NHL Suspends Season: New York Rangers and Islanders playoff hopes stifled by Corona Virus

National Hockey League, NHL

The NHL has officially suspended any further league play, indicating the playoff runs by the New York Rangers and Islander may have been stifled from something other than their own misfortune.

The Corona Virus has caused all 31 teams to hat lt play in the United States, Canada, and around the world.

The NHL released the following statement:

“In light of ongoing developments resulting from the coronavirus, and after consulting with medical experts and convening a conference call of the Board of Governors, the National Hockey League is announcing today that it will pause the 2019‑20 season beginning with tonight’s games.

“The NHL has been attempting to follow the mandates of health experts and local authorities, while preparing for any possible developments without taking premature or unnecessary measures. However, following last night’s news that an NBA player has tested positive for coronavirus – and given that our leagues share so many facilities and locker rooms and it now seems likely that some member of the NHL community would test positive at some point – it is no longer appropriate to try to continue to play games at this time.

“We will continue to monitor all the appropriate medical advice, and we will encourage our players and other members of the NHL community to take all reasonable precautions – including by self-quarantine, where appropriate. Our goal is to resume play as soon as it is appropriate and prudent, so that we will be able to complete the season and award the Stanley Cup. Until then, we thank NHL fans for your patience and hope you stay healthy.”

Re-energized Andrew Ladd Providing a Boost for the Islanders

Barry Trotz had a simple explanation for why he made the decision to go with Andrew Ladd to possibly extend the shootout last night for the New York Islanders.

“His career totals,” the Isles’ head coach said after the game last night. “He’s the highest that we have on our team.”

Ladd was unsuccessful in his attempt — missing the net as Canucks goalie Thatcher Demko went with the old school two-pad stack — and with that, the Islanders lost 5-4 for their seventh straight loss (0-3-4).

Despite another tough setback, the Isles played their best game in a long time. They peppered Demko, the Canucks’ rookie goaltender, with 49 total shots and found the back of the net four times. One of those four came from Ladd, who opened the scoring with his first goal of the season and first tally since back in October 2018.

It was another instance of the boost he’s given the team since he got back into the lineup last Saturday.

”I thought he played really well,” Trotz added when asked about Ladd’s game last night.

It’s great to see Ladd making an impact for an Isles team who is in the thick of the chase for the postseason. He had to spend a majority of this season in Bridgeport after not making the team out of camp and still having to rehab from a torn ACL he suffered in a game last March.

“It’s fun to be back in that room and contributing,” said Ladd to The Athletic’s Arthur Staple. “If we play like that every night we’ll get the result. We liked our game against Carolina (on Saturday), just trying to get back to that pressure all over the ice that makes us successful.”

Ladd’s veteran leadership might have been just what the Islanders needed having been without Casey Cizikas, and most recently Johnny Boychuk. The 34-year-old knows how to win at this time of the year; he’s got two Stanley Cup rings to prove it.

Last night’s loss in Vancouver was just the B.C. native’s fourth game all year, but Ladd’s strong performance was another case of him showing his teammates how to overcome adversity. It was also a message to the younger guys on this club that they need to fight for every inch at this time of the year.

There’s still another 14 games left for the Islanders to secure their second straight postseason appearance. Right now they are below the cut line, one point behind both the Carolina Hurricanes and Columbus Blue Jackets for both wild card spots. So the intensity in these last few weeks is only going to get ratcheted up more. The Isles are going to need Ladd’s hard mentality and his championship pedigree to shine through.

He’s given the Islanders what they needed and they need it to continue hopefully into the playoffs.




This Week Will Define the Islanders’ Season

New York Islanders

The time for messing around is over for the New York Islanders.

With 15 games left in the regular season, the Islanders find themselves on the outside looking in of the Eastern Conference playoff picture as they head out for an arduous road trip which begins in Western Canada tomorrow night in Vancouver and will end in Pittsburgh Sunday afternoon.

Their controversial overtime defeat Saturday afternoon to the Carolina Hurricanes was the team’s six straight loss (0-5-1) and their ninth loss in their last 11 games. That brutal stretch coupled with Carolina’ and Columbus’ wins yesterday only makes this upcoming trip that much more crucial.

