Kevin SchultzTonight in Columbus the Islanders dropped their third game in a row on the road, snapping the Blue Jackets’ five-game losing streak. It was a concerning night for a lot of reasons; Thomas Vanek went down with an injury early on, the defense had some issues again, the goaltender didn’t bail anyone out and overall the team’s effort — er, battle level — was highly questionable.
Not a whole lot went right, save for the two bounces that went the Islanders way. Frans Nielsen’s first period goal took a deflection before getting past Sergei Bobrovsky and Thomas Hickey’s second period goal found Ryan Johansen’s stick before it did the back of the net. In both those instances, the Islanders battled back from one-goal deficits to tie the game. Unfortunately, they came out flatter than flat to start the third period and surrendered two quick goals that pretty much sealed the deal.
The team has, and is, facing adversity. They’ve lost three in a row now and have done it without their best puck-moving defenseman. They’re also missing Brian Strait who, while not an All-Star, would arguably be an upgrade over others when healthy. And now, it’s Thomas Vanek whose health is in question. Vanek will definitely miss tomorrow’s 6pm tilt in Montreal and there’s no telling how long (or short) he’ll be out after that. (Before you ask; no, Ryan Strome isn’t getting called up yet, the Islanders are carrying two extra forwards that were scratched tonight).
The injuries are mounting as they have for many teams, it all depends on whether the team can adjust and battle through them. It’s a long season, we’re only sixteen games in. The losing streak and injuries are a cause for concern but the Islanders need to get it together and battle through. No one has a crystal ball to sit here and say that they will or won’t.
There was a quick, closed door meeting after tonight’s game and rightfully so. The team wasn’t all here tonight. The ‘battle level’ mantra and frustration in the post-game media scrums for poor efforts after losses — see Tuesday in Washington — only mean so much unless you can actually do something about it for the better later on.
The Islanders will have a good chance to quickly forget about tonight with the quick turnaround to Montreal for tomorrow’s game. It could be a good way to try and shake off all the bad vibes and get things going in the right direction.
For all the trouble this week, the Islanders have not fallen behind in the race for the Metro Division playoff spots. There are still 65 games left to go so please keep your hands off the panic buttons, but no, all that doesn’t make weeks like this excusable or any easier.