With points in six consecutive games, the New York Islanders have finally found some consistency. Thanks to quality goaltending, a four-game point streak from captain John Tavares and streaky goal-scoring of Anders Lee, the Isles have begun to turn their season around. But is this just a flash in the pan or is it that the real Islanders failed to show up for the first quarter of the 2016-17 season?
Back in the Saddle, but Still in the Cellar
It’s scary to think that a team with a 6-2-2 record in their last ten games could still be in the cellar of the Metropolitan Division, but thanks to the improved play of the New Jersey Devils and Columbus Blue Jackets, the Islanders are still more than a handful of points out of a potential playoff spot.
Although it may be too early to think about the postseason, the Isles should start, because many of the games they lost early in the season can and will come back to haunt them if they don’t continue to win. Add in a lack of consistency and offensive production from Ryan Strome, Nikolay Kulemin, Andrew Ladd and Jason Chimera and the Islanders aren’t out of the chateau de bow wow just yet.
“We’re still not where we need to be,” Cal Clutterbuck told Newsday on Thursday after the Isles’ 3-2 win over the St. Louis Blues. “It’s nice to win a bunch of games, but we’re still not there yet.”
How They Keep Winning
Although their defense is banged up, the starting six of Johnny Boychuk, Nick Leddy, Calvin de Haan, Thomas Hickey, Travis Hamonic and Dennis Seidenberg gives them a chance to win every night. Unlike many defense cores in the NHL, they can all log big minutes and play at both ends of the ice.
With Adam Pelech, Scott Mayfield and Ryan Pulock in the wings or coming back from injury for the playoff push, the Islanders have the depth to make a move to fortify their offense. At the same time, with goals not coming the way they should, the Islanders need their defense to continue to chip in everywhere they can.
The same thing goes for their goaltending duo of Thomas Greiss and Jaroslav Halak. With JF Berube sitting in the press box all season and Greiss continuing to play solid, Halak, whose play has improved of late, has become expendable. Simply put, the better Halak plays, the more options it gives the Islanders down the stretch.
Barely Enough Offense
Though sitting above .500 for the first time this season, the Isles have not had contributions from a plethora of players. On the strength of Tavares, Brock Nelson, Josh Bailey and the streaking Lee, they have been able to get just enough goals to stay in hockey games.
While Casey Cizikas and Cal Clutterbuck have continued their solid two-way play, the Islanders need more from Ladd, Chimera, Kulemin and Strome if they are going to continue their hot streak. While Alan Quine’s ability in the face-off circle and Anthony Beauvillier’s skating have been fun to watch, these two youngsters could fortify the lineup and cement their role on the team with a few more goals.
In the end, while the defense and goaltending have earned back their respect, the Isles won’t be a playoff team until they can regain the offense lost with the departures of Frans Nielsen, Kyle Okposo and Matt Martin. While they have the players to get it done, they haven’t shown it on a consistent basis, not even during their last ten games.
Over the past ten years as a working journalist, Patrick Hickey Jr. has covered the New York Islanders, New York Rangers and New Jersey Devils, as well as the Brooklyn Aces of the former EPHL, contributing pieces and/or holding Editorial positions at NBC, New York Sports Day, NY Sportscene Magazine and the New York Times. During that time, he has interviewed NHL stars the likes of Brendan Shanahan, Bernie Nicholls, Bob Probert, Martin Brodeur and Zach Parise. He is also the first winner of the New York Islanders Blog of the Year Award, for his work on TheDriveForFive.com in 2008.