Islanders an Enigma Over the Past Month

Gene J. Puskar/AP

Since Patrick Roy was hired to coach the New York Islanders on January 20th, the Islanders have been a bit of an enigma. There have been stretches of excellent play when the team seems fully committed to the system that Roy is trying to install. And there have been stretches of bad penalties, frequent turnovers, and a lack of commitment, combined with some bad puck luck that has created unwatchable hockey. The end of the Stadium Series game against the New York Rangers is a prime example of the latter.

The team is still very much in the playoff race, however, thanks to an Eastern Conference of haves and have-nots. The big question is which Islander team is the real deal, and will we see enough of that team in the coming month and a half for them to continue to play once the puck drops on the Stanley Cup Playoffs?

Tuesday’s overtime win against the Pittsburgh Penguins had all the makings of another disaster for the Islanders when they gave up two third-period goals, allowing the Penguins to erase another late-game, multi-goal lead. Fortunately for them, Adam Pelech scored in the extra frame, securing a desperately needed second point on the night against another Metropolitan Division team fighting for their playoff lives.

Everyone in the organization clearly understands the gravity of the situation, as far as this year’s playoff hopes go, but success will depend on more than just staying on message. The Islanders need to play with more urgency and discipline at the same time, which is not always an easy feat. The core of this team has been in similar situations over the past few years, however, and there is a body of evidence that suggests one should not underestimate their resilience.

With games coming up against the St. Louis Blues, the Tampa Bay Lightning, and the Dallas Stars, the road ahead doesn’t get any easier. And with little in the way of cap room or trade assets, it is fairly safe to say that the players who are currently on the roster will be the ones who have to carry the load. The chips were pushed in last month when General Manager Lou Lamoriello replaced Coach Lane Lambert and hired Patrick Roy. The payoff awaits.

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