Calling a regular season game a must-win is one of the most redundant things in hockey. When that game comes as early as seven games into the year, there’s gotta be a reason behind it.
Well, that’s what the Islanders are facing when they take the ice in Washington tonight.
The Isles come into tonight’s tilt second to last in the East Division and fresh off a brutal loss to the same Capitals squad just two nights ago where d-man Justin Schultz scored with 26.4 seconds left in regulation to break a 2-2 tie.
The defeat was their second regulation loss in a row stung worse because of the wasted penalty kill that came from Leo Komarov’s five-minute boarding major.
“Every point is big, so just the way it happened, it’s pretty heartbreaking,” were the words of Mathew Barzal.
Head coach Barry Trotz scolded his team for not showing enough and said he was “pissed off” because his group isn’t playing with that playoff mentality. It’s the first time many can remember the coach has shown that type of emotion.
He sent his team a message.
Now it’s on them to respond.
“We need to play our game and I don’t think we’ve done that,” Anders Lee said this morning. “We have to get to who we are.”
The Capitals will be once again without their stars — Ovechkin, Kuznetsov, Orlov and every other OV imaginable (just kidding) — and the Islanders MUST take advantage. More than that, they need to show something as a team offensively.
Having only one line — the first line — do it all isn’t going to cut it. The offense as a whole only has just 11 goals through six games. Tuesday’s loss was the fourth time already this year they scored two or less goals in a game.
Every game this season was going to be important and points were going to be at a premium. So far the Isles haven’t played up to their standards. Which brings them to this point tonight. They are in danger of falling quickly.
A victory could change that. Hence why tonight is a must-win.