Despite having their all-time leading scorer, Patrick Ellias, take his last skate with the team before he finalizes his retirement, the New Jersey Devils could not impress a sold-out house at “The Rock” as they gifted the New York Islanders an easy two points in a 2-4 defeat.
Initially, from the start, it looked like the Devils were going to compete with the Islanders, as they outshot the Islanders 14-4 and had the majority of the quality chances in a scoreless first period. But, the hope a victory in the final home game of the year was short lived, as the Islanders netted a goal midway through the second period via defenseman Adam Pelech.
To add insult to injury, the Islanders slotted home another goal a few minutes later as forward Anders Lee, standing next to his bench, shot a weak pass toward Keith Kinkaid’s net that somehow sneaked its way through traffic and past Kinkaid himself.
The Islanders tacked on a third goal via a spin-o-rama assist by Alan Quine to Jason Chimera early in the second and then added a fourth on the power play as Anders Lee got his second of the night by flicking a puck inside the post over an outstretched Kinkaid to make it four goals on the evening.
The Devils managed to grab two goals back in the third period as Beau Bennett poked a pass through the pads of Islanders’ goalie Jaroslav Halak for the first Devils goal and Dalton Prout got his first of the season on a slapshot from the point with only a few seconds remaining in the game.
After securing the victory, the Islanders still weren’t confident that they would get a chance to make the playoffs, as they were stuck as spectators for the night as Pittsburgh and Toronto faced off in the Six.
“We are scoreboard watching tonight,” said Anders Lee. “It sucks that everything is in Pittsburgh’s hands.” Defenseman Josh Bailey spoke a similar tone to Lee’s by saying that, “we just want to give ourselves a chance.” Little to Bailey’s knowledge at the time of the interview, the Maple Leafs beat the Penguins in a nailbiter by the score of 5-3 to end the hopes of an Islanders playoff bid.
Although the Islanders are out of playoff contention, let’s play the hypothetical and say that the Maple Leafs lost tonight against the Penguins. If that had happened, here is my analysis of what could have been if the New York Islanders made the playoffs and what the team looks like at face value.
The Hypothetical New York Islanders Playoff Analysis:
With captain and points leader John Tavares out week-to-week with a lower body injury, the Islanders lack a superstar on the team to make big plays in clutch moments. Furthermore, without Tavares, the scoring load will be rested on the sticks of Anders Lee (33 goals) and Andrew Ladd (22 goals.) With a first-round matchup with the Washington Capitals likely, it isn’t likely that the Islanders get too many past star Capitals goalie Braden Holtby or even past the Capitals defensemen (and yes, Shattenkirk plays for the Capitals now so send your displeasures to St. Louis, Islanders fans.)
On the defensive side of things, goaltending is a major concern for Doug Weights team. Both goalies, Thomas Greiss and Jaroslav Halak, own above a 2.70 GAA and are known for making notable errors throughout the season, leading Halak to get sent down to the minors midway through the season. With the likes of Nicholas Backstrom, T.J. Oshie, and of course Alexander Ovechkin taking aim at either of the two netminders, confidence should not be high for Islanders fans.
In all reality, a playoff run for the Islanders is not likely, especially given the fact that they will probably be facing off against the Capitals in the first round. With a lack of depth in attack and the absence of Tavares, the Islanders will be lucky to salvage a game against their formidable opponents from our nation’s capital.
Again, the Islanders aren’t in playoff contention anymore. But, if they were, Sunday would have made for a fascinating day of hockey.