It wasn’t necessarily pretty at all times, but the New York Islanders stepped up to the challenge and won back-to-back games to begin their week. They moved to 6-1-1 in back-to-backs this season and 17-2-2 in back-to-backs under head coach Barry Trotz. The Isles started it off with a win on the road against the Washington Capitals and then ended it with a statement win over the Philadelphia Flyers at the Barclays Center to help their playoff push.
In the two games, the Islanders scored 10 total goals, and despite letting both the Capitals and Flyers back into the game after their strong start, they were still able to pick up all four points available. They also won both games in regulation to make ground on Washington and increase their lead over Philadelphia in a tight Eastern Conference.
“Our group was determined tonight (against Philadelphia). The biggest thing for me was no matter how the game is going, we’re staying to the process,” Trotz said.@NYIslanders
The biggest takeaway from the two nights were that Matt Martin and Leo Komarov combined for three goals. While Komarov’s goal on Tuesday came with the net empty, the Islanders have needed to get some secondary scoring. Kieffer Bellows did a terrific job of that against the Los Angeles Kings last week, and then both Martin and Komarov provided scoring from a fourth line without Cal Clutterbuck.
While their role will always be to defend the opponent’s top line and play a physical brand of hockey, anytime they can register on the scoresheet is a bonus and they were able to do that. However, they did lose their linemate Casey Cizikas to what looks to be a serious lower-body injury. While Trotz did not give a timetable on the recovery, the Islanders have a big spot to fill on the fourth line and on the penalty kill.
The other strong part of the Islanders’ game was their penalty kill. Although they ended up giving up the tying goal after the Flyers pulled their goaltender, New York’s penalty killers did a great job to keep the lead until Philadelphia pulled their netminder. With only three centers available, both Brock Nelson and Mat Barzal took penalties and Komarov, Martin, Josh Bailey and Anthony Beauvillier stepped up big time to kill off both penalties when Nelson was unavailable.
Playing with the Lead
For much of the past month, the Islanders have not had many leads and had to chase most of the game. However, in the past two contests, they led from the start, but did not look very comfortable. After leading 5-1 against Washington, New York allowed the Capitals to get back into the game after blowing a three-goal lead to Washington last month.
The Islanders dominated the opening 20 minutes on Tuesday in one of their best first periods of the season, but let the Flyers crawl back in. If not for a rocket from Ryan Pulock with under a minute to go, the game could have very likely ended in overtime. Trotz has always been a coach that is tough to beat when he has a lead going into the third period. While the Islanders continue to get positive results, their play has dipped in those areas.
Looking at Tuesday night, the Flyers completely dominated New York in the third, outshooting them 14-5 until the Islanders scored two goals with under a minute left. They continued to play most of the time in their own end, and, once they got control of the puck, needed to go to the bench to change.
Also, despite the goaltenders playing fantastic early in the season, New York has allowed at least two goals in 17 of their last 18 games. A large part of that goes to the defense which is missing Adam Pelech, but the Islanders are not a team that can rely on winning 4-3 every night.
That will need to be one area they need to improve upon as they hit the road for the start of a four-game trip. After playing the fewest amount of games heading into this week, the Islanders schedule has quickly started to pick up with games every other night. They will need to play 12 solid periods of hockey to back up what they did in the last two days.
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