With John Tavares and the New York Islanders desperate for a win, they’ll first start with the Anaheim Ducks out west.
The New York Islanders’ backs are against the wall and their season could very well come down to the outcome of Tuesday’s game in Anaheim. It could mark the beginning of a spark that can surge the team back into playoff contention, or spell the end of the Islanders season before it really got to begin.
By the end of this week, fan cans either be hopeful or will be singing the swan song of the 2016-17 season.
The Islanders know exactly how difficult the task at hand will be. When they last played the Ducks for their home opener the Ducks tied the game with a minute left in the third period. They are a much-improved team coming into Tuesday’s game boasting a 9-7-3 record, fresh off a loss against their arch-rival the L.A. Kings.
If the Islanders are to get their season turned around it all starts with making some changes with the forwards that actually make sense. For instance, the Cal Clutterbuck pairing with John Tavares has to come to an end. The pairing of an elite franchise player with a career fourth liner was nothing short of sheer desperation for coach Jack Capuano to find offense.
The offense and potential are there, but what Cappy has to do is configure some pairings and leave them alone. The forwards are struggling, yes, but this can also be in part that they are not permitted much time to gel with each other and develop some sort of chemistry. While Andrew Ladd struggled with John Tavares initially it certainly wasn’t due to his lack of chances. Demoting him has only stunted what success he was having and he clearly hasn’t meshed well with anyone yet due to him moving around the lineup.
Capuano needs to staple Ladd to Tavares’ side regardless of his play. He is being paid $5.5 million dollars per year to be a first line player, he needs to play on the first line.
Anthony Beauvillier had arguably the best game of his NHL career against the Penguins and that came while he played as a center. Capuano would do well to leave him on his own line playing with skaters who are closer to him in terms of speed, like Shane Prince. If the Islanders find the recipe for offense, it’s up to Jack to leave it be. Sometimes change for the sake of just change will only leave a negative impact.
The Ducks’ goaltending has been about as erratic as the Islanders. John Gibson is struggling to settle into the starting position (2.59 GAA, .908 save percentage) while Jonathan Bernier is thriving in the change of scenery a trade from Toronto has brought him (2.13 GAA, .933 save percentage). This is something the Islanders will be looking at when the puck drops on Tuesday night.
The defensive end of the ice has taken a hit for the Islanders in the past few games. There are some injuries to key players like Dennis Seidenberg and Ryan Pulock, however, if the Islanders can figure out how to possess the puck more than they can begin to alleviate some defensive pressure they’re putting on themselves. More possession leads to more offense which leads to more goals, and you see where I’m going with this.
So please, Cappy, heed my advice and leave things alone. Rome wasn’t built in a day and neither will the reparations to the Islanders offense. Perhaps if things had stayed more consistent, it probably could have taken less than 15 games to figure it out.