Islanders Weekly is my series that looks at the performance and outlook of the New York Islanders. Every Thursday, we 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 opened this past week with a three-game series against the Philadelphia Flyers, with the first two games being played at home. These were the first games played in front of Isles season ticket holders, after the team invited 1,000 healthcare professionals to last week’s game against the New Jersey Devils. The first matchup of this week was a tightly contested affair early, but both goaltenders ended up struggling. The Islanders started Semyon Varlamov, and while he started off strong, both he and Carter Hart were beatable late in the game, with the Isles ultimately falling 4-3.
Rookie goaltender Ilya Sorokin drew both of the remaining starts of the week, appearing in consecutive games for the first time of his young career. He allowed one goal in each contest, with goal support coming at key moments, particularly in Saturday’s dominant 6-1 win. Five different Isles scored, including two goals from Casey Cizikas. Clutch scoring continued on Monday, with the overtime winner coming from Anthony Beauvillier, his second consecutive game with a goal.
New York was scheduled to have a fourth game this week, which was supposed to be played on Tuesday against the Boston Bruins on the road. After several Boston players found themselves on the COVID-19 protocol list, Tuesday’s game was postponed, but Thursday’s upcoming game is scheduled to be played as Boston returned to the practice ice on Wednesday. The Islanders have played extremely well against the Bruins so far this season, winning all four matchups after struggling mightily against Boston in recent years.
Trotz’s Line Blender
Head coach Barry Trotz debuted some new lines this week in an effort to continue dealing with the loss of captain Anders Lee. The open spot on the first line that belonged to Lee was handed to Leo Komarov after Kieffer Bellows had his four-game audition in the captain’s role. Komarov didn’t crack the scoresheet in his first two games on Mathew Barzal’s left-wing, but his physical play and puck retrieval skills were on display as he attempted to mesh with the team’s leading scorer.
The second and third lines also underwent changes, with coach Trotz electing to leave only the team’s identity fourth line intact. Michael Dal Colle was moved up to the second line with veterans Josh Bailey and Brock Nelson, presumably to spark both Dal Colle and Bailey, who have been struggling of late. Dal Colle scored his first goal of the season in his debut with the new line. Beauvillier joined the third line with Jean-Gabriel Pageau and Oliver Wahlstrom, and scored in back-to-back games to close out the week. With most of the new forward lines rolling, scoring could be on the rise.
Sorokin’s Streak Continues
Sorokin’s strong play continued this week, adding two more wins to his active streak. He now has the third-longest win streak in franchise history, all in his first season playing in North America. Sorokin and Varlamov have formed one of the most formidable goaltending duos in the NHL, with both currently ranking in the top-10 among qualified goaltenders in goals-against-average. Despite consistently calling the veteran Varlamov his undisputed No. 1 goaltender, Trotz may have some interesting decisions to make if Sorokin can keep rolling.
With over two weeks until the team’s next back-to-back, the workload split will be something to watch over the next several games. Both goalies are playing extremely well, but more tests are on the way, particularly with the Bruins and Pittsburgh Penguins next up on the schedule.
Defenseman Noah Dobson missed three more games this week as he remained on the COVID protocol list. After dressing the same six defensemen for the first two months of the season, coach Trotz was faced with a tough decision when it came to replacing his youngest defenseman. After inserting Sebastian Aho into the lineup for the first three games of Dobson’s absence, Trotz turned to veteran Thomas Hickey, who had not dressed for the Isles since the 2019 playoffs.
Aho played well in Dobson’s stead, especially since being three years removed from NHL action. He recorded an assist in his first game of the season and scored his first goal in over three years against the Flyers on Thursday. Hickey made an emotional return to the Islanders lineup on Saturday in front of fans and contributed two assists in a dominant win. He remained in the lineup for Tuesday’s rematch in Philadelphia and received plenty of praise from his teammates and coaches. Dobson was removed from the COVID protocol list on Wednesday but will be away from the team for the remainder of the road trip. The Isles should be more comfortable with this after seeing their depth defenseman produce.
Top Performers and the Week Ahead
- Oliver Wahlstrom: 2 goals, 2 assists
- Nick Leddy: 3 assists
- Ilya Sorokin: 2 wins, .966 SV%
The Week Ahead
- 3/25: at Boston Bruins
- 3/27: at Pittsburgh Penguins
- 3/29: at Pittsburgh Penguins