It's getting close to seven weeks since the Isles season ended and even now it's still tough to point to one thing that finished this club last season.
I see a team like Pittsburgh in the finals being talked about as the 1983 Edmonton Oilers and it makes me think not of how the Islanders swept that club long ago but why this years Islander team simply could not have been more consistent over eighty two games given how most of the head to head contest with Pittsburgh they outplayed them for a good stretch of the games but seemed to find ways to lose.
Less than two months ago on March 24th the Isles dominated the Pens in a 4-1 win with Joey MacDonald in goal, before that they lost a game where they took over fifty shots and lost to Pittsburgh. Blake Comeau helped win a game in Pittsburgh, Simon's stomp was big in a close loss while Dubie came in and won on Al Arbour night against Pittsburgh. Early season a powerplay goal against decided an Isles-Pens game.
Terrible teams are supposed to be losing games 6-1 or dominated from beginning to end of games on a regular basis. Islanders should have looked like Philadelphia did in the deciding game against Pittsburgh most of the season based upon that.
Meanwhile the Islanders had a lot of self-inflicted losses to Philadelphia. Power play goals by the Flyers that were too easy at times, goals allowed by the Isles powerplay that were critical in two losses. Isles lost a game they scored three first period goals where Nolan was visibly upset afterward with how they cheated the system when the Flyers came back and won.
Digest this for a moment: Isles scored three first period goals in that Flyer game, around mid-december the Islanders only scored eleven first period goals ALL SEASON.
Isles even needed close to fifty shots to finally win a game vs Philadelphia after that.
We saw some Islander games in 2006 where they just were all over the place with an
8-1 loss to Vancouver after beating Calgary the game before in Brad Shaw's debut as interim coach but that was not the case in the second half for the Isles, despite how many players were injured, even the Tampa game was close until the final minutes when it got away from them.
For me it was one of the toughest Islander clubs to get a read on in it's history on so many levels. A seven game losing streak, a six game winning streak, followed by fifty shots games where they could not finish any plays or generate any shots where the goalie was out of position and had no chance?
Teams that score two goals or less fourteen games in a row are supposed to be in last place by early December, not at a point where they are five games over and in a playoff spot.
On top of that they were terrible at even strength and could not get games to overtime like the previous season, trademarks for low scoring clubs that manage to stay in contention.
The year before Isles were a game over five hundred on 1/31, they lost only three times in regulation afterward over the next twenty games. Isles only had two shootout home games all season this year.
This group was all over the board even going back to the opening weekend where they ran over the Sabres and looked like an offensive powerhouse. At the time I though of how Phoenix ran over the Isles in Ted Nolan's opening game as Islander coach and knew a month later that Coyotes team would have it's bubble popped because they were supposed to be terrible and were.
That did not happen to the 07-08 Islanders.
Boston beat the Isles using the formula the Isles used to beat Boston over several seasons. Florida swept the season series with games like the one Craig Anderson started on core of the four weekend where the Islanders outworked Florida but rarely got a quality chance for their fifty plus shots.
Montreal was the only Eastern Conference team that beat the Islanders the way a good team is supposed to beat a poor team, all four games the Canadians speed and skill had the Isles off balance. Even after one of those losses Mike Sillinger defended his club saying we took over forty shots.
I look at the 2007-08 Islanders and cannot recall a Islander team that had so many flaws but managed to stay competitive and in some games dominate.
Meanwhile this is the same group that basically outworked and won the season series vs the Devils, Rangers.
You see all the exit interviews from the players on ITV and all of them talked of the injuries but no one brought up the two goals in fourteen games when all of them were healthy and well rested in November-December. No one touched the awful powerplay or the shorthanded goals allowed. No one talked about how Comeau and Bergenheim were the two most visible forwards on a team where the veterans were supposed to carry the club.
Ted Nolan in the first fan meeting felt he went too easy on some of the veterans early. He had a lot of days off for practice to forum a culture and no doubt he was very popular with the players given the comments. By the end of the season he was all over his veterans for poor play and promised to skate them daily if they did not work harder in games.
When the Isles went to Boston the game before the all-star break, one Bruin talked about desperately wanting to win the game after a bad loss. Isles came in off a bad loss and most of the Isles talk was about getting away, afterward the talk was Boston wanted the game more.
I have never watched an Islander season and wondered going into a powerplay if they were going to give up another shorthanded goal, this year down the stretch I expected them to give up chances with the powerplay.
I guess for many you look at the lack of scoring, the powerplay and it's easy to say they were just a bad team. You add in four hundred man games lost to injury and it also helps that argument as those eight two games fade away.
But it does not tell the full story of eighty two games, not even close for me.
Entire season feels like that win against Carolina where they had three shorthanded goals, yet gave up over forty shots and needed a Brendan Witt goal to finally win the game.
Even now it's still tough to get a read on them.