I do not see that changing unless this weekend convinced this group it's over and play that way and mail it in which is another blog entry for another day.
Islanders also contol their own destiny and have the Rangers head to head where they have had success. One team looking to get back in contention, the other looking to put the Isles basically out of any realistic contention. For this to work for the Isles they need to go 3-0 this week.
This may not make a lot of sense to some but hockey is a game of streaks and slumps that do not have a lot of logic behind them but do happen. Frankly speaking the Rangers, Bruins are due to lose some games and the Isles due to win a few just if a few shots start bouncing in off opposing players.
Finally it seems for most of this year when everyone counts the Islanders out, that's when they start winning and fighting back out of nowhere.
You can bet it's where Ted Nolan teams are most dangerous. Work harder and make more plays than the other team for two hours a thirty minutes and win a game, nothing is won on paper.
We shall see but it's desperation time for the 2007-2008 New York Islanders.