Islanders: Three Takeaways from 4-0 Domination over Rangers

NEW YORK, NEW YORK - JANUARY 14: The New York Islanders celebrate a power-play goal by Anders Lee #27 against Igor Shesterkin #31 of the New York Rangers at 14:54 of the second period during the second period at Madison Square Garden on January 14, 2021 in New York City. (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NEW YORK - JANUARY 14: The New York Islanders celebrate a power-play goal by Anders Lee #27 against Igor Shesterkin #31 of the New York Rangers at 14:54 of the second period during the second period at Madison Square Garden on January 14, 2021 in New York City. (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
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Semyon Varlamov #40 of the New York Islanders. (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)
Semyon Varlamov #40 of the New York Islanders. (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images) /

The New York Islanders pretty much dominated their cross-town rival New York Rangers on Thursday night. Winning by a final score of 4-0. Here are three takeaways from the one-sided affair at MSG.

The New York Islanders started the 2020-21 season on the right foot by putting it on the New York Rangers, 4-0 at Madison Square Garden. Here are three takeaways from the most delightful start to the season an Islander fan could’ve asked for.

1. Varly’s Quality Start

Semyon Varlamov’s performance on Thursday was steady and reliable, which is exactly what the Islanders needed from him.

Varlamov became only the second Islanders goalie to record a shutout on opening night. Joining the company of Chico Resch, who did it back in October 1976 at the old Forum in Philadelphia.

Thanks to an Islanders defense that didn’t give away many high-danger scoring chances, Varly made few highlight reel-worthy saves. But, the 32-year-old Russian looked comfortable, confident, and locked in from the first puck drop.

That also isn’t to say he had the easiest night at the office. Varlamov was probably the Islanders’ best player in the early second period when the Rangers came out appearing determined to chip away at the 3-0 deficit that had grown before them.

It was in the opening ten minutes of that second frame in which Varlamov earned his shutout. Turning away a number of opportunities, including a shot in the low slot from Chris Kreider, and the subsequent rebound attempt by dangerous center Mika Zibanejad.

It may sound cliché, unquantifiable, and stupid, but Varlamov just looked confident in this one. He looked like “summer bubble Varly”: the one who belly-flopped into the collective hearts and imaginations of Islanders fans over a six-week period from this August to mid-September.

This may be stating the obvious, but if the Islanders can get consistent goalie play like this from their Russian tandem, then they’re pretty well set-up in net for 2020-21. Especially if Varly and Ilya Sorokin can push each other to contend for the starting job.

New York Islanders defenseman Noah Dobson (8) Mandatory Credit: James Guillory-USA TODAY Sports
New York Islanders defenseman Noah Dobson (8) Mandatory Credit: James Guillory-USA TODAY Sports /

2. The Training Wheels are off for Noah Dobson

Noah Dobson, who celebrated his 21st birthday on January 7, had the kind of performance that makes you feel confident the Islanders have got something in this young man.

Dobson appeared for the Isles sporadically throughout the 2019-20 regular season, often playing sheltered minutes against low-tier opposition. Which is okay. Barry Trotz was easing him into a role, letting him get acclimated to the NHL level.

But, Thursday felt like the ‘taking the training wheels off’ moment for Dobson. Trotz had been praising the young defenseman’s offseason growth all throughout training camp, but the way he deployed the sophomore blueliner added conviction to that praise.

No, Dobson wasn’t the man given the task of shadowing Artemi Panarin or keeping Mika Zibanejad in check. In fact, the three Rangers he shared the ice with the most throughout Thursday’s action were Brett Howden, Jack Johnson, and Ryan Lindgren, according to Natural Stat Trick. Those names, with all due respect, shouldn’t cross your mind when you think of top-notch competition.

But Dobson was also one of four Islanders to crack 20 minutes TOI in all situations on Thursday. He saw a team-high 3:27 TOI on the power play, and it was on the man-advantage that he collected a secondary assist on Anders Lee’s second goal of the night. It was a pretty nice little play too, lots of patience on display from Noah here.

There was also the beautiful side-step of Ryan Strome. Having evaded Strome, Dobson proceeded down the half-wall and displayed excellent vision to nearly hit J.G. Pageau on the tape with a cross-seam pass. Really, really good stuff.

These were the skills so many Islanders fans saw in this kid, it’s the reason so many have been so excited for the day the proverbial training wheels came off. Thursday seemed like that day for Dobson, and with the skillset he’s already shown, there are likely more exciting days to come for him.

Anders Lee #27 of the New York Islanders (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
Anders Lee #27 of the New York Islanders (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images) /

3. Mixed Results on the Power Play

According to Butch Goring on Thursday’s MSG broadcast, “the Islanders worked a lot on their special teams over the short training camp.” That shouldn’t surprise anyone, considering the 2019-20 Islanders special teams ranged from average (the penalty kill) to bad (the power play.)

Thursday was kind of a mixed bag for the power play, despite having scored twice with the man advantage.

The Islanders power plays that were successful were short, and didn’t require the Isles to create many zone entries. On the first man advantage, the Brock Nelson goal, the Islanders didn’t need to re-enter the offensive zone once, and they scored within 45 seconds of being up a man.

On the power play that would lead to Lee’s second goal, the Islanders required one zone entry. Mat Barzal created that entry by passing into the zone for Lee, who sent the puck around the boards for Barzy and Eberle to chase down. This 5v4 also lasted less than 45 seconds, as the Islanders got set up and scored quickly once they’d retrieved the Lee dump-in.

By comparison, the Islanders failed power plays were meandering affairs that saw them struggle to create zone entries, retain possession, or get any action going through the middle of the ice, with lots of very slow and deliberate perimeter play.

Following a too-many-men penalty taken by the Rangers in the first period, the Islanders lost the offensive zone face-off and then spent the next minute and a half trying to create a zone entry. Were it not for Ryan Pulock’s strong positional play, they would’ve likely given up a shorthanded goal around the 16:00 minute mark on this 5v4.

So, obviously, there are some rough edges to smooth out in their game still. The power play wasn’t deadly effective, but 2-for-8 is very respectable, and so long as the team avoids any 0-for-20 streaks like they saw toward the tail end of the last regular season, I’ll think they’ll be okay. The 56-game regular season sprint has begun for the Islanders, let’s hope for more efforts like this one.

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