The cliché is being snake-bitten, with the origin of that descriptor coming from throwing the unwanted double ones – snake eyes – in the dice game of craps.
And that is the Islanders, who, when they aren’t playing poorly, aren’t playing with any luck.
The Islanders’ season-killing slide reached 0-4-4 with Thursday night’s hard-luck 2-1 shootout loss at Edmonton, leaving just Sunday night’s game at Calgary left to salvage a win on this road trip that has started 0-0-3.
The Islanders were the better team for the first 58 minutes on Thursday night but could manage no more than a 1-0 lead against Oilers goalie Cam Talbot.
Then, the NHL’s fastest player, Connor McDavid, burst down the left wing and took a shot from a sharp angle that first deflected off ex-teammate Brandon Davidson’s stick and went in off goalie Christopher Gibson’s mask at 18:10 of the third period.
McDavid went on to hit the post on a penalty shot in overtime then score the decisive shootout goal, spoiling Gibson’s excellent effort and, understandably, Doug Weight’s mood, based on the coach’s short post-game interview on the Islanders’ broadcast.
Weight, one of the NHL’s fiercest competitors during his playing days, must surely know the truth now, even if he would never acknowledge it publicly until his team officially is eliminated.
But the Islanders wake up on Friday in seventh place in the Metropolitan Division, just two points ahead of the last place Rangers and seven points behind the Blue Jackets for the Eastern Conference’s last wild-card spot.
Plus, the Panthers, who are just two points behind the Blue Jackets, have played three fewer games than the Islanders, who have just 14 remaining.
That means there are 28 possible points the Islanders can still collect.
Last season, the Eastern Conference playoff cutoff was 95 points and the Islanders missed by one.
The Islanders likely would need to earn 25 of a possible 28 points to be in the playoff conversation.
Which is not likely at all.
Three post-game observations
1. Gibson, the 25-year-old Finnish goalie who was selected in the second round by the Kings in 2011 and acquired from the Maple Leafs in the Michael Grabner trade prior to the 2015-16 season, was excellent in his second start for the Islanders this season, both on this road trip.
At this point, there’s no reason not to give Gibson, who has made just six appearances in the NHL, a few starts in a row to see if the organization really has something with him.
At the very least, that means starting against the Flames to end the road trip.
Gibson made 35 saves, including two of his best in the overtime and his only real gaffe came in not being tight enough against the post on McDavid’s third-period goal. Otherwise, Gibson was in good position all game and had no trouble tracking pucks through traffic, even on redirections.
Gibson started the road trip by making 47 saves in a 3-2 overtime loss at Pittsburgh on Saturday.
It’s imperative the Islanders find out whether Gibson can put together a string of these types of performances.
2. You look at the loss and how the season is spiraling out of control, but that aside, there was a lot to like in this game. First, the Islanders’ defensive structure seemed much improved. Yes, McDavid took nine shots, but, for the most part, the Islanders were successful in keeping the chances to the outside and limiting the speedster’s time and space.
Good teams will build offense off defense, and the Islanders were definitely strong in transition, with their defensemen getting up in the attack and creating chances.
As mentioned, though, the main problem was that the Islanders, once they took a 1-0 lead on defenseman Thomas Hickey’s goal at 1:54 of the third period, could not net a second one.
He had four shots in 18:52 and nearly netted the winner.
The storybook ending just wasn’t there for Eberle.
Or the Islanders.