It was a wasted week for the New York Islanders. The team only recorded one of a possible six points last week. John Tavares is in the midst of the worst slump of his NHL career, while other than the Eberle-Barzal-Beauvillier line, the team is getting very little production from the rest of the team. Contrary to belief AGAIN, the Isles do sit just two points out of a playoff spot. There’s always a few things during each week of the season that have an impact, and this week coming is no different.
Our Rob Taub tells us five things to watch out for through games 64 to 67:
1. How will new acquisitions Brandon Davidson and Chris Wagner fit in?
On Saturday afternoon and earlier today, Garth Snow made his two moves to bolster his defense and bottom-six by snagging Brandon Davidson and Chris Wagner. Davidson, 26, is a solid-sized defensemen that has had a hard time finding a stable home in either Montreal or Edmonton. His possession numbers are not too bad, and he can definitely be a easy replacement for Dennis Seidenberg or even Thomas Hickey for the time being.
Davidson, from other reports and experts have expressed that he’s fundamentally sound and tough to play against. As for Chris Wagner, the word on him is that he’s a solid fourth line presence that plays physical.
Wagner will most likely get bottom-six minutes as well as time on the penalty kill. Where he is assigned to, whether it’s the third or fourth line, the hope is he finds some chemistry with Ross Johnston, Casey Cizikas, or Cal Clutterbuck.
2. Will we finally see Christopher Gibson in net?
Chris Gibson had a breakout year in the AHL with the Bridgeport Sound Tigers before getting the call up when Thomas Greiss went down with injury. He has yet to see the ice, being that the Islanders have had time off in between each game. Another thing, is that Doug Weight has been riding Jaroslav Halak, because he’s played more solid the past few weeks and basically because he’s out of options.
But back to Gibson, where it would be foolish if he didn’t play in at least one of the three games this week. Montreal is definitely the type of opponent New York could gamble on to give Gibson a start.
And the fact that the Isles will be playing in a back-to-back scenario in a very short amount of time on Friday and Saturday, bodes well for Gibson to finally get in there. Jaro Halak is already being used relentlessly, but if the Islanders still want to keep their playoff push alive, they’ll give Gibson a chance so Halak doesn’t start to run out of gas.
3. Will the Islanders finally play up to their competition?
Forget the red-hot Penguins for a moment. The Isles have two games this week against an inferior opponent in the Montreal Canadiens. Throughout this year, it’s clearly evident that Doug Weight’s crew seems to take these games to lightly.
That should not, and cannot be the case this week. With how critical the wins are to the Isles staying alive in the playoff push, allowing the Habs to control the game will only lead to crushing losses and missed chances. Montreal is going to try to play spoiler, and the Islanders can’t fall for the trap, which they have done with many of their lower-ranking opponents this season.
The need for urgency is at an all-time high right now for the New York Islanders. Finally taking in to lesser competition is a must have or the team will see their playoff hopes continue to dwindle down.
4. Will John Tavares wake up?
Like I mentioned earlier, we’re seeing the worst John Tavares we’ve seen since his rookie season of 2009-2010. His play has become lethargic, he’s making crucial mistakes at the worst time, and just looks gassed. What doesn’t help is that his line has been somewhat nonexistent over the past few weeks.
Now, more than ever, do the Islanders need Tavares to turn his game up. With the offense still struggling and the playoffs seeming farther out of reach by the day, the team needs their captain to lead by example, as he always spotlights after the team loses or makes mistakes.
It’s no secret, that New York goes when 91 goes. This team lives and dies by how he performs. The time is now for him to step up more than any other player on the team.
5. Will the clubs’ fate for the rest of the season be decided this week?
It’s the question nobody wants to hear, but with how rough the second half of this year has been towards the New York Islanders, it’s something that needs to be addressed. The three games the Isles have this week are extremely winnable and could be the difference between making the playoffs or going home.
There’s only so many weeks left in the season, and so many chances left for the Islanders to finally right the ship.
Any way of coming out with at least two or three wins this week could keep the team afloat. But anything less, and there could be meaningless hockey at Barclays Center come next week and the rest of March.