Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Critical Games Coming Up

While it is protocol to stay stoic in the press box, I'll freely admit that I had a hard time getting over last Saturday (4/13) night's 1-0 overtime loss to the New York Rangers.

Ask anyone who was with me; I was a nervous mess up on the press level and was going "Jerry Tarkanian" on the pile of napkins immediately to my left.

In that contest, the Islanders outplayed their Manhattan rivals for long stretches of the game, however they were unable to solve Rangers netminder Henrik Lundqvist. The Isles rang several posts, but a win wasn't in the cards that evening.

A silver lining was found, however, when the Islanders' overtime "loser point" allowed them to retain an edge over the Rangers in the standings at the end of play on Saturday.

Fast forward to last night (4/16), when the Isles demolished the nearly hapless Florida Panthers, 5-2. It was a game the Islanders had to win, and they did. Kyle Okposo chipped in an assist, raising his season's total to 19 points, which you can see to the right.

As an aside, the victory moved Head Coach Jack Capuano into second place all-time in Islanders coaching victories, with 82. He has some work to do before he catches Hall of Famer Al Arbour (740).

Additional good news, not of the Islanders' doing, came later in the evening when it was revealed that the Rangers lost to Philadelphia, frittering away the momentum and points they had gained in their win on Long Island.

But this Islanders team isn't about looking back. It's about looking forward. And staring them right in the face are two important games that could seal their playoff fate.

Tomorrow night (Thursday, 4/18) the Isles will take on a tough Toronto team at Air Canada Centre. The Maple Leafs currently hold the 5 seed in the Eastern Conference, and if New York has designs on moving up the table they likely need a victory. The two points would also go a long way in helping them vault clear of the trailing Rangers and Winnipeg Jets, who both sit on 46 points. The Islanders currently possess 49. The Rangers have a game in hand.

Taking a longer view, on Saturday (4/20) afternoon the Islanders travel to Winnipeg to take on the aforementioned Jets. As a critical "4 point game,"  a win in this one would basically assure the Islanders of a trip to the Stanley Cup Playoffs.

As well as the Islanders have been playing of late, it would be nice for them to win (or at least earn points) in both games, but if there's a "must have" game coming up, it's the one versus Winnipeg.

Thanks for reading, and as always, Let's Go Islanders!

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