After a light schedule to start the season, the New York Islanders’ pace has quickly ramped up, with four games in six days this past week. The Islanders started the week off with a win over the Detroit Red Wings, but then fell Tuesday night against the Montreal Canadiens. Returning home to the Coliseum for their first home game since Nov. 13, the Islanders earned a 3-2 overtime win against the surging Vegas Golden Knights.
However, following the win, the Islanders once again played poorly and fell to the Dallas Stars Saturday night. While the Islanders seem to have finally recovered from all their early-season injuries, head coach Barry Trotz has started to use the same lineup in each game. Let’s take a look back at the week and the three players who shined.
Third Star: Jordan Eberle
Following a slow start to the season after an early injury, Jordan Eberle is finally back playing for New York. He was moved off the first line with Mat Barzal and Anders Lee and played on the third with Leo Komarov and Otto Koivula. Yet, he was able to find the back of the net with his first two goals of the season against the Red Wings. It was on the power play that Eberle was able to strike to give the Islanders a 3-1 lead, which he then increased to a three-goal lead with another goal in tight after Ryan Pulock fired one at the net that Eberle put home to make it 4-1.
At some point, the Islanders will need to get Eberle back playing with Barzal, but for now, it’s best the Islanders continue to ease him back in and hope he can provide some secondary scoring. It has only been eight months since Eberle was the hottest player in the league in Round 1 of the Stanley Cup playoffs against the Pittsburgh Penguins.
Second Star: Semyon Varlamov
After a bit of a struggle in November, Semyon Varlamov has been on top of his game with the Islanders, winning both of his starts last week. He made 30 saves in a 4-1 win over the Red Wings to begin the week and then made 31 stops in an overtime win over the Golden Knights on Thursday.
Varlamov continues to rotate in goal with Thomas Greiss, despite clearly playing better of late. They have rotated through the first 29 games of the season, but that trend may come to an end at some point with Greiss’ struggles the past two games.
On the season, Varlamov has a 2.26 goals-against average, which is .41 points lower than his career average, as well as a respectable .926 save percentage. He has definitely had success working with goaltending director, Mitch Korn.
First Star: Ryan Pulock
Pulock’s week will be well remembered for his power-play goal in overtime Thursday night against the Golden Knights, but he was the best Islander on the ice the entire week. He started the week off registering three assists in the first two games of the week. On Thursday, he had the opportunity to come out as the lone defender in the Islanders four-on-three advantage in overtime against Vegas after Barzal drew a penalty. After a scrum in the corner, Lee found Pulock wide open in the slot for the game-winning goal. It is his second career overtime goal, with one last season against the Colorado Avalanche.
While Pulock’s offense is what stands out, he continues to get the most ice-time of any defenseman, playing 20 minutes in all four games. He is also routinely put in on both the power play and penalty kill, standing out on both ends of the ice.
The Islanders started the new week off strong with a 5-1 win over the Tampa Bay Lightning, as Varlamov continued to play well in the victory. They will play their final game of a three-game road trip against and Florida Panthers on Thursday before they return home for a matinee game against the Buffalo Sabres on Saturday.