3 Takeaways From Islanders’ Consecutive Home Games

The New York Islanders finally returned to the ice and played their first game since Jan. 1st when they defeated the New Jersey Devils 3-2. The Islanders extended their winning streak to three games and won their 11th game of the season, a strong indication that the team is turning around their season.

Related: New York Islanders Weekly: Long Anticipated Return

The Islanders’ recent 2-0 loss to the Washington Capitals brought the team back to earth and was a humbling defeat. However, even in the recent loss and the last two home games overall, the Islanders proved they have the pieces in place to make a run and make up ground in the Metropolitan Division, and the roster is better than their record indicates. Some of the players stepped up in the last two games and most notably, were a reminder of how the team is going to make a push for the playoffs.

Adam Pelech’s All-Star Statement

Adam Pelech was selected as the only All-Star for the Islanders, primarily for his excellent defensive play. In the past two games, Pelech stepped up and reminded the Islanders why he is their best defenseman, making a significant difference on both ends of the ice.

Pelech scored the Islanders’ second goal against the Devils with a shot through traffic that found the back of the net. While it was only Pelech’s first goal of the season, the Islanders continued to find production from the point, something that let the team down earlier in the season but has lifted the roster in the last 10 games, six of which resulted in wins. The defensive unit is continuing to take shots from the point and the 27-year-old defenseman could open up the offense along with 22-year-old defenseman Noah Dobson, who leads the unit with five goals and nine assists.

Adam Pelech New York Islanders-3 Takeaways From Islanders' Consecutive Home Games
Adam Pelech, New York Islanders (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

The goal against the Devils led to the 3-2 victory, but in the last two games, Pelech continued to stand out on the defensive end of the ice against two different but difficult forward units. The Devils possess speed at the forward position, highlighted by Jack Hughes and his speed but Pelech, along with the rest of the defensive unit, stepped up in the neutral zone and cut off angles to the net to limit quick goals on the odd-man rush.

The Capitals, led by Alexander Ovechkin, have an offense that creates open shots with quick passes and great puck movement in the offensive zone, but the All-Star defenseman helped cut off passing lanes and limited the opponents from establishing an effective offensive zone presence. Along with Dobson, who led the team in ice time in both games, the Islanders have two dynamic two-way defensemen that will lead the team’s midseason push for the playoffs.

Sorokin & Varlamov

The Islanders goaltending duo of Semyon Varlamov and Iyla Sorokin has kept games close and oftentimes led the team to victories all season. The team split the last two games but the goaltending duo continued to impress and once again, was the best unit on the ice. Sorokin got the start against the Devils and saved 30 of 32 shots in the 3-2 win, bringing his season save percentage up to .925 and his goals-against average to 2.43 while facing 669 shots. Moreover, the 26-year-old goaltender remained calm in the net and in a position to make numerous saves throughout the game and throughout the season, has proven that he can be relied upon as the primary starter in the net for this season and years to come.

Ilya Sorokin New York Islanders-3 Takeaways From Islanders' Consecutive Home Games
Ilya Sorokin, New York Islanders (Jess Starr/The Hockey Writers)

Against the Capitals, a team that possesses one of the league’s best offenses, scoring 3.32 goals per game, Varlamov only made one mistake. The game ended 2-0 but the only goal allowed by the Islanders veteran goaltender was following miscommunication from the defense and an open shot in the offensive zone from Tom Wilson. The goal was one that Varlamov wishes he could have back as the puck zipped past his right pad but for the rest of the game, the veteran goaltender kept the team in the game, saving 34 of the Capitals 35 shots and keeping the score only 1-0 until the empty-net goal in the final minutes.

Vitek Vanecek & The Capitals

The Islanders played their brand of hockey and a good game overall against the Capitals. They slowed the game down, limited their opponent from establishing an effective offensive zone presence, and created scoring chances off the chip and chase, but still lost.

The game was a reminder that the Capitals are a complete team but more importantly, have the Islanders number, defeating them in their last four meetings dating back to last season and seven of the last nine games. Moreover, Capitals’ goaltender Vitek Vanecek continues to give the Islanders offense problems as he saved all 23 shots in the 2-0 game and has won four of the last six games, allowing only eight goals against the Metropolitan Division opponent. Vanecek doesn’t make mistakes or allow easy goals, forcing opponents to create tough shots and shots on second chances.

Other Takeaways from the Islanders Games

Against the Devils, Josh Bailey found the back of the net and scored his first goal since Oct. 24 against the Vegas Golden Knights, and the second goal of the season for the veteran forward. While Bailey missed a scoring chance against the Capitals, the goal he scored was found off a loose puck in the offensive zone that, the 32-year-old took advantage of to score the Islanders’ first goal of the game.

Josh Bailey, New York Islanders-3 Takeaways From Islanders' Consecutive Home Games
Josh Bailey is having a career year in his 10th NHL season. (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

In addition, Mathew Barzal continued to prove that he is the best scorer on the Islanders when he created a scoring chance in the third period against the Devils and scored the game-winner. Barzal, like the rest of the Islanders offense, struggled against the Capitals, but the team’s best skater continues to make his mark in the offensive zone and pressure opposing defenses with the nine-game point streak leading the way for the 24-year-old forward.

The Islanders face the Philadelphia Flyers next with two games on back-to-back nights. Like the Islanders, the Flyers struggled to start the season and are eagerly trying to make up ground in the Metropolitan Division, but the recent games have proven that the team is greatly improved since the start of the season and are capable of starting up another winning streak and continuing their midseason push for a playoff spot.

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