One loss does not a streak make, but it does create unnecessary and unfounded nervousness.
Two losses causes panic. Even six games into the season.
The Islanders’ hot start represented the change everyone, proponent and detractor alike, anticipated. A loss to the widely projected Metro Division champion Penguins gave way to a 5-2 loss at home against a relatively weaker Toronto Maple Leafs team.
Coming into tonight the Leafs boasted middle of the road power play and penalty kill percentages, and a bottom third goals against. Both teams sported similar possession numbers, edge going to Long Island. Running theory was this game could remedy the penalty kill, and add confidence to an Isles’ team that is looking for stability through an early injury patch.
Defensive stat of the night: Islanders CF% – 100, solely from blocking “Tavares wants to leave for his homeland. Why hasn’t this happened yet?” shots, questions, and related comments.
A major point of previous concern, the power play formation, went through some changes. No longer hugging the side dasher for dear life, the Islanders had a rotation of two bodies in front of Bernier at all times. Rebound control was taken away from Toronto and chances were had. Still, they only converted once in seven tries.
For all the positive play coming out of the first, the second period was a disaster. Four unanswered goals, mainly off sloppy turnovers, felt like the end of days. Phil Kessel potted two and David Clarkson added his second of the year. Kessel scores goals so his bookends make sense. Clarkson is weighted down by his contract and the media. If he scored on you something went awry.
The lapses in defense at even strength allowed the lead stealing goals and silenced the crowd. Jaroslav Halak, starting his fourth straight game, was replaced by Chad Johnson to start the third period. The two soft goals in the last four minutes of the second period had sealed his fate.
An errant and accudental skate from Mike Santorelli caught Thomas Hickey in the chin. Visnovsky is only so close to returning, Brian Strait and Matt Carkner are becoming bigger liabilities, and Travis Hamonic had a minor injury scare earlier in the day. If Hickey misses any time the blue line will suffer.
Josh Bailey continued his streak of strong games. His work on the power play remained strong and his chemistry with Nikolai Kulemin improves.
The Maple Leafs did not have a power play goal. Whether it can be used as a jump off point is debatable, it was a rare bright spot.
The issue isn’t the loss, it’s the lack of execution. Missed assignments and lack of a cohesive power play unit doomed this team, even with the improvement in scheme. Softer and softer goals let in by Halak cannot continue. While this series of unfortunate events can be corrected, it’s not the best way to instill hope in themselves and the fan base. Boston will eat them alive on Thursday if this becomes a habit.