Everything Else

vs.

SCHEDULE: Game 1 at Islanders – Wednesday 6:30, Game 2 at Islanders – Friday 6:30, Game 3 at Penguins – Sunday 12pm, Game 4 at Penguins – April 16th 6:30

Ho-hum, here the Penguins are with 100 points again, and likely as anyone to get out of the Metro Division. Before anyone tells you what the Hawks have gone through the past four seasons was unavoidable due to the cap and success, ask yourselves if the Penguins ever went four seasons without a series win, or three without a playoff win, or even two without the playoffs. The answer…is no. They’ll meet up with the league’s biggest surprise, and its tightest defense. Which will probably make this one a slog to watch, other than the Nassau crowd being utterly bonkers and frothing and smelly, because it’s Long Island. This will be the first series the Islanders have started at home since the Mesozoic Era. Let’s run it through.

Goalies: You have to start with the Isles, and their tandem that brought home the Jennings Trophy. As of now, Barry Trotz hasn’t announced a starter, and the Isles might just tandem it up as they did throughout the season. While Trotz certainly did lock things down defensively after Doug Weight had turned the Isles’ zone into what Springfield Elementary looked like when Flanders was the principal, both Thomas Greiss and Robin Lehner both performed above their expected ranges. Which makes beating the Islanders quickly almost an impossibility. However, playoff runs rarely work out when you’re switching goalies, the 2010 Flyers being something of an exception and that was due to incompetence. Generally you get one trigger-pull. The Isles are unique, and if one drops the ball they can just go with the other. But then there won’t be the safety net they’ve had all season. It’s a tough balance.

And if New York was hoping that their playoff fortunes hinge on getting significantly better goaltending than their opponent, they’ve picked the wrong fight here. Since December 1st, Matt Murray is rolling up with a .929 SV% overall. And a .933 at evens all season. And he’s already gone the route twice, so the stage won’t frighten him.

Defense: While the blue and orange faithful are probably hoping Barry Trotz can conjure more magic from last year, he doesn’t have the horses on the blue line this time around. I would argue John Carlson, Matt Niskanen, and Dmitry Orlov are better than anyone the Isles can boast. While promising, Pelech, Pulock, and Mayfield have only ever projected to be middle pairing guys. Nick Leddy was woeful for most of the season, as his freewheeling style doesn’t fit in with Trotz. Devon Toews has been something of a revelation, but you see how far Trotz trusts a rookie in the postseason. They play a style that shields them well enough, but there’s also a couple legends on the other side.

The Penguins will actually head into this series healthy on the blue line…for about five minutes. Again, it has the experience. There’s just way more firepower here with Letang and Schultz. Somehow, Erik Gudbranson didn’t sink them, and the Isles aren’t going to play fast enough to expose him and Jack Johnson. Maybe they capitalize on a mistake or two, but aren’t going to constantly cave them in.

Forwards: There have been series in the past when the Penguins won because they had Crosby and Malkin and the other team didn’t. Malkin had what everyone called an offseason, and he was pretty bad at times, and he still ended up with 72 points in 68 games. It’s still Evgeni Malkin. Jake Guentzel had 40 goals, and I’m not sure he does anything but stand still and let Crosby bank it off of him in the net, but he’s good enough to finish all those chances. Hornqvist is a nasty playoff weapon because he’s just around the net all the time, and especially in a series that could easily be trenched the fuck up, those kinds of goals and those kinds of scorers are paramount. PHIL!’s goal-scoring has dropped off a touch but he’s actually a better playmaker now. Again, the Pens don’t starve for weapons.

The Isles aren’t bereft of skill, it’s just not used that way. Barzal led them in scoring with 62 points. The Penguins feature four players who topped that, and a d-man who wasn’t far behind in Letang with 56. Brock Nelson is a hell of a second center, and Anders Lee could be a Hornqvist in the playoffs. But boy, beyond that…

You can write off Jordan Eberle now. This isn’t his time of year. His one playoff journey in EdMo saw him manage an 0-fer in 13 games. Sure, playoff narratives are built around grind-y, check-y, grunt-y guys like Casey Cizikas and ClusterFuck, but I’ll still take the Hall of Famers on the other side, thanks.

