The New York Islanders sit 28th in the NHL in goals allowed this season, surrendering 3.23 a game.
For one Islander, it’s almost too much to comprehend.
“We know what we have in here,” Matt Martin told Newsday following Tuesday’s 5-2 loss to Toronto. “We know what we have and what we need to do. The inconsistency is just unbelievable.”
While the Islanders were hardly an impenetrable fortress defensively last year — they finished 21st in goals allowed, at 2.83 per game — it was good enough to get them into the playoffs and push Pittsburgh in a hard-fought opening round series.
But, changes happened.
Captain Mark Streit was dealt to Philly and the group’s other veteran leader, Lubomir Visnovsky, has been out since Oct. 19 with a concussion. While the two are at the back end of their respective careers, Streit and Visnovsky provided valuable experience to a group that was light in that department, and now relies heavily on the likes of Travis Hamonic (23), Matt Donovan (23) and Thomas Hickey (24).
(The Isles have also been without the steadying presence of Brian Strait, currently on IR with an upper-body injury.)
There’s also the not-so-small issue of inconsistent goaltending, which has plagued the Isles throughout the year. Evgeni Nabokov hasn’t been good and is now on IR himself, leaving the starting duties to Kevin Poulin, who had 21 total games of NHL experience heading into this season.
Finally, there’s puck luck. When things are going poorly, teams tend to get little of it — something the Islanders are experiencing right now.
“It’s not like we make a ton of mistakes,” Hamonic told Newsday. “But it seems like every one of ’em costs us.”
Halak and the Islanders defeat Penguins, move into wild card spot
Quite a hockey game between the New York Islanders and Pittsburgh Penguins on Friday.
It offered plenty to enjoy — Phil Kessel‘s dominant but unfruitful shift in overtime, a combined 86 shots on goal between both teams, a showcase of skill from the likes of John Tavares and Sidney Crosby, and two strong goaltending performances from Jaroslav Halak and Marc-Andre Fleury.
The Islanders and their fans probably aren’t hung up on style points at this juncture of the season. They just care about wins and points in the standings, and those are exactly what New York accomplished with a 4-3 shootout win in Pittsburgh.
Anthony Beauvillier and Tavares scored for the Islanders in the shootout. Halak made 37 stops, including a game-saver in overtime off Matt Cullen. Halak trapped the puck, which was right on the goal line, between his legs on a chance from in front. The play was reviewed but no goal.
The win gives the Islanders 82 points, which is the same total as the struggling Boston Bruins.
However, the Islanders, with one game in hand on the Bruins, take over the final wild card spot in the East for now.
Video: Friday night fights between Bolts and Red Wings
The NHL Players’ Association posted a note on its Twitter account on Friday saying it supports the U.S. players while panning USA Hockey’s bid to stock the team with replacements. The NHLPA says the decision to go with replacement players “would only serve to make relations, now and in the future, much worse.”
Earlier in the day, the MLB Players Association encouraged all women hockey players to stand united behind their national team colleagues.
It’s been a bleak season for the Vancouver Canucks.
Perhaps developments Friday evening can provide some optimism for fans of a team that can’t score, has trouble defending and has been decimated by injury.
Brock Boeser’s sophomore college season came to an end Friday, as North Dakota lost 4-3 to Boston University in double overtime. The Canucks selected Boeser 23rd overall in the 2015 draft with the hopes the talented right winger would one day become a central figure in that team’s scoring attack.
In his first season at North Dakota, Boeser scored 27 goals and 60 points in 42 games. His overall production dropped in his sophomore year — he had wrist surgery in December — but he still averaged more than a point per game in 31 contests, with 16 goals.
With North Dakota’s campaign finished, the Canucks can now work to get Boeser under contract and perhaps get him into some NHL games to close out what has been a disappointing season in Vancouver.
Giving the fans something to get excited about in another season gone south seems as vital as giving Boeser a crash course on what to expect next season.
The Canucks are willing to burn a year of his entry-level deal because playing one game at age 20 would do that. But it seems worth the price for an organization in transition, even if Boeser would become a restricted free agent after two seasons and be in line for a big pay day should his production match predictions of effectiveness.
The Canucks are in Minnesota on Saturday and Winnipeg on Sunday.
It seemed, several weeks ago, that North Dakota’s hockey program was preparing for Boeser to turn pro after his second year ended.
UND head coach Brad Berry on @tsn1040 ''we fully expect Brock Boeser will depart after this season' #Canucks