You know what sucks? Being an NHL fan in New York right now.
The Islanders and Devils (hey, if the NFL’s Giants and Jets can play in New Jersey and still call New York home, I’m counting the Devils, too) are holding down two of the league’s bottom three spots and have the two worst offenses in the game.
Even after firing coach Scott Gordon halfway through the month, it was so bad on the Isle that November was almost ‘No-vember’ (as in, no wins for the month). Ironically, all it took to put an end to that embarrassing predicament was for the Devils to come to town. In the Islanders’ final game of the month, they bested New Jersey Friday to secure their only win in 11 November contests and end a 14-game losing streak stretching back to Oct. 23.
The woeful state of the Islanders – is anyone really surprised? – aside, what’s happening in New Jersey and Buffalo is not exactly what most had in mind when the season began. Eastern powerhouses? Probably not. But in the bottom half – or the basement – of the conference? No way.
Who would’ve thought the Devils wouldn’t be able to score? Their opposition has tallied first in 13 of 24 New Jersey games and the Devils have only won once when trailing after the first period. Just one Devil has more than four goals – and his name isn’t Zach Parise or Ilya Kovalchuk. The former gets a pass for being hurt, but the ‘$100-Million Handcuff’ has been a complete flop: four goals, 10 points and minus-11 in 23 games, the worst rating among New Jersey forwards. Compounding matters, Jamie Langenbrunner and Martin Brodeur are also injured and Anton Volchenkov missed three weeks.
In Buffalo, injuries to Ryan Miller have had the Sabres’ netminder on the shelf twice already, but he doesn’t score goals. And, outside of Derek Roy and Thomas Vanek, neither do many other Sabres, which is killing their power play. Tyler Myers has had his troubles, too. All of which even had people wondering if Lindy Ruff’s job was in jeopardy. Sacrilege.
Things have been better of late, but Miller will have to regain his health and something close to the form that made him the best goalie in the world last season. If not, the Sabres are toast because there’s a lot of ice to make up in the standings.
That leaves the Rangers as New York’s standard bearer. Gulp.
The Blueshirts are just on the good side of .500, enough to hold down a playoff spot, but not enough to be a sure thing. They look like they’ll battle for one of the final playoff spots in the East all season. Again.
But things could go south at any moment. Marian Gaborik has been hurt and currently has the flu, but still hasn’t potted goals at his usual rate. Meanwhile Ryan Callahan and Brian Boyle have accounted for nearly a quarter of the team’s tallies. Those two have kept the Rangers going offensively, but that’s far from ideal.
Artem Anisimov and Derek Stepan have showed promise in spurts this year, but after them, Marc Staal and a couple of guys in the system, there’s not a lot to get excited about when it comes to the future on Broadway. Unless you like overpaying free agents.
So let’s do the math: perennially mismanaged basement dweller (the Islanders) + drastic underachiever with salary cap problems (the Devils) + the little team that just never quite can (the Sabres) + year-over-year mediocrity with little to look forward to (the Rangers).
What does that equal? A sucky time to be an NHL fan in New York.
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