Just in case it wasn’t evident enough how crucial the Islanders upcoming road trip was, Monday night was a shinning example of how bad New York will need points over the next nine games.
While the Islanders settled into their hotel rooms in preparation for Tuesday’s game in Detroit, the fight for the final wild card spot took another turn. The Florida Panthers, who started Monday night tied with the Islanders at 64 points, pulled out a last second win over St. Louis to move into third in the Atlantic Division.
The Panthers win pushed the Toronto Maple Leafs, who are one point ahead of the Islanders, out of a playoff spot and the Boston Bruins down into the final wild card spot in the Eastern Conference.
By the end of the night the Islanders remained two points out of a playoff spot, but it highlighted how quickly things can change in just one night in the standings and why the Islanders need to pick up points on the road.
It sounds simple, but with the Islanders ugly track record on the away from home this season it certainly poses a tough challenge. The Islanders are 7-13-4 on the road this season and play an entirely different game than they do when they are at Barclays Center.
That was on display over the weekend when the Islanders played a sloppy game against the New Jersey Devils, which resulted in a loss, on Saturday in Newark. The following night a much sharper looking Islanders team defeated the Devils in Brooklyn.
“I don’t know what it is. We’ve somehow just got comfortable and we’ve gotten in a little rhythm,” Ryan Strome said on Sunday. “We’ve got to try to obviously take that to the road if we want to make the playoffs. We kind of got to keep things simple on the road here. We obviously have a long stretch and the games are going to be tough.
“We’ve got to find the chemistry. Whatever we’re doing at home, try to bring on the road.”
Why exactly the Islanders have played so differently at home and on the road has been hard to pinpoint. The Islanders have played 38 of their 58 games at the Barclays Center and their longest stretch away from Brooklyn was four games, which occurred at the end of December and start of January.
But with a lengthy stretch of games away from their home arena the Islanders will need to figure out how to turn their game on the road around. Islanders head coach Doug Weight indicated changes were coming, though at first joking he had hoped on of the changes would be that the Islanders could wear their black jerseys on the road.
“Maybe with some combinations, I don’t know yet,” Weight said as he transitioned to a more serious tone. “I’ve already done a couple of things. We’re going to change some things as far as our day (of the game). As far as our night before, when I start talking about the other team. Maybe some video stuff.
“It will be deeper than that once the game starts… We’ve got to change things.”