The New York Islanders were skidding at the end of last month’s action and there were serious concerns about the roster and if the team could even make the playoffs. After the five-game losing streak, the Islanders have rebounded to win their last two games with a 4-3 victory against the Pittsburgh Penguins and a 2-0 victory against the New York Rangers. The initial reaction is to think that the team is back to their winning ways with a similar formula that brought them to the Eastern Conference Final last season.
While the Islanders have shown promise in the recent wins, it’s safe to say that fans have to pump the brakes. While the team is showing scoring depth and strong defensive play in the victories, the Islanders are simply taking advantage of an easy schedule.
The Islanders Found Scoring Off a Weak Penguins Defense
The Islanders offense was struggling at the start of this month, finding production from Mat Barzal and the top line but rarely from the other three scoring lines. Watching the Isles find two goals from Jordan Eberle, on the second line with Brock Nelson and Michael Dal Colle, and seeing Cal Clutterbuck find the back of the net make it very convincing that the offense has discovered a deep scoring lineup.
It’s important to note that the Penguins have struggled defensively, allowing 41 goals in 11 games. Aside from Tristan Jarry struggling in net (allowing 3.95 goals per game), the defense has proven to be vulnerable on the back end. As a result, the expectation was for the Islanders to pile on the goals in their game against the Penguins.
The Islanders Took Advantage of a Struggling Rangers Team
The Rangers entered this season with one of the younger teams in the NHL. The talent on the roster is unquestioned but the question of whether the talent could develop in a shortened season like this one appears to be answered. The Rangers are one of the worst teams in the East Division and the Islanders’ 2-0 victory against their New York rival is a testament to the young and inexperienced offense failing to find a rhythm. The Islanders were able to play well defensively, with Semyon Varlamov having arguably his best performance of the season in goal.
It’s important to keep in mind that while the defensive efforts in the 2-0 shutout should be praised, the Rangers’ offense is lacking depth and once Artemi Panarin was kept in check, the entire offense struggled. It’s also important to keep in mind how the Islanders’ offense struggled in this game and only found two goals in the final period with their fourth line. While a victory was pivotal and any win should be celebrated, there are plenty of reasons to take caution of the success.
Can the Islanders Continue Their Winning Ways?
When one looks at this Islanders team, they have to look at what they’ve done in the broad perspective of the division. The team played well against the Rangers (winning 2 of the 3 games against them) but has struggled against the Flyers and Capitals early on, failing to win a game against either opponent as they continued to drop in the standings. The next two games are going to be critical as the Islanders will face the Penguins again and the Bruins who are arguably one of the top teams in the NHL. The East is shaping up to be as competitive as many thought it would be prior to the season starting and it’s likely that a winning record can still result in missing the playoffs with the great teams involved.
Mike Fink joined The Hockey Writers in November 2020 and covers the New York Islanders. In addition to covering the Islanders, Fink has written for multiple sports blogs and platforms covering the NHL, NFL, MLB, and college sports. Follow Mike on Twitter @Finks_thoughts for more Islanders and general hockey insights.