New York Islanders' recent play going a long way toward saving coach Jack Capuano's job

ByJoe McDonald ESPN logo
Thursday, December 1, 2016

What do you need to know about last night's big stories? Joe McDonald gives us his take on the biggest and best. This is where we say, "Morning, Joe."

Capuano's reprieve: After the Florida Panthers fired coach Gerard Gallant on Sunday, attention turned to New York Islanders bench boss Jack Capuano to see if he was next. New ownership is serious about having a winning product, so with the team struggling early and at the bottom of the standings, changes would make sense. So I like the way the Islanders have responded the last two games, beating the Calgary Flames2-1 in overtime and then following it up with a dramatic 5-3 win over the reigning Stanley Cup champion Pittsburgh Penguins on Wednesday. Against the Penguins, the Islanders played their best hockey of the season for the first two periods and gained a 3-0 lead. Pittsburgh soon erased the deficit, but the Islanders' Anders Lee scored with 26 seconds remaining in regulation for the win. That was a character win, another example of the Islanders' resiliency this week. It hasn't helped that the Islanders let three key players -- Matt Martin, Kyle Okposo and Frans Nielsen -- walk during the offseason, but if they can play like they did in the last two games, Capuano deserves a stay of execution.

Backup steals the job: Calgary Flames goalie Chad Johnson has carved out a solid career as backup, a role he has played his entire NHL career. Now in his first season with the Flames, the 30-year-old has proved crucial once again. He made 39 saves and earned his third shutout in the last eight games to help Calgary to a 3-0 win over the Toronto Maple Leafs on Wednesday. Johnson is the type of goalie who rises to the occasion. You might wonder, if he's so important to a team's success, why has he been on four different teams the last four seasons? Simple: Organizations don't want to pay a lot for a so-called backup, and Johnson earns himself a raise every season (he's making $1.7 million this season). He was 17-4-3 for the Boston Bruins in 2013-14, then 8-8-1 for the Islanders in 2014-15 and 22-16-4 for the Buffalo Sabres last season. He's 8-4-1 with the Flames while the struggling Brian Elliottgets his game in order.Johnson has earned more playing time.

Sharks will be tamed: The San Jose Sharks have become a perennial regular-season winner and last spring reached the Stanley Cup finals, where they lost to the Penguins in six games. That loss has motivated the Sharks: After 24 games, they are atop the Pacific Division with a 14-9-1 record for 29 points. The Sharks are playing their best hockey of the season, posting their fifth win in the last six games with a 4-1 victory over the Los Angeles Kings on Wednesday. Sharks forward Logan Couture had two goals and one assist for his first multigoal and three-point performance of the season. He's been solid in his last six games, scoring five goals and adding two assists. But even if the team's success continues, I'm still not convinced the Sharks can win a Cup. Sure, the roster is loaded with incredible talent. It has the goaltender in Martin Jones, a top two-way defender in Brent Burns and plenty of talent up front to win, but not having a killer instinct will continue to be the team's downfall on the road to win the Cup.

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