You gotta love NHL Rivalry Night, kicked off by an epic Islanders-Senators battle that folks will be talking about for years. The narrative was either a battle of Zdeno Chara's former lovers or a wrestling match over ping pong balls.
The Islanders won, which means they lost in the scheme of ping pong balls I just alluded to. They are facing a real dilemma with the draft pick that they owe to the Sabres but to me there's no question that they should keep their pick this summer and send their 2015 pick. They cannot concede next season.
With a solid off-season, particularly if they can upgrade in goal this team can contend. They have two of the league's best young stars in John Tavares and Kyle Okposo signed to a couple of the best contracts in the league. They need to take advantage of these years. Planning against losing next season doesn't help them. Planning towards winning does.
They've got a ton of other young talent that has been on display these past few weeks Ryan Strome, for instance, notched two assists last night and has five points in the last five games. He could be a nice injury fill in for those of you in one-year leagues. Strome actually has 12 points in his last 16 games as well.
Josh Bailey is never going to be a star but when given minutes he can produce like he is right now. He has scored six points in the last five games and 12 in last 16.
Anders Lee is another one. He has slowed down but I'm a big fan of his in-your-face game. It feels like a long shot but if he could grab that top line spot with Tavares and Okposo next season he could make noise.
I like Brock Nelson as well. He's in a similar vein as Lee but a more responsible two-way guy. I prefer Lee's upside though.
They need some help on defense though. Calvin de Haan is intriguing but I'm not convinced he's going to be the offensive guy that he was projected to be when he was drafted. I mean, the Islanders still aren't skating him on the top power play unit despite having literally nothing to lose at this point.
They are running Matt Donovan in that spot instead. He notched an assist last night but frankly Donovan doesn't do it for me. Add a couple of veterans on the blue line and a legit starter and I become a fan.
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The Senators loss isn't quite the nail in the coffin but they've essentially been done for a while now. Just waiting for that formality.
Jason Spezza missed last night's contest. Supposedly he was ready to go but was held out all the same.
I wonder if the Sens decide to sit Spezza frequently the rest of the way as part of some subtle tanking. I mean, they could say they just don't want to bother risking an injury with nothing to play for and it also gives them a chance to see some of their youngsters in action but we know that throwing in the towel is at least part of the motivation.