If you were watching the slog that was the Islanders’ 1-0 loss to the Washington Capitals on Sunday, you will have noticed something that caught your eye late in the game. Whether you viewed it as good or bad is up for debate.
J.G. Pageau after a whistle was tasked with scrumming by himself with not just one, but two Caps — Zdeno Chara and Tom Wilson. Chara had entire foot in height difference to Pageau who only stands at 5’9. Wilson? Well we all know his reputation for being a dirty player. But Pageau still got in the mud with him anyway. What was noteworthy was that no other Islander came to Pageau’s defense, leaving him to fend for himself. Oddly enough, Pageau received a penalty despite having his helmet knocked off as the clip shows below.
Pageau taking on Wilson and Chara. Respect. pic.twitter.com/wdl3Vnlhve
— Rob Taub (@RTaub_) April 28, 2021
A lot of Isles fans questioned why no one came to help Pageau. And that one moment pointed out something the Islanders have been truly lacking since captain Anders Lee was sidelined for the season: leadership.
There’s been a numerous amount of games over the past few weeks now where the Isles have looked lost without someone or their leaders stepping up. It’s hard to say that factor hasn’t contributed to the team’s poor play of late. Low energy, boneheaded mistakes, a lack of pushback — the Isles were manhandled physically and mentally during their most recent three-game series with Washington — have all crept into the team’s overall game.
What’s bothersome is that the Islanders do have leaders who should have been able to get things settled down not just in the room but on the ice.
Josh Bailey is a leader. Brock Nelson is a leader. Casey Cizikas and Cal Clutterbuck are leaders. They all have a strong voice in the room; well maybe except Nelson who isn’t the most vocal guy. Some of them even have letters on their sweaters to show for it. But there’s been very little instance recently of someone pulling everyone together.
Something’s gotta give.
I mean I know having a captain go down is one thing, but it shouldn’t be the overwhelming factor that totally derails an entire season. The Isles truly need their leadership group to step up to the plate right now.
Forget the fact the postseason is on the horizon — yes the Isles are going to make it despite their recent string of play — they are a fragile team at the moment. Some may disagree with that analysis, but their performances against Washington and Boston were concerning.
Head coach Barry Trotz said it himself that guys haven’t been up for the challenge in recent games. You can take that a number of ways, but you can throw leadership in that category too.
They need to find that confidence again and have it translate starting tonight against the Rangers and the last six games of the year. While it’s easy to bemoan the team’s offensive struggles, they need their leaders to take the keys and get things kicked back up into high gear.
The Isles are in desperate need of a spark. Leadership plays a part in that. Whether it’s a goal, big hit, hell even a fight for that matter, something has to change.
They need it in the worst way and it has to be now.
Follow Rob on Twitter at @RTaub_