Prediction: Trotz is going try and make every game 2-1, because the Isles sure can’t shoot it out with the Penguins. And he did get one over the Penguins last year. He also lost to them twice. You honestly can’t count on the Islanders getting better goaltending than the Penguins will with how Murray is playing. Sure, it’s hockey and when things are this tight bounces can go either way. Still, if the goaltending is even, the offenses aren’t. Who do you think is more likely to get the 2 than the 1?

Penguins in six. 

Everything Else

It was hard to take your eyes off of the Leafs-Islanders tilt last night. Or more to the point, it was hard to take your ears off of it. What the cameras showed was second to the sheer noise throughout the game, which vacillated between pure bile, utter ecstasy, and the very definition of schadenfreude. All of it served at a volume to that kept you looking up every few seconds and seemed to ooze from your TV into something physical. It was the kind of atmosphere that drew us to this silly little game in the first place, the kind probably only possible in a downsized dump like Nassau Coliseum that’s still something excavated out of the 70s or 80s. And yes, I realize it’s been redone in the recent past but it’s always going to be a dump, and that’s true to those who hold it dearest. That’s kind of the point.

I wouldn’t expect Islanders fans, or really anyone on Long Island, capable of rational thought, especially on a night like yesterday. This was a date they had circled since July 1st. Their team’s face–the one most responsible for their fortunes for near a decade–had left and there’s no way to not feel stilted by it. He wasn’t forced out (at least not intentionally), but had a simple choice and didn’t choose them. You could hear the pains of rejection spicing every chant and yell last night, because no one in any capacity wants to be told they’re not good enough. In sports, and sometimes in life, it becomes an inward coil to celebrate, defend, and even attack outward with what you are, what makes you unique, and why you don’t have to apologize to anyone. Fuck, half of being a New Yorker is not apologizing to anyone, and carrying that attitude as far as it will go.

And yet I couldn’t watch last night without contrasting it to Mark Lazerus’s recent article in The Athletic about how players are no longer fans. To summarize, basically professional athletes work too hard and are too busy to follow the teams they did as kids, no matter how strong that fandom was (and for the most part, they were the same fans you and I were at that age). In addition, being inside the ropes means they know what really goes on, and they don’t feel comfortable adding to what their colleagues in the sport or others go through. They just can’t see it the same way we do, which is obvious but also easily forgettable.

Most fans, if you catch them on the right day, know that players don’t feel the same way we do. Hockey still holds onto that fantasy tightest, and perhaps Jonathan Toews hated dealing with David Backes regularly as much as we did (we know he hated dealing with Ryan Kesler as much). The way hockey pushes “rivalries” shows you how desperate the game and league are to make you believe that it matters to them differently than those in other sports. But to Toews, those were professional concerns. That would have happened whatever color those players were wearing. We want to believe they feel the same emotions about opponents or victories or losses as we do, but we know they don’t. We know they can’t. Their job would be near impossible if they did. We live with that most of the time, but at a given time in the right circumstances and it can rankle some. Maybe all.

Maybe I’m suckered in by the press campaign, but it’s hard not to see this picture that Tavares himself tweeted out when he signed in Toronto and not feel something:

Maybe it was just pandering to a new fanbase. Maybe Tavares’s fandom died out long ago after nine years an Islander and a couple before that as a big-time prospect. But still, if you’re playing a kid’s game, the kid within you can’t have died out completely. And that kid dreamed of being a Leaf all his life, every day. For once, we got to see a player live out the dream we probably still have within us but know will never come true. We know it, but we don’t entirely feel it, and I know this because even in my mid-30s (barely) I still hope to play second base for the Cubs one day, with the tiniest shred. And yes, every so often you’ll catch me at home alone, still working on my stance, because you just never know. To completely erase it means yet another part of childhood is gone and soon forgotten, and who the fuck wants to do that?