“It’s a huge point when you’re down and haven’t been winning lately,” Head Coach Barry Trotz told the media following Saturday’s game. “We’ve just got to keep grinding. Every point counts. The point that we got maybe the point that helps us get in, or the point we lost may keep us out. We’ll see how that plays out, but we climbed today. We climbed a little bit. That’s really key.”

Over the years, the Western Canada trip has been an essential moment in the Isles’ season. Last year just around the same time exactly, they went 1-1-1 against the Canucks, Oilers, and Flames. The difference between this year and last year is that a year ago, the Islanders were secured in a top-3 spot of the Metro Division. The challenge facing them this week out there has more significant stakes at hand, especially with a possible playoff matchup also being the final stop before they return home.

The Islanders, other than the losing streak, are still battered and bruised. They’re still without Casey Cizikas, who head coach Barry Trotz did say after the game Saturday will travel with the team for the trip, and won’t have Johnny Boychuk available. Even Cal Clutterbuck — who was not in the lineup Saturday after also sitting out the entire third period of the loss in Ottawa — is still not close to being 100%.

They did see some good things out of rookie Noah Dobson, who had his best game as a pro on Saturday. He had the assist on the tying goal by Josh Bailey late in the game, and maybe it’s a sign of things to come. Dobson’s effort is just one example of that next level this team needs to show if they are going to still want to have games that matter here in these last few weeks.


They need to take how they performed in the third period against Carolina — being the more desperate and hungry team — and transfer it over to these next four contests. They also need to use how they lost in that game and use it as a chip on their shoulder. Heck, they should even use that setback as a confidence booster.

None of this week will be easy.

The Canucks are fighting for their playoff lives, while the Calgary and Edmonton are two and three in the Pacific Division. Oh, then there’s that Connor McDavid-Leon Drasaitl duo who can dominate games together and on their own. And don’t forget about that other superstar twosome who have killed the Isles throughout their careers — Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin.

To be honest, a trip of this magnitude might be the best thing for this Isles team. We will come to know who exactly this squad is and if they’re battle-tested. It will also answer the question of whether or not they deserve to be a playoff team.

There’s really nothing more you could ask for if you’re a fan. These are the games you want to watch. Simply put, the Islanders’ season could come down to this trip.

And with that said, it might very well be the defining moment of their season.


The Islanders need to Rally in the Aftermath of the Boychuk Incident

New York Islanders, Johnny Boychuk

In any sport, there are always moments in a long, grueling season where a team is forced to come together.

For the New York Islanders, that moment occurred Tuesday night when, in an embarrassing 6-2 pasting by the Montreal Canadiens, defenseman Johnny Boychuk took a skate to the face from the Habs’ Artturi Lehkonen that left him face down on the ice before he got up and rushed straight to the dressing room.

Somehow there was no bloodshed, but the rest of Boychuk’s teammates were severely shaken by what they just witnessed.

“I think he’ll be OK, but it doesn’t matter, it’s a scary situation,” team captain Anders Lee told the New York Post’s Mollie Walker after Tuesday’s game. “You hate to see that happen. It happens quick, skate to the face. I think that’s where all our minds are right now for sure.”

Boychuk was fortunate enough to have Lehkonen’s skate just miss his eye, instead having it catch his eyelid, which resulted in him receiving 90 — yes NINETY — stitches yesterday.

“It’s a scary moment and obviously he’s a close friend of all of ours,” Josh Bailey said. “You never want to see that happen to anyone. We were all really worried about him. When something like that happens, it’s really tough to keep playing after that. You’re worried about him and we heard some news that it looked like he’d be okay on the bench and then after the game he sent a nice text to all of us. We’re definitely happy to see him doing well.”

The Calgary native also thanked everyone who reached out to him to make sure he was ok after such a scary situation.

Islanders g.m. Lou Lamoriello met with the media yesterday and confirmed that there is no timetable for Boychuk to return. Rookie Noah Dobson will now get his chance to play in Boychuk’s spot — his strong side — as opposed to having to adjust to playing his weak side throughout this season. Lamoriello also said it’s possible that veteran Thomas Hickey, who has battled his way back from injury in Bridgeport, might be an emergency recall. He also doubled-down that he has full confidence in his group despite some of the significant setbacks recently.

“I have total confidence in this group,” Lamoriello told reporters yesterday. “I don’t think we would’ve made any transactions [before the trade deadline] if we didn’t have belief in the group that we have here and giving them some support.”

