The New York Islanders are in the midst of a roller-coaster November, which has taken a turn for the worse over the last 10 days despite book-end wins on their recent road trip. Losses to teams below them in the standings, including back-to-back losses allowing five goals in each game, have ignited calls by fans for a trade to bolster the roster. The Islanders managed to squeeze out a win against the Toronto Maple Leafs, 3-2 in overtime on November 21st, but that may be the only measure of success in the game. It was an ugly game from a rudderless team at the moment.
Islanders Continue Poor Starts
With some recency bias clouding my vision, the Islanders’ first period against the Toronto Maple Leafs was emblematic of a larger trend in November. Despite their 6-4-0 record, which includes some impressive come-from-behind wins over the last month, how they’re starting games isn’t a recipe for long-term success, and certainly not a serious playoff contender at the moment.
When asked about their poor starts, head coach Lane Lambert said he wouldn’t necessarily call it a trend. “You always look at every different facet and aspect,” he said, following the Islanders’ 5-4 loss against the Nashville Predators on November 17th. “But I wouldn’t call it a trend. It’s happened, though, but I wouldn’t call it a trend” (from “Islanders’ Lou Lamoriello ‘pleased with the progress,’ but poor starts need fixing,” The Athletic, 11/18/2022).
As Casey Cizikas said in that same article, you can’t always come back in the NHL, and the Islanders need to find a way to be engaged earlier. Could starting the fourth line, as Barry Trotz did for four seasons on a fairly regular basis, be the answer? It’s possible. Cizikas, Matt Martin, and Cal Clutterbuck, who is now the NHL’s all-time hits leader, still have the ability to change the momentum of a game, so maybe Lambert should give them a chance to start a game and put the team on the right track from the opening face off.
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Regardless of their ability to come back in games or withstand onslaughts from opposing teams buoyed by their goaltending, the Islanders need to find a way to be engaged early and eliminate their seemingly endless list of mistakes. If they can’t right the ship, there’s a good chance they won’t be able to tread…