Islanders Weekly is my series that looks at the performance and outlook of the New York Islanders. Every Thursday, Islanders Weekly will take a look at the week that was for the Islanders, highlighting key players and trends while looking at the road ahead.
Related: Last Week’s Islanders Weekly
The Islanders extended their point streak to eight games after a busy week where they played four times in a span of just six nights. After a heartbreaking shootout loss to the Pittsburgh Penguins on Thursday, the Isles followed it up with statement wins over the Boston Bruins and twice over against the Buffalo Sabres. The Islanders gave up a late 3-2 lead to the Penguins with seconds left in the third period before seeing Sidney Crosby record the only shootout goal after a scoreless overtime period. Special teams then came to play against Boston, with the team scoring goals at even-strength, on the power-play, and shorthanded. The power-play continued to produce Monday against Buffalo, followed by another win Tuesday, this time in shutout fashion.
Sorokin Earns First NHL Win
Rookie goaltender Ilya Sorokin made his fourth start of the season Tuesday against Buffalo, shutting out the Sabres for his first NHL win. The 20-save performance boosted the rookie’s save percentage to .895, accompanied by a goals-against-average of 2.74 through four appearances. After not receiving goal support from the Isles over his first two starts and falling in overtime to the Philadelphia Flyers in his third appearance, the Russian phenom was finally able to add a win to his resumé.
With the confidence of his first victory in North America, expect Sorokin to make more appearances down the stretch for an Isles team that is suddenly competitive in a tight MassMutual East Division. With starter Semyon Varlamov’s strong play of late as well, New York’s goaltending tandem makes them a threat to the top teams in the East. It should be interesting to watch how the workload gets distributed over the next few weeks after Sorokin got the coveted first win.
Forward Anthony Beauvillier returned to the lineup against the Sabres on Tuesday after a nine-game absence. With much attention being paid to how head coach Barry Trotz’s lines might be affected by his young winger returning, Beauvillier skated on the third line with Jean-Gabriel Pageau and Oliver Wahlstrom. While he was not able to find the scoresheet in that contest, his new centreman Pageau stayed hot with a goal and an assist, extending his point streak to four games with a goal in each.
Beauvillier is also expected to see time on the second line centered by Brock Nelson that he played on to start the season. Nelson, who started out playing with Beauvillier and Josh Bailey, saw Bailey move up to the first line in favor of Jordan Eberle. With Eberle on his right-wing, Nelson played with Michael Dal Colle in Beauvillier’s absence, but the two could be swapped now that the latter has returned to the lineup.
Struggling Forwards Emerge
After the strong performances of the fourth line over the past week, scrutiny was moved to some of the team’s underperforming veterans. Bailey and Nelson were frequently mentioned among those who were leaving more left to be desired based on their recent performances. They seemed to have found their footing this week, with Bailey recording five assists and Nelson scoring a power-play goal and adding an assist, coupled with winning key faceoffs throughout.
Both forwards have to be facing the pressure amongst a crowded forward group that is now seeing Kieffer Bellows and Leo Komarov as healthy scratches. Coach Trotz continues to put them out in all situations, displaying his trust in the veterans, but they will have to continue the strong play they have displayed over the last few games. More consistent output will allow the team more lineup flexibility, furthering the depth scoring they have flexed over the last few matchups.
Top Performers and the Week Ahead
- Jean-Gabriel Pageau: 5 goals, 1 assist
- Anders Lee: 3 goals, 1 assist
- Josh Bailey: 5 assists
The Week Ahead
- 2/18: at Pittsburgh Penguins
- 2/20: at Pittsburgh Penguins
- 2/22: vs Buffalo Sabres
*All stats came from Hockey-Reference