For the most part under head coach Barry Trotz, the Islanders have been an exceptional team on home ice, both when they still played in Brooklyn and at Nassau Coliseum. But something has still been amiss for his club against a certain opponent — a division foe I might add — when they have played host to them for the last two-plus seasons.
The Isles are 0-4-0 against the Washington Capitals on home ice since the start of the 2018-19 season.
The most recent matchup when the teams faced off on Long Island was last February — before the coronavirus hit and before they met in Toronto in the bubble postseason — and the Islanders blew a 4-1 lead in the third period only to go on and lose 6-4. The disastrous collapse was compounded with now former-Islander Devon Toews’ mocking of Evgeny Kuznetsov’s bird celebration which left Trotz infuriated.
It’s an odd little factoid, almost as weird as the team not having lost in the nation’s capital for two seasons before they were defeated there back in January. Yet, the dynamic of the Isles’ failures against their D.C. rivals as the home squad is vital, as starting tonight the two squads will meet four more times in the next four weeks — two in the next six days — all at the Coliseum. These are massive points up for grabs.
“It’s a Washington team we haven’t had obviously success against this year, so it will be nice to get them at home in a time where we’re desperate for a win,” Jordan Eberle said this week. “If you look at the last couple of games, we’re moving in the wrong direction, so we want to turn this homestand into some wins and start climbing the standings again.”
The Islanders currently sit two points behind the Caps for the top spot in the East, but the division is still very much up for grabs. Both teams are in a good position to make the postseason and these next few tilts could be the deciding factor of who will be the division champion. Of course, there’s the possibility of the Penguins stealing the top spot, as they’re red hot right now and are within striking distance. Still, the onus is on Mathew Barzal and Co. to take care of business and get the Isles back on track after this fog they’ve been in over the past two weeks.
The Isles have been the best home team in the NHL this season which should also give them a shot in the arm as they welcome Washington for the first time.
With 20 games left in the season, getting even with the Caps could really help propel the Trotz’s skaters in the final stretch of their season. But they need to show they can beat them on home ice.
With the trade deadline 11 days away, the talk about what the Isles and g.m. Lou Lamoriello is only ramping up more and more. There was fire added to those flames last night when TSN’s Darren Dreger reported that there’s heavy speculation the organization could be in on trying to acquire Taylor Hall.
— Rob Taub (@RTaub_) March 31, 2021
Hall, 29, has been a hot topic among the Islanders faithful even before captain Anders Lee went down with a season-ending ACL injury three weeks ago. His numbers have been awful this year — 18 points in 35 games — but a lot of that could also be attributed to him playing on a historically bad Sabres club.
The Islanders are expected to get d-man Noah Dobson back in the lineup tonight, which could provide a nice boost for the Islanders. The 21-year-old has been out since going on the NHL’s COVID-19 list back on March 14th. Thomas Hickey has been in place of Dobson while he was sidelined and done a serviceable job.
Dobson though elevates the Islanders at both ends of the ice and his steady demeanor is something the team has been missing without him.