For the first time this season, the Islanders are playing solidly all around hockey. The team has won four of their last five games and three straight games, scoring a combined 21 goals.
The team has struggled to score goals consistently throughout the best and worst times under Barry Trotz. This season, the Islanders identity has taken a hit in overall play.
The scoring depth is returning, and they are getting production from multiple lines. The return of Matthew Barzal has provided a new look, pairing with Zach Parise and a combination of Kieffer Bellows and Oliver Wahlstrom.
Signs of Life
Anders Lee has gotten hot and is the NHL’s third star of the week with 7 goals in 4 games.
Brock Nelson has carried the load while Barzal sat for six games with an injury. Nelson now has 23 goals and 34 points.
The real test comes against the Washington Capitals on Tuesday night in the nation’s capital. The Capitals currently hold the last Wild Card spot in the Eastern Conference with 74 points.
Coming off an overtime victory in Vancouver, the Capitals finished a successful road trip with three out of four wins in Seattle and Western Canada.
The Islanders have 56 points with four games in hand on the Capitals. This meeting is one of three against the Capitals to finish the season.
The Islanders will need to win all three of these games in regulation to give themselves a shot at catching Alex Ovechkin and company. Easier said than done with the way this team has played all year.
This may be the right time to play the Capitals and show if this streak is for real. The game lands just prior to the trade deadline. The Islanders brain trust will surely be paying close attention to this game before finalizing the plans for the deadline.
The Crucial Game
The Capitals are 14-11-5 on home ice this season. The Islanders are 10-12-4 away from UBS Arena in its inaugural season.
The Capitals are lead, once again, by Ovechkin with 71 points and 36 goals. Peter Laviolette’s team has had key injuries to the forward core.
Additionally, goaltending has not been as strong as in years past. Ilya Samsonov has started 33 games this year with 2.96 goals against average and a very unimpressive .901 save percentage.
The Islanders will have the opportunity to put goals on the board. The offense will need to stay hot to keep up with the duo of Ovechkin and John Carlson at the point.
The key, as always with the Capitals, will be to stay out of the box and limit the shot selection of Ovechkin on the powerplay.
This will be an opportunity for Ilya Sorokin to put an exclamation point on his stellar season thus far.
With the unsuccessful history against the Capitals, the Islanders will have a tall task. But this is a phenomenal test for this group to show that they have emerged from the cloud of this season.
At the very least, this may be the closest thing to a playoff game for this season.