Beyond being able to replace the 36-year-old Boychuk and his strong presence in the lineup, the Isles need to use his absence as a rallying cry these last 17 games. They’ve already been down other d-man Adam Pelech since the new year and are still without fourth-line center Casey Cizikas for possibly another week or two. The team is hanging on to their wild-card spot by a thread right now, and they’ve been punched in the mouth the last two games being outscored 10-2.

Also, Boychuk now being sidelined as opposed to Pelech, and Cizikas takes on a bit more from a mental perspective for an Islander squad that isn’t ripe with a ton of veteran leaders.

Yes, there’s Lee, who is the captain and Cal Clutterbuck, who just returned, but Boychuk is one of those veterans who has the ear of the locker room and has ever since he arrived on Long Island at the start of the 2014-15 season. His rough-and-tumble style has been the identification of what it’s meant to play Islander hockey. And his ability to just rocket a shot from anywhere beyond the dots is still one of the most underrated aspects of his game. Maybe other than Ryan Pulock do the Isles possess a player who has a weapon in his arsenal that can change a game immediately.

The Islanders are going to need all hands on deck now the rest of the season in the aftermath of the Boychuk incident. Missing the playoffs after a scary situation like this would be another devastating blow to what has been a trying past couple of months for the organization.

That can’t happen. This franchise has persevered through so much over the last year and a half, and now they need to do it again without one of their most important players.

The Islanders need to come together now with Boychuk missing, and it starts tonight in Ottawa. It’s what he would want. And, it will go a long way towards where this team wants to be.

Confidence is Key right now for the New York Islanders

J.G. Pageau, New York Islanders

Everything seems like it’s a struggle right now for the New York Islanders. It’s easy to see why.

The team’s overall confidence, which was showing in droves in the first three months of the season, has gone missing. And last week might have been the lowest point.

The Isles went 0-2-1 in the three games that were on their schedule. They lost a heartbreaker to their bitter rivals — the New York Rangers — in overtime after rallying from a two-goal deficit late in the third period. They followed that defeat up with a 3-2 overtime loss to the defending Cup champion Blues, one where they were two minutes away from stealing two points. Then came Saturday, where they were outplayed and outclassed from the minute the puck was dropped in a 4-0 drubbing by the Boston Bruins.

“We have another gear in us,” forward Derick Brassard told Newsday yesterday. “It’s just, at this time of the year, it’s your will against their will.”

Brassard is right. This current group does have another gear in them. But to get there, they need to start playing with confidence and swagger again.

That means being the aggressor in games right off the bat.

Too many times recently, the Isles have been forced to play on their heels, essentially having to “chase the game” as head coach Barry Trotz would say. They seem to give up the first goal almost every night now too. And to make matters worse, when they have to divert to that style, the more prone they’ve become to making uncharacteristic mistakes while also forcing their goaltenders, Thomas Greiss and Semyon Varlamov, to be under siege.

“We just haven’t been able to find that extra push that can get the momentum or make a difference in the game,” d-man Ryan Pulock told reporters following practice Monday. “That’s the difference right now.”

The physical aspect is another spot where the Isles could find some of that edge were used to seeing them play with.

Even though the New York Islanders are still the second-best in the NHL in hits-per-game as team with 28.0, the team has looked a bit soft since losing two-thirds of their fourth line — Cal Clutterbuck and Casey Cizikas — to freak injuries. Those two guys, along with their running mate, Matt Martin, are extremely vital to the game the Islanders want to play. Clutterbuck is back now which is a positive sign, but Cizikas is still a week or more away from returning. That still opens up a spot for someone, maybe one of the veterans — Leo Komarov, Johnny Boychuk, or even Josh Bailey — to take on that extra responsibility.

The offense finally figuring itself out would also really give this team a big boost.

There’s no need to harp on how brutal the offense has looked in recent weeks, let alone the entire season. There just seems to be a hesitation to just let it fly on the attack, and it’s having an effect on everyone in the lineup. It’s no different for the power play, where the Islanders just can’t seem to get themselves together and be a cohesive two units.

If you want to win in this league, you have to be willing to shoot the puck and make it hard on the opposition however possible. If the New York Islanders started doing that, it would make a world of difference.

