We've reached the midway mark of the season, and the NY Islanders currently sit just outside of playoff position. In an incredibly tight Metropolitan division where only seven points separate seeds two through six, every point from this juncture forward could make or break as far as the postseason goes. With less than ten weeks remaining before the trade deadline, the Isles have entered crunch time in regards to being buyers or sellers come the deadline.
Whether you like them or not, analytics has become a massive part of the game. There is undoubtedly still a place for the "eye test," but computer-generated statistics are being used more than ever.
Using some of the numbers provided by JFresh, we can dive into what the analytics say about this Isles team:
Goaltending is keeping this team afloat
Whether it's the eye test or analytically, there's no denying the brilliance of Ilya Sorokin. Solo or as a partnership with Semyon Varlamov, the two make one of the best duos in the NHL. The pair have posted +27.6 goals saved above expected as a combo. Simply put, given the goal-scoring opportunities against the Isles, the tandem is expected to have allowed nearly 28 more goals this season.
Though Varlamov's GSAx (goals saved above expected) is near the league average, Sorokin has been the driving force behind the team's success. Sitting at the top of the league, Sorokin's 25.2 GSAx has been among the league's best all season.
As a team who has struggled of late due in large to critical injuries, the Isles could potentially be buried if it weren't for their well-fortified crease.
Do not expect much at 5v5
Most of the game is played at even strength, so being at least an average 5v5 team should be the minimum required of a team with postseason aspirations. With a 5v5 goals expected percentage of 48.3%, the Isles are among the bottom third of the league.
According to this graphic, less than half of the team's goals are expected to come at 5v5. With the man advantage clicking at only 18.3% this season (sixth worse in the league), the Isles' powerplay has been putrid and cannot be relied on to do much without a bonafide sniper.
The Islanders are right where you would expect them to be as far as expected goals for and against at 5v5 per 60 minutes, and that's the lower-middle of the pack. At 2.55 expected goals for and 2.72 expected goals against per 60, the Isles sit 21st in the league.
The team's mediocre goals for brings to light the lack of goal-scoring ability shown throughout the year. With Oliver Wahlstrom still sidelined due to injury, the team doesn't have a single forward with a shoot-first mentality aside from Brock Nelson. Mat Barzal's recent surge of offense has been much needed and anticipated, but the offensive shortcomings are still at the forefront.
On the defensive end, the injury to Adam Pelech has been rearing its ugly head of late. Though Parker Wotherspoon has been an adequate replacement, his shortcomings are beginning to emerge. The absence of the team's top defender for 10-plus games has been an analytic nightmare for the Isles.
Which way will the Isles trend in the second half of the season?
This home stand will be a telling point as to how the Isles will tackle the remaining 41 games of the season. If they come out and grab nine or ten out of a possible 14 points and put themselves in the thick of the playoff race, it may give Lou Lamoriello the ammo needed to make a move at the deadline.
On the other end of the spectrum, the team could drop ten points and give themselves an unfavorable path to postseason play and a sellers mentality on March 3.
Take the analytics as you may, but there is no denying where the Isles' strengths have been this season and where they continue to lack.