Sure, you could look at it coldly and see the Leafs offered a ton of money, and though they weren’t the only ones, they were probably the best team doing so (the Sharks didn’t have Karlsson yet). Perhaps the affinity in his past didn’t matter. And yet it’s hard to conclude that totally. Something within Tavares lured him home, even with all the perils of playing in Toronto offers. For once, even for a glimpse, a player felt like we did. Sure, it only really benefitted Leafs fans, which is awful, but we all understood on some level.

Islanders fans, whether they like it or not, understand that on some level. They understand that for Tavares, even their best, even the connections they’d made over nine years, weren’t enough. There was nothing they could do to compare. And that probably made it worse, which is what made last night probably so cathartic. There is no comfort in the things you can’t change, and the temporary relief of lashing out at them seems like the only choice.

Everything Else

 vs. 

RECORDS: Islanders 29-15-4   Hawks 17-24-9

PUCK DROP: 7:30

TV: WGN

NO ONE LEAVES THE ISLAND: LighthouseHockey.com

The Hawks are one game away from a nine-day break that encompasses their bye and the All-Star game. So either that means they can leave it all on the ice tonight, or given how the season has gone, they’ll probably already have the buses running and lay a true, dense, unforgiving egg. I know which one I’d bet on! Still, if they’re still claiming that the season isn’t over then they’ll make a lot of noise about hitting the break with momentum carrying on from Sunday’s win–the now regular thrashing of the Capitals in the middle of the winter–to a second night. But when has that happened with this team?

We’ll start with the Hawks, who will put Cam Ward in net. I know this is going to send most into hysterics and apoplecticia, which isn’t a word, but it makes sense. Delia had his first rough outing last Sunday, so get him to the break to reset without the risk of backing it up with another bad one tonight. With Ward you’re at least guaranteed a bad one and everyone can go about their day. The Hawks had an optional this morning so no idea bout lineup changes, but it’s hard to imagine there would be any changes from a team that just put up eight. The one you’d expect is Jokiharju coming back in for Koekkoek, but they’ve talked about not pushing The Har Ju and giving him rest here and there, so maybe they’ll think a full two weeks off will have him primed for the rest of the season. But then trying to figure out what the Hawks think is why I drink. That and the crippling emotional problems, but mostly trying to figure out what the Hawks think.

To the Islanders, who are the league’s biggest surprise. While the Capitals, Penguins, and Blue Jackets were all doing a “Here, you take it” routine with the Metro lead, the Islanders rushed up from the background and took it themselves and ran off. They’re three points clear of Washington and Columbus and four of Pittsburgh. And no one thought they would be here. That tends to happen when you win 15 of 18, as the Isles have done since the middle of December.

How did they get here, David Byrne? As you might have guesses, since December 15th when this silliness began, the Islanders have the best SV% in the league at .952. The next best after that is the Stars at .942. so yeah, that’s something that’s sure to continue. Because the rest of their metrics are just middling, ranking 11-15th in the league in just about all of them. The 9.2% shooting-percentage since then doesn’t hurt either, but it’s their ridiculous goaltending for six weeks or so now that has seen them rocket up the standings.

This is a Barry Trotz team, so you know the drill. They’re going to be bothersome all over the ice, they never take a shift off, and they most certainly don’t ever trap. No sir, no trap here. Never heard of such a thing! Don’t be ridiculous! And they’ll get timely goals from the talent they have, which isn’t nonexistent here.

That’s a problem for the Hawks, who really need a defensively wonky opponent to create openings for their thin offensive skill. Sure, Kane will find ways against whoever, but after that DeBrincat is going to have to be more creator than he’s been asked now that he’s with Strome and a surge or two from Saad wouldn’t go amiss either. Trotz will have the generally confused and drowning Hawks defense under constant pressure, moving his trap up to the Hawks blue line as he’s been doing for a decade now. They will simply sit on the boards, both at the half-wall and the points, daring the Hawks to go up the middle or over their heads. The Hawks didn’t cope at all with it in their first meeting, giving up 721 shots or around there to the Isles before losing in overtime. They’ll try and do better tonight, we hope.

