islanderslose

Could the Islanders break the NHL record of 17 consecutive losses?

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It doesn’t take an expert or an impressively observant person to notice that things are bad for the New York Islanders right now. It would be bad enough that they’re on an 11-game losing streak, but they’ve also taken public relations hits after firing Scott Gordon and revoking beat writer Chris Botta’s press credentials.

They’re also missing two key pieces on a talent-poor roster thanks to the long-term injuries of Mark Streit and Kyle Okposo. (Let’s not ignore the fact that oft-injured big investment Rick DiPietro isn’t “all there” either.)

Yup, things are bad in Long Island.

In fact, the situation is so bleak that some people are wondering if the team might sink to historically low levels. Justin Terranova of the New York Post wonders if the Islanders – again, currently on an 11 game skid – could tie or even surpass the all-time record for consecutive losses (17 games).

It’s a situation that will only get more painful and difficult if the Islanders stamp themselves as the NHL’s longest loser. The record for most consecutive losses is 17 — shared by the 1974-75 Capitals and the 1992-93 Sharks. Those Capitals were an expansion squad, and the Sharks were in the second year of existence.

With that question in mind, I thought I’d take a look at the team’s next seven games. Which games seem the most “winnable” for the woeful Islanders? Let’s take a look.

Note: All records are taken from before Friday, November 20th’s contests.

Saturday, Nov. 20: Home against Florida (8-9-0)

The Panthers are a .500 team through and through, with a near-even overall record and a 5-5 mark in their last 10. Verdict: Moderately winnable.

Sunday, Nov. 21: On the road against Atlanta (7-9-3)

The Thrashers have been struggling a bit, having lost three in a row going into a tough one against the Capitals. Still, they’re in a big home stand and the Islanders won’t even get 24 hours between back-to-back games this weekend. Verdict: Tough situation, but winnable match-up.

Wednesday, Nov. 24: At home against Columbus (10-6-0)

The Blue Jackets are 5-1 on the road, but on the bright side, the Islanders will be well-rested. Verdict: Cozy situation, but very tough match-up.

Friday, Nov. 26: At home against New Jersey (5-12-2)

This very well might be the Blooper Bowl to determine the worst team in the NHL. The odd start time (1:00 pm ET) and local rivalry make it a coin toss. Martin Brodeur’s injury situation could make it the closest thing to an easy win for the Isles. Verdict: Very winnable.

Thursday, Dec. 2: At home against NY Rangers (10-8-1)

The Islanders receive a week off before having a back-to-back, home-and-home duo of games against the Rangers. Back-to-backs increase the chances of them only playing against Henrik Lundqvist once. Verdict: Tough match-up, but big break could help.

Friday, Dec. 3: On the road against NY Rangers (10-8-1) **Would tie the record if they continue to lose**

Again, one of these games could be against a Lundqvist-free Rangers squad. Verdict: Tough match-up, but back-to-backs might mean no Lundqvist.

Sunday, Dec. 5: At home against Philadelphia (12-6-2) **Would break record if they continue to lose**

If the Islanders bring a 17-game losing streak into this one, it will be difficult for the Isles to avoid humiliation. Verdict: Very difficult.

***

After looking at the Islanders’ schedule, I don’t think that they will lose 17 games in a row (or worse). With some big breaks in between games and five of those contests at home, they have every reason to win at least once. Honestly, they might even go above .500 during that stretch.

Then again, you never know in the NHL.

Robin Lehner certainly has swagger

ANAHEIM, CA - FEBRUARY 24:  Robin Lehner #40 of the Buffalo Sabres stretches during the first period of a game against the Anaheim Ducks at Honda Center on February 24, 2016 in Anaheim, California.  (Photo by Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images)
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Robin Lehner is a big goalie, and barring possible language barrier issues, sure seems to have a pretty big personality.

That at least seems to be the case with the Buffalo Sabres’ top guy, who provided the Buffalo News’ John Vogl with a great quote:

“There’s a lot of pressure on me, and that’s fine. … I know I’m a good goaltender,” Lehner said.

Hey now.

As much as the Sabres feel like a work in progress, acquiring Lehner was one of GM Tim Murray’s boldest moves. Murray was able to observe Lehner in Ottawa, and despite some struggles, the big Swede (6-foot-5, 240 lbs.) was sneaky-good in 2015-16.

Twenty-one games serves as a limited sample size, yet a .924 save percentage seems quite promising. His 107 career regular season games are spread over six seasons, so to some extent, the 25-year-old is still something of an unknown entity.

If nothing else, it looks like he could provide some Bryzgalovian entertainment.

Back in March, Ben Scrivens admitted he was happy to avoid a fight with a guy he called a “bit of a psycho.”

Sounds like a guy to watch.

Clarke MacArthur helped off ice during Sens scrimmage

BUFFALO, NY - OCTOBER 8: Clarke MacArthur #16 of the Ottawa Senators skates with the puck during the game against the Buffalo Sabres at the First Niagara Center on October 8, 2015 in Buffalo, New York. (Photo by Tom Brenner/ Getty Images)
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Rough news for the Ottawa Senators on Sunday: forward Clarke MacArthur needed help off the ice following a big hit during a team scrimmage.

