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Five for Five: An Endless Road

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New for the 2019-20 season for Isles Blog, our Rob Taub each Monday will give you his thoughts on five important things to key on for that week’s games for the New York Islanders.

The New York Islanders could know the fate of their season by the time their four-game road trip concludes Sunday.

They embark on that trip starting tomorrow night in Vancouver with stops in Calgary, Edmonton, and finally, Pittsburgh. They do it also now on the outside looking in of the postseason and after a 3-2 loss on Saturday afternoon to the Hurricanes that came in just infuriating fashion.

“There’s a lot of hockey left,” Anders Lee said following the loss. “We played a good game tonight, there’s nothing lost here except a point and a good effort. We had a good effort tonight and we go on the road and make it right.”

Making it right for the Islanders would calm things down among themselves and the fans. The reason being, they are currently riding a six-game winless streak and are 2-7-3 in their last 12 games overall. Oh, you could also add in the fact that there are just 15 games left in the regular season and nine of them has the Isles will be squaring off against teams in playoff position or fighting for a spot.

The third period on Saturday, which the Isles tied the game late and played with more urgency, maybe help spark some confidence for what will be a treacherous four-game stretch. Trotz is going to need all 20 of his guys to be on their toes and play with a more team-oriented style. It has to be more than just the first line, who has been fantastic of late even with Mathew Barzal’s bad penalty on Saturday that helped eventually decide the game.

Besides the first line continuing their recent stretch, there are a couple more things to be keen on for the Isles this week. Read them below:

Ryan Pulock’s hot streak.

One of the lone bright spots amid the Isles’ struggles has been Pulock. The last few games have brought out the best in the 25-year-old at both ends of the ice. On Saturday, he led the team in ice time (23:44), had four shots — one being a goal, his third in three games — five hits and two blocks. Pulock elevating his game has come at the perfect time with Adam Pelech and Johnny Boychuk both out due to injury. The more he keeps up his strong play, the more the Islanders have a better chance of being successful.

Noah Dobson’s game.

Dobson is now on his strong side and is showing the benefits of it. His assist on Josh Bailey’s tying goal against the Canes was a “Mans play”. Trotz is also beginning to show more confidence in the 20-year-old rookie; Dobson’s ice time has begun to trend upward more and more each game. As The Athletic’s Arthur Staple pointed out today, Dobson could go the rest of the season with a little more freedom in his game as opposed to Trotz and g.m. Lou Lamoriello still wanting to shelter him of sorts. Seeing him get to start to do that this week, could give a real hint at what his game could be like next season.

Road Warrior Mentality.

The road has been very rough for the Isles over the past month or so. They haven’t won a game away from home since beating the division-foe Capitals 5-3 back on February 10th and played nearly every road game on their heels rather than on their toes. A trip like the one this week is the perfect time to reverse the trend. They can do that by playing a simple game and being confident. These next four games are going to be a huge test, all with possible playoff implications at stake.

Not getting into track meets.

The Isles would be smart if they don’t go on this trip and try to play 5-4 or 6-5 types of games. Vancouver and Edmonton rank 10th and 11th in goals scored; both have high-powered offenses that like to be aggressive. The same goes for the Penguins and Flames, who are loaded with stars like Sidney Crosby, Johnny Gaudreau, and Mathew Tkachuk. Trotz doesn’t have the horses beyond maybe Barzal and Eberle to throw out there to go goal for goal. Playing the more low-scoring and defensive game can help the Islanders neutralize having to do that.

Heavy Hockey.

The Western Conference has given the Islanders fits all season long, mainly because it’s a heavier, harder brand type of game. The Isles will need to go the physical route whichever way you look at, if they are going to have a winning road trip. It will make it that more difficult depending on Cal Clutterbuck’s status and missing two of their most tenacious players, Casey Cizikas and Johnny Boychuk.

Follow me on Twitter at @RTaub_

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