There are 18 games left this year for the Islanders, and every one of them is going to be a dogfight. Trotz has said that while his team has gotten punched in the mouth, they can’t just lay down and take it. They need to push back.

How do they do that? By showing confidence.

Getting two straight games against some of the worst teams in the Eastern Conference, the Canadiens and Senators could help with that. But from this point forward, the Islanders need to be a confident bunch if they want to be a threat in the postseason or even a playoff team in general.

New York Islanders’ Top Line Leading the Way of Late

New York Islanders

At this time of the season in the NHL, if you’re in the fight for the postseason, teams look to their top guys to elevate their game. For the New York Islanders, they’ve received that extra boost lately from the trio of Anders Lee, Jordan Eberle, and Mathew Barzal.

In the last five games, that threesome has combined for 22 points. Eberle, in particular,  is red hot. He notched his fifth goal in the previous four games in last night’s overtime loss in St. Louis. Also, in the loss, Barzal notched his third straight multi-assist game while Lee extended his point streak to four games.

“He’s moving his feet,” head coach Barry Trotz told MSG’s Shannon Hogan after the game in regards to Eberle’s recent success. “He’s getting inside the hard areas, playing with a lot more poise and making good decisions. He’s in a groove.”

The Islanders have been waiting for the first line to turn it up another notch for a while.

The struggle to get consistency from all four lines has plagued the Isles all year long. Early on this season, it was the second unit — Anthony Beauviller, Brock Nelson, and Derick Brassard — who were carrying a bulk of the offense. Once those three were disbanded, the entire offense seemed to sputter. Some of that could also be due to injuries, as the team was without Casey Cizikas.

But while all that was going on, Barzal and Lee were dealing with the absence of Eberle.

Eberle had been sidelined with a lower-body injury that cost him ten games. Having that missing piece, Barzal and Lee had difficulty producing.

That’s clearly not the case now.

You can see those three are on their game. Don’t believe me? Watch the goal they created, which led to the Isles’ second goal last night.

It started with Barzal finding a loose puck in the neutral zone off a turnover. Barzal then raced his way into the Blues’ zone and stopped just past the blue line. He then fed a streaking Lee who found an uncovered Eberle. Eberle took the pass and made a nifty move and deposited one past Blues goalie Jordan Binnington.

Forget just rolling right now in terms of points; the first line is generating the most chances of any of the 12 forwards Trotz is deploying out every night.

“We were creating a bit, especially in the first [period] there,” Eberle said after last night’s game. “The biggest thing is when you’re playing well, you want to just continue to do the things that let you play well.”

That line continuing its recent surge could loom large for the Isles as they enter the home stretch. The Metro is so tight right now, and the team’s offense still not at full strength due to Cizikas and Cal Clutterbuck still being out.

So, the more impact the Barzal-Lee-Eberle trio has on a nightly basis, the better the Isles have a shot at winning and the harder they are to defend.

Those three have gotten a good head start by how they’ve performed over the last five games. Now they need to sustain it.


J.G. Pageau Gives Islanders and Their Fans a Glimpse of Future with Memorable Debut

J.G. Pageau, New York Islanders

The New York Islanders didn’t come away with a victory last night. What they did come away with, was a look at what could be on display for the future.

J.G. Pageau, the newest Islander after he was acquired Monday morning from the Ottawa Senators in exchange for three future draft picks and then signed shortly thereafter to a six-year, $30-million contract, starred in one of the most memorable debuts for the team in recent memory.

“He’s as advertised,” head coach Barry Trotz said about Pageau to reporters following the game.

Pageau started the game on the third line with Michael Dal Colle and Josh Bailey, and his presence could immediately be felt. That trio was one of the best all night for the Isles until all hell broke loose.

Late in the second period right after he recorded his first goal — one that helped the Isles finally solve Rangers goalie Alexander Georgiev after they’d been buzzing all night — Pageau sent a pass to Dal Colle who was caught with his head down, thus taking a ferocious hit up high from Rangers d-man Jacob Trouba. Pageau then went right after Trouba, standing up for his teammate. In that one moment, he endeared himself to his teammates and the hearts of the fans who jam-packed Nassau Coliseum.


“He’s standing up for teammates right away,” teammate Brock Nelson said. “He hasn’t been here long, but guys have respected him before, he’s going to fit right in.”

Pageau himself also knew he had to something for his new club.

