After witnessing the New York Islanders rally from behind and then drop a two lead and eventually lose in Winnipeg tonight (1/27), one word comes to mind: inconsistency.
In the midst of a five game road trip, in a season in which a good start is mandatory in order to remain competitive, the Islanders have waffled. There have been bright spots, such as a burst of three goals early on in tonight's third period (an eventual 5-4 OT loss to Winnipeg). There have been dreadful stretches that wholly lacked energy, such as most of the first two periods tonight or the final period in Boston.
On an individual basis, there have been some pleasant surprises. Head Coach Jack Capuano was pleased with defenseman Thomas Hickey's National Hockey League debut tonight, even rewarding Hickey with late game minutes.
Journeyman Keith Aucoin has three goals and has surpassed expectations so far. David Ullstrom, the Swede, has led by example. Brad Boyes has fit nicely into the scheme, and Michael Grabner is skating like a rejuvenated man after a 20 point decline last season.
Conversely, Capuano noted after tonight's game that the first scoring line (Moulson-Tavares-Okposo) isn't working they way he'd like. The problem hasn't been J.T., who has notched three multi-point games this season.
I'll say what Capuano wouldn't state over the air. As much as I like and prefer to lavish praise on Kyle, I must also be critical of him now.
I believe he'll be dropped down to the second line for the next game (Tuesday, 1/29, in Pittsburgh).
For some reason, he fares better when placed apart from Moulson and Tavares.
Mind you, he hasn't been awful. He has scored this season, and as we should all know by now he's a slow starter in most years. But he, like the team, has had inconsistent stretches. Just going by the most recent game, he began slowly and had better shifts as the night wore on.
Make no mistake, the team is .500. They are in the midst of a grueling trip travel-wise (I know the season has just begun, but consider the miles they have logged and the lack of down time).
The Islanders are improving. Help is also on the way in the form of Lubomir Visnovsky. Moving Kyle to the second line (and moving Ullstrom or Boyes up?) might be the tweak this team needs to really get on a roll.
We'll see what, if anything, Jack chooses to do.
News and Notes:
- Evegeni Nabokov has been outstanding this season, at times single handedly keeping the Isles in games. He came into the Winnipeg game with a 2-1 record and a 3.02 GAA. He saved 30 shots in the loss.
- Travis Hamonic and Matt Martlin logged a combined 12 hits in the loss.
- With his two assists, Tavares ties Benoit Hogue and Mikko Makela for 30th on the franchise's all-time list (124).