The Morning Skate: Cracking the Losing Streak, Waiting for Injury News

Kevin Schultz

Today the Islanders return to Long Island for a whole week, where they’ll have a three-game homestand to try and get back on track. Not only that, but they’ll be home for most of the next month as they play seven-of-ten on Coliseum ice.

But of course, some folks believe the Islanders don’t play well on home ice where fans don’t fill the building for weekday games (and in some cases outright blame fans for staying home, which is self-defeating). In reality, the Islanders are 3-6 on the road this year and 3-3-3 at home, neither of which is a great mark. The Islanders need to get back to winning games, wherever they are played.

Over at LHH, Dom has an excellent piece on how to appropriately direct direct your ire for the losing streak. It also puts into perspective the losing streak as it impacts a full 82-game season:

The Islanders have some real problems right now, and their 0-4 road trip has dropped them from second to sixth in what is thus far the NHL’s weakest division. Alarmingly, they have just four regulation or OT wins — lowest in the division — but not all is lost 18 games into the season. Not all worst fears are confirmed. Not yet.

Just on this last trip alone, a little different luck or a couple of shifts swung the other way could have meant a 2-2 trip, with the effort in Washington the only irreversibly losing effort of the four games.

In some ways hockey is like baseball in that it is a game of percentages: To succeed, you can’t let the small samples get you to high or too low. Results are achieved through repeating good habits and counting on the fact that, over time, those habits pay off. Usually, the lifetime .300 hitter who hits .220 in April will rebound; the NHL team with an even goal differential but four games below .500 won’t remain so.

The trick for a struggling hockey team is to identify what’s not working (even if it’s mostly “luck”) and avoid panicking by changing what is.

Four-games in a row with a 16-6 goal differential is bad. It’s not season-killing bad. It hasn’t even put the Islanders more than a few points out of second place in the division. But of course, it’s a cause for concern. But taken in little samples it’s easy to lose sight of where the team is as a whole. The Islanders handily beat Ottawa and Boston for two in a row at home last week. Now, it’s four losses in a row.

Are they the team that won those two at home? Are they a team with bad special teams and defense/goaltending and can’t win for anything? The answer likely isn’t either and is probably somewhere in between. A bounce here or there last night and the Islanders are in a 3-3 game with the Canadiens rather than 4-2 hole. A bounce here or there last Saturday against Boston (and there were some bounces that went the Islanders way for sure) and maybe the Bruins are tied 2-2 in the second and not down 3-1.

The penalty kill has been unbelievably bad (or unlucky, if you like) with a 17-for-30 mark in recent games. Even if they don’t improve much, they will surely positively regress from an unsustainable short-term 56% success rate.

Then there’s the defense/goaltending which has not held an opponent to less than two goals all season, save for one game. That certainly needs to change and the finger shouldn’t be pointed at an offense that has scored less than two goals only once and is 14th in the league in goals per game. That’s middle of the pack, sure, but when you’re scoring at least two in every single game, you’re giving yourself a chance to win literally every night. The other side of that coin is that defense/goaltending needs to come up big at some point. The Islanders are 27th in team save percentage and 26th in team GAA. Those are not the ranks of a good team and the offense is good, but not unstoppable enough to overcome all that.


Speaking of defense we’ll hopefully know more about Travis Hamonic and Thomas Vanek’s injuries today. Hamonic left late in last night’s game after crashing hard into the end boards courtesy of Max Pacioretty. Vanek missed almost the entirety of the last two games for an unknown upper body injury. Arthur Staple reports that Vanek’s injury isn’t a broken bone, which is good. Capuano said that he is “pretty sore.” So hopefully that’s good but we should know more later on today or tomorrow morning.