Islanders’ forward Anders Lee has been surging lately and it is not a coincidence that his improved production has coincided with the team’s recent success. Lee has provided the Islanders with some much-needed secondary scoring, something the team has lacked during their shaky start.
Lee struggled early in the season. In his first 18 games, the Edina, Minnesota-native scored just one goal and added one assist. He went 14 games without scoring a goal and eight games without a point, a long slump for a player who scored 25 goals in 2014-15 and averaged roughly a point every other game over the past two campaigns.
In addition, Lee wasn’t getting as many chances as he previously had. He managed just 30 shots on goal during the 18-game slump, an average of 1.67 shots-per-game.
The Islanders were also off to a slow start. During Lee’s 18-game slump, the team won only six times and found itself at the bottom of the league standings.
A Breakout Road Trip
But during the Islanders’ three-game trip to California in late November, things began to turn around for Lee and many of his teammates. Lee scored both goals in the Islanders’ 4-2 loss to the Los Angeles Kings. In the nine games since then, he has seven goals and two assists and is a plus-four.
His scoring chances have also increased. In the last nine games, Lee has registered 21 shots on goal, an average of 2.33-per-game.
For Lee, it was important to stop pressing and feel more comfortable in his game. “It all started with a couple of bounces,” he told the THW. “That took the monkey off and then I could relax and play. It’s a long season and you’re going to go through droughts like that. I think it got compounded by us not winning games. That’s when it doesn’t leave you, it sticks with you and it brings you down.”
Lee appreciated the support he got from his teammates throughout his slump. “We’ve all had each others’ backs,” he added. “Everyone had some sit downs on our way out west. That was a turning point for a lot of guys to just get on the same page and help the team move forward. You get a bounce here and there and all of sudden you score a goal it’s a really good feeling.”
Islanders captain John Tavares likes what he sees in Lee. “He’s got a great attitude and a great work ethic that’s always been there,” Tavares said. “He’s seen a couple go in. I’m sure he’s really confident in his game and what he’s doing. He’s just reading and reacting off of plays and having good instincts of where to be.”
Using His Size is Important
One asset that Lee always had is size. He stands 6’3” and weighs 228 pounds. That gives him strength and leverage when heading in front of the opposition’s goal, something that head coach Jack Capuano encourages his players to do.
“He’s so good around the net, so great to see him be rewarded,” Tavares said. “We know he’s capable of it. He had 25 goals a couple of years ago so he can put the puck in the net.”
Lee’s recent production has given the Islanders the secondary scoring they lacked early in the season. It is no surprise that the team went on a six-game point streak (5-0-1) during Lee’s run. With Lee playing better and players like Andrew Ladd and Jason Chimera starting to come out of their early season slumps, opposing teams have more to worry about than just shutting down John Tavares’ line.
Lee and the Islanders have gone through a lengthy dry spell and a recent hot streak. The team’s future success will have a lot to do with how consistently Lee and his teammates play for the rest of the season.
Long time hockey writer and author of the new book, “Ice Wars: The Complete History of New York’s Greatest Modern Sports Rivalry.” It tells the story behind every game between the Rangers and Islanders dating back to 1972 and features profiles of more than 80 players from both teams and quotes from more than 50 exclusive interviews from players, coaches and broadcasters from both teams.