The New York Islanders, much like everyone expected, are a postseason contender. Lately, they’ve been having issues and need to get better. “Getting better” doesn’t mean the Islanders are a bad team. It’s a term that’s used a lot for both good and bad teams.
The Islanders are 2-2-1 in their last five games heading into an upcoming matchup against the Carolina Hurricanes. Prior to their 4-3 loss to the Washington Capitals on Thursday, Nov. 2, the Islanders had 26 goals over a span of five games, which is what we are looking for in a Cup contender.
Islanders captain John Tavares had nine of those goals, in which he scored two hat tricks in a span of three games.
However, when it comes to scoring, the Islanders have to spread the scoring out more, and not rely on just their captain. There’s plenty of talent across the roster that includes Andrew Ladd, Casey Cizikas, Jason Chimera and Brock Nelson. They are all historically capable of being 20 goal scorers in a third or fourth line slot and it’s not looking like that so far.
Looking at Brock Nelson’s stats just shows his lower level of production. He had 173 shots on net last season and 20 goals. He only has 26 shots through 17 games. With a shot like his, he needs to shoot the puck more. If he can put up at least 40 points on the third line this season, that will be more than enough offense for his line.
There’s a lot that goes into trusting young players to be a key component of a team’s roster. However, the Islanders have a lot of young players, as the average age of players for New York is 27 years old.
Joshua Ho-Sang was recently recalled for a game against the St. Louis Blues on Saturday, Nov. 11. Although he was called up on an emergency basis, he did everything in his power to prove himself as a regular roster player. He scored a goal and just had dynamic play all around against a team that was 13-3-2 going into the night.
Anthony Beauvillier also practiced for the second straight day with no issues and could be back in the lineup against the Carolina Hurricanes.
The league seems to becoming more centered around young, dynamic, fast players like Edmonton Oilers forward Connor McDavid, Toronto Maple Leafs center Auston Matthews and even Arizona Coyotes rookie Clayton Keller. It seems that trusting the youth may be tough, but a little bit of trust can go a long way for the Islanders, who are looking to return to the playoffs after just missing out by one point last season.
There needs to be a balance between Tavares and the other players. Brock Nelson, Andrew Ladd, Casey Cizikas, and Jason Chimera are both examples of talented players scattered across the roster that don’t produce as much as they are capable of.
There’s not a problem with trusting Tavares to put up the most points, but a full team is what wins championships. The Islanders play in probably the toughest division in the NHL.
The Metropolitan division is stacked with teams that can easily make the Stanley Cup Final, including the Stanley Cup champion Pittsburgh Penguins and the Columbus Blue Jackets. The New Jersey Devils are showing signs of significant improvement this year with their young team as well. The Washington Capitals and the rebounding New York Rangers are there as well rising in the rankings.
Although the Islanders have been lighting the lamp, the problem is that they are not stopping the puck as much as they are scoring. The goaltending and defense has been far from consistent.
The goalies can not solely be responsible for a team’s results, as the defense can have its moments where they collapse. The Islanders have great talent in Nick Leddy, Johnny Boychuk, Adam Pelech and Calvin de Haan, but they have not been able to fill the hole that was left after Travis Hamonic was traded to Calgary during the offseason.
Jaroslav Halak, who has a career 2.42 goals-against average (GAA) and .917 save percentage, was stellar at the end of last season. The 32-year-old went 6-1 while allowing 1.59 goals on average per game and saving almost 95 percent of shots faced. However, it’s gone down to 3.05 goals allowed average and saving 89 percent of shots faced.
Greiss has been mediocre as well, marking a 3.28 GAA and .905 save percentage. He appears to be the number one goalie for the team, especially after his solid 35 save performance against the Blues on Saturday. However, the Islanders still have a few things to figure out.
The Isles have lost three times by more than a goal this season and followed each of those games with big victories. Prior to their matchup against the Blues, the Islanders suffered a 5-0 loss to the Dallas Stars and only put 14 shots on net. Despite the fact that the Islanders still have a few things to figure out, the talent they have is enough to produce a top team in the Eastern Conference.
Overall, it seems like the Islanders get the message this year. After a slow start to the season, the Islanders fought a great fight to end their season last year, but had to play stressful hockey. Although a team can play best under high stress situations, it’s more like a contender to stay consistent.
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