If the Islanders were looking to make a statement, tonight was the night. If the Isles were looking to prove that they were due for a win on the road as they have lost their last seven road games in a row, tonight was the night. If the Isles really wanted to end a 14-game losing streak against the Philadelphia Flyers, tonight was the night. If the Isles wanted to win in an arena other than Madison Square Garden that belonged to their Atlantic Division rivals, tonight was the night.
I guess they didn't want any of these things as much as say, I wanted them too.
At the start of this game the Islanders were 9 points out of the playoffs. To their dismay, the Bruins managed to pick up a point tonight in their overtime loss to Toronto, making the team's playoff hopes a ten point differential with five teams in between them. They may not be mathematically eliminated, but they're sure as hell making this a hard equation.
Currently the Isles have 60 points and are 14th in the Eastern Conference. As it seems now they will finish in the bottom five of the league for the third year in a row. Like I originally predicted, this team was much more competitive than last year's, but they just aren't a playoff team. Anyone that thought they were was thinking a little too prematurely. They were much more fun to watch and many players are showing considerable signs of development, but they are not there yet.
Another top five pick will certainly help. Two offensive threats in Tyler Seguin and Taylor Hall would be monstrous contributors, or someone like Cam Fowler on the blue line would be an additional piece to a puzzle that has yet to be completed. Just take a look at the Pittsburgh Penguins, Chicago Blackhawks and Washington Capitals. There rosters are comprised of several top ten picks that are making a difference, but it took years to get to where they are right now.
So far the Islanders have gone through only two. Growing pains are tough, especially for a franchise that has endured bad trade after bad trade, several years that lacked playoff runs and one too many extensive contracts that had Gary Bettman using more than one calculator to figure out how they would add up. But the Islanders are heading in the right direction, even if they did blow a two-goal lead tonight.
I am certain that the coaching staff and management are going to evaluate the players they are currently playing and see who should be given another year to excel under Scott Gordon. Some, like Tambellini and the almost traded Bergenheim are probable goners, although that is yet to be determined. But forwards such as Tavares (who finally scored a goal tonight), Okposo, Bailey, Comeau (up until his board from Ryder) and Nielsen have been coming along nicely over the last few games. Hillen and MacDonald (before the broken foot) have been solid defensively and players such as Hamonic and de Haan are going to eventually make a big impacts on the back end.
Two important points flew by tonight for the Islanders, but at the end of the year, games such as these may be the marking points for why they have the future stars that are just kids right now. It's important for fans to not lose their patience or hope after games like these. They may be frustrating to watch, but once they learn how to hold a lead and maintain success, this team will be even more fun to watch than they are now.
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