Nine times in 35 games.
That’s 25.7 percent of the Islanders’ season, over a quarter of the time they hit the ice -- that’s how often they have blown a third-period lead.
A remarkable eight of those nine have been on home ice -- like Tuesday night. That’s eight games out of 18 at the Coliseum, almost half of their games so far.
Say what you want about this team -- that they’re not talented enough, that their defense is subpar, that they aren’t good enough to win regularly -- but they were good enough to be ahead deep into nine of these games and ended up winning two of them.
They are 2-2-5 in those games. If they hold four of these leads, then the Islanders are no better and no worse than the bulk of the Metro Division. That’s it -- no goal-mouth scramble Tuesday night in the closing seconds, no brain-cramp in the final minute with a power play against the Caps on Nov. 30, no lazy defensive-zone play against the Sabres back on Oct. 16, no wilting after two strong periods against the Kings and the Islanders aren’t exactly good -- that’s only five extra points -- but they’re not in complete disarray.
And that's where they are right now.
There is still more than half the season remaining and you won’t hear anything but that from inside the room. The Islanders do still have time, but time for what?
Garth Snow has said often he is not firing Jack Capuano. We’ll see what happens with that as the next few games unfold. I’m not exactly sure what a different coach would have done Tuesday night. Capuano had John Tavares, Kyle Okposo and Brock Nelson on in the final seconds, plus Brian Strait and Travis Hamonic, both of whom had been quite good all game.
All five of them pounced on their own net. Four of them ended up leaving their feet. Is that coaching? Does anyone really think Capuano and his assistants tell their players to hit the deck when the clock is winding down?
Evgeni Nabokov said it best: “We don’t know how to win the games right now.”
He’s right, and he didn’t have an answer as to how you remember how to win. I certainly don’t. I bet Capuano doesn’t either, and that’s not an indictment of him -- you’re supposed to know how to win when you get to this level.
Blowing leads is not about systems, or structure, or any of the other things a pro coach is responsible for. It’s about being more determined than the other guy. You’ve seen that happen when the Islanders fall behind. Most of their opponents clamp down and get tougher in their own end.
I’m not saying Capuano won’t be fired, or that he will, or that he deserves it or he doesn’t. Coaches know the deal and when their teams don’t win -- when they don’t win in spectacular fashion, as the Islanders have done -- they get fired. Snow’s support will only last so long if the team continues to do what its done.
Would a change in voice help this team? Honestly, I don’t have an answer. There’s plenty of harsh words behind closed doors from this coaching staff to go with reminders of what to do in the closing minutes of games.
But nine blown leads in 35 games -- with different personnel, different goaltenders, to all manner of opponents -- is simply stunning.
They were good enough to get third-period leads in those games. Heck if I know how you find ways to lose them, time and time again.