There is a school of thought in the National Hockey League that you can tell by Thanksgiving how a team is going to finish the season, that the haves and have-nots have identified themselves by the time leftovers become sandwiches. The Islanders can only hope that is not so.
They must hope that they are not finished or that their season is on its way to becoming hash. For now, they are just thankful that Friday is finished. Their losing streak reached five games as they were soundly beaten, 5-0, by the Red Wings before a big and eager holiday weekend crowd at Nassau Coliseum. And "soundly" is the right word because the sounds in the building were telling.
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"Booooo" was the prevailing word at the end of each period, and after each time the Red Wings added to the margin. Before forwards Darren Helm and Daniel Alfredsson each left the ice celebrating two goals and goalie Jimmy Howard skated off with congratulations for a 29-save shutout, some fans were chanting, "Fire Cappy!"
Coach Jack Capuano bore the brunt of frustration from 14,826.
"Listen, I'm 47 years old. I've been in this business a long time: Players win 'em, coaches lose 'em," he said. As for the chants, he added, "I'm not going to respond to that. What am I going to do? At the end of the day, we're working hard as a staff to prepare our team to win a hockey game."
For their part, in a somber locker room, the players took the blame -- for this game and for being in last place.
"We're an easy team to play against right now," John Tavares said. "We had breakdowns, especially in our own end. We're having a tough time coming out of our own end. We're just not moving our feet and engaging. That's physically -- on the forecheck, winning battles on the walls in our own end, making plays in the neutral zone. We can't give them time and space like we did tonight."
The Islanders actually came out with some jump, controlling big chunks of the first period. But Helm finished a fast, fluid play set up by a neat drop pass from veteran star Alfredsson, beating Kevin Poulin with a backhander at 7:09.
During the second period, "Let's Go Islanders" chants rang as the crowd tried to exhort a team down only 1-0. But Helm won a race to a loose puck and scored shorthanded at 16:49 of the second.
The third period was all Detroit's, with two goals by Alfredsson and one by Gustav Nyquist.
"It just seems to be what's happening a lot lately. When we let in one, we let in two, we let in three and it's an uphill battle from there," Matt Martin said. "We've been down this road before, it's like quicksand. Things aren't going right, it gets harder and harder to win. We've got to find a way to dig out of it."
At some point, fans might direct their catcalls to management, possibly arguing that general manager Garth Snow did little this offseason to build on a good showing in a playoff loss. On the day after Thanksgiving, though, it all fell on Capuano.
All he could do was look toward the next game, tonight against the Capitals. "Players play the game, but I understand, as coaches you're responsible," he said. "You've got to have belief in the players you coach, and I think our coaching staff does."