And the Islanders let that team win 7-0 on the road. In front of an announced sellout crowd. The largest home shutout in Islanders history.
Let that sink in for a moment. This isn’t a team mailing it in for game #80 when they’re way out of the playoffs. This is a home sellout, 15 games in, coming off a nice win, and this is the result.
So what’s the problem? How do the Islanders, coming off a feel good win against New Jersey where John Tavares’ hatter grabbed the national spotlight, manage this?
In today’s game there was a complete lack of effort from the players, from top to bottom. It almost seemed like they didn’t want to be there. And the responsibility is not on the black jerseys, which make an awfully convenient but illogical whipping boy for fans. The responsibility for today lies at the feet of the coach as his team that is consistently having trouble “getting up” for games.
We can debate how good this team really is — or isn’t — until we’re blue in the face, but right now that’s not the main point of concern. The point is that the Islanders can’t seem to pull it together.
Here’s what we know about the Islanders recently:
- They lost five games in regulation.
- They beat the Rangers at MSG but only after an abysmal first period, one reminiscent of today’s effort, prompted a tirade from an assistant coach.
- They beat the Devils backup goalie on the second night of the Devils playing back-to-backs, with the All-World John Tavares single-handedly winning the game.
There’s overreacting to “one bad loss” or “an off night,” sure. But I don’t believe this is simply one of those games. This was epically bad. The Islanders were 0-for-5 on the powerplay with one shot kind of bad.
Then there’s the questionable decision making. Two surprising moves during each of the intermissions.
After the first, the lines were shuffled seemingly at random. That, after Dan Rosen of NHL.com was told by Capuano they wouldn’t be earlier today.
So, after Matt Martin fought Wayne Simmonds two minutes into the second period to attempt to get things going, Michael Grabner appeared in Brad Boyes’ spot on the first line and the second and third line centers flipped spots.
But here’s a worse issue; leaving the starting goaltender — and honestly a very key piece of the team considering the other options — in the game.
Evgeni Nabokov led the Islanders, down 5-0, onto the ice for the third period. That should never have happened.
It’s standard operating procedure that you don’t leave your starter in when either A) he doesn’t have it or, in this case, B) the players in front of him are hanging him out like wet laundry. In fact, if Nabokov had been removed during the second period, there’s a chance he’s ready to go tomorrow in Ottawa. Now, you’ve likely got Rick DiPietro and an .842 save pecentage in net, compounding the problem.
But the worst problem of all is, of course, the motivation.
These player’s shouldn’t need Doug Weight yelling whatever he yelled to get up for a game against the Rangers in the midst of a five-game losing streak. They also shouldn’t have mailed in 60 minutes today in front of a home sellout crowd.
I don’t know that Doug Weight or Brent Thompson is the answer here. If Weight got through to the team so well on Thursday night, maybe he is.
But what’s happening right now — this ain’t working. Not in any way.