After starting the season 4-0-0, the New York Islanders have struggled to keep the momentum going; they’ve lost 4 out of 6 since the hot start and kicked off their tough 5-game road trip by getting buried by the Avalanche 5-0 on Thursday. However, it hasn’t been all bad – except last night, that was all bad – as the Islanders have still shown many promising signs, even in losing fashion, that the rest of the league (and maybe some of our fans after reading Isles Twitter last night) need to take note of . In the spirit of Halloween, I present the 5 reasons the rest of the league should be scared of the New York Islanders.
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I know fans have been ready to give up all hope due to the recent play of Jaroslav Halak and Chad Johnson, but we need to take a step back and look at the big picture. Both of these goalies are proven in the league and sometimes coming to a new system can be difficult. Historically speaking, October has been the worst month during both of their careers with Halak posting a career .901 save percentage/2.63 goals against average and Chad Johnson with a .870 save percentage/3.19 goals against average, the worst of any month for either goalie. Both guys have played much better in November throughout their careers (.925/1.97 for Johnson, .914/2.24 for Halak) and the more they get used to playing behind these defensemen, the better off the Isles will be.
Most, if not all, of the reason the Islanders have been in the position to win games is because of the offensive onslaught. Through 10 games, the Isles have had 34 goals (4th in the NHL) scored by 15 different players – a distribution only matched by Tampa Bay, the league’s leading scoring team. When you have 10 forwards who can score, plus Ryan Strome who has no goals but 7 assists, you can get away with mixing up lines and not having to rely on John Tavares and Kyle Okposo like years passed. Throw in guys like Johnny Boychuk and Lubomir Visnovsky, who are both offensive weapons on the blue line, and there are just so many options opposing defenses need to account for.
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- Islanders Ilya Sorokin becoming number one goalie
- Islanders Zach Parise Was Quiet in Return to Minnesota
3) Getting Healthy
Obviously no team is going to make it through a full season unscathed and the Islanders are no different. The team has already been hit by the injury bug, sidelining three key players in Michael Grabner, Travis Hamonic and Josh Bailey. Now while these injuries may not be as severe as some other teams, the return of fresh legs will surely help the slumping Isles. While the scoring has been there even without Grabner, the additions of Bailey and Hamonic will be the most helpful as the team has been suffering defensively and will strengthen the lineup by likely replacing Casey Cizikas and Brian Strait, respectively. Cizikas just hasn’t produced and we get a safer puck handler in Bailey and saying Strait has looked outmatched on the ice would be an understatement. Both players should return at some point during the road trip while Grabner is a few weeks down the road but they will all be welcomed with open arms.
The New York Islanders are the league’s 10th youngest team with an average age just shy of 27 but it’s the production of these youngsters that should scare the rest of the league. There are 13 regulars in the lineup who are under 27 themselves and through 10 games, those 13 are responsible for 59 points. Everyone is aware of guys like Okposo (age 26, 11 points) and Tavares (age 24, 12 points) but when you have 23-year olds like Nick Leddy scoring 3 goals (5 points) and Brock Nelson with 6 goals (12 points) and a 21-year old in Ryan Strome who already has 7 assists, it gives a fans to be excited for the future. Throw in guys like Anders Lee, Griffin Reinhart and Calvin de Haan who have yet to reach regular playing time and fans have a reason to be excited. With every game these guys play together, the chemistry and confidence grows and the Isles become a better team.
The headline may be a bit misleading as I do not in any way think the coaching has been good thus far, which is why I say this is the scariest thing about the New York Islanders. It seems like Jack Capuano‘s coaching philosophy and the Islanders’ roster just don’t go hand in hand but if he – or perhaps someone else – can revamp the system, this team could be competing for a spot in the Stanley Cup Finals. For the most part, the Isles have been winning in spite of Capuano who is one of the more stubborn coaches I can remember; he sticks to his guns, no matter how many blanks they fire. One example of this is the use of the 4th line after opposing goals because he thinks they will swing the energy back in the Islanders’ favor but this often results in the other team sustaining pressure and scoring again. He never makes the right goalie changes as there have been several times he’s waited to pull goalies until it’s obviously too late. He will not make any changes no matter how many times a defensive pair gets caught making a bad play, a forward line has no chemistry or another line just has trouble scoring. I’d like to see Capuano give these forward lines a chance:
Grabovski – Tavares – Okposo
Strome – Nelson – Kulemin
Lee – Nielsen – Bailey
Martin – Conacher – Clutterbuck
I really think this set up would facilitate even more scoring by putting guys in the best position to score and even adding a slight offensive threat to the 4th line. If the front office, Capuano and all the players can get on the same page, I truly believe this team is ready to make a run. Just in time for our move to Gotham, it’s time for the rest of the league to take note of a scary, young team in the East.
Isles play their next game on Saturday in San Jose, Happy Halloween everyone!