How Defenseman Mike Reilly and Alexander Romanov Have Shaped The NY Islanders Blueline

As Islanders defenseman Noah Dobson has risen to potential NHL All-Star status, unsung heroes of the blue line Mike Reilly and Alexander Romanov seem to be left out of the conversation.

Washington Capitals v New York Islanders
Washington Capitals v New York Islanders / Rich Graessle/GettyImages
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As the young defenseman turns 24 today, it's a great time to have a conversation about Alexander Romanov being the second-best defenseman on the Islanders. His defensive partner, Noah Dobson, has quickly become the Islanders' best defenseman. But people seem to forget that Romanov is a big part of Dobson's development. As good as Dobson is, his numbers wouldn't look half as good without Romy rising to his potential and assisting Dobson on the blue line. Both players are young stars who will only continue to improve over time, but it's ridiculous that Romanov seems to be forgotten about.

Romanov is like a secret weapon on the Islanders' blue line - he's young, an outstanding skater, stronger than anyone would think, and keeps his feet moving. As Butch Goring loves to point out on the broadcast, the Islanders continuously let goals in when they stop moving their feet, and that is something that Romanov never does. He knows when to throw the body and loves laying massive hits that get the crowd rocking. But what's most notable is that he knows when to lay a hit and when to rely on his skating abilities to keep up with his man, boxing them out using his body instead. Romanov has averaged 22:48 minutes per night, and as overplayed as many believe he and Dobson are becoming, Romanov is an incredible skater who hasn't looked as fatigued despite how many minutes a night he's playing. Romanov's style of play has allowed him to stay on top of his game and keep his legs under him for 60 minutes.

In the offensive zone, Dobson has been dominating most forwards on the ice and is making himself known amongst the NHL. But, none of that would be possible if not for his trust in Romanov. Dosbon knows he can skate up and join the rush because Romanov is able to hold the fort down in the defensive zone and at the blue line night in and night out. Romanov has also become more comfortable with his shot, tying his career-high in goals just 38 games into the season. Romanov is also a +11 on the season, and while plus/minus isn't the greatest stat at showing defensive vs offensive abilities, I do think it shows how successful both Romanov and Dobson have been playing in both zones. They have become a solid shutdown defensive pair while the Islanders are missing Adam Pelech and Ryan Pulock.

Romanov missed training camp after undergoing shoulder surgery on June 6th after the Islanders were knocked out of the playoffs by the Carolina Hurricanes. Romy was questionable to return for the start of the 2023-24 season but has shown no lingering effects, putting his body on the line, blocking shots, and throwing hits all over the ice. Now, I'm not saying that Romanov is as good of a defenseman as Dobson and should be in the All-Star conversation - what I am saying is that Dosbon would not and could not be the player he has become this season without the help of Romanov. He wouldn't be as comfortable taking chances in the offensive zone and has learned how to play a strong defensive game from Romanov. The two can transition fluidly, play a great two-way game, and rely on each other when the other wants to jump up on the rush. One defenseman can't make a team successful, but Romanov and Dobson have become grade-A players who the Islanders can rely on to play 20+ minutes a night and be successful on both ends of the ice.