New York Islanders Defense and Goaltending Are The Answer
By Ian Miniero
The New York Islanders 2018-2019 season is a product of strong defense and goaltending. Tied With Washington the New York Islanders are in first in the Metro at 36-19-7 for 79 points.
With the trade deadline past us, it is important to remember why the New York Islanders are doing as well as they are. This season is about defense and goaltending. So far, The Islanders have allowed 144 goals against this season while the league average is at 190. Their goal differential is a plus thirty and when that happens your team usually isn’t half bad.
Just look at other good teams in this league what are the most common contributing factors for winning? Team save percentage which defense plays a huge role in is a top that list. Tampa Bay, .918%. Nashville, .913%. Boston, .918%. Winnipeg, .912%. And the Islanders are first on that list at .925%.
I think the legitimate fear going forward with this season and hopefully into the playoffs is Robin Lehner and Thomas Griess regressing towards the mean in save percentage.
All About Effort
The cliche about defense is foolproof. It’s about effort and detail and wanting to get the better of your opponent’s drive and focus. Luck plays a significant role as well along with size, reach, experience and so on; however, just wanting to play defense is the key.
Barry Trotz expects his defense to adhere to the structure that he has put in place. I think Islanders fans have been happy with the level of commitment to that structure shown by the players this season.
Ryan Pulock has had a standout season for the Islanders. He has seven goals and twenty-three assists for thirty points this year. He averages over twenty minutes a game in ice time used in many situations often playing on the power-play as well. Only twenty-four years of age as well he will get better with a couple of years of experience.
The Remaining Twenty
The final Twenty games left for this season are critical. The Islanders have to keep locked into what they’ve been doing for a majority of this season. I know many fans were upset with the lack of movement by the Islanders at the trade deadline. I think those concerns are valid with how the Islanders offense and power-play have been dry as of late. The addition of a guy like Mark Stone would have been immense. However, that didn’t happen, so you have to make do with what you have.
Not adding a guy like Stone signals to me that Lou and co feel this team is ahead of schedule. I think the plan is still to develop and mold these players not necessarily win a cup this year. The trade deadline implicitly told us that.
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What remains is to hope the defense and goaltending stay performing at the level they have been and hoping the offense starts to pick up considerably. If that starts to falter though and the drop-off will be catastrophic.