The Islanders, home in Brooklyn for the first time in three weeks and off the heels of a franchise record nine-game road trip where they went 5-3-1, struggled mightily Monday night in an 8-4 blowout loss to the Hurricanes in what could have been considered a must-win game.
With a record of 3-4-1 over their last eight games, having allowed 25 goals in those losses, it's obviously not the optimum time to go into a slump, clinging to the playoff race by a thread -- one point behind the Maple Leafs, but having played one more game.
"We have to play a lot harder than we did tonight. Execute at a much higher level. Disappointing at this point in the season," captain John Tavares said in the locker room after the game as the team hustled to beat the impending Nor'Easter and catch a flight to Carolina for the rematch Tuesday night.
"Not going to use the schedule, or the back to backs, as an excuse," Travis Hamonic said. "We just need to be better, that's it. We have to do our jobs, collectively as a group."
Andy Graziano, SNY.TV Twitter
I'm not sure what to think about this one. Yes, the schedule has not been kind, due to quirky NHL mechanisms for sorting it out in the summer to Barclays mismanagement of their second tenant. Interim head coach Doug Weight gave some credence to it, saying "50 years of history doesn't lie" when speaking to the effect it has had on his club, but quickly added "it doesn't matter at this point, though. We aren't winning playing like that, anyway."
I defer to Hamonic's comments more on this issue. These are professionals who should be conditioned to withstand whatever the league or season throws at them. There are always going to be obstacles and challenges throughout the course of an 82-game season. You have to overcome them, be better than them. You can't use them as a crutch or excuse for getting bombarded in your own building, failing to build off the energy of the first 15 minutes, which found the Islanders playing well before imploding before everyone's eyes.
As far as the goaltending goes, Thomas Greiss looked exhausted, setting a career-high in games started, with no capable backup the coaching staff could rely on to spell him down the stretch.
It's one thing to say, "look at the other goalies around the league who have played more games as their teams number one." But, remember, this is Greiss' first crack at it. First. And his defense has not been doing him any favors, either. They have been abysmally up and down the last couple of weeks, leading to many blowout losses.
As far as J.F Berube is concerned, he was unhappy with himself, calling his play an "embarrassment -- to myself, my teammates."
The fact remains, he was the gamble GM Garth Snow took that didn't pay off. And now he cannot be sent to Bridgeport, as he was not on their roster at the trade deadline, making him ineligible for AHL action. With Christopher Gibson's injury putting him on the shelf for the remainder of the season, Jaroslav Halak remains the Sound Tigers' #1 goaltender as of this morning.
Bottom line: there is no help coming. At the worst time, the Islanders' defense and goaltending is struggling to cohesively gel. And with 14 games left, there is precious little time left to figure it all out.