“I want to prove that I want to be part of the family and be part of that group,” he said about the incident. “You saw Bails dropped his gloves right away too. I think it just shows how guys care for one another here.”

Pageau received a five-minute major, ten-minute misconduct and two-minute instigator penalty for his response to Dal Colle going down. But that didn’t matter. The fans still serenaded him with “Pageau, Pageau, Pageau!” chants ala the “Ole” chants he would receive when he played in Ottawa.

As the Islanders rallied to force overtime without Pageau, Dal Colle and d-man Andy Greene — who went shoulder first into the boards in the first period — Pageau was set to come back out for the extra session. He wouldn’t get his chance as the Rangers’ Mika Zibanejad would win the game on a booming slapper that beat Isles goalie Semyon Varlamov just 28 seconds into overtime.

Even with the stinging defeat, Pageau’s night couldn’t have been a better introduction. He was all over the ice, winning face-offs, engaged in the play and showed his physical nature despite his 5’10 frame.

“He made a great first impression on all of us,” veteran Josh Bailey said. “We already knew what he could bring to the table, but I think our fans for sure got a glimpse of it tonight.”

“Here’s a player, we wanted him, we got him for the next six years. He’s impactful, you see how he changes our team in so many ways. You saw how he stepped up. What a great pickup by Lou (Lamoriello). The picks (we gave up in the trade) are nothing, I can tell you that — a lot of picks never play. You’ve got a solid guy who fits right in the hockey team. You saw the character, how he plays. Glad he’s on our side,“ Trotz added.

Looking beyond last night, no one knows how the next six years will play out for Pageau and the Isles. But on his first night in orange and blue, he showed a glimpse of what he will mean to the organization moving forward.

Lou Lamoriello Takes Big Swing for the New York Islanders at the Trade Deadline

New York Islanders, Lou Lamoriello

Lou Lamoriello believes in his team, and today, he made it clearly known by making the biggest move in his tenure as general manager of the New York Islanders thus far, as well as the Isles’ biggest trade deadline acquisition in nearly 13 years.

This morning, Lamoriello swung a deal for Ottawa’s Jean-Gabriel Pageau for a 2020 conditional first-round pick, 2020 second-round pick, and a 2022 conditional third-round pick. He then signed the 27-year-old to a long-term deal for the next six years at $5 million AAV.

“First of all, we felt that with our lineup, to solidify down the middle we needed a center iceman,” Lamoriello said in a conference call with reporters just after the 3 P.M. deadline had passed. In particular a right shot.”

The addition of Pageau immediately makes an Islander club, who has been struggling to find the right recipe for their third-line center since Valtteri Filppula left in free agency and since Casey Cizikas went down. They’re now deep down the middle for the foreseeable future with he, Mathew Barzal, Brock Nelson and Cizikas.

What the trade also does is add some juice to a forward corps who have been in desperate need of a spark in recent weeks.

“When you’re looking at a center you try to get a complete player who can play in all situations and certainly this young man fit the bill. He has signed an extension and we’re delighted with that, especially with the age he’s at and what we feel he can bring,” Lamoriello added.

Lamoriello wasn’t done there, as it looked like he was also gunning to snag another big-time name, Zach Parise.

Parise and Lamoriello go way back to when Parise was drafted by Lamoriello when he was the general manager in New Jersey. The deal couldn’t come to fruition, and although Lamoriello wouldn’t confirm or deny that there was some smoke to the fire, it once again showed he was taking initiative to keep improving this core group.

I had written on Friday that the pressure was on Lamoriello to do something major, even after he traded for veteran d-man Andy Greene last Sunday. Trading for Pageau was exactly that. It sends a message to the fans, players, and the coach that this is a win-now organization that’s not focusing on the future like years prior.

Making a move like this speaks volumes about Lamoriello and how he’s continuing to keep this franchise moving in the right direction.

He’s tried at the deadline last year and failed. He failed in the offseason with Artemi Panarin. This time around, he didn’t. He connected and it was a home run.

Lamoriello in one instance again changed the narrative that this franchise has a bright future ahead of it. And yes, it might be not be until down the road when we know just how important this day was. But at this moment, Lamoriello got the job done and swung for the fences to do it.


