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Fish Sticks; The Islanders need to wake up

Barry Trotz got his 800th win on Tuesday night but it most certainly wasn’t pretty.  The Islanders blew two separate two goal leads to the worst team in the league, including a 4-2 lead halfway through the third period.  They got the shootout win but with the win comes tons of question marks.  What the hell is going on with the Islanders?

Well, they need to wake up and there are a few reasons why they’ve been in a lull.  One is the tough schedule over the past month.  The quality of opponents haven’t been too difficult but their travel schedule has been ridiculous.  Since their Western Canada trip they’re 3-5, including a terrible loss to a lowly Edmonton Oilers team and two embarrassing losses to the Calgary Flames.  They destroyed the Toronto Maple Leafs but they’ve given up goals at a torrid pace, 23 to be exact in the past eight games.  This is a far cry from the defensive stalwart that has taken the league by storm.

The Islanders also have an injury and illness problem.  The Islanders’ best line, the fourth line, was completely battered and bruised on Tuesday with Cal Clutterbuck and Matt Martin out with injuries and Casey Cizikas battling a stomach bug.  Robin Lehner was also barreled into by Brady Tkachuk on Tuesday and although there’s no update yet, Christopher Gibson has been recalled from Bridgeport which is a telling sign.  The Islanders had been remarkably healthy up to this point so it’s only natural that it’s coming back to bite them at the near end of the season.

The most telling reason why the Islanders have been struggling is that they’ve tightened up on both offense and defense, and not in the good way.  They look like they’re playing not to lose, which is is uncommon for a Barry Trotz team that is always structurally sound but never afraid to play.  The Islanders have become much more loose in the defensive zone, are getting beat to pucks at a higher pace and haven’t been creative at all on offense.  The influx of Michael Dal Colle to the lineup did give a spark on Tuesday as he floated a beautiful saucer pass to Devon Toews to give the Islanders a lead.  However, even with Dal Colle and potentially Josh Ho-Sang the Islanders just aren’t playing loose enough.

If the Islanders are going to win the Metro Division or hell even make the playoffs, they MUST learn to play loose when things are tight and find a way to overcome their injuries.  Every team has injuries and every team plays tight games.  It’s what you do in those moments that matter.  If the Islanders can’t find a way to work out the kinks they may be on the outside looking in.  They need to wake up, now.

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