Despite Disappointing Loss, the Islanders Are Rolling

Photo via ESPN

“It’s a long season” is something we all hear ad nauseam in NHL circles. That doesn’t make it any less true, however, as the Islanders are reminded us with their 6 game-winning streak, which ended last night in Los Angeles. After beating a lifeless San Jose team on Sunday, the Isles looked like a team playing the second half of a back-to-back at the end of a long west coast trip. Despite the loss to the Kings and having been left for dead not long ago, the Islanders are now very much in the playoff picture, sitting right at the cutoff line for the first time in an age.

General Manager Lou Lamoriello has been saying how much he likes the team he has all season long. Whether he believed that statement or it was a cover for an inability to do much roster-changing over the Summer has been the subject of much debate among Islander fans and in the media. Those whispers were growing into a Greek chorus as the trade deadline came and went with nary a move by the Islanders. But Lamoriello is being rewarded for his belief in his squad, and for a mid-season coaching change to Patrick Roy.

With increasing comfort in the systems instituted by Roy, some reshuffled lines, and timely play by call-up Kyle Maclean, the Islanders are peaking just when they need it most. Since the Stadium Series loss to the New York Rangers, they have slayed some demons from earlier in their season, like their inability to close out opponents and hold on to multi-goal leads. In particular, seeing Bo Horvat create his own space in front of the net only to corral then bury an errant Brock Nelson shot against the Ducks on Sunday was a sight for sore Islander fans’ eyes.

The Islanders’ fight to get firmly inside the playoff bubble only intensifies over the next week as they head to Buffalo this Thursday and get Ottowa at home on Saturday before a rematch with the New York Rangers at Madison Square Garden on Sunday, the back half of back-to-back games. The Hurricanes will be at UBS Arena two nights later, on Tuesday. The Islanders are essentially playing playoff hockey at this point in the season. But they have to be happy with the mere fact that they are back in the thick of the Eastern Conference race and, aside from Monday night’s game in LA, playing some of their best, most consistent hockey of the season.

Perhaps most importantly, the Islanders are in control of their own destiny. Time will tell if sticking with the current roster was the right move, but the vibes are all positive in Islanders territory at the moment, even if the end of the road trip didn’t go their way.

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