DETROIT — Doug Weight has changed a lot and presided over the changing of the Islanders’ fortunes this season. One aspect of the Isles’ underachieving first half hasn’t changed, though, and it definitely has vexed the interim head coach.
The Islanders still are lousy on the road — “brutal” was the word Weight used not long ago, and that was before a 7-1 thrashing by the Maple Leafs a week ago. With the first of nine straight away from Barclays Center coming Tuesday night against the Red Wings, that has to change if the Islanders are to be part of the playoff race in the final month of the season.
“We’ve gotten in a little bit of a rhythm at home lately, so we have to bring that out on the road with us somehow,” said Ryan Strome, who had two goals and an assist in a 6-4 win over the Devils on Sunday that moved the Islanders to 9-0-2 in their last 11 at Barclays.
But away from Brooklyn, things have been ugly. The Isles are 1-4-0 on the road under Weight, and the losses have looked familiar to anyone who watched the team under Jack Capuano.
There was the 5-4 loss to the Red Wings on Feb. 3, a sloppy game decided on a double-deflection goal with 27.5 seconds to go. That was the sixth time this season (fourth on the road) that the Isles gave up a go-ahead goal in the final three minutes of regulation to come away with no points.
The current three-game road losing streak has been something different. The Islanders, who have been in the vast majority of their games this season, fell behind 3-0 in three straight away from home and failed to get up. They were shut out, 3-0, at Ottawa, had that season-worst loss in Toronto and fell to the Devils, 3-2, in Newark on Saturday.
Weight discussed in vague terms some of the changes he’s made and will make to try to shake up the road doldrums. They’ve played 24 road games, the fewest in the league, and are tied with Dallas for the fewest road points at 18.
“The first thing I planned, they won’t let me do it — I was going to have us wear the dark [home] jerseys,” Weight joked Sunday. “Maybe with some [line/defense] combinations, I don’t know yet. I’ve already changed some things as far as the day of the game, when I start talking about the other team, some video. It’ll be deeper than that once the game starts. We’ve got to change things. There’s not a good vibe on the road right now.”
And that is a surprise, even with the struggles earlier this season. The Islanders have a road points percentage over .500 for the previous four seasons, even during the miserable 2013-14 campaign. This is a team with a similar core that has shown an ability to play well on the road, so there is hope.
This road winds through Montreal and Columbus, then back home for 48 hours before six straight against Western Conference opponents: Dallas, Chicago, Calgary, Edmonton, Vancouver and St. Louis.
If the Islanders were entrenched in a playoff spot, nine points in these nine games would suffice. Now, sitting on the outside of the race and with the Panthers, Bruins, Leafs and Lightning on the rise, nothing less than 11 or 12 points will do.
Nine for the Road
The Islanders’ itinerary on their lengthy trip:
March 2: Dallas
March 3: Chicago
March 5: Calgary
March 7: Edmonton
March 9: Vancouver
March 11: St. Louis