Despite the opening of their new arena, this past week has been absolutely terrible for the Islanders. The team has had various health issues, most notably a COVID-19 outbreak.. Adding this to an already brutal four game losing streak has caused the streak to grow to six games leading up to Wednesday. With all of these issues piling up on the Islanders, they seem to be right on the brink of disaster.
The COVID-19 List
Josh Bailey was the first Islander to test positive for COVID-19. He has been quarantined in Florida since the loss to the Panthers. Between then and the start of Saturday’s game, five more players were added onto the COVID protocol list. These players were Anders Lee, Ross Johnston, Adam Pelech, Andy Greene and Anthony Beauvillier (later determined as a false positive). The list has been slowly growing since then, with Kieffer Bellows and Zdeno Chara joining the list.
Since the NHL seemingly has no interest in canceling games despite the growing protocol list, the Islanders are playing games at a huge competitive disadvantage. A large part of the starting lineup is being filled in by young players from Bridgeport. The team held their own against the Calgary Flames in the home opener, even though they lost. But they looked very outmatched in the second game against the Toronto Maple Leafs. This whole COVID situation is going to make it a lot harder for the Islanders to compete for some much needed wins amidst their losing streak.
Ryan Pulock Injury
On top of the COVID-19 issues, the Islanders also suffered two very significant longer term injuries. First off is Ryan Pulock, who will miss four to six weeks with a lower body injury. In a true testament to how bad the Islanders power play is, Pulock was injured blocking a shot while on the power play against the Tampa Bay Lightning. Losing Pulock is a huge blow to a defensive unit that already wasn’t playing too well for the Islanders. Once the rest of the defensive core is off the COVID protocol list, it seems likely that one of Noah Dobson or Scott Mayfield will be filling in for him with Sebastian Aho likely getting a more regular role on the team.
Brock Nelson Injury
The Islanders also lost Brock Nelson for four to six weeks due to a lower body injury. The injury occurred after Nelson took a hit from defenseman Jake Muzzin in the game against the Maple Leafs. This is another critical injury that could not have come at a worse time for the Islanders with the ongoing COVID situation. Even before the lineup was depleted, the Islanders had significant offensive struggles. Losing their leading goal scorer is going to make a bad situation even worse. It’s hard to see how the Islanders will be able to bounce back from this one when Nelson has been one of their most aggressive and successful shooters.
The Road Ahead
The upcoming schedule doesn’t get any easier for the Islanders. They play two out of the next three games against the New York Rangers, who sit third in the Metropolitan division. They also have a game on Friday against the Pittsburgh Penguins, who have re-emerged after a poor start. While it is still young in the season, this culmination of COVID issues and injuries can really bury this team.
The Eastern Conference is very competitive division that has only gotten better this season. The Islanders are already eight points out of playoff contention, and rolling the B squad against two of their toughest division rivals is most likely going to heighten that deficit. Sure the Islanders have time on their side, but the deficit caused by this nightmare stretch could make it extremely difficult for them to come back. Not to mention that even when the COVID situation is over, they’re still without two of their best players. This situation is bleak for the Islanders, and could ruin what once was a promising season for them. Unless the team makes a fast turnaround, the Islanders could be doomed for disappointment this season.
Featured image courtesy of Getty Images
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