And then we all get a break from Hawks hockey! Doesn’t that sound nice?

 

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Leave it to a crusty old bastard like Lou Lamoriello to make us look even stupider than we normally do. Earlier in the month, when the Hawks were on the Island, we wrote the Lou didn’t really have a place in the game today. That he would hold the Isles back at a time when they needed forward thinkers. And basically the Islanders haven’t lost since, and have shot up to the top of the Metro Division. Sure, Lou is benefitting from the bonkers goaltending the Isles have been getting as much as anyone else, but here we are.

Still, we’re curious what lies ahead for the Islanders when everything shakes down to where it’s supposed to be. And that’s most important in the case of Anders Lee and Brock Nelson, who are both free agents when this season is over.

You would think that Lee would be the type of player that if Lamoriello were going to pay anyone, it would be him. He’s a true power forward, who put up 74 goals the past two seasons and is on pace for another 30 this year. Sure, he’s gotten to play with John Tavares for most of last year. But this year it’s been him and Nelson together, under the top line of Barzal. He scores where he goes.

The problem is that Lee is still a premier goal-scorer, and those guys get paid. And at the moment, Lee is making $3.7M against the cap, or just $700K more than Lou gave Leo Komarov. So yeah, he’s going to get a raise. And a big one. And the Isles have the cap space, with about $35 million for next year unclaimed. Lee’s 92 goals the past three seasons are ninth most in the league, more than Marchand, Skinner, and Kane. Marchand signed recently for a very team-friendly $6.1 million, and his linemate Pastrnak at $6.6M. That’s probably the number Lee has circled.

Nelson has been a pretty consistent second-line center for the Isles this year. With Barry Trotz upping the amount of times Barzal starts in the offensive zone from last year, it’s Nelson who has had to take on harder responsibilities. It hasn’t clipped his scoring at all, as he’s on pace to break his career-high of 45 points and possibly tickle his high in goals too 0f 28. Teams still need to be built down the middle, and a second-center like Nelson aren’t something you can pick up at the bodega.

And Lou has to keep in mind that no matter what he does, Barzal is going to be looking for a contract out of his entry-deal starting on July 1st. And he’s going be more in the $8-9M category than the $6-7M one.

The thing is, we can’t remember Lou ever paying someone that premium. Zach Parise walked out of New Jersey after banking about $3M a year out of his entry deal. He got a one-year deal at $6M when he was still restricted, but then headed to Minnesota for the real money. In Toronto Lou signed Patrick Marleau, but that of course was the aging veteran he could trust. It’s probably not a coincidence that Lou was moved along before it came time to negotiate with Nylander and Matthews. Lou has openly mocked the money that players make already, but someone has go to attract the residents of Long Island to that new arena in Belmont, right?

It’s a strange landscape in the Metro. The Jackets are about to be stripped of their two biggest talents. The Penguins and Capitals are at least on the back nine. The Flyers and Rangers are in rebuilds, and remain the Flyers and Rangers. The Devils are rebuilding as well. Splash a little cash, a shrewd move here or there, and there’s no reason the Islanders can’t fill the vacuum quickly. But has that ever been Lou’s way?

 

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The Lighthouse Project may be dead, but LighthouseHockey.com lives on. Dominik is their maven, and he joins us today to fill in on the blue and orange. 

The Islanders sit atop the Metro. In your wildest dreams did you think anyone would say that this year?

At no point did I expect the Islanders could say in 2018-19 they are in first place in the Metro. I don’t expect it to last, but I am now convinced they should be a playoff team, and one others won’t want to face.

Brock Nelson and Anders Lee are both free agents after the year. If things had gone as expected they might have been trade bait. Are they both getting extended now?

