The New York Islanders look like one of the best teams in the league. After defeating the Chicago Blackhawks 3-1 to start the road trip on the right foot, they put together another strong performance. With four unanswered goals in the second period, the Islanders defeated a struggling St. Louis Blues team, 5-2.
This was the fifth win in a row for the Islanders and gives them a 7-4 record on the season. The team is playing great hockey in all facets of the game and looks like a team that can compete for the Stanley Cup. The recent game saw the Islanders not only seize control of the pace of play but overwhelm the Blues in a dominant three-goal victory.
Dobson’s Game-Changing Plays from the Point
Noah Dobson leads the Islanders’ defensemen in points with three goals and five assists. This game proved why he is the most impactful defenseman from the blue line as he started the scoring surge in the second period. With the Islanders in control of possession in the offensive zone, he collected the puck along the board and fired a shot on the net, something he has done throughout his young career. The play set up Kyle Palmieri’s goal and tied the game but most importantly flipped the momentum.
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Then came the play on the 5-on-3 power play that not only gave the Islanders the lead but accelerated the four-goal second period. The Blues tried to clear the puck out of their zone and set up a shorthanded scoring chance, but Dobson kept the puck in the offensive zone to set up the easy scoring chance. His play allowed the Islanders to have two players near opposing goaltender Jordan Binnington without any skaters in their path, setting up an easy goal. While it went down as an assist for Dobson, the play was more impactful as it changed the game and gave the team a 2-1 lead.
Nelson Ignites the Offense
Brock Nelson found the back of the net on the power play on a play that started with Dobson keeping the puck in the offensive zone and was capped off with great puck movement. After starting the season in a scoring slump, Nelson suddenly is second on the team in goals scored with five and leads the roster with 13 points. While his goal displayed his shooting ability, the biggest play of the night for the veteran center came on the Islanders’ fourth goal of the game.
The Islanders already had the Blues on the ropes with three unanswered goals and with the opposing defense falling apart, Nelson took advantage. He carried the puck into the offensive zone and around the net against a tired defense and quickly passed the puck to the slot to catch Binnington by surprise for another goal. Nelson’s assist capped off a strong night where he proved that he can help the offense in a variety of ways from a quick shot in the offensive zone to setting up a scoring chance for the Islanders.
Anders Lee Finds His Spot
My college Marcus Ashpaugh highlighted a glaring weakness in the Blues’ roster ahead of the game that could cost them — their inability to defend near the crease. The Blues have struggled to help out their goaltenders near the net and have allowed teams to gash them on second-chance shots and quick plays near the goal. This played right into Anders Lee’s skillset and he took advantage of the weakness.
As part of the four-goal second period, Lee found an open shot in the slot and found the back of the net without much defense in his way. He has a team-leading six goals this season and a large reason for his success is his ability to play in the crowded areas of the offensive zone and complete scoring chances. When he missed the second half of the 2020-21 season with a torn ACL, the Islanders felt his absence. However, with the captain at full strength and continuing to find the back of the net, the forward unit looks complete and capable of piling on the goals against any defense.
Sorokin’s Strong Start
Ilya Sorokin’s night might appear underwhelming, after all, he allowed two goals for only the second time in his last four starts. However, his performance kept the Islanders in the game, especially in the first period. The Blues started the game fast and were creating plenty of scoring chances but Sorokin made nine saves, including some acrobatic stops, to keep the score only 1-0 in the Blues’ favor.
The Blues were playing this game with a sense of urgency and hoped to win on their home ice for the first time since their opening night game against the Columbus Blue Jackets. However, Sorokin kept their fast-paced offense from finding the back of the net and often feeling hopeless as he made multiple remarkable saves.
Furthermore, Sorokin closed out the game strong. The Islanders had a comfortable 4-1 lead entering the final period and while many goaltenders can ease up, he continued to play while in the net as the Blues tried to mount a comeback. At the end of the night, he saved 32 of the 34 shots faced. While the performance isn’t as impressive as the 41-save shutout against the New York Rangers, it was another start that proved why he is a Vezina Trophy-caliber goaltender.
Other Takeaways from the Islanders Win
- The Islanders defeated a Blues team that entered the game with a five-game losing streak and took advantage. With six losses in a row, this game has put a significant amount of pressure on the Blues who are seeing their playoff hopes slip away.
- The Islanders killed two of the three penalties they faced in the game. The penalty kill has been a strength all season, successfully killing 34 of 37 penalties they’ve faced, continuing to give the team an advantage.
- Mathew Barzal added another assist with a pass on the rush to Josh Bailey, who found the back of the net with a relentless effort to get the puck past Binnington. While Barzal hasn’t scored a goal, he remains a point-per-game player with 11 assists in as many games.
What’s Next for the Islanders
After two decisive wins to start the road trip, the Islanders will cap off the trip against the Detroit Red Wings. The game is an afternoon game against a Red Wings team that is not only coming off a big win on their home ice but can easily trip up the Islanders, who are feeling confident from a five-