It's been said often that hot goaltending and center depth are two of the most critical positions come the postseason. Luckily for the NY Islanders, they have both.
With the acquisition of Bo Horvat last season, the Isles added to the list of depth at center and are now one of the deepest in the league. During the first two games of this season, the Isles centers have been on full display, providing both on the offensive and defensive ends of the ice.
Though the season is still young and numbers will likely regress toward the mean, the Isles are currently the top faceoff team in the league at 65.2%, with Casey Cizikas leading the way. At 82.4%, Cizikas is among the leads best in the league in the faceoff circle, with JG Pageau not far behind, winning 80.8% of his draws. Brining up the rear is Bo Horvat at 61.9%, and Brock Nelson as the only center winning less than half his draws at 45.8%.
The quality in the circle has resulted in their ability to get the puck out of their own zone and generate shots on goal, with centers (Nelson and Cizikas) scoring two of the team's four goals this season.
"Yeah, I was happy with us," said Horvat regarding his line in the Isles home opener victroy over the Buffalo Sabres. "I think we can generate a little more zone time. A lot of it came off the rush but I mean... but I was really happy with our game."
Horvat posted a team-high eight shots on goal in the opener and leads the team in that category despite not registering one on Monday against the Arizona Coyotes.
The Isles' second line of Nelson, Engvall, and Palmieri has picked up right where they left off last season, and the third line of Lee, Pageau, and Fashching have all played their typical responsible style of hockey.
Cizikas, Martin, and Clutterbuck seem rejuvenated this season, appearing to look like the "identity line" of old. "There’s details within the game that can’t be missed,” Lane Lambert told Arthur Staple of The Athletic. “And they don’t miss.”
If Lambert can manage the wear and tear of a long season, the fourth line can become a compelling force despite many calling for the line to be broken up this season.