The New York Islanders played their first game following the trade deadline. With the quiet deadline, Lou Lamoriello and the front office made it clear that this roster is still built to compete and remain competitive for the rest of the season. The statement was made by the team as the Islanders defeated the Ottawa Senators 3-0, sweeping the season series against the Atlantic Division opponent.
The Islanders have won 27 of their 61 games but notably have won seven of their last 10 games, earning points in eight of those games. The Islanders proved once again that they look to finish the season strong and more importantly, have the pieces in place to play well in the remaining 21 games of the season.
Semyon Varlamov was one of the Islanders linked to many trade rumors ahead of the trade deadline. The veteran goaltender could have brought back a strong return from a team looking to compete for the Stanley Cup. The recent game, however, was a great reminder of why the Islanders kept Varlamov as he not only gives the team a strong goaltending duo but provides the team with competence in the net.
Varlamov made 24 saves against the Senators and put together his first shutout of the season, leading the way in the 3-0 victory. The veteran goaltender faced a struggling offense that only scored five goals in their previous three games but early on in the game, the opponent generated multiple quick shots on the net, and Varlamov stepped up in a game that was a goaltending duel for the first 50 minutes.
The Islanders have been led by their goaltending all season. Ilya Sorokin has taken a big step forward and the role as the primary starter while Varlamov has started to split starts with the younger goaltender. The duo helped the Islanders reach the Stanley Cup Semifinal last season and with the team only a few pieces away from competing for the Cup, the goaltending looks to be a primary part of the team’s success moving forward.
Pelech, Mayfield & The Defensive Unit
Adam Pelech has been the Islanders’ best defenseman all season, creating turnovers in all three zones and limiting opponents from finding effective shots on the net but isn’t known as an enforcer or a hard-hitter. Against the Senators, Pelech set the tone for the game early on as he stepped up at the blue line in the offensive zone and hit forward Mathieu Joseph. The hit was telling for how the Islanders played against a smaller opponent as the team played a hard-hitting game and removed the Senators skaters from the puck at will and maintaining possession in the offensive zone.
Along with Pelech, defenseman Scott Mayfield is having a great season on the defensive end of the ice and in the recent game, stepped up in all three zones. Mayfield got the Islanders on the board in the third period as the defenseman skated into the slot and collected a loose puck to find the back of the net with a quick shot, scoring his third goal of the season. The defensive unit controlled the game against a struggling Senators team and helped keep the momentum on the Islanders’ side from the opening puck drop with strong play in all three zones.
Lee’s Scoring Surge Continues
Anders Lee scored his 24th goal of the season to give the Islanders a 2-0 lead late in the third period. The Islanders captain found his usual spot in the offensive zone and waited for the puck to find him and once again, finished off a scoring chance with a top-shelf shot past Senators goaltender Anton Forsberg. Lee has recently played alongside Brock Nelson, who leads the team with 27 goals, and the duo have allowed the forward unit to have two strong scoring lines with two of the best offensive zone finishers on the same shift.
In the last nine games, Lee has scored 10 goals and remains the Islanders’ best goal-scorer in the recent hot streak. Lee’s scoring instincts have allowed the offense to rebound on the season and in the recent weeks, become a unit that is difficult to stop, scoring three goals or more in seven of their last nine games.
Other Takeaways From Islanders Win
Cal Clutterbuck remained out of the lineup for the second game in a row. The later line forward was speculated to trade rumors when scratched from the lineup against the Philadelphia Flyers in a 2-1 defeat ahead of the trade deadline, but the recent game was a reminder that Clutterbuck needs time to recover from a lingering injury.
The Islanders’ upcoming game is going to be at UBS Arena with the team currently boasting a five-game winning streak on their home ice and will be against the Detroit Red Wings. While the Red Wings are having a rough season, winning only 26 of their 63 games, the Atlantic Division team defeated the Islanders in the previous two meetings this season and will be a tough matchup.
Mike Fink joined The Hockey Writers in November 2020 and covers the New York Islanders. In addition to covering the Islanders, Fink has written for multiple sports blogs and platforms covering the NHL, NFL, MLB, and college sports. Follow Mike on Twitter @Finks_thoughts for more Islanders and general hockey insights.