Mike Reilly #2 of the New York Islanders battles for...

Mike Reilly #2 of the New York Islanders battles for the puck during the third period against Adam Henrique #14 of the Anaheim Ducks at UBS Arena on Wednesday, Dec. 13, 2023 in Elmont, New York. Credit: Jim McIsaac

So, uh, yeah. Mea culpa.

A month ago, fans were chanting for Islanders president/general manager Lou Lamoriello and coach Lane Lambert to be fired. Lambert, during an 0-4-3 skid, was being asked about his job security and whether he had spoken to his boss about it.

Through it all, Lambert insisted he was seeing good things out of the Islanders despite the lack of results, and Lamoriello backed his coach. The implication was everyone else was overreacting to the normal ups and downs of a long NHL season.

Guess who looks as if they were right?

Right now, that would be  the two guys who showed trust in their players.

“When you look at it, it’s easy to pull the trigger and burn it down when things feel like everything’s collapsing in on you,” right wing Kyle Palmieri told Newsday. “But from the top down, we kind of take that confidence and it gives you the opportunity to wake up and come to the rink and know that — it’s kind of cliché — but things are going to get better. You have another opportunity in front of you and it’s a long season.”

The Islanders were 5-6-3 on Nov. 13 after opening a four-game western swing with a 4-1 loss in Edmonton in Kris Knoblauch’s first game as coach after Jay Woodcroft was fired following a 3-9-1 start.

They sat 14th in the 16-team Eastern Conference, had allowed 44 goals and had scored 33. Since then, the Islanders are 9-1-5 entering Saturday night’s game in Montreal and have outscored their opponents 58-50.

This despite injuries that have wracked their defense corps.

Adam Pelech (upper body) was injured on Nov. 24 and is on long-term injured reserve. Ryan Pulock (injured reserve/lower body) has been out since Dec. 9. Scott Mayfield (upper body) was placed on IR on Friday and missed his third straight game on Saturday. Sebastian Aho returned on Wednesday after an eight-game absence with an upper-body injury.

Lamoriello claimed Mike Reilly off waivers from the Panthers — he had played in only two games for them — on Nov. 25 and sent a seventh-round pick to the Blues on Dec. 8 for Robert Bortuzzo, who had dressed for only four games this season before the trade.

The two veterans have seamlessly integrated into the lineup. Lamoriello deserves the credit for being proactive in replacing the injured defensemen.

“Lou does a really good job of finding quality, character people and bringing them into a group that has a lot of character,” Lambert said. “It’s an easy fit for those guys and an easy fit for our guys to welcome them in.”

Of course, this is now, and the long season  no doubt will twist and turn multiple times.

This mea culpa should stand as a lesson to display more patience when the inevitable rocky patch is hit. The patience Lamoriello and Lambert show the players proves their trust.

“It keeps the guys calm and confident,” left wing Pierre Engvall said. “Our team believes that we’re a good team and I think we can win most of the games.”

Buddying up

Top-liners Mathew Barzal and Bo Horvat clearly have developed the on-ice chemistry the Islanders envisioned when they acquired Horvat from the Canucks on Jan. 30. Horvat had a nine-game point streak entering Saturday, matching a career high,  and Barzal had a five-game point streak.  The two seem to have an unspoken understanding of where each will be on the ice.

But it took longer for the duo to get there after Barzal injured his knee  seven games after Horvat joined the Islanders last winter. He was lost for the rest of the regular season.

That injury halted more than just their chance to develop on-ice chemistry.

“Our friendship off the ice, I was injured a lot of the time he was here at the start last year,” Barzal said. “So I didn’t get to bond with him much. We’ve had lots of time together now. I’ve always said that off-ice connection helps with your on-ice connection. I think feeling close to him off the ice has helped me with him on the ice.”

From the pod

Former Islander Ross Johnston, now with the Ducks, was the guest on Episode 175 of Newsday’s Island Ice podcast. Among the topics he discussed was the drastic difference in travel between the Eastern and Western Conferences.

“It’s a joke,” Johnston said. “It’s a different animal out West. It’s late nights. I’d say the biggest thing is the time-zone jumping. It’s great when you go back, you gain. You get home, let’s say 2 a.m. California time. Let’s say you’re coming from Chicago, it’s 5 a.m. It’s a 4 1/2-hour flight. And that’s an in-conference game.

“One night we went to Vancouver and you’re in the same time zone then. You don’t change back and you’re home at 4 a.m. for a division game. It’s a different animal. The sleep schedule? There’s no such thing in the West.”

‘Shorthanded King’

Simon Holmstrom scored his NHL-leading fourth shorthanded goal of the season in Wednesday’s 4-3 win over the visiting Ducks, with Barzal dubbing him “The Shorthanded King.” He’s halfway to setting the franchise record:

7 — Bob Bourne (1980-81); Frans Nielsen (2010-11)

6 — Lorne Henning (1976-77); Anders Kallur (1980-81); Michael Peca (2001-02); Shawn Bates (2002-03); Michael Grabner (2010-11)

5 — Ralph Stewart (1973-74); Butch Goring (1981-82, 1982-83, 1983-84); Bob Bourne (1983-84); Bryan Trottier (1984-85); Benoit Hogue (1993-94); Marty McInnis (1993-94)

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