New York Islanders: Five Reasons For A Successful Road Trip

After a thrilling overtime victory against the New Jersey Devils on Thursday night, Islanders fans must be ecstatic over the way that their team played during a five game road trip.

The New York Islanders will be returning to Nassau Coliseum on Sunday having gone 3-1-1 on their road trip, but more importantly, the team should be coming home on a high note. Even though the Isles had their fair share of lapses during their time away from Long Island, they also played with confidence that Islanders teams of the past few years have not had, and it certainly translated in the W-L-OTL columns.

Here’s a more in-depth look at how New York was able to secure seven out of ten points during this five game stretch:

Power-Play Efficiency

Frans Nielsen Islanders

Frans Nielsen finished the road trip tied with John Tavares for most points scored (five) on New York’s powerplay. (Icon SMI)

New York’s powerplay units operated at a 53.8% efficiency rate (seven out of thirteen opportunities converted) during their five game road trip as the opposition, for the most part, couldn’t keep the Islanders off of the scoreboard when they were on the man-advantage.

The Boston Bruins were the only team that managed to shut out New York’s powerplay and they were also the only team that the Isles lost to in regulation. While the Islanders didn’t manage to record a goal against the Bruins with the man-advantage, the team’s powerplay units recorded at least a 50% efficiency rate in the other four games.

New York’s powerplay was especially useful in the last two games of the team’s five-game road trip as the Islanders used a total of five powerplay goals to sink the Penguins and Devils. What was even more impressive about those powerplay goals was the fact that they were scored by four different skaters (Tavares, Streit, Moulson, & Aucoin).

Whether the Islanders will be able to sustain such a potent man-advantage for the rest of the season remains to be seen, but it surely formed the backbone of the team’s success during their first five-game road trip of the season.

Offensive Explosion

Ever since opening night, the Isles’ offense has been seemingly clicking for every game. While New York had a four goal effort against the Tampa Bay Lightning in its second home game of the season, the Islanders did not stop pouring on the points once they left the confines of the Nassau Coliseum.

Over the course of the five-game road trip, New York scored a total of 22 goals, with a little more than a third of them being scored against the Maple Leafs. Even though the Islanders racked up a fair amount of goals against Toronto, they scored four or more against the Jets, Penguins, and Devils.

New York’s offensive attack hasn’t looked this good since the 2010-2011 NHL season when the team was playing loose hockey under Jack Capuano and opponents are starting to quickly realize New York’s recent offensive prowess. Despite the fact that the Islanders had some defensive lapses during their road trip, they were most certainly aided by the fact that their offense showed up to play on a nightly basis over the last week.

Secondary Scoring

So, your name is not Matt Moulson or John Tavares, and you’re putting up points for the Islanders? Who are you?

A number of players got the job done for New York offensively, and the variety of scoring that the Islanders received certainly

Michael Grabner Islanders

Michael Grabner had key contributions for the Islanders during their road trip. (Icon SMI)

alleviated some of the pressure from the team’s top line.

Players such as David Ullstrom, Michael Grabner, Frans Nielsen, Brad Boyes, and Casey Cizikas were all instrumental in the Isles’ successful road trip, but Garth Snow’s most recent waiver-wire gem shone brightest on the road. Keith Aucoin scored four goals during New York’s trip and even recorded the eventual game winning goal against the Toronto Maple Leafs to kick-start the Islanders’ journey away from home.

Michael Grabner, Keith Aucoin, David Ullstrom, Casey Cizikas, Frans Nielsen, Brad Boyes, Colin McDonald and Marty Reasoner accounted for 30 points during New York’s road trip, but the team was also helped out by its defensemen as Travis Hamonic, Mark Streit, and Andrew MacDonald combined to score seven points over the five-game stretch.

Secondary scoring was a big problem for the Islanders during the 2011-2012 NHL season, but so far it has been a strength that has allowed the team to capture crucial points during the early portions of the 2012-2013 campaign.

Penalty Killing

The Islanders have had a stellar penalty killing unit this season and the team’s ability to keep their opponents from scoring on the man-advantage has played a huge role in the team’s early season success.

Before the Islanders left on their road trip, their penalty killers were perfect as they had not allowed the opposition to record any powerplay points. While New York’s perfect penalty killing streak came to an end against the Winnipeg Jets, the Isles still put up a Herculean effort while being shorthanded as they only allowed one out of twenty opportunities to be converted against them.

For a team that has had some troubles maintaining a lead at even strength, the Isles’ penalty kill has been a very pleasant surprise.

Despite the fact that New York gave up leads against the Bruins, Jets, and Devils, their shorthanded play has been very stingy and efficient. Not only did the Islanders clear their zone effectively while being down a man, they did a great job of limiting the amount of quality scoring chances that the opposition received, something that was put on perfect display on Tuesday night when the Isles managed to kill off a five minute major penalty without being scored on.

The Islanders might have some tightening up to do on the even-strength side of things, but the team’s effective penalty killing has certainly played a significant role through their first seven games.

Tavares/Nabokov

John Tavares Islanders

John Tavares’ nine points fueled New York’s offense during their road trip. (Wikimedia)

John Tavares and Evgeni Nabokov certainly earned their stripes during this road trip as the two players put forth amazing efforts to help their team to a first place tie in the Atlantic Division standings.

John Tavares recorded 9 points (4 Goals, 5 Assists) on the Isles’ road trip, but his team was also aided by the fact that Evgeni Nabokov stood on his head for considerable stretches over the last week. In particular, Nabokov’s performances against the Maple Leafs and Jets allowed the Isles to steal some points in situations where they might not have had any business gaining them.

Yes, Nabokov gave up four goals against Toronto and five against Winnipeg, but his even-strength defense did not help him out much at some points. Even though Nabokov had some games on the road trip where he didn’t look to be too sharp, he still battled to keep his team in every game and never let the opposition put the game out of reach for New York.

The New York Islanders certainly played like a cohesive unit during their five-game road trip, but the efforts that were put forth by John Tavares and Evgeni Nabokov undoubtedly helped the team maximize its success on a tough stage.

Are They For Real?

Only time will tell if the Islanders can sustain the level of play that has helped them get out to a 4-2-1 start.

As of now, the Islanders certainly do look like a team that is playing aggressive and confident hockey. Over the last two seasons, New York has gotten out to favorable early season starts, but they have been unable to maintain such a level of play for an extended period of time.

Keeping up the intensity will certainly be on the Isles’ agenda when they return to the Nassau Coliseum to play the Devils on Sunday afternoon, but the team has done a great job of coming out motivated and ready to play for the majority of the young season.

The New York Islanders are certainly playing with a grit and ferocity that teams from previous years did not display, but if the team has legitimate playoff hopes, then it will be up to the players to keep functioning as a cohesive unit for 60 minutes of play on a nightly basis.

Anatoliy Metter

Anatoliy Metter

Toli covers all things related to the New York Islanders for The Hockey Writers. Anyone looking to talk hockey or sports can feel free to contact him on Facebook by searching/messaging Toli Metter and on twitter by searching @ToliMetterTHW.
Anatoliy Metter
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