BY LESLIE MONTEIRO
(Photo credit: Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
The NHL unveiled its new Stanley Cup Playoffs logo on Monday, which means the second season will be here before we know it.
With 29 games left of what has been a forgettable season, the Islanders played like a team that won’t be participating in the playoffs in May after a 5-4 loss to the Stanley Cup contender Colorado Avalanche Monday night at UBS Arena.
The Islanders trailed the Washington Capitals for the last wild-card spot by 19 points and the Boston Bruins for the first wild-card spot by 23 points. The Devils are closer to the Islanders in the standings than the Islanders are for either wild-card spot.
Just by doing the math with the standings and how many games are left, it’s over. Quite frankly, it was over a long time ago. This team just didn’t have it from the beginning of the season. They actually did decent by going 5-6-2 to start an 11-game road trip to the season, and then most of their players got hit by COVID-19, and everything went to hell from there.
This latest loss summed up the Islanders season in a nutshell. They played the Avs to a standstill for the first two periods at 1-1, and they followed it up by giving up four goals in the third period to their opponent and then tried to come back by scoring three goals late in the game just to come up short.
The Islanders play hard, but they find ways to lose than to win this season. On one night, they can’t score. Then, their goaltender can’t come up with big saves. Another night, their defense plays like a sieve. It’s just one thing or another for a team that has been snakebit all season.
Here’s what’s damning about the Islanders: No one is scared to play them anymore. Teams push them around and get away with it.
Maybe we should have seen this coming. This team logged on so many postseason minutes for the last two seasons by going deep in the playoffs, so it was inevitable there would have been a hangover this season. This team is on the wrong side of being old, too. Islanders general manager Lou Lamoriello did not do the team any favors by not upgrading any talent this offseason. Sorry, but Zach Parise and Zdeno Chara were not scaring anyone or making the Islanders any better.
Right now, Lamoriello has to trade his best assets to get younger, faster and better in the next few seasons. This team has been old and slow for awhile now. In today’s NHL, that’s not good enough to win the Stanley Cup. It showed in the last three playoff seasons when the Islanders couldn’t catch up to a fast team in the Carolina Hurricanes and the Tampa Bay Lightning.
It’s hard to say anyone is untouchable with this roster. As good as Mat Barzal and Anthony Beauvillier are despite their disappointing seasons, they can be traded for the right price. Lamoriello would not be doing his job if he wasn’t listening to offers.
Their championship window is closed now for good. The Islanders should have finished the job last season by winning Game 7 against the Lightning in the Stanley Cup Semifinals, but they came up small by losing 1-0. That’s why this loss hurt then, and it hurts even more now since this is the best this group could have done. It was right there for the taking.
The Islanders are a team that has so many issues that this season may not be an aberration. They don’t have much defensive depth. They don’t have a large, physical defenseman that can bang with people. Most of their players have been with the Islanders for so long. If anything, this team overachieved the last three seasons. Reality was going to come eventually, and it came this year.
The Islanders may be a fringe playoff team next season, but they are not winning the Stanley Cup. It makes more sense to revamp the roster and reload. They certainly need to get more scorers or it will be as same as next season. They need defensemen who will be quick to the puck and protect the goaltender.
On Monday night, the Islanders exposed themselves for why they have been awful this season. They couldn’t defend. Trade candidate Semyon Varlamov gave up saveable goals in the third. They couldn’t score when it mattered.
On a night like this against an elite team in the Avalanche, this does not cut it.
In fact, this does not cut it against an NHL team period.
This happened frequently this season, and that is a sign that this is just not the Islanders’ year.