2. Oliver Wahlstrom Snaps Goal-less Streak with Power-Play Marker
If there were ever a player who could use a goal on Thursday at MSG, it was Oliver Wahlstrom. The Islanders rookie right wing hadn’t scored a goal since March 25 in a win at the Boston Bruins, and his performance in the lineup had faded to the point in which he’s been scratched for multiple recent games.
Development is not a linear process. This isn’t the EA NHL series where your prospects’ overall ratings grow a little bit every season before finally being NHL-ready. No, real world development is a much more complex process filled with peaks and valleys. Wahlstrom saw a peak earlier this season, and since about late March or early April he’s seen a subsequent valley.
Between March 13 and April 6, Wahlstrom led all Islanders skaters in Individual Expected Goals per 60 minutes, (ixG/60) according to Evolving Hockey, indicating the winger was creating more quantity and quality of scoring chances than any other Islanders skater. He was also converting on those chances at a greatly inflated rate that was always going to crash at some point.
Between the aforementioned dates, Wahlstrom was shooting 19%, which is very high, and an indicator that he was finding some puck luck in producing. Again, that’s okay. It doesn’t devalue Wahlstrom’s great shot, it just tells us what we should already have known, that a 19% S% was always going to regress.
In short, the fall in Wahlstrom’s rate of creating scoring chances was more troublesome than the fall in his actual goal scoring rate, to me at least. That’s also a concern I feel a little better about after seeing him score on Thursday.
There’s a lot to feel good about coming off of Thursday’s victory, but perhaps nothing more than Wahlstrom’s goal. He may not be the consistent goal-scoring threat the Islanders are hoping he’ll become yet, but it’s almost undeniable this team is better when he’s on his game and in the lineup, so hopefully he can carry this over to future performances.