The New York Islanders have seemingly done a 180 this season and are one of the league’s top team’s after being amongst the Eastern Conference’s basement dwellers just one year ago.
This season the Isles sit tied for the top spot in the East with 65 points and don’t look to resemble the same team from last year. The 2015 edition of the New York Islanders has a record of 32-14-11 good enough for 65 points. The team is on pace to finish with 113 points which would be the team’s highest total since 1981-82 where they finished with 118 and were in the midst of winning their third of fourth straight Stanley Cups.
Finding the Back of the Net
The team has the second most goals in the NHL, just three behind Tampa Bay’s 158. The Isles are on pace for 270 goals which is a huge improvement from last year when the team had just 225. Their total was good enough for just 16th in the NHL last season.
A big reason for the improved offence this year is because the team is getting contributions from a lot more of the team. John Tavares had 24 goals and 66 points in 59 games last season and this year has 46 points in 47 games, on pace for 80 points this year. Despite the team’s franchise player dropping off this year, the rest is picking up the slack.
Last season the Islanders had just seven players who reached double digit goals. This year the team has five players who have already achieved the feat and six more on pace to do so.
The team’s power play has risen five spots from 17th place last year to 12th. The team’s shots-for have gone from 30.9 per game to 33.2 per game, a jump from 10th spot in the league to second. Meanwhile the team’s shots against per game have also gone down from 30 shots against per game to 27.3 per game, a jump from 16th best in the league to fourth.
Advanced Stats in Their Favour
And for all of you #fancystats enthusiasts, the Isles are also impressing on that side of the conversation. The team currently has the fifth best Corsi-for at 53.2%, while their Fenwick-for is second in the league at 55%. These numbers are both up from their 20th and 22nd respective rankings last season.
What is also intriguing is the team’s PDO (shooting percentage + save percentage). Last year the team’s mark was 98.4, suggesting they were underachieved to some degree (a team’s PDO should come in around 100). This year the team’s mark is just under the mark of 100 at 99.8, suggesting that though the team is doing better it has very little to do with luck.
Keeping the Puck Out
Also helping things has been the fact that the team has a more reliable option in net this season. Jaroslav Halak just participated in the NHL All-Star game this past weekend and has been an improvement from Evgeni Nabokov, the team’s number one guy the last couple years. Halak is 26-9-0 this season, he has a 2.37 goals against average, a .913 save percentage, and four shutouts.
Nabokov last year played 40 games and went 15-14-8 with a 2.74 GAA and .905 SP. Kevin Poulin and Anders Nilsson also played in a combined 47 games, and though Nabokov’s numbers weren’t great, each of the two backups had worse numbers than the veteran netminder.
Halak, along with new names on the team’s back-end, Johnny Boychuck and Nick Leddy have contributed to fewer goals against. Last year the Isles allowed 267 goals against, 28th in the league and three goals away from the Buffalo Sabres for last in the NHL.
The Islanders look for and away to be a much better team than they were one seasons ago. They will surely be in the mix when we start considering favourites for the Lord Stanley’s mug in April.
Craig is an intern at The Hockey News where he has written for both the website and the magazine. He is also a featured-blogger at http://www.hockeyforums.net/index.php/blog/46-its-a-canadian-game/. Craig has an Honours in Journalism from Wilfird Laurier University and is currently completing the Sports Journalism Program at Centennial College. Follow him on Twitter @Craig_Hagerman.