I think everyone has long expected Lee would be extended, at least from the point where they named him captain. He’s a risk because he’s a big body heading into his 30s, but he’s also someone who has continually improved his game rather than peaked and declined. And obviously, he’s not someone who needed Tavares to set the table for him. He’ll get a deal that is probably a little uncomfortably long, but not in an Andrew Ladd way.
Nelson is more uncertain. I expected him to be trade bait, but Trotz has taken a liking to him, cracking the code that long frustrated Islanders fans. (Nelson seemed like yet another drafted center who ended up at wing, yet Trotz has found a way to make him productive at center.) The Islanders are also fairly thin at center in their system, which gives Nelson leverage. And Nelson has taken them to the wire on the previous two RFA extensions, including accepting a one-year deal to bet on himself last summer. So he won’t be traded, but how the rest of this spring plays out will determine whether both sides can feel good about the other’s terms.
Jordan Eberle is UFA too, and while it’s hard to see all three being retained, it doesn’t sound like they’ll be selling any rentals.

Help us with something. It’s easy to attribute the Isles surprise run to Barry Trotz being a really good coach. They are best in the league in goals against. But every other metric against–attempts, shots, scoring chances–has them middle of the pack at best. While that’s a massive improvement from last year, isn’t this just having two goalies playing really well?

On their surprising standing: No, it’s because Barry Trotz is a really good coach. The goaltending has been great — and certainly they were key to banking wins early on when those other metrics looked pretty bad. But look at the metrics after the first month of the season and a different story emerges, certainly a legit top-10 team right now. So Trotz did what he always does, locking down on defense first and then building from there. That organization and predictability has helped Greiss and Lehner, who both always had real talent, rediscover their games.
You remember how frustrating Trtoz’s Nashville teams were even when they had no talent? Well the Islanders have become like that — organized, robotic, suffocating — except they do have some talent on top of it. It’s fun to watch in a gawk-at-this-experiment kind of way. Finally calling up Devon Toews and using him regularly has helped, but Toews is one of several examples of decent talent finally organized and channeled into the right place.
Hell, Trotz has even figured out how to make a functioning team out of a roster that added Matt Martin, Leo Komarov and Valtteri Filppula (and extending Ross Johnston for four years) over the summer — a gluttonous helping of bottom-six acquisitions even Trotz admitted he wasn’t sure about until Lou “made the case.” Basically those guys are all still what they are, but under Trotz they have a role and are playing to their ceilings. I’m sure it’s helped that collectively the team has a post-Tavares chip on their shoulders. As we see so often in this sport, it’s easy for everyone to stay on the same page and do all the necessary but less sexy grunt work game after game when the perceived common enemy is outside the room.

Before the season it was thought the Isles would be something of a project. Is their current standing going to see them make a deal or two that might be considered short-sighted down the road?

As for the trade deadline, I have no idea what Lou will do, and it doesn’t seem like anyone ever does since he keeps a tight-sealed ship. But it’s even harder to figure now because this is Third Life Lou. In a lot of ways he’s the old ’90s GM with old-school ways and archaic priorities (e.g. no facial hair or high number because I said so), so I’d fear him adding some Grinding Veteran With Winning Experience. But in other ways he appears to have adapted at least a bit to the post-post-lockout-cubed NHL, and is realistically evaluating the team. Meanwhile, Trotz thinks they’re still a year away from being ready to contend and their lineup has been stable…so short-sighted moves seem unlikely.

 

 

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At some point, you’d think goalie coaches would be considered like pitching coaches. Then again, they may be as they tend to stick around with teams through multiple coaches. Jimmy Waite has been here through Quenneville and now Colliton. You’ll find that a lot of place.

But Barry Trotz knows better, and has brought Mitch Korn everywhere. Korn turned Rinne into the first version of standout Rinne that he was, and then after he left he fell apart in the playoffs in 2015, much to the delight of Hawks fans everywhere. The Korn traipses off to Washington with Trotz, and turns Braden Holtby from pretty good into a Vezina winner. When that didn’t work, Philip Grubauer threw a .920+ until Holtby was ready in the playoffs.

Now Korn is in the Island, and he’s finally unlocking what everyone thought Robin Lehner could be as well as keeping Thomas Greiss on an even-keel. Both goalies had flashed this kind of form before in their careers, but it seems like Korn is always producing this from whoever his charge is. Hell, Korn even got Carter Hutton to be something when he was a nothing. It happens too much to ignore.

