New York Islanders’ Top Pairing Set for Reunion
Johnny Boychuk will return on Saturday night and a top-pairing reunion could help build on what has been the New York Islanders’ best hockey this season.
Not long ago, it seemed as if the Islanders were teed up for a disappointing stretch of games. They were playing below expectations and it was showing up in their underlying numbers. Then they lost Boychuk and Travis Hamonic for an extended period of time and it would have been very easy to start making excuses.
Instead, they worked like that old saying about a duck on water. They have looked calm on the surface, subbing in youngsters like Scott Mayfield and Adam Pelech and treading water in the standings, but paddling like hell underneath, something that has shown up in their underlying numbers in recent games.
Although it hasn’t shown up in the standings yet, games like yesterday’s against the Washington Capitals are encouraging for a team looking surpass their success from last season.
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Now, at what seems like a perfect time, Boychuk is reportedly ready to return.
It’s easy to say that putting one of a team’s top-two defensemen back into the lineup will help them, but Boychuk’s arrival should help slot the team’s defensemen back into their more suitable roles. One pairing that made the Islanders so successful last season was Boychuk and Nick Leddy, and they may be destined to re-unite tomorrow against the Detroit Red Wings.
The defensive pairings have been somewhat of a blender for the past five weeks, but since Hamonic returned he seems to have meshed well with Calvin De Haan. They have played most of the last four games together while Marek Zidlicky and Thomas Hickey have stuck on the third pairing.
That has left Nick Leddy to swap between Brian Strait and Scott Mayfield as partners for the time being.
It seems unlikely that Strait or Mayfield will remain in the lineup with Boychuk returning, so it makes sense for the Islanders to allow the other two pairings to re-acquaint themselves. The New York Islanders started the season with this same setup, but abandoned it after 15 games.
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If the Islanders are starting to click, it’s very good timing. If the coaching staff chooses to go back to a lineup that worked so well last season, it should do well to keep the momentum moving.