The Islanders traveled down to hot and sunny Florida last weekend.
Unlike here in New York, the Isles were able to enjoy the nice weather on the road. The team split games against the Florida Panthers and Tampa Bay Lightning.
After a 4-3 shootout win against the Panthers, the Islanders were defeated by the Lightning 5-2, snapping their five-game winning streak.
On Tuesday, Nov. 18, the Isles defeated the Lightning 5-2 in the second game of a home-and-home series.
Josh Bailey has returned to the lineup since being placed on the injured reserve list on Thursday, Oct. 23, after a broken hand. He scored a goal in the road game against the Lightning and was given the opportunity to play winger on the first-line alongside Captain John Tavares and Kyle Okposo.
Brock Nelson has continued to light the lamp as he leads the team in goals with eight.
Speaking of goal scoring, the Isles are among the top five in the league as a team in the goal scoring category with a 3.11 goals per game average. Last season, the Isles finished with a ranking of 17th in the league with 2.63. Now, the Isles are getting scoring from all angles. This is the most depth up and down the lineup they have had in years.
The Isles are finally getting much-needed scoring and contributions from defensemen. This is something the team has lacked in recent years. Both newcomers, Johnny Boychuk and Nick Leddy have performed just as I thought they would. Boychuk has 12 points already. Last season, the defenseman with the most points was Andrew MacDonald, who is now a Philadelphia Flyer. MacDonald tallied 24 points. Boychuk is halfway there not even a quarter of the way through the season. This was a great move by General Manager Garth Snow.
I have enjoyed watching the “kids” line of Anders Lee, Ryan Strome and Nelson evolve. They will continue to progress and improve each game.
I feel that Head Coach Jack Capuano should leave the first and second lines where they are. Chemistry cannot develop if lines are consistently changing. Bailey went from being a second-liner to a first-liner within a span of 24 hours. Whoever is on the wing with Tavares and Okposo needs time to develop chemistry with them. Capuano should just make his permanent selection. Pick someone and stay with them.
Goaltending has still been solid. Jaroslav Halak earned back-to-back shutouts against the Arizona Coyotes and the Colorado Avalanche. Chad Johnson has also continued to perform well. I am not worried, despite Johnson allowing five goals in two out of his last three games started.
As I said last week, the Isles will continue to take on Eastern Conference opponents until Saturday, Dec. 6. This will give them an opportunity to gain some ground and continue to tack on crucial points.
For some reason, the schedule stacks up where the Isles will have several home -and-home series. They will play the Penguins, Capitals and Senators twice which will be an early chance to prove a point to the conference and the league. The pair of matchups against the Penguins will be even more crucial because they are the only team above the Isles in the Metropolitan Division.
Ironically enough, when the Isles made the playoffs during the 2012-13 season, they were eliminated by Pittsburgh in the first round. There is certainly a rivalry there.
Of course, they’re not going to win every game, but the Isles have performed better than I could have ever imagined. They are certainly proving to be a contender as the season moves along.