From a losing streak to consecutive wins, the New York Islanders have managed to flip their fortunes with a 2-0 win over New York Rangers.
From a five-game losing streak to back-to-back wins, the New York Islanders have managed to flip their fortunes of late.
After a low-event start to Monday’s action at Madison Square Garden, the Isles and Rangers traded a few scoring chances to no avail until the Islanders fourth line struck twice late in the third period, lifting them to a 2-0 win.
Here are three takeaways from a sleepy but mostly solid Islanders win from Monday night.
1. New York Islanders fourth line made the difference
The New York Islanders fourth line had not had many bright moments to this point in the season. Casey Cizikas, Matt Martin, and Cal Clutterbuck are three forwards among a larger group that had struggled through ten games both in their own zone and in the opposition’s zone.
But, starting last game in Pittsburgh, the Cizikas line seemed to be re-finding their game to some degree. That trend continued on Monday, as fourth-liners Cizikas and Matt Martin each found the back of the net to elevate the Islanders over their cross-town rivals, 2-0.
Cizikas, who was the best member of the trio, finished with the second-highest ixG, both according to Moneypuck and Natural Stat Trick. Meanwhile, Martin’s individual expected goals finished third on the team according to Moneypuck, and eighth on Natural Stat Trick.
As a 5v5 trio, the fourth line was strong in all three zones. They limited the Rangers scoring chances as well as any Islanders 5v5 line, and spent large chunks of their ice time in the offensive zone, cycling, forechecking, and throwing their weight around in the corners.
The veteran trio also generated as many High Danger Chances For as any Islanders forward line, including the line of Anders Lee, Mathew Barzal, and Josh Bailey. With three HDCF in only 6:19 5v5 TOI together, the fourth line was efficient and capitalized on their chances.
Ignoring their (crucial) goals completely, the Islanders fourth line played a huge role in Monday’s win. There were no uncharacteristic coverage lapses from Casey Cizikas in his own zone, the trio played their usual heavy-style game, and they did so to great effect.
That’s not even accounting for the penalty-killing efforts of Cizikas and Clutterbuck, who played over two minutes of very strong PK time each, shutting down the Rangers man advantage.
The fourth line’s effort was an encouraging sign that maybe the veteran bottom-six group still have some tread left on the tires. Previous games had not been as positive from them, but there can be no doubt that they played their best game of the season on Monday, and it will be important to see them build on that going forward.