Which of course leaves Trotz to play his boring-ass, it’s-n0t-a-trap hockey and make it look damn effective. Sure, Trotz gets most everything out of players, but none of it works without a goalie putting up a .925. Which is even harder to do in this environment, and yet they still are. They must hate fun.

Also Korn is a weirdo who lives in a hotel.

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Notes: Lehner has given up four goals in his last four appearances…Barzal only has one goal since the last time these two met, when he had a brace…Cizikas has been the Eastern version of Marcus Kruger for years, always on a fourth-line but always tasked with taking the hardest assignments. Trotz hasn’t wavered from that…Their Toews has really juiced the third-pairing, and given them a puck-mover on all three pairings…Filppula has been extremely annoying to the Hawks in his entire career, and now that he’s under Trotz he’s Super Annoying…

Notes: After what was his first truly rough outing, it makes sense to get Delia an early start on the bye and break and give Ward the start. Not that you’re ever happy to see Ward in net, but this one makes sense…they’re giving you the hard-press on Caggiula in the top six, even though he was just fine on Sunday…the Saad-Kampf-Kruger line was used as a straight checking unit against Backstrom and Ovechkin and it held its own even if the possession numbers were a little ugly…curious to see if DeBrincat can be the main creator on a line, which is what he’ll be tasked with joining Strome and Kahun…

 

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 vs. 

RECORDS: Hawks 15-21-6   Islanders 21-13-4

PUCK DROP: 6:30

TV: NBCSN Chicago locally, NBCSN elsewhere

FUTURE ISLANDS IS A TERRIBLE BAND: Lighthouse Hockey

The Hawks are back on Long Island for the first time in four seasons, as while waiting for their new arena the New York Islanders are trying to make it up to their fans who never took to Brooklyn because they didn’t want to stay in New York after work for one extra second, unless it was the three times a year they bother Rangers fans at MSG. Or Brooklyners never took to the team because Jay-Z’s playhouse sucks for hockey. Or because those stuck on the Island didn’t want to come into the city for fear of meeting a minority. Whatever the reason, the Isles are splitting their home schedule between Brooklyn and the revamped Nassau Coliseum (where they come to see ’em), and the Hawks get the latter trip tonight.

What they’ll find is one of the bigger surprises in the league. The Isles were supposed to be left for dead after they made up for John Tavares‘s departure by hiring Toronto’s decrepit GM and letting him pick up Toronto’s trash. While they did poach a Stanley Cup winning coach in something of a coup, this roster was supposed to be in the first step of a rebuild. It hasn’t quite worked out that way.

But don’t fool yourself. Lou Lamoriello and Barry Trotz haven’t found some magic formula in their metamucil and oatmeal to turn a roster full of whatsits into a fine oiled machine. What they have is two goalies playing bonkers and some luck. The Isles have the third-best SV% at evens in the league, and the third-best PDO at a kind of unsustainable 103.5 (hey, remember The Blaze?). The Isles are not a good possession or defensive team, they’re just getting two guys stopping just about everything

For Thomas Greiss, it’s not a huge surprise as he’s put up more than competent split-seasons before with the Islanders. He was simply woeful last year, ceded the job to Jaroslav Halak, but has rebounded this season. Robin Lehner, who is nominally the starter at the moment, has done this before as well, with some excellent cameos in Ottawa and Buffalo. Because neither is being asked to shoulder the load alone, and it has benefitted both of them. And they are the reason that the Islanders are one point out of a playoff spot no one saw coming.

Up front, Mathew Barzal and his missing ‘T” have taken the #1 center responsibility and ably so. He’s kept Josh Bailey scoring, which is a trick because pretty much everyone assumed Bailey was a Tavares-product. Anders Lee and Brock Nelson have anchored the second line, and new toy Josh Ho-Sang is running with them in an exciting vision of the future…assuming Nelson and Lee are both re-signed in the summer.

That’s about it though. Anthony Beauvillier has put up 11 goals, and Marcus Kruger East Casey Cizikas has spasmed 10, but this is not a team that scores a ton. They average just about the same amount of goals per game as the Hawks. Their margins are thin.

