Despite all the downside I have posted recently with a team in the bottom of almost every league stat (goals scored, pp-pk, shots allowed, five on five) out of nowhere the scoring (ugly & otherwise) has finally picked up and so have the points.
7-2-1 in last ten. 5-3-3-4-6 goals scored (not adding shootout goals in wins awarded) for a club that did not score three regulation goals (not counting open net awarded against Leafs) since December 3rd in Atlanta before the Thrashers came to the Coliseum on January 2nd.
For now the 2009-10 New York Islanders remain alive and in realistic playoff contention whether it be deflections off other players in the Atlanta game or the Coyotes not putting someone in the box before the Isles pp finally finished a few to the domination of a tired Wings team. New York had a three goal game in Dallas and lost in regulation which was very costly and we all know they handed back the lead in Phoenix.
Bottom line the scoring has to continue, they need an eight out of ten stretch for starters from this point forward unless this year becomes an anomaly where it takes a total below ninety points to qualify.
It's not 2002-03 with a different point system, I would not count on that given crunch of teams. The New York Islanders do not play in Western Conference or the story would have been written on their season.
The story continues and we look ahead at what the team must do to stay in contention.
Simply put the Islanders are going to have to gain points/wins against the Devils, Flyers, Washington and in Pittsburgh plus only get better from there. Carolina is on a slight roll and the Panthers beat the Isles 7-1 who they play twice before January ends. Tampa ended it's losing streak against Washington, the Isles must end their streak against Philadelphia.
Can The Scoring Continue?
Kyle Okposo is out of his goal scoring slump, Josh Bailey is showing signs of a serious breakout along with Rob Schremp who's contributing. It's going to take Tavares who seems to be getting closer to some goals along with Moulson, Hunter, Comeau, Bergenheim and especially Frans Nielsen with some goals from the defense to build the kind of unbeaten in regulation stretches that are required to qualify, perhaps the goals help Streit and Gervais. Sim has to continue to produce and Doug Weight for his minutes has to give them some offense.
Where would this team be without Dwayne Roloson who is eleven games over five hundred? It's obvious this group is very comfortable with the veteran who simply gives them a chance to gain points every game even during the long stretches they have not scored. At this point it should be his team because the bottom line is winning. This season for Rick DiPietro is about staying healthy long-term and getting back to the world-class goaltender he has been in the past.
Simply put you play Roloson until he gives you a reason not to and DiPietro waits his turn. Biron is a professional and knows what he signed on for, if he sits on the sidelines as insurance for both goaltenders the remainder of the season and goes UFA this summer with no return and everyone remains healthy so be it.
The special teams are due for a strong stretch, a lot of that comes with chemistry as a unit and a few breaks along with a Tavares breakout.
Most nights the team defense (meaning five players on ice) has been acceptable, few games blown out and some nights Roloson has had to steal points but stats scream differently at five on five or special teams about overall unit. I see nothing in Andrew MacDonald or Jack Hillen that indicate they do not belong and have played very solid. Mark Streit seems worn down from minutes but maybe recent goals get him going, his defense has been very good. Organizational depth chart says time has to be clicking on a few defenders here, how they play will determine who stays.
The Islanders are going to have to take the hits and the players dressed will have to fight their own battles. Eric Godard rarely skates with Sidney Crosby, Andrew Peters does not skate with Zach Parise. Putting out Tim Jackman, Joel Rechlicz or Nate Thompson (insert any fighter) after a big hit to Tavares, Okposo, Nielsen, Bailey or another forward does not avoid the fact they must endure the hitting and produce. Sutton, Hunter and the players do not back down from throwing their own share of hits.
If another club comes in determined to beat down the Islanders, they have to take advantage on the scoreboard. Doug Weight and Richard Park are not coming out of the lineup and this team needs four lines with NHL potential to score a goal.
Not a big fan of Scott Gordon, I want to see prospects play their natural positions but he deserves high marks for Josh Bailey's recent play. Is it a credit to the coach Sean Bergenheim, Blake Comeau and Frans Nielsen have not produced or Jeff Tambellini is glued to the bench despite his obvious skills as Rob Schremp was earlier?
Scott Gordon has a lot of square pegs for round holes with his lineup, that's beyond him and he's gotten some positives out of this group despite that. Having written this how many players by their career offensive track records should have be better or producing at this stage of their careers?
Ask me after five games and get ready to cut it down to three very shortly afterward. We all know the amount of points this team can afford to lose is around twenty five in remaining games to stay on ninety five point pace, the margin is very thin.
It took 7-2-1 to only get into the realistic playoff mix and they are still on the outside, they need another eight out of ten from here and a long unbeaten in regulation streak.
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