A week ago, when the Islanders lost back-to-back games in Florida and spoke positively about the way they played, it was easy to be dismissive.
Now? These losses appear to have been building blocks. And if the three games that followed — back-to-back wins over Rangers, Carolina and Colorado — are any indication, the finished product could be quite impressive.
“I think the more you do the little things over and over again, maybe some of the little concepts, they become a little more second nature for sure,” Islanders coach Lane Lambert said after a 5- 4 against the Avalanche on Saturday. night. “That’s the key is to play without speaking, so to speak, or without hesitation.”
Lambert, a first-year head coach, has implemented new concepts since taking over, mostly focused on being more aggressive. Those paid off Saturday, when the Islanders trailed the league’s fastest team, the Avalanche, never looking outmatched even when trailing by three goals.
That’s something that could never have been said about the Islanders last season, when their lack of speed was a death knell. This season, they seem to have found a way to counter it.
“We’ve done a better job of that, no doubt,” Lambert said. “We made some small adjustments and I think that helped our game and helped with the handling speed, so to speak.
“I’m just trying to spread out a bit more,” Scott Mayfield said. “It starts with our forwards trying to put pressure on them. We know they are coming back so they support us. You see the nips here and there that probably shouldn’t have gone away, but it’s a learning curve.
The learning curve was evident during their three-game losing streak that ran from October 20 to last Sunday, and it may be the product of a new coach. It’s obvious from their wins against three of the league’s top teams that the Islanders have taken a big step forward.
“I think we’re gelling a little more,” Mayfield said. “You can see it in the last three games. The [New] The Jersey effort wasn’t there. Then we come to Florida, I think we played a little more together, a little more battle, but we didn’t get the result there, so it’s good to get those three results. That’s what we focused on.
“There was a bit of growing pains, but I think it’s going pretty well.”
The Islanders honored Josh Bailey with a pre-game ceremony marking his 1,000th game, a milestone he achieved Friday in Carolina.
The Avalanche have been without forward Valeri Nichushkin (lower body) for the second straight game.