Five Burning Questions : New York Islanders

By Andy Graziano
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John E. Sokolowski-USA TODAY Sports

5. Can the defense develop the chemistry necessary for an entire 82 game season to play responsibly enough in their own zone and place top half in defensive statistics?

The Islanders first 33 games on defense were nothing to write home about. A staggering 106 goals against in their first 31 games  (3.42 GAA) of 2013 left the team floundering and not even dreaming of a spot in the league’s post-season tournament.

Once the unit gelled however and started clearing the zone more effectively as well as blocking shots like nobody’s business, things turned around dramatically.

A 17 game stretch of allowing only 33 goals (1.94 GAA) was truly a remarkable turnaround and one that has to be continued for the team to be as successful as everyone else knows they can be.

One of the main factors of that resurgence was the continued maturation of Travis Hamonic and the outstanding shot blocking prowess of Andrew MacDonald. Combined with Thomas Hickey and Brian Strait proving that they belong in the lineup almost every night and Lubomir Visnovsky showing everyone what we waited so patiently for, this unit will have to almost play above their head to compete in a tightly contested division filled with dangerous snipers like Rick Nash, Claude Giroux and of course, Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin, among many others. Can Matt Donovan fit in and maintain the chemistry that they seemed to find in last year’s outstanding stretch run? Islander fans better hope so.

What the fans do know is that a team goals against of 3.42 is not going to make any playoff possibility a reality this season.