Again. Play the same way they did against the Boston Bruins and the New York Islanders could easily find success as they faced the Buffalo Sabres for the first time on the season.
With all due respect to the Sabres, they aren’t the Bruins. The black and gold had a single regulation loss as they traveled to Long Island on Saturday while the Sabres are 4-4-2 and have sat on the sidelines for the past two weeks. There’s a gulf of class between the two teams.
Still, the Islanders were going to face a WELL rested team and a team motivated – and frankly pretty pissed – that they had to sit out two weeks (not to mention being exposed to the virus).
Depth scoring is key for the New York Islanders
If there’s one thing that plagued the Islanders in 2019-20 it was the lack of depth scoring. The group of Isles forwards outside of the top six accounted for 25% of the team’s goals last season.
That changed with the acquisition of Jean-Gabriel Pageau at the trade deadline. In the bubble, Pageau was third in goal-scoring during the playoffs with eight. Only Nelson and Beauvillier had more (nine each).
Coming into this one, Pageau already had three in his last two games and would add a fourth with this great shot off the rush.
The Islanders depth is clearly the key to their success (as it is for most successful teams). The forwards outside the top six account for 31% of the Isles goals through the first 14 games of the season. On their seven-game point streak, the bottom-six has accounted for eight of the team’s 21 goals (38%).
Power Play Goals Galore
In the first two years since Barry Trotz took over behind the Islanders bench his team has held a 15.7% efficiency on the PP, ranking the Isles 29th in the NHL. Something needed to change.
Barry Trotz and his staff took the opportunity of an unscheduled break to do so. And it’s working. Brock Nelson would score his first goal since January 21 by deflecting a pin-point pass by Josh Bailey.
With the goal, the Islanders now have five PPG on their last eleven opportunities. That’s a wild 45.5% efficiency. On the season, the Isles have ten power-play goals on 44 opportunities for a 22.7% efficiency.
The Buffalo Sabres didn’t register a shot on goal over the final 23 minutes of the game. Yes, the Sabres haven’t played a game over the last 15 days. That certainly didn’t help them. But the Islanders were incredible defensively.
They shut down the neutral zone, clogged up the slot, and broke up every pass with active sticks. Every championship team strives for this type of puck management. Barry MUST be happy.
With the win, the Islanders now hold a seven-game point streak and are creating distance from the non-playoff group with 17 points in 14 games. Another game tomorrow!
Semyon Varlamov (1GA, 0.952SV%): He didn’t face a shot in the third, but he only allowed one on the PP. Continues to put up great numbers.
Josh Bailey (2A): Josh Bailey needed to turn his season around and with two helpers today he’s on his way to doing that.
Mathew Barzal (1A, 1SOG, 50% FOW): Nine game point streak for the Isles top player.
Linus Ullmark (26 Saves, 0.897SV%): He was at fault for Pageau’s game-winner.
Taylor Hall (1SOG): A player of his caliber should have more than a single shot on net.
Sam Reinhart (1A, 3SOG): Got muscled off the puck by Barzal, and was silent outside of the Sabres PP.