On the back end, their top-pairing of Nick Leddy and Johnny Boychuk has been woeful, and constantly bailed out by Lehner and Greiss. Leddy seems to have struggled all year with all the things Trotz has asked of him, and around here we know especially how fragile his confidence can be. The Isles are waiting for the young troika of Scott Pelech, Ryan Pulock, and Scott Mayfield (not as much) to grab the brass ring. And they have at various times and definitely not at others. It’s a work in progress back there, though the Isles are pretty middling in terms of shots and chances against in the league.

For the Hawks, one should expect Collin Delia to return to the net tonight after Cam Ward got his gold-watch ceremony in South Bend. Few other changes would be likely. No word on if Drake Caggiula will make his debut in red or not, but that might be the only one you see. There aren’t any other d-men right now. Unless you are about the usual Martinsen-Hayden flip, and you shouldn’t.

A little further on down the road, peeps…

 

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Dan Saraceni is one-half of the editing team at LightHouseHockey.com. You can follow him on Twitter @CultureOfLosing. 

After losing Tavares, the Isles are somehow hanging around a playoff spot in the East. How and why? 
 I’d like to just write, “TROTZ” but it’s a little more complex than that. Yes, having a coach who actually knows what he’s doing makes a big difference. And after three straight coaches getting their feet wet in the NHL (two with AHL experience, one just as an NHL assistant), having a guy show up with a defined game plan and a crew that’s worked for 20+ years and a Stanley Cup changes a lot of things. There’s way less headless chicken action going on out there and everyone seems to be on the same page regardless of skill level (or lack thereof). The goalies have also been lights out, which can be traced back to better defensive play and – again – coaches like Mitch Korn and Piero Greco that actually have a clue. Whether they actually make the playoffs is still up in the air, but playing like an actual NHL team and not beer league walk-ons has been fun so far.
Is Jordan Eberle playing himself into being actually affordable in the summer for the Isles? Or is he still going to do one?
Eberle is hurt right now, and Josh Ho-Sang has been more than holding his own in Eberle’s spot on the second line. I don’t know if we know why he’s been so unproductive this season, but it’s not really the way you want to go into a UFA year. Between him and the Islanders’ other UFAs (steady captain Anders Lee and the suddenly awakened Brock Nelson), Eberle is easily the odd man out and could be a rental for someone at the deadline. He’ll be coming off a $6 million a year contract from the Oilers, so I don’t know if he’ll come cheap to whoever signs him. If he somehow loves Long Island, maybe he’ll stay but it’s probably not happening.
What on Earth has happened to Nick Leddy? Only 11 points and his metrics smell worse than a skunk on a hot day.
This is from October by our LHH colleague Cary: https://www.lighthousehockey.com/2018/10/23/18014512/nick-leddy-analysis-islanders-slump. Although he’s looked better lately, Leddy’s problems stretch back to the middle of last season, and no one’s sure what happened. It’s frustrating watching a guy who can skate that smoothly and carry the puck well do jack shit with it (especially on the power play. Maybe some guys just aren’t made to be quarterbacks). Maybe he’s trying to do too much or getting too caught up in the defensive aspects of Trotz’s system, but the points just aren’t coming for him and it’s a problem that (so far) the Islanders have managed to overcome. Again, he’s looked okay lately, but when you’re winning, everything looks okay.
Does Lou Lamoriello really provide any hope for Islanders fans or is he the dinosaur we think he is?
Lou provides hope that the New York Islanders can be run like an actual, adult NHL franchise for the first time in a generation. Yes, he’s old as shit and his various rules are largely stupid (ask Dom!). But after years of out-of-the-box thinking, it’s been refreshing to see the Islanders think within the box for a change. Like hiring people to do jobs that most NHL teams have and making changes when stuff isn’t working. That might be a low bar to clear, but it’s something the Islanders haven’t been able to do in quite some time. Any GM is only as good as his last deal, but so far, having Lou looking over everyone’s shoulders has been good for the franchise.

 

Game #43 Preview Suite

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