Isles: Hot and Cold
Team's inconsistent play mind-boggling
By Alan Hahn
April 1, 2002
Adrian Aucoin's injured heel remains a day-to-day situation, as does
the Islanders hopes to finally clinch a playoff berth. Instead of
making life easy for themselves by beating the Washington Capitals on
Saturday - which would have reduced their magic number to three and
virtually locked up a playoff spot - the Islanders put forth a
confusingly timid effort in what resulted in a 4-2 loss.
Tonight the Islanders host the Devils, who won in Toronto Saturday
and moved back into a tie with the Islanders for sixth place in the
Eastern Conference standings. And instead of talking about beating
the Devils and taking a strong hold of the sixth seed, the Islanders
are sounding quite passive still.
"To me, it doesn't really matter where we finish," goalie Chris
Osgood said. "Just make it and get in. Whoever you play against,
The Islanders don't scare many teams on the potential post-season
bracket. In fact, they probably will be the least intimidating of the
eight teams that make it in the East because the Devils and Capitals -
currently the seventh and eighth seeds, respectively - are more
talented teams that underachieved for most of the season. Consider
that the Carolina Hurricanes, who with the Southeast Division title
will take the third seed, are saying they'd much rather face the
Islanders in the first round than the Devils. This with the Islanders
holding a 3-0 lead in the season series.
There's no reason to disagree with the Hurricanes.
"I mean, Carolina is playing really good right now," Osgood
said. "What your record is against a team during the regular season
really has no bearing on what happens in the playoffs. You have back-
to-backs and three-in-fours. It's an even playing field. And we play
better against [higher-seeds] Toronto and Philly. We beat Carolina
three times this year, but we sure didn't play well in those games."
The Islanders had a solid game against the Rangers last Monday, but
have been inconsistent in their past three. Their win in Toronto last
Thursday was tainted with poor play overall that was covered up with
a late comeback. But Saturday's performance was inexcusable and, for
many, confusing. This is because when the Islanders bring it (see
games against Detroit, Philadelphia, Los Angeles, Dallas, Buffalo and
the Rangers), they are a handful.
So where was it Saturday night? Even coach Peter Laviolette was
"You're talking about a team that hasn't been around the playoffs in
a long time," Laviolette said. "You'd think there would be a little
bit more hunger to get there. [Saturday] was a huge, huge game. It
was emphasized beforehand. And to not compete is disappointing."
Laviolette and Osgood seemed the most upset about the missed
opportunity in Washington. Two weeks ago the team had a closed door
meeting about such lackadaisical performances and the need for
accountability. Laviolette was asked what he makes of his enigmatic
"I don't have the answer," he said. "I just don't have it. I mean, it
was emphasized how big this game was in order to secure a playoff
spot, to make sure this team stays behind us and also to move up the
ladder. But it was just talk."
Devils at Islanders
Radio: ESPN (1050)