This has been a strange season – very strange.
I’m not even talking about mascot SUVs, Sparky’s return, security fights, goal horn controversies or obstructed views. I’m not even talking about a team with superb goaltending, a goalless Nick Leddy, a frustrated John Tavares and an absentee Anders Lee.
I’m talking about the teams the Islanders beat and who they can’t beat. They dominate their division, own the Western Conference, but come up empty against the Atlantic. Like Sections 231 and 232 at Barclays Center empty.
The Islanders are currently 3rd place in a Division in which they have not lost a game in regulation. Think about that. That’s hard to do. New York is 7-0-2 in the Metropolitan this season and were an equally impressive 21-6-3 against their divisional foes a year ago.
Yea, but how have they faired against those fast, strong, offensively gifted teams out West you ask? Pretty awesome actually. The Islanders are 11-4-1 vs the Western Conference following a 14-12-2 record against the West a season ago.
That’s 18-4-3 (39 out of a possible 50 points) against teams not named the Canadiens, Panthers, Red Wings, Bruins, Senators, Lightning, Sabres or Maple Leafs. That’s a top team in the NHL type record.
So what’s gone wrong when playing the Atlantic this season? Everything. The Islanders are a dumbfounding 1-8-2 against the Atlantic.
Sure, the Islanders always are a mess against Montreal and stumble versus the Senators. Sure, those Florida two city trips can always be tricky while Boston and Tampa Bay have talented teams, but this is ridiculous.
New York finished 12-10-2 vs the Atlantic last season. That means they would need to rebound and finish 11-2-0 against these teams to match last year’s record. Unlikely. This means they will have to continue their torrid pace within the Metro and keep on playing their best against the West to approach last season’s record.
Here are the results of the games vs. the Atlantic Division this season:
Fri, Oct 23 vs Boston: L 5-3
Sun, Nov 1 vs Buffalo: L 2-1
Thu, Nov 5 @ Montreal: L 4-1
Sun, Nov 8 vs Boston: L 2-1
Fri, Nov 20 vs Montreal: L 5-3
Sun, Nov 22 @ Montreal: L 4-2
Sat, Nov 28 @ Tampa Bay: W 3-2
Sat, Dec 5 @ Ottawa: L 3-2 OT
Sun, Dec 27 vs Toronto: L 3-1
The Islanders have been outscored 30 – 17 in these games and outside of the blown third period lead in Ottawa, there isn’t another game that stands out as a game they SHOULD have won. In fact, most of the games have followed a familiar script – fall behind early, score a goal to gain back some momentum only to fail to capitalize on chances and see the deficit expand shortly after.
Their final two games of 2015 are both on the road, both against teams in the Atlantic Division (Tonight in Toronto, New Year’s Eve in Buffalo). The Islanders, losers of 4 of their last 5 games can turn this trend around before the new year or risk having their inept play against the Atlantic cost them a playoff spot.