If there is one thing that the New York Islanders have struggled with for years, it has been their ability to score. This season, however, thanks to a dynamic new forward core, the Islanders are scoring goals at an impressive rate.
Sure, the power-play may be struggling. And yeah, Ryan Pulock may not be playing regularly. But look at the bright side guys: the New York Islanders are currently sitting in a Playoff spot and have better records than Metropolitan Division powerhouses Pittsburgh, Washington, and New York.
The main reason for the Islanders success has been their ability to score goals, many of which have come from the forwards. With John Tavares leading the charge, the Islanders have been outscoring teams at an impressive rate, which has led to wins. Here are the forwards who have impressed me:
The New York Islanders captain is a man on a mission right now. With eight goals in his last four games, Tavares has skyrocketed to second in the NHL in goals and fourth in assists. He has truly been elite and is proving to the league that he is a generational player.
Not only has he been leading the Islanders offensively, he has been a vital piece to the penalty kill. Ever since Frans Nielsen left the Isles, they have had a void on the PK, and Tavares has stepped up big for Doug Weight.
Tavares is also partially responsible for the emergence of Anders Lee, who has been one of the NHL’s best scorers since he joined Tavares’ top line. (We will not include him in this article just because he is already so good that his play has not impressed as much as some of these other players.)
If there has one thing Tavares has taught us this season, he is perhaps as important to his team as any other player in the NHL. If he continues to play like this, the playoffs will not be out of the realm of possibility.
Josh Bailey is currently right behind John Tavares on the Islanders points leaderboard, and it is an amazing sight to see. Bailey broke out last season, and many thought that he would have a huge drop-off. But that drop has not happened, and he is growing into a silky-smooth dangler on an Islanders team that could use one.
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Playing with various different linemates, he has been one of the most stable forwards for the Islanders this season. It looks like our debate from earlier this season has finally been settled: Josh Bailey is, in fact, good at hockey, and if you think otherwise, you are not watching the same games that I am.
Andrew Ladd may finally be living up to his monstrous contract, as he has notched three goals and three assists (which is almost half of his assist total from last season) in only 12 games. Sure, it may not be terrific, but he is on pace for a very solid 20 goal-20 assist season that Islanders fans should be happy with considering how dreadful he was last year.
Ladd is playing strong defensively, killing penalties on a successful penalty kill, and growing into a top-six forward that he never was last year. It is nice to see him finally fitting in with this team, and providing stability to a forward core that really needs it.
If Ladd keeps up his early season success, he will be one of the pleasant surprises for the Islanders this year.
It is no surprise to see Casey Cizikas breaking out this season. Injuries derailed his season last year, but now that he is healthy is developing offensively while continuing to provide elite defensive play.
His play is energizing to the team, and he is always willing to sacrifice the body, whether he has a stick and a glove or not, and he never gives up on a play.
This video and comment from Rob summarizes Cizikas’ effect on a hockey team, and it has been truly beautiful to watch this man giving it his all every night.
Last But Not Least, Brock Nelson
Brock Nelson seems to always start out hot and die out as the season concludes, but this go-around, he looks different. Doug Weight’s new system has rejuvenated Nelson’s play, and he looks more energetic and is becoming more than just a sniper.
He has been on the wing and has played center, and he has been strong in both roles. His eight points in 12 games puts him on pace for 62 points this season, and call me crazy, but it is possible he gets close to this number. He has been that good.
The Islanders are finally fun to watch again, and much of this is because they can finally score goals. It has come from more than just from Tavares: depth forwards have been contributing, catapulting the Islanders to the top of the Metropolitan Division standings.
If things can continue, this year may not go so bad. The season may have gotten off to a rough start, but things are getting better. And that is thanks to the forwards. Let’s hope they can keep it up.