The hit was delivered by Patrick Sieloff, prompting an immediate response from Bobby Ryan, according to The Hockey News’ Murray Pam.

MacArthur has been hoping to return to NHL action after some serious concussion issues, so this is a troubling situation. More than a few people wonder if this might end his career.

Team Europe is happy to play underdog role

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TORONTO (AP) When the World Cup of Hockey started, Team Europe was not picked as a team to beat.

In fact, the unique team made up of eight nations outside of the continent’s traditional hockey powers was expected to be out of the best-on-best tournament.

Team Europe had other plans.

The blended group of players opened the tournament with a 3-0 win over the U.S. and then beat the Czech Republic in overtime to seal a spot in the semifinals before losing to Canada.

“I know nobody really expected us to be here right now,” Danish and Detroit Red Wings forward Frans Nielsen said Saturday. “But when you look in the room and go over the team, there’s not a lot of players better than (Anze) Kopitar in this tournament. We got (Marian) Hossa. We got some good guys on the backend and good goaltending.”

The Europeans will face Sweden on Sunday for a spot in the best-of-three finals against the winner of Saturday night’s Canada-Russia game.

When Team Europe players have faced Sweden for their countries – Switzerland, Denmark, Slovakia, France, Germany, Slovenia, Austria and Norway – in previous, they didn’t have a legitimate chance to win.

They do now.

A veteran group of skaters and a star in Kopitar along with Slovak and New York Islanders goaltender Jaroslav Halak give them a shot on any sheet of ice.

“He’s the kind of goalie that almost every night, he gives you a chance to win,” said Nielsen, who played with Halak in New York. “And, he’ll make that save when you need it.”

Team Europe coach Ralph Krueger said he’ll likely save his rah-rah speeches for another team because this one simply doesn’t need it.

Krueger began to sense something special was in store for Team Europe nearly a year ago when several candidates to be on the team met when Boston and the New York Islanders played. When the entire group gathered nearly three weeks ago in Quebec, Krueger got even more excited about the natural chemistry the team already had from their shared experiences.

“We didn’t have to do a lot of extra team-building,” Krueger said. “It just happened with a combination of leadership and personalities and character and will – of pure will – of these eight nations that are forever underdogs, forever going home when the final four is staged, forever watching other teams play in finals of best of best. That opportunity has fueled the fire that taken us here.”

Follow Larry Lage at http://www.twitter.com/larrylage and follow his work at http://www.bigstory.ap.org/content/larry-lage

Sadly, Crosby praise still comes at Ovechkin’s expense

TORONTO, ON - SEPTEMBER 24: Alex Ovechkin #8 and Sidney Crosby #87 shake hands following Team Canada's  5-3 victory to move on to the finals during the World Cup of Hockey at the semifinal game during the World Cup of Hockey tournament at Air Canada Centre on September 24, 2016 in Toronto, Ontario, Canada.  (Photo by Dennis Pajot/Getty Images)
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Here’s a homework assignment for you: praise Sidney Crosby‘s incredible work without downgrading Alex Ovechkin.

Yes, it’s not easy.

ESPN’s Pierre LeBrun presented an interesting column that spotlighted an admittedly “tired narrative” while still ultimately pumping up Crosby at Ovechkin’s expense.

LeBrun quoted anonymous executives who, yes, trotted out tired narratives. One executive did the baseball thing in making it Crosby (“five-tool guy”) vs. Ovechkin (“home run hitter”) while another equated it to a full-court player vs. a “half-court” player.

It’s all … well, tiresome.

Ovechkin may not have had the greatest game of his life on Saturday, but watching that game, was the takeaway really that he let Russia down? That the difference between the two teams was, in any way, about Crosby over Ovechkin?

You can throw out all sorts of stats or lean on the eye test to note how over-matched Russia really was in that game. Or you can consider the defensemen Russia dressed in a best-on-best clash:

Dmitry Kulikov, Dmitry Orlov, Nikita Zaitsev, Alexey Marchenko, Alexei Emelin, Andrei Markov and Nikita Nesterov.

Yikes.

Search your soul for a second and ask: how uneasy would an NHL team feel about that group of blueliners? Such a collection would struggle against one of the league’s 30 squads, let alone against a virtual All-Star team.

Is Crosby better than Ovechkin? There’s a strong chance that is the case, because of the whole “Crosby probably being the best player of his generation” thing.

How about this for a daring idea, though: why not enjoy the work of both players?

Ovechkin is easily the best sniper of his generation, and with 82 points in 84 career playoff games, sure seems like a strong big-game player. As we all know, hockey is a team sport, yet the blame falls on Ovechkin again and again.

Instead, let’s give Crosby and the rest of his brilliant teammates our attention, as we’ve seen here, here and here.