*The New York Islanders were eliminated from the Stanley Cup Playoffs, but here at the NY Sports Hub, we are turning back the clock to provide a recap of each month of the 2014-15 Islanders season.
2015 began much in the same way the previous three months had gone for the New York Islanders: with a win. New York’s 2-1 victory over the Calgary Flames gave them a a 26-11-1 record on January 2nd, good for the second best record in the Eastern Conference, trailing only the Pittsburgh Penguins. The New York Rangers and Washington Capitals were 8 and 9 points behind the Islanders respectively, although as fans of both teams were quick to point out, they had a few games in hand over their division opponent.
But heading into January, those concerns were not weighing heavily on the mind of Islanders fans. Especially come month’s end, when the Islanders took the two games against the Rangers, while also adding wins over other division opponents in Columbus, Pittsburgh, and Philadelphia. The 7-4 performance against the Flyers was the perfect way for New York to head into the All Star Break, a mere point behind the Tampa Bay Lightning.
Mathematically speaking, a playoff spot was practically an inevitability for New York, barring some sort of epic collapse. But before considering what the rest of the season would hold, it was on to Columbus for the festivities.
Honestly, the last time a New York Islander made news during the League’s star studded weekend, Rick DiPietro was in the process of injuring himself during the skills competition. 2015 would see some slightly different results, as all the New York participants acquitted themselves admirably during the various events; in particular John Tavares tying an All Star Game record with 4 goals.
Jaroslav Halak was not initially selected to be a member of either side’s roster, but with various injuries and fatigue concerns felling the other net minders, Halak was awarded the honor of participating.
Unfortunately for the Islanders, January did feature a season altering event that would have a drastic impact on their push for the playoffs; the injury suffered by Kyle Okposo. The Islanders forward was in the midst of his best season, on pace for career highs in multiple categories, and was lighting up the scoreboard in January.
The highpoint for Okposo’s strong play came during a mid-January contest against the Penguins, where Okposo went on to score 4 goals in a comeback victory for the Islanders.
But post-All Star Break, Okposo was nowhere to be see on the Islanders roster, and after brief period in which information regarding his absence was scarce, news trickled out that Okposo had suffered a detached retina. The immediate reaction amongst Islanders fans, and as it turns out the Islanders themselves, was “what does this mean exactly?”
The injury, as it turned out, had the potential to end Okposo’s career, not to mention impact his day to day life. Thankfully for both Okposo and the Islanders, the procedures were a success, and Okposo was cleared.
The absence of Okposo was not felt immediately: but would build as the season played on. The lack of a threat alongside John Tavares would drastically alter the approach Jack Capuano would take with his line management, and truth to be told the Islanders never did find a permanent answer to that question.
By the time Okposo made his return to the ice in March against the Rangers, he was playing with a very different team than the one had left. But, for the Islanders looking ahead at the end of January, that future was definitely not expected.