The Pressure is on for Islanders G.M. Lou Lamoriello

New York Islanders, Lou Lamoriello

The New York Islanders season has reached a critical stage, and for general manager Lou Lamoriello, the heat has been turned up to a different level.

With the NHL Trade Deadline just days away, the Isles have lost four straight games following last night’s 3-1 loss in Colorado. They’ve produced only two goals over the previous 240 minutes of play and are now are positioned in the second wild-card spot in the Metropolitan Division.

“Right now we’re going through some adversity, some guys are drying up, we’ve got some people out, and we need some people to step up,” head coach Barry Trotz said after the game. “We can’t look back on this trip, we can’t do anything repair this trip, but we can repair our next game and the following game and focus on what’s ahead of us.”

That frustration being shown by Trotz, the players in the room and the fans, has been mounting for a while. The Islanders’ offense has all but vanished, defensively they’re struggling even with the addition of Andy Greene for Adam Pelech, and the goaltending has been spotty for several weeks now. The playoffs aren’t a guarantee now either as it once was earlier this season when the team manufactured a 17-game point streak.

Those factors combined should provide Lamoriello with enough motivation to make an impact move or two.

Why, you ask?

The East still very much seems open this year, and the Islanders aren’t that far off from being one of those top-echelon teams. They’ve also shown they can play with some of those top teams, having beaten Tampa, Boston, Washington, etc. And getting that extra bit of help could also shorten that gap and give them the boost to make some noise this last quarter of the season.

Plus, a seismic move for the franchise is long, long overdue. No disrespect to Andy Greene, but the Isles haven’t had make-you-jump-out-of-your-seat trade in-season since Thomas Vanek in 2013. You could also throw Ryan Smyth in there, but guess what, that’s already 13 years ago when former g.m. Garth Snow was in his first season calling the shots upstairs. Also, it’s not as if Lamoriello, during his tenure on Long Island, hasn’t shown any unwillingness to add to the organization. He took his swing at Artemi Panarin in the offseason, and he was in on forwards Mark Stone and Matt Duchene at last year’s deadline though before they were dealt elsewhere.

So you see, Lamoriello could very much get something done. And yes, we all know he’s harped on if a deal is struck that acquisition has to be the right fit and bring the right character to the Isles’ room. But, in the position his team is in at this moment, sometimes you have to put those things to the side and just go for it for the sake of keeping your team moving in the right direction.

The stakes are higher more than ever for Lamoriello to make this team better. This is a win-now team despite what some may say. And missing the postseason would be an abject failure on Lou, as well as the entire organization, especially after the Islanders shocked the hockey world with 103-point season and a first-round sweep of the Penguins.

The Islanders will play two more times before Monday’s deadline, starting tonight against Detroit. Whatever happens during that time, it won’t change the fact that the pressure is on Lamoriello to get something done.

He needs too.

The Isles season might be hanging in the balance.


The New York Islanders need Anders Lee To Step Up Now

New York Islanders, Anders Lee

The New York Islanders’ offense as of late has hit a wall. In particular, their captain, Anders Lee, has been one of the biggest culprits.

In the last three games, Lee has recorded a ridiculous 20 shot attempts, and somehow, none of them have been able to find the back of the net. The Isles as a whole only have one goal in their last 180 minutes of play.

“It’s been tough for us lately to find goals,” Lee said after Monday’s loss in Arizona.

“We got that one from [Beauvillier] and couldn’t get the second one. We had chances over and over and we’ve just got to find a way to put it in.”

Lee’s struggles couldn’t have come at a worse time for the Islanders, who are clawing tooth and nail for positioning in the extremely tight Metropolitan Division. Heading into the final matchup of their four-game Western road swing tonight, the Isles find themselves in the final wild-card spot in the Metro.

The team being in that spot only makes it more crucial for Lee to snap out of this funk he’s been in.

Frankly, Lee needs to find that next level and fast. His season has been mired with inconsistent play despite 17 goals and 33 points through 58 games. He’s of the main drivers on offense for head coach Barry Trotz behind Mathew Barzal and Jordan Eberle, as well as the team’s primary goal-scoring threat. Plus g.m. Lou Lamoriello also paid him quite nicely in the offseason — $49 million to be exact — for moments like the one facing the team now.

As a captain, this is the time of year where your leaders are your best players. The Islanders need Anders Lee to be that guy starting now and down the stretch.