Calm down. It's all going to be OK.
After all, it's about the journey, not the destination . . . that is, until the destination is the Stanley Cup Final. Then it's definitely about the destination.
That was coach Jack Capuano's message before the Islanders took the ice against the defending Stanley Cup champion Kings last night. And although the frustration finally came through after a 3-2 loss to the Kings, the focus remains on playing healthy, playing right, and, Kyle Okposo added, maintaining home-ice advantage for the playoffs.
"For me, it's a good thing, honestly," Capuano said before the game of the recent scoring drought. "As long as we do the right things, guys are going to have success. This is also good learning for some of the guys who haven't been there before, who haven't experienced the run that we made to get in and play Pittsburgh and how tight it's going to be. This is how the game is going to be played."
Capuano likely wouldn't have been so calm if he didn't think the Isles were figuring out a few kinks in the recent stretch. They've been beset by injuries, he noted, and he's keen on giving younger players a chance to prove their playoff worth in the next few weeks. Because they can't trot out their best lineup, "we have to concentrate on our structure and our habits," he said.
Everything now is a test, a stretch that literally had the Islanders stretching their abilities and methods against playoff-caliber competition.
Everything now is a test -- a stretch that literally has the Islanders stretching their abilities and methods against playoff-caliber competition. Entering Thursday night, the Isles were only two points ahead of the third-place Penguins, who had a game in hand.
Okposo, as cool as a brisk March day, said not to worry. "It's a process," he said.
"We're OK," he said. "I'm not too concerned about scoring goals. We have some pretty explosive offensive players in this room and we've shown it all season by scoring goals, and if we went the whole season and didn't have a little bit of a lull, then you're probably going to hit it in the playoffs. We're just going to work through it and make sure we're playing the right way to get out of it."
This season has had a completely different feel from 2013, when the Isles had to claw their way to playoff contention, he said. They're reacting accordingly.
"We put a lot of points away early in the season, and not that we're going to get complacent or comfortable, but we want to make sure that we're playing our best going into the postseason," he said, adding that they have to make sure they're "playing the right way."
Lubomir Visnovsky took part in the optional morning skate after a maintenance day Wednesday, but Capuano said they don't want to rush him and that the Islanders plan to give him a day or two before letting him see game action . . . Mikhail Grabovski (concussion) will be evaluated early next week.