The New York Islanders jumped all over a lackluster Philadelphia Flyers team on Saturday night and cruised to a 6-1 win in dominant fashion.
The New York Islanders were on their game, and the Philadelphia Flyers were decidedly not. New York jumped to a 3-0 lead in the game’s first 10:03, and never looked back, cruising to a 6-1 victory over the Flyers.
Sorry, this post is a day late, everyone. Better late than never? Anyway, here are three takeaways from the Islanders latest victory.
1. Islanders D Thomas Hickey’s Return to the Lineup
Thomas Hickey has had a very difficult couple of years. A scary head injury lost him his job to Devon Toews in December 2018. He struggled with injuries again in 2019-20, costing him most of his AHL season with the Bridgeport Sound Tigers after a high hit. Then, in March of 2020 he lost his brother, Dan, to an aggressive form of cancer.
Hickey’s journey is a sad and painful one to read about. It’s the kind of thing you never want to see anyone go through.
He’s spent most of 2020-21 on the Islanders taxi squad, practicing with the NHL team, but not seeing any live game action at any level. Until Saturday, when he made his long-awaited return to the NHL in the Islanders 6-1 win over the Flyers.
With all he’s gone through, it would’ve been easy to forgive Hickey if he had a tough night attempting to step back onto an NHL sheet for the first time. He’d only played 60 games since 2018-19, that alone would’ve been enough for some leniency in judging his performance.
But, his Saturday appearance doesn’t require viewing him as a player who struggled both personally and professionally. Hickey played well. Very well, in fact.
He led all players from Saturday’s matchup with a 3.88 Game Score, according to Hockey Stat Cards. Game Score is a metric that attempts to account for a wide-ranging variety of factors in grading the quality of a player’s performance.
Hickey’s first of two assists came on a heads-up play which saw him activate from the blue line and skate a puck behind the Flyers net. After coming around from behind the net, he threw a pass into the low slot which initiated a chaotic crease-front scrum and eventually led to Jordan Eberle’s goal to make it 2-0.
Later in the first period, Hickey again jumped into the play in the offensive zone, corralling a loose puck and feeding Casey Cizikas for the Islanders 4C’s second goal of the game.
It was a good night for Hickey and the Islanders, the kind you’d think was ripped from a Hollywood script. He wasn’t shy about jumping into play in the offensive zone, and he was rewarded for that. He and D partner Andy Greene had a good night driving play behind the Islanders two best play-driving forward lines, and that resulted in few 5v5 scoring chances against them.
It was great to see Hickey back in an Islanders jersey on the blue line, and it likely won’t be the last we see of him in 2020-21. He made a good account of himself and showed he deserves to stay in the lineup at least until he shows some sign of being incapable of handling the role.