Barry Trotz said yesterday that tonight’s game in Boston isn’t a “measuring stick” and that he’s more worried about his team’s response from their 8-3 defeat two nights ago. For once, I’m going to do something that I haven’t since he’s taken over as head coach — disagree with him.
Tonight’s game is a measuring stick for his squad. Simply put, they have to win.
Yes, the game will be shown on a national stage, yes the last time they faced Boston they were embarrassed 5-0 on home ice, and yes they’ve dominated the rest of the Bruins’ division this season with an 11-1-0 record this year. All those factors aside, the most important thing for the Isles is coming out of TD Garden with a victory, whether in regulation, overtime or shootout. It would show that they are finally on the same level as the B’s.
For a while now, it feels like the teams have been at the opposite end of the spectrum. A little bit of a history lesson as if it hasn’t been beaten to death in the heads of Islander fans: the last time the Islanders defeated the B’s was Martin Luther King Day 2017. That matinee turned out to be the last game behind the bench for maligned head coach Jack Capuano; Cappy was dealt a nice parting gift as his team won 4-0. Since that game though, the Bruins have owned the Islanders literally. The teams have played seven times since that January afternoon and the Isles have failed to come away victorious in any of them — 0-6-1.
The Islanders have proven since the beginning of last season they can go toe-to-toe with the best in the NHL, but the Bruins pose a different challenge. It’s clear they are not a favorable matchup for Trotz’s skaters. And why not, Boston has a David Pastrnak, a Brad Marchand, and Patrice Bergeron — three guys who dominate anytime they see an Islander sweater opposite them. The Isles don’t have anyone that resembles either of the three. Also, Tuukka Rask has the Isles’ number. Rask is 15-5-1 and has a 1.98% GAA in 21 career games against the Islanders.
Matt Martin vs. Zdeno Chara is worth the price of admission! #Isles 🥊#NHLBruins pic.twitter.com/J02hNMVEdF
— MSG Networks (@MSGNetworks) March 20, 2019
This evening though feels like the perfect time for the Isles to break the two-year losing streak. They’ve found their swagger on the road again after sweeping both Florida teams last week and are coming off one of their best offensive outbursts despite the final result. And as Sportsnet’s Nick Alberga (Isles fans know that name well) pointed out, Boston is 1-4-2 in their last seven games and 4-4-2 overall in their last ten games.
These two teams might end up meeting in the playoffs later this spring, but tonight in itself has a postseason feel. The Isles sit just three points behind the Bruins for second place in the Eastern Conference. What more could you ask for from a regular-season game just before Christmas?
In the Isles’ room, they’ll probably say tonight is just another game. But there’s more on the line tonight. Tonight is a chance to earn the respect of arguably the best team in the East besides Washington. It’s also an opportunity to validate all the success that has come in the past year-plus and maybe strike some fear into a team that’s dominated them for too long now.
That’s what a win tonight would do not just for the team but the fans too. They’re due already. The late Al Davis said it best: “Just Win Baby!”
A round of applause to the Islanders organization for finally deciding to retire John Tonelli and Butch Goring’s numbers in February. Both have been long overdue.
It just goes to show that ownership really has its pulse of the fanbase and the upswing the franchise has been on as of late. And with that being said, there are so many others that probably deserve the nod of seeing their number raised to the rafters. For me, the next one should be Ed Westfall.
There has been an ongoing debate for close to three decades as to whether “18” should join the other legends above the Coliseum ice. For guys like me who weren’t around when the Isles were in their first few years, I’ve heard countless stories from my Dad and the great Stan Fischler about just how crucial Westfall was to the organization. He was the franchise’s first real face before Hall of Famer Denis Potvin. The franchise’s first captain. The player who helped put the Islanders on the map. And the guy who represented what it meant to wear the Islander crest.
I’m well aware Westfall is already in the team’s Hall of Fame, but that’s not the same as receiving the honor of having your number retired. He deserves the nod and many fans from the Golden Era of the franchise agree.
Great to see Ross Johnston making the most of his opportunity playing on the first line. The stats might not indicate it though, but “Ross The Boss” has quietly been effective. Guy has become a fan favorite and maybe has shown he could be a nice presence to have for the next few years.