Isles Mailbag: New York Islanders leave Jersey with more issues despite win

NEWARK, NEW JERSEY - MARCH 14: Oliver Wahlstrom #26 and the New York Islanders celebrate his game-winning shoot-out goal against the New Jersey Devils at the Prudential Center on March 14, 2021 in Newark, New Jersey. The Islanders defeated the Devils 3-2 in the shoot-out. (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
NEWARK, NEW JERSEY - MARCH 14: Oliver Wahlstrom #26 and the New York Islanders celebrate his game-winning shoot-out goal against the New Jersey Devils at the Prudential Center on March 14, 2021 in Newark, New Jersey. The Islanders defeated the Devils 3-2 in the shoot-out. (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images) /

It’s Monday so it is time for another New York Islanders Mailbag!

I hope everyone was able to catch their breath after a rather hectic day from Newark, New Jersey. The New York Islanders capped off another great week as they pushed their win streak to nine games and their point streak to 12 games as they defeated the New Jersey Devils 3-2 in the shootout on Sunday.

The Islanders now do not just sit in first place in the Metro Division, but in the entire NHL with 42 points and a pretty damn impressive 19-6-4 record. That being said, let’s see what you threw at me this week.

New York Islanders Mailbag: Isles Leave Newark with More Issues Despite Win

New York Islanders
Referees Kyle Rehman #37 and Kendrick Nicholson #44 go over the rosters prior to the game between the New York Islanders and the New Jersey Devils. (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images) /

What…. just…. happened? @JoshuaGrenning

Are you referring to Jean-Gabriel Pageau not being on the roster yesterday? Or is it about Noah Dobson taking warmups but then leaving the lineup for Sebastian Aho? Going to guess both.

The morning began with the New York Islanders placing Anders Lee on LTIR, which showed the cards that Lee will be out until the Stanley Cup Playoffs ($7.343 million now in cap space). When Pageau did not come out for warmups, all hell broke loose on Islanders Twitter as another injury would be devastating. We finally got our answer that Pageau was placed on the NHL’s COVID List. However, it took another turn when Dobson was replaced with Aho, causing a delay in the game’s start.

The on-ice and off-ice officials worked quickly to figure out what, in fact, was happening.

After a delay of about five minutes, Dobson was clearly not playing, and Aho made his way to the bench. Dobson would find his way on the NHL COVID List as well, assuming for close contact. The question is, why was he allowed to warmup if Pageau wasn’t?

And, lastly, given what happened with the Devils and the Buffalo Sabres earlier in the season, it was pretty concerning that this game was not at least pushed back from a 5:00 PM start time to a 7:00 PM start time to figure things out. But the game was played without hesitation.

Jean-Gabriel Pageau (44)
Jean-Gabriel Pageau #44 of the New York Islanders. (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images) /

They barely scraped out a win with no Pageau, Dobson or Lee. If Dobson and Pageau are out for a few games can they even get a point vs teams like Philly and Washington? @JG12453

I’m a more glass full kind of guy, as I look at this win as a positive. The Islanders won a game after Pageau and Dobson did not play, with Austin Czarnik and Sebastian Aho filling the holes, a defenseman who has not played an NHL game since 2018.

Bellows scored to open the scoring for the Islanders after they went down 1-0 in the first, which was his third goal in one-plus periods after scoring twice in the third period back in the win on Saturday. Aho picked up a point on the Bellows’ goal as he banked it off him and in. Czarnik made some key plays, including a massive block on the penalty kill. The Islanders were also dealing with the aftermath of the Lee injury but overcame that for a second-straight game.

So take the positives.

Now, what does this mean against Washington and Philly? The depth of this Islanders team will indeed be tested. Last time against the Capitals, the Islanders could not muster a point in two games, even with all the stars, including Alex Ovechkin and starting goaltender Ilya Samsonov being on the NHL’s COVID List.

Players will have to step up. Hopefully, Pageau and Dobson are not on the COVID list for long and that this was just a means of precaution. If they are out, I expect Aho to be back in for Dobson, and Czarnik and Komarov will operate the third-line center spot until Pageau is back. The Flyers have been struggling as of late (1-4 over their last 5), so this is the time to face them. The Islanders will need their goaltenders to tighten up, as I think the defense will be tested. This Islander team has been finding a way to win, and I think this team has the depth to survive this week.

More on the Capitals and Flyers below in the next question.

Evgeny Kuznetsov (92)
Evgeny Kuznetsov #92 of the Washington Capitals. (Photo by Drew Hallowell/Getty Images) /

How do they keep this momentum going against teams doing better than our opponents lately? @AbergerBrian

This week the Islanders play the Washington Capitals (17-6-4) on Tuesday, then three straight games against the Philadelphia Flyers (13-9-2) Thursday, Saturday, and Monday.

The Islanders are winless against these two teams (0-2-2) as they were unable to take advantage of COVID-19 rattling the Capitals’ lineup last time these teams faced off for a two-game series at the end of January. They lost their next two games against the Flyers, both in Overtime to end a rough week at the end of January.

However, that was then, and this is now.

The New York Islanders have collected points in 12 straight and are on a nine-game winning streak, but the Capitals are 8-1-1 over their last 10 games and are currently riding a four-game win streak. This game is going to be a tough battle, and I think a playoff-type game for sure. Even though the Islanders swept a Devils’ team that has struggled this season, the confidence is still there. It takes a total effort to beat both the best and worst teams in the NHL.

The Islanders have responded well to adversity, and if they play their game and stick to the system, they will continue to have success. But if they come out slow against a Capitals team and struggle to find their game, it will be a rough one.

As mentioned in the question above, the Flyers have struggled recently. But every team in the East Division is tough to play against, and the Islanders need to focus on themselves. As long as they play their game, they will be fine. The problem comes when the Islanders lose their game.

Sebastian Aho (25)
Sebastian Aho #25 of the New York Islanders. (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images) /

What does the loss of Dobson mean for the Isles’ already brittle defensive unit? @KC1798

In his second year in the NHL, Noah Dobson has evolved exponentially into a reliable defenseman and a player who has the talent to impact the offense. He quarterbacks the Islanders’ top power play and averages 16:58 minutes per game. While I believe he will play tomorrow against the Capitals, the Islanders will throw Aho back in if Dobson is unable to suit up. Last night, Aho picked up an assist in 10:38 TOI and had one lousy turnover, which led to a Devils goal. Despite that one mistake, you did not notice him.

And that is a good thing.

Next. Ways the Capitals can carve out a bigger role for Vrana. dark

Another good thing is that he will play alongside Andy Greene, one of the most reliable defensemen in the entire NHL, even at age 38. As I said above, the Islanders’ netminders will need to stop with the weaker goals that we have seen recently from both Semyon Varlamov and Ilya Sorokin. The competition will rev up this week, and the New York Islanders will need to elevate their game to continue to pick up points.