Jack Capuano does not deal in slumps, slides or setbacks, so don't go there with the Islanders coach. A four-game losing streak and precipitous drop in the standings apparently has not rattled him.
Capuano issued an impromptu state of the Islanders address after Wednesday's practice. The basic message: Capuano's got the situation under control.
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"Everybody looks at the result, that's what you guys do, I don't blame you," he said. "But for coaches we look at the process, too. We understand the game a lot better than some people think . . . we do our postgame analysis, we look at everything we do systematically. We have to find a way to generate a little bit more but overall we haven't played a bad game.
"We've got to stay the course, we've got to have a singular focus and do what we need to do and that was the message to our guys here today to make sure that we understand what our habits are and what our focus is. You can't beat them down because they've had some good chances. It's going to change, it's gonna come in bunches.''
The Islanders have scored a total of four goals in the four losses. "They're frustrated, there's no question," Capuano said. "They want to win games. First of all, we've got a good hockey team. We've got a very skilled group, we've got a talented group. We've got to find a way. Certain guys need to elevate their game. We've got to play as a unit of 24 on the ice; we just can't have any passengers. They get it. We've got to be a little bit better in certain areas. Again, all you can do is just stay on them. We're not going to change a lot of things that we do."
Just over a week ago the Islanders, with a victory, could have taken a five-point lead over the Rangers for first place in the Metro Division. Now they are just two points ahead of the Penguins for second place. "We want to finish with the highest seed that we possibly can," John Tavares said. "Obviously with the way the standings are going I think you just try to control what you can control. Teams go through [slumps] every year. We've got to find a way to get a little grittier and find a way to earn it."
Anders Lee added, "We're not happy obviously with what's going on. We're looking to change it every day. We're facing adversity right now but we have the guys in the locker room that can overcome that and can overcome some tough times. We're not getting the results we want right now, so it's back to the drawing board, back to reassessing ourselves. We know who we are, what got us here in the first place.
"We worked really hard to get where we are. With what's happened the last week-and-a- half or so for us to still be in this position we're still OK, but at the same time we have to play a little bit desperate hockey and back to playing the way we were earlier in the year. There are no doubts in anyone's minds."