3 keys to NY Islanders' recent five-game win streak

New York Rangers v New York Islanders
New York Rangers v New York Islanders / Bruce Bennett/GettyImages
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The NY Islanders, after starting off the season ice cold, have now started to heat up and become one of the better teams to watch around the league in the early stages of 2022-23. They began the season 2-4-0, but since then have won five straight games, and none of those wins can be dismissed as they were all huge testaments to this team's character.

We have a great group of guys. We're confident in each other whether it takes the first, second or third period we're going out there working hard for results.
Kyle Palmieri

After dropping three straight games to the New Jersey Devils, Florida Panthers and Tampa Bay Lightning, the Isles looked like they were going down the same spiral as last season when they had one of the worst starts to a season imaginable. A few players ended up getting healthy scratched during those games, such as Anthony Beauvillier and Josh Bailey, which prevented Bailey from playing his 1,000th career NHL game at UBS Arena.

Facing early adversity and a daunting schedule, there was a sense of urgency filling the room, and the team responded by shutting out the New York Rangers and then following it up with an impressive 6-2 road win in Carolina versus the Hurricanes.

And if those wins didn't get the room believing, rallying down from 3-0 against the defending Stanley Cup Champions sure did. The Isles scored five unanswered goals to come back from a three-goal deficit and win in regulation for the first time since 10/23/1984 vs. Vancouver (6-5).

The schedule lightened up on this current midwest trip, and so far, the Islanders have done what was needed to win. Winning a chippy and choppy game in Chicago on Tuesday night and then scoring four times in the second period to handle a reeling St. Louis Blues team that has lost six straight.

Let's take a look at 3 key reasons for the five-game winning streak.

Finding the right line combinations

Oct 28, 2022; Raleigh, North Carolina, USA;  New York Islanders center Mathew Barzal (13) right wing
Oct 28, 2022; Raleigh, North Carolina, USA; New York Islanders center Mathew Barzal (13) right wing / James Guillory-USA TODAY Sports

One of the biggest catalysts to this improvement was finding the right line combinations in a new system employed by first-year head coach Lane Lambert, and keeping the combos together consistently to gel together. Islanders fans finally got exactly what they wanted for the past year as well, with Oliver Wahlstrom hopping onto Mat Barzal's line along with Bailey, and that has been one of the best decisions they have made.

According to moneypuck.com, this line has a GF/60 of 6.52, by far the highest on the team, and has only allowed one goal since being put together. The third line, comprised of Zach Parise, JG Pageau, and Palmieri has also been fantastic, with a GF/60 of 4.5 and having yet to allow a single goal.

Perhaps the most lethal line offensively for the Isles has been their first line of Brock Nelson, Anders Lee, and Beauvillier, scoring seven goals as a unit. Lee has seven points in his last seven games, and Nelson has seven in his last four, scoring a goal in all four as well. It's also worth noting that Lee, Nelson, and Barzal are all on pace to be over a point-per-game in 82 games, and others such as Wahlstrom, Beauvillier, and Noah Dobson are all on pace to break their career highs in points.

Ilya Sorokin has lived up to the hype

Nov 1, 2022; Chicago, Illinois, USA;  New York Islanders goaltender Ilya Sorokin (30) catches a shot
Nov 1, 2022; Chicago, Illinois, USA; New York Islanders goaltender Ilya Sorokin (30) catches a shot / Jamie Sabau-USA TODAY Sports

Sorokin has been a huge reason, if not the biggest reason for the team's success, putting himself in the conversation as one of the absolute best in the league. He allowed only five goals during this stretch and has an incredible 2.03 GAA on the season, even though he started off with a 1-3 record..

I don't think about last game. I don't think about future game. I think just today game.
Ilya Sorokin

What makes this run even more impressive is that most of these goals allowed were from deflections or bad breaks, not ones you can immediately pin on him. Sorokin also ranks fourth in the league in both GSAx and WAR%, just below names such as Jake Oettinger, Connor Hellebyuck, and a resurgent Carter Hart.

Balance scoring attack

When this team finds their game, they are truly hard to stop in their tracks. The mix of scoring throughout the lineup, along with stellar defense and goaltending, has been somewhat of a breath of fresh air as everybody gets used to the new Lambert-led regime.

Nov 3, 2022; St. Louis, Missouri, USA;  New York Islanders center Jean-Gabriel Pageau (44) is
Nov 3, 2022; St. Louis, Missouri, USA; New York Islanders center Jean-Gabriel Pageau (44) is / Jeff Curry-USA TODAY Sports

What may surprise hockey fans that don't watch the Islanders frequently is that the Isles are sixth in the league in goals for, scoring 41, and rank fifth in goal differential at 14. That's with Mathew Barzal still in search of his first goal, despite 11 assists. The Isles have been much-improved this season offensively, and there's an argument to be made that there's room to grow.

This team has most certainly been special to watch this season, with players having starts that more mirror their careers than the slow start that plagued the majority of the roster a season ago If they can stay healthy and consistent, they can be a force in the Metro and the Eastern Conference that looks to be as competitive as ever this season.