Andy Graziano, SNY.TV Twitter
Can you hear that? Listen real close……Hear it?
Peace and serenity across Islanders social media. Everyone might as well be sitting around a campfire, roasting marshmallows and singing Kumbaya.
Well, for one night at least.
The Islanders eased tensions among the Barclays Center faithful and within their own locker room with last night's 4-2 win over the sinking Vancouver Canucks in Brooklyn. To add to the good vibes was Jason Chimera and Andrew Ladd finally getting off the snide and scoring their first goals of the 2016-17 campaign, a campaign that last week looked to match the comical drama and unrest of the presidential one unfolding before a divided and confused nation that hopefully comes to an end today.
After the win, New York has now posted a 5-6-2 record for 12 points after 13 games played, as they earned their first two-point game in over a week. Last year, at the same juncture, they were 7-3-3 for 17 points. So, even though the team has been struggling mightily in almost all facets of their game (and still are, in a lot of ways), and sit third from the bottom in the NHL in possession, here they are, only five points off the pace of last year.
And that was getting zero production, prior to last night, out of Ladd and Chimera, who combine to take up almost $8.000 million dollars in salary. Ladd, in fact, skated on a modified fourth line with Casey Cizikas and Nikolay Kulemin and being honest, the trio looked real good together. Sharp and smart with the puck, they combined for five shots and 11 attempts.
This was more a 'feel good' win for the team, who needed to get 'I will survive' playing again in a locker room that last week resembled a morgue more than anything. The play on the ice, through the first two periods, especially, was not jaw dropping or inspiring. It was not crisp and clean, rather confused and disorganized. However, with the game on the line in the third period, they pulled together to produce what could, arguably, be considered their best 20 minutes of the season, mostly while protecting 3-2 and 4-2 leads.
"We felt pretty good about the majority of our play, honestly. We've taken leads in third periods, and we've given up leads in the last minute and a half, two minutes of the third period. A combination of that is us and part of it is, sometimes you go on runs like that where that stuff just happens, but obviously, it's a microcosm of something else. I think, today, the last five minutes was exactly what we needed. Guys doing the right thing, being strong on their sticks, making solid plays and not giving them a whole lot", said Cal Clutterbuck postgame.
With the Islanders having played 10 of their first 13 at home, compiling a 5-3-2 record in the process for 60% of possible points, their just completed 2-1-2 homestand ends and sends the team on their first decent travel trip of the season in search of road win number one.
New York opened 2016-17 with away losses to the New York Rangers and Washington Capitals followed by a defeat in Pittsburgh two weeks later. Here, they will travel to the sunshine state of Florida and take on the Lightning and Panthers Thursday and Saturday. Five of the Islanders next seven games will be on the road, including their annual California trip, and the team is very excited to be packing their suitcases.
While the comforts of home are, in large part, appreciated and the players and coaching staff get to spend valuable time with family and friends, it also could become a bit of a burden. A burden of consistency and complacency, not really being able to bond with your teammates and get to know them on a more personal level, getting too comfortable. With New York ushering out three players this offseason and rushing in two new ones, this could play a vital role in getting the team playing the type of hockey they need to play and not just looking the part against a team that had lost eight straight coming in.
When I asked Clutterbuck about looking forward to getting out on the road, his eyes lit up. "Oh, yeah. Been looking forward to it for a long time. People look at a homestand like this and think it's great. But it's tough. It's being in one place for a long period of time, it gets redundant and it's easy for you to get into the 'groundhog day' type of feel. It will be really nice for us to get away for a couple of days."
On my way out of the locker room, I posed the same question to Thomas Hickey, not really expecting a different response. "I think it's going to be good for our group. Look, it's great to be at home and play in front of your own fans, sleep in your own bed and be with your families. But, at the same time, our routine is usually changing every single day so it's weird when you're home for a couple weeks like this."
It certainly won't be easy taking on the Lightning, who whipped the Islanders last week, 6-1, and Panthers, just coming off a 3-1 victory over that same Tampa team last night but here's to restaurant meals, cold beverages and lumpy mattresses. Just what the doctor ordered, perhaps?
Beyond the box: Perhaps the closest possession game New York has played in quite some time, but they still ended up on the wrong side of shot attempts, 65-61….Johnny Boychuk led defenseman with 21:26, while captain John Tavares paced forwards at 20:19…Brock Nelson, who played one shift in the last half of third period after a cheap Brandon Sutter hit behind Vancouver net, led New York with 7 shot attempts. Upon awakening and getting going, no further issues with Nelson's knee have been reported.
Adam Pelech joined the top pair with Nick Leddy and logged 17:08, along with picking up his first point of the season, an assist. Head coach Jack Capuano praised the youngster after the game. "Adam did a great job for us. First couple of shifts are always tough, but I thought he stepped up, had a good gap. Did what he had to do, made smart decisions with the puck."