Islanders’ Josh Bailey Stepping Up in 2021 Playoffs

Josh Bailey’s career with the New York Islanders began on June 20, 2008, when he walked across the draft stage at Scotiabank Place in Ottawa, Ontario. It has been 13 years since the night Bailey was the Islanders’ first pick, ninth overall, and as of this writing, he is now the team’s most senior player with 919 games. As he approaches the 1,000-game mark in blue and orange, he proudly wears the “A” on his jersey as the team’s seasoned alternate captain. 

Related: A Look Back at the New York Islanders’ 2008 Draft

There is no question that Bailey has made an impact with the only franchise he’s known. Only five players from his draft class, which included first overall selection Steven Stamkos from Tampa Bay, have scored more than his 511 points.

Inside the Numbers

Bailey currently has a regular-season point per game average of 0.56 and a 0.72 average in the playoffs. His career plus/minus rating is pretty bad at minus-44; however, he is a plus-4 in the playoffs, which means the veteran has come to understand the importance of games played in the spring. 

Josh Bailey
Josh Bailey (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

The Islanders went into the bubble during the 2020 playoffs with hopes of being a contender in the Eastern Conference. They won a qualifying matchup against the Flordia Panthers (3-1) then ran the table against the Washington Capitals (4-1) before the Philadelphia Flyers took them to Game 7. The Islanders scored a 4-0 victory in that game to advance to the Conference Finals for the first time since 1993. 

Related: Islanders’ Josh Bailey: A Rollercoaster Career

The bulk of the playoff roster managed to play in all 22 games, with Bailey leading the team in playoff scoring. Although the center only lit the lamp for two goals, he had a team-high 18 assists to finish the playoff run with 20 points. He was the only member of the Islanders to reach the 20 point mark and only one of two players with double-digit assists. Another number that stood out was Bailey’s plus/minus rating, which was third-best on the team at plus eight. Those numbers say a lot about Bailey’s ability to play under pressure. He had the team’s fourth-best regular-season numbers; however, he finished the campaign with the team’s worse plus/minus rating. 

Leadership Void

Bailey’s role on the team changed, along with many of his teammates, on March 11, 2021, when team captain Anders Lee went down with a season-ending injury. In the last 27 games of the regular season, the Islanders hovered around 0.500, finishing 14-13 and clinching the fourth seed in the MassMutual East Divison. As we know, Bailey is a primetime player and finished the season with 21 points during the stretch, which helped build his confidence heading into the playoffs. As the lowest seed in the division, they drew a matchup against one of their fiercest rivals, the top-seeded Pittsburgh Penguins. 

According to his player profile page, Bailey had scored only one playoff overtime goal in his career, coincidentally against the Penguins on April 10, 2019. That goal came only 4:39 into the first overtime, which meant it didn’t take long for him to become an overtime hero. As we fast forward to 2021 and another matchup against the Penguins, Bailey came through when the Islanders needed him the most, scoring a double-overtime winner in Game 5, giving his team a 3-2 series lead. 

Bailey has scored 162 regular-season goals and 13 playoff goals, yet it is safe to say that Game 5’s overtime winner was probably his most significant goal to date. Not only did the goal flip the script on the heavily-favored Penguins, but it also gave Bailey the team lead with three goals while tying Penguins forward Jeff Carter for most in the series. 

Just when most people thought the Penguins had the Islanders on the ropes, their longest-serving player came through. Bailey understands the importance of being a New York Islander and what it means to serve as an alternate captain on a team with a deep history. His second career overtime goal continued to fill the void left by their captain while showing his teammates he is someone they can count on when the games matter the most.