The New York Islanders didn’t have a shutout in 58 games until blanking the Rangers and Hurricanes in back-to-back games. Monday’s 5-3 loss to the Wild proved again that old habits die hard.
Where would the New York Islanders be if they could just find a little consistency?
Fans, media pundits, management and the players have likely all asked themselves that very question at some point this season. The Islanders have done only one thing consistently, and that’s score goals.
The Islanders have been in the top of the league in terms of their offensive capabilities, and little more needs to be said about the subject. The part that kills fans the most is that if they had a defense that was just mediocre, the dividends would be astronomical.
In terms of blown leads, well, just look at the Islanders schedule this past week. The Islanders played a well-rounded game against the Minnesota Wild for most of the afternoon, and after taking a 2-1 lead let rudimentary mistakes cost them. In the blink of an eye, they were buried 4-2.
Just a little over a week ago, the Islanders blew a 2-0 lead against the Calgary Flames, giving up the game-winning goal with just under two minutes left in the third period.
Before that, the Islanders had to climb out of a 5-2 hole against the Detroit Red Wings to pull off a miracle 7-6 win, but only after two more devastating losses: A 4-3 loss to the Buffalo Sabres and failing to close out a 4-3 game to the Nashville Predators (a 5-4 loss in OT) in the last minute of the third period were just two of the most recent entries in a script that has haunted the Isles since the beginning of the season.
Doug Weight has stuck with his gameplan since the Isles’ season opener and has been preaching time and patience as the players and coaching staff begin to gel and buy into the same system.
There are arguments for and against giving Weight’s new system of play a little more patience.
The powerplay had started off on a horrendous note, failing to convert on a single opportunity in more than 30 attempts. Ryan Pulock‘s cannon beat Henrik Lundqvist for their first goal with the man-advantage and since then own the seventh-best PP in the NHL.
While it’s easy to point out the flaws with the Islanders this season, there have been reasons for optimism defensively that have gone overshadowed (and rightfully so).
The Isles own the league’s worst goals-against average (3.57) and the highest average in shots per game (36.1). Yet, they were still able to shut out both the New York Rangers and, more relevantly, the Carolina Hurricanes.
The Islanders shutout over the Rangers was an impressive feat, more so when the team’s defensive standing is considered.
The only other time the Isles have shutout their rival Blueshirts was back in 2014-15, and Jaroslav Halak had done it at MSG for the first time since Billy Smith did back in 1975.
As if one shutout weren’t impressive enough, the Islanders shutout the Hurricanes, a team that has historically given them fits, on the tail-end of a back-to-back set with Thomas Greiss in net.
Despite how both goalies had to make a combined 95 saves through the Isles two shutouts, the efforts were examples of the team buying into Weight’s system.
Since the Islanders have shown they’re perfectly capable of buying into Weight’s new defensive system with efforts like the back-to-back shutouts, the question is this: Is the Islanders defense just taking longer to gel, or is Weight’s leash reaching its end?