fbpx
Skip to main content

Islanders start wild-card push by clashing with Canucks

Sportsnaut
Jan 27, 2022; Elmont, New York, USA; New York Islanders head coach Barry Trotz coaches his team against the Los Angeles Kings during the third period at UBS Arena. Mandatory Credit: Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports
Jan 27, 2022; Elmont, New York, USA; New York Islanders head coach Barry Trotz coaches his team against the Los Angeles Kings during the third period at UBS Arena. Mandatory Credit: Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

The New York Islanders have 43 games left to play over 80 days, and they need to make up 17 points in the race for the final Eastern Conference wild-card spot.

In other words, there’s no time to waste for the Islanders, who have spent the last week lamenting the opportunities squandered prior to the All-Star break.

The Islanders are slated to return to action Wednesday night, when they begin a four-game road trip by opposing the Vancouver Canucks in the first game between the teams in almost two years.

The Islanders haven’t played since Feb. 2, when they fell to the visiting Seattle Kraken 3-0 in Elmont, N.Y. The Canucks will be completing a back-to-back set at home after beating the Arizona Coyotes 5-1 on Tuesday night.

Becoming the Kraken’s first shutout victims provided an appropriately downcast end to a challenging first half for the Islanders. The team began the season on a franchise-record, 13-game road trip and was shut down shortly after Thanksgiving due to a widespread COVID-19 outbreak that occurred during an 11-game losing streak.

The Islanders snapped that skid Dec. 7 to begin a 13-game stretch in which they went 9-3-1. But New York ended the first half by losing four of its last six games and was limited to 19 shots by the expansion Kraken in a defeat that Barry Trotz described as “one of the more disappointing games that I’ve coached as the Islanders coach.”

Trotz wasn’t quite as abrupt following practice Tuesday, though he still struck a tone of urgency and accountability as the Islanders — who made the NHL semifinals each of the past two years — prepare for their long-shot playoff push.

“I don’t know how this whole season is going to end,” Trotz said, “but I do know that we just need to play as good a game on a consistent basis (as possible). We have not been consistent enough, and that’s on the group. That’s on me. That’s on everybody.”

The Islanders’ plight is familiar to the Canucks’, as Vancouver also is seeking some consistency while attempting to mount a second-half playoff push.

Vancouver, which sits four points behind the Calgary Flames in the race for the second Western Conference wild-card spot, began the season 8-15-2 before head coach Travis Green and general manager Jim Benning were fired.

The Canucks won their first seven games under new head coach Bruce Boudreau but have lost nine of their past 15 (6-5-4), a stretch in which they’ve won back-to-back games just once.

Inconsistency continued to hinder the Canucks on Tuesday, when they were outshot 15-7 in a scoreless first period before Conor Garland, Bo Horvat and Elias Pettersson collected goals in a span of 2:22 early in the second period. Despite the lopsided win, Vancouver was outshot 36-29 by the Coyotes.

“The Islanders are finally healthy — their last game they lost to Seattle, and I think they want to make amends for that,” Boudreau said Tuesday night. “They’re like us: They have to win a vast majority of the games if they want to make the playoffs.”

The Islanders and Canucks didn’t play one another last season, when regular-season play consisted entirely of divisional games. The teams last met on March 10, 2020, when host Vancouver earned a 5-4 shootout victory in what ended up being the last game of the regular season for both clubs. The NHL season was suspended two days later due to the pandemic.

–Field Level Media