Winners of nine straight, there is nobody hotter in the NHL than the New York Islanders. They have not lost a game since Oct. 11 and head into their matchup with the Ottawa Senators playing as well as they have in decades.
They currently sit in second place in the Metropolitan Division, three points behind the Washington Capitals with two games in hand. The Islanders are currently on their second-longest winning streak in franchise history, as they had a 15-game streak back in 1982. The Islanders went on to win their third of four-straight Stanley Cups that year. Let’s take look at why they have been so successful this season and who has stepped up big time through the first month of the season.
After allowing the most goals in the NHL two seasons ago, the Islanders flipped the switch last season in head coach Barry Trotz’s first year with the team, allowing the fewest goals. So far, they have continued that trend this year. Through 13 games, it is pretty impressive to see what Semyon Varlamov and Thomas Greiss have done, as neither of them have played in back-to-back games this season.
After losing Robin Lehner in the offseason, it was uncertain what the Islanders would get this season, but through the first month of the season, they have produced as well as any goaltenders in the NHL.
Varlamov has played one extra game this season and is coming off a 27-save shutout for the 26th of his career. Greiss is currently eighth in goals against at 2.15 and fifth in save percentage at .933 and won five of his first six starts this season.
There have been many teams in the past that have just rode one goalie all season. Looking at teams like the Vegas Golden Knights and Tampa Bay Lightning, they tend to rely heavily on Marc-Andre Fleury and Andrei Vasilevskiy, respectively, and seem to lose any time the starter isn’t in net for their team.
However, their workload is nearly double that of, say, a Greiss and Varlamov, and Vasilevskiy showed a bit of rust in the playoffs after starting 53 games during the regular season. It would be really interesting to see the Islanders make a big run using both their goaltenders all through the regular season and postseason.
Amongst the mix of players to have missed a game this season with injuries are Jordan Eberle, Casey Cizikas, Matt Martin, Leo Komarov, Tom Kuhnhackl, Nick Leddy, Noah Dobson, and Andrew Ladd.
Even with all that, it seems like whoever has been stepping up has done the job. Guys like Ross Johnston, Cole Bardreau, Oliver Wahlstrom, and Michael Dal Colle have stepped up, playing bigger minutes every night.
Also, the Islanders stars have definitely performed up to par with Mat Barzal, Josh Bailey and Brock Nelson all beginning the season strong. The three of them have combined for 16 goals and 16 assists through the first 13 games.
They may not be noticed since they hardly let up goals, but the Islanders’ defensive core has been incredible shutting down the opposition in the neutral zone limiting the chances they give up. Devon Toews, Ryan Pulock, Scott Mayfield and Adam Pelech just continue to improve as well as the veterans in Leddy and Johnny Boychuk.
The Islanders brought in just one free agent forward this offseason and that was Derick Brassard. While he was held scoreless the first eight games of the season, he has now scored goals in five straight games to lead the Islanders’ offense.
With the incredible numbers of injuries the Islanders have had, Brassard moved up from his third-line role and has produced playing on the wing with Nelson and Anthony Beauvillier.
When Brassard was signed, the expectation would be he would replace Valtteri Filppula on the Islanders’ third line. So far this season, New York has gotten way more than they could ask for as he not only has brought offense thus far, he plays a good two-way game and can win a big faceoff.
A lot of the times for teams to be extremely special and show that they are here for a championship, they need veteran guys to step up. Brassard played for three different teams last season and scored 14 goals all season. He is already a third of the way to his total in 57 less games.
Looking back at recent successful teams, it hasn’t always been the superstar that has carried his team to a Stanley Cup. For example, with the St. Louis Blues last season, they had guys such as Tyler Bozak and David Perron play big minutes as the season went on and into the playoffs.
The Islanders seem to have that right now with Brassard and can hope some other veteran players like Ladd and Komarov could potentially be difference makers when they come back from injuries.
After having two consecutive weeks of four straight off days, the Islanders will have two more days to prepare before they take on the Ottawa Senators in their first game at the Barclays Center on Tuesday night. They follow that up with a rematch of the first round of the 2019 Stanley Cup Playoffs in the Pittsburgh Penguins before facing the Florida Panthers. The Islanders extended winning streak began courtesy of a 3-2 shootout win over Florida in October.