Takeaways From Islanders ‘Jekyll & Hyde’ Back-to-Back Games

The New York Islanders played back-to-back home games, and easily defeated the Arizona Coyotes but then lost to the Toronto Maple Leafs 3-1, failing to score in the final 41 minutes of the game. The two games were against two completely different teams with the Coyotes looking like one of the worst teams in the NHL while the Maple Leafs look like Stanley Cup contenders, and the results showed that.

Related: 3 Takeaways From Islanders’ Consecutive Wins vs. Flyers

The Islanders are trying to make up ground in the Metropolitan Division and the loss to the Maple Leafs was a tough one but overall, the weekend’s games were promising for the team. The Islanders continued to play well in all three units and have built on their recent momentum, winning six of their last eight games with their only losses coming to the Maple Leafs and the Washington Capitals. The team is going to continue to make a push for a playoff spot and have key players stepping up in important roles.

Scott Mayfield & Play from the Point

Islanders defenseman Scott Mayfield stepped up in the game against the Coyotes, scoring the first goal of the game and adding an assist on the second goal, both of which gave the team a comfortable 2-0 lead by the end of the first period. Both goals were a result of Mayfield finding open ice by the faceoff circle and generating shots on the net, allowing him to also find Austin Czarnik near the net to tip in the second goal.

Scott Mayfield New York Islanders-Takeaways From Islanders 'Jekyll & Hyde' Back-to-Back Games
Scott Mayfield, New York Islanders (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

The Islanders are finding offensive success from the defensive unit in the recent games, aside from Mayfield, who has a goal and three assists in the last three games. 23-year-old Robin Salo scored a goal and added an assist in the consecutive games against the Flyers while All-Star Adam Pelech has had four assists in the last four games. Unfortunately, against the Maple Leafs, the recent strength cost them the game with reckless play from the blue line resulting in a Mitch Marner shorthanded goal that flipped the momentum and had the Islanders trailing early in the first period.

Furthermore, the second goal the Islanders surrendered, in the final second of the first period, came from a turnover from the defensive unit while trying to get the puck out of the defensive zone. Noah Dobson, who has been one of the best Islanders puck-handling defensemen this season, lost control of the puck along the boards, giving Maple Leafs forward Pierre Engvall a great scoring chance to find the back of the net, making the game suddenly 2-1. The defensemen contributing to the offense and helping create scoring opportunities are pivotal in the team’s success and the last two games were no exception.

Brock Nelson

Brock Nelson highlighted the scoring for the Islanders with two goals against the Coyotes. While the second goal came on a redirected puck as Nelson was sliding to the net, the first goal the veteran forward scored was a collected puck on the odd-man rush that was shot past Coyotes goaltender Scott Wedgewood’s glove to find the back of the net. Moreover, in the game, the Islanders 31-year-old forward led the team with four shots on the goal and was constantly creating scoring chances in the offensive zone.

Brock Nelson - Islanders-Takeaways From Islanders 'Jekyll & Hyde' Back-to-Back Games
Brock Nelson, New York Islanders, September 17, 2018 (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

Nelson leads the Islanders with 13 goals on the season and on an offense that has struggled this season, scoring only 2.32 goals per game, the team has often had to rely on their top scorer to carry the offense. For the Islanders, Nelson leads that middle line with Anthony Beauvillier and Josh Bailey and helps add depth to the forward unit, a crucial element in the turnaround from the team’s slow start.

Islanders Hit a Wall in Mrazek

Against the Maple Leafs, the Islanders got off to a slow start but eventually started to establish an offensive zone presence and create open shots on the net. In fact, for the second game in a row, the Islanders had more shots on goal than their opponent with 28 shots to the Maple Leafs 23. Unfortunately, the team hit a wall in backup goaltender Petr Mrazek.

Mrazek isn’t having a Vezina Trophy caliber season like Maple Leafs starting goaltender Jack Campbell, who has a .927 save percentage and a 2.24 goals-against average on 868 shots. However, Mrazek started his first game in the net in 10 days and was well-rested and ready to step up against a tired Islanders offense. The Maple Leafs’ backup goaltender has struggled at times this season but has proven in multiple starts, like the recent 3-1 game, that he can eliminate an offense and blank the shots on the goal.

Other Islanders Note from the Recent Games

Against the Coyotes, Ilya Sorokin earned his fourth shutout on the season with another great performance in the net. The Coyotes only managed 17 shots on net in the game, a credit to the Islanders defense but Sorokin eliminated second chance shots on the net and didn’t allow the opponent to find any easy goals, allowing the 26-year-old goaltender to have a .928 save percentage and a 2.26 goals-against average on 713 shots this season.

Ilya Sorokin New York Islanders-Takeaways From Islanders 'Jekyll & Hyde' Back-to-Back Games
Ilya Sorokin, New York Islanders (Jess Starr/The Hockey Writers)

The Islanders’ next game is Tuesday night at UBS Arena against the Philadelphia Flyers. The Flyers are a team they faced on consecutive nights last week that has struggled lately and can allow the Islanders to bounce back from the recent loss and gain ground in the Metropolitan Division. Moreover, the next five games, which will lead into the All-Star break, are going to be at home, making the upcoming stretch a pivotal one for the Islanders to pile on the wins.

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