Anger emanated from every Islander precinct.Starting with the one tasked with overseeing the deployment of on-ice personnel.
“Some of the young guys were just very disappointing. They have to step their game up,” Jack Capuano said, a few minutes after his Islanders had dropped a soporific 2-1 decision to the Buffalo Sabres Sunday night at Barclays Center. The loss was the third in a row for the Islanders, who play twice this week; Tuesday at home against the New Jersey Devils and Thursday against the Canadiens at Bell Centre.
The game against the Devils will be the second meeting between the two teams in four days. The Islanders lost, 3-2, in a shootout in a Halloween matinee at Prudential Center. Thursday’s game in la belle province will be the first of three games this season between the Islanders and Les Habitants. All three games will be contested this month.
Before those games take place, though, the Islanders have to figure out a way to right their ship. Against the Sabres, Capuano was troubled by a lack of focus from his team.
“Some guys were just too casual,” Capauno said. “Sunday game, casual. And you’re not going to win too many games like that.”
It is an unassailable fact. So, too, is the actuality that the Islanders were unable to sustain time in the offensive zone against a team that entered the game having allowed nine more goals than it had scored. Yes, the Islanders did not have the services of franchise cornerstone John Tavares, who missed his second straight game with flu-like symptoms, but to a man, Capuano’s team was angry about their performance against the Sabres.
Especially since it was the diametric opposite of their effort Saturday in Newark.
“That’s the best overall game we’ve played this year,” Capuano said after the skills competition loss to the Devils. “The way that we should be playing, playing fast.”
So what changed so dramatically in a little more than 30 hours between games?
It could be argued that it starts with not having Tavares in the lineup. The two-time Hart Trophy finalist had 11 points (five goals, six assists) in the first 10 games of the season. Without having his top line center, Capuano was forced to re-imagine the first two lines. Frans Nielsen centered Josh Bailey and Kyle Okposo on the first line, while Steve Bernier was inserted into the lineup and skated on the right side with Nikolay Kulemin and Mikhail Grabovski.
“John’s one of the best players in the world, certainly, so you’re going to miss him. Show me a team that’s [not] going to miss their best player and one of the best in the world, and I’ll say they’re lying. Everyone has to pick up their own socks and have a better effort,” Travis Hamonic said. “You’re not going to replace what Johnny brings every night. Certainly everybody has to up their effort.”