VANCOUVER — The Islanders took Tuesday off, one of four days per month they are required to have per the terms of the NHL’s collective bargaining agreement.
And where better to do it than Vancouver, a Pacific Northwest city so popular the Islanders are spending no less than four nights here before flying to Edmonton on Wednesday for Thursday’s game there.
Perhaps it is just as well. With the season slipping away, this is as good a time as any for an extended stay far from home, and for some added time to clear everyone’s heads.
The latest setback came against the hapless Canucks at Rogers Arena Monday night, when the Islanders dominated the first period, led 2-0 in the second, tied the game at 3 with 1:04 left in the third, then lost, 4-3, in overtime.
So after Columbus’ victory over Vegas Tuesday night they are six points out of the last Eastern Conference wild-card spot, which is worse than it sounds because other contenders — notably the Panthers — have played fewer games.
The reaction in the locker room and (especially) from coach Doug Weight after a seventh consecutive loss was anger more than frustration. OK, it was both. With choice words mixed in.
“Whether it’s mental or just execution of a few plays, we just have to find a way to do it,” John Tavares said. “No one’s going to feel sorry for us . . . Obviously, this isn’t a whole lot of fun right now.”
Anders Lee seemed to be struggling to express himself plainly without going too far.
“It’s been a frustrating go, and a lot of guys are gripping it tight,” he said. “A lot of guys are obviously frustrated and disappointed with what’s gone on, and that bleeds into your play. They’re going to score a goal or two, but it seems every time a team does that right now against us momentum completely shifts and we get stuck in mud for whatever reason. It’s extremely, extremely frustrating. It doesn’t sit well.”
Weight spoke on Sunday and before Monday’s game about the importance of staying positive, but he found that impossible after the game when he ripped his players for all manner of “bonehead” plays.
There are pros and cons to a trip on which the Islanders play three games on the other side of the continent, each separated by three days.
Before Monday’s loss, Weight said, “It’s not ideal to have three games in nine days on the West Coast, but we get some practice time.”
There are practices scheduled for Wednesday in Edmonton, then Friday and Saturday in Banff, a mountain resort near Calgary that, like Vancouver, is a nice place to visit when you have the extra time. The team will bus to Calgary on Saturday and play there Sunday.
“Traveling is really what kind of wears you down over the course of the season,” Tavares said, “all the miles in the air, late nights getting in at 3, 4 in the morning, the jet lag that you have to overcome. When you get a couple of days between games it gets the guys all together, which is really good, and you get a couple of good practices in, not in and out of a city.”
Tavares, a Canadian, added that it always is a bonus spending extra time in his home nation, especially in places such as here and Banff.
“Yeah, I mean, you can’t complain when you’re playing in the National Hockey League and you get a couple of days in some nice cities,” he said.
All of that was before the loss to the Canucks, though. A day off in Vancouver always is nice. But it always is nicer after a victory.
The Canucks announced rookie wing Brock Boeser will be out four to six weeks after injuring his lower back against the Islanders Monday night.
With 27 seconds left in regulation time, he collided with Cal Clutterbuck and fell back first into an open gate to the Vancouver bench.
The Canucks said Boeser suffered a soft tissue injury and a small non-structural, non-displaced fracture of the transverse process in his lower back.
With Boeser’s season surely over for the non-playoff-bound Canucks, the Islanders’ Mathew Barzal seems more likely than ever to be the team’s first Calder Trophy winner since Bryan Berard in 1997.