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 are back from their COVID-19 pause and appear to have found their footing after the short break. Over the last week, the Islanders have only played twice, defeating the Pittsburgh Penguins and New York Rangers. Those were a tremendous four points for the Isles, who in just about a week went from last place in the division to fourth place and a playoff spot.
There is still plenty of hockey yet to be played, especially with half of the MassMutual East Division having games postponed this week due to COVID-19 concerns. The New Jersey Devils and Buffalo Sabres continue to be delayed in returning to the ice, while the Philadelphia Flyers had their first significant outbreak which postponed their matchup with the Washington Capitals. As long as the situations with these teams don’t worsen, the Isles should have three different opponents over the next week.
The Week That Was
The Islanders returned home from a disastrous road trip with the goal of rebounding against a Penguins team that has had its fair share of struggles defensively. The extra preparation time during the week seemed to help, as Jordan Eberle was able to score twice in the opening period. The team relinquished a 2-1 lead but were able to tie it up in the third period and get a late power-play goal to retake the lead for good. This game saw the reemergence of New York’s fourth line, which had been extremely quiet to start the season.
The Isles looked to build off their win on Saturday with a trip to Madison Square Garden on Monday to face the Rangers. Semyon Varlamov, who shut the crosstown rivals out in his only start against them this season, got the start. He became the first Islanders goalie to shut the Rangers out twice in the same season, providing his team with strong goaltending yet again as the Isles were able to give him two goals of support.
Fourth Line is Back
New York’s fourth line had a very slow start to the season, not having their usual sustained impact on the forecheck and failing to make an appearance on the scoresheet. They finally found a goal against the Penguins, with Cal Clutterbuck scoring the goal that tied the game early in the third period. The momentum generated from that goal allowed the Isles to earn a power-play and eventually find the game-winner to snap their losing streak.
The identity line picked up where they left off against the Penguins with an even stronger effort against the Rangers on Monday. The trio accounted for both Isles goals, with Casey Cizikas and Matt Martin the goal scorers in the win. All three forwards picked up points in the game, with Martin earning points on both goals. The recently re-signed winger had three points in the two games this week, starting to regain the appreciation of Isles fans everywhere. With important games upcoming against the Bruins and Penguins, the team will be hoping their line will be able to keep the momentum going.
Busy Week Ahead
After having two games postponed this past week, the Isles will be busy this week with four games, including back-to-back games in Buffalo. First, the Penguins will make their way back to Long Island, attempting to pick up the two points they left behind in Saturday’s game. The Pens played well overall, with their top scorers doing what they do best and Pierre-Olivier Joseph recording his first career goal. The Isles will be hoping that their consistent goaltending will once again be the difference. Pittsburgh is last in the East Division with 3.73 goals against per game.
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Boston will also be on their way to Long Island, preparing for a matchup on Saturday after they play the Rangers twice. The Bruins had two games postponed over the last week, but look to be ready for their three-game New York trip before returning home. The B’s have welcomed the return of forward David Pastrnak, who missed the first few weeks of the season following offseason surgery. He has made his presence felt with five goals and eight points in only four games, with his two points-per-game leading all NHL players.
New York’s week will finish with back-to-back games in Buffalo against a Sabres team that hasn’t played in quite some time. Monday is expected to be the Sabres’ first game since Jan. 31 when they played the New Jersey Devils. Both teams entered COVID-19 protocols following the game, and neither has played a game since. It remains to be seen if the Sabres will have their entire roster when they return, and how much of an impact these players will have following the limited ice and training time they were afforded.
Top Performers and the Week Ahead
- Matt Martin: 1 goal, 2 assists
- Jordan Eberle: 2 goals
- Semyon Varlamov: 2 wins, 1.50 GAA, .951 SV%, 1 shutout
The Week Ahead
- 2/11: vs Pittsburgh Penguins
- 2/13: vs Boston Bruins
- 2/15: at Buffalo Sabres
- 2/16: at Buffalo Sabres