Sure, it’s only been two games, but the New York Islanders seem to have a new attitude and increased enthusiasm under new interim coach Doug Weight.
Saturday night against the Kings, the Isles saw a 2-0 lead disintegrate in 4:06 of the third period. The old Islanders often lost games like that, but last night, the Isles regrouped and dominated the final 15:54 of the game. They outshot the Kings 18-7 and earned a 4-2 win.
Anders Lee scored two power-play goals and J.F. Berube made 34 saves to earn his first victory of the season. Jason Chimera and John Tavares also scored for the Islanders who have now won three games in a row.
More importantly, the team seems to feel revitalized. “It feels really good,” Lee said after the game. “Right now, we’ve got the momentum and we’ve got to keep that going.”
Both of Lee’s goals were the result of the big forward using his size and disturbing Kings goalie Peter Budaj.
“I’m just trying to take away the goalie’s eyes and I try to take a defenseman with me,” Lee said of how he approaches doing the dirty work in front of opposing goalies. “I try to create havoc and let the skill guys do their thing up top and I’ll do my thing down low.”
The attitude inside the Islanders locker room seems fresher right now and the team seems more confident.
Weight liked the way his team persevered after a slow start. “We slowly, slowly, slowly started moving our feet and got a little more intelligent about where we were putting the puck,” he said.
Weight also added that he was “beyond enthused” about his team’s response after the Kings tied the hockey game. “There was no hesitation on the bench,” Weight recalled. “A lot of guys were talking…We didn’t waiver and I felt really good behind the bench.”
The new coach admits he is feeling more comfortable behind the bench after his second game as head coach. “I think I felt a little less nervous,” he said.
Weight then paused and said, “We are entering relevance. There’s a really good feeling in that room.”
The players seem to be feeding off their new coach’s confidence.
“There’s a lot of belief in this room,” veteran forward Stephen Gionta said. “It’s a veteran group in that they’ve been there before…I think we have a good shot at doing this here.”
Many teams get a small bump after they change coaches. It is often because they hear a new voice and the players feel the need to prove themselves to their new bench boss. But for the Islanders to make a run back to relevance and playoff contention, they are going to have to play this way not just for two games, but for the remaining 38.
If the Islanders can find a way to keep this positivity going, they stand a chance of getting back into the playoff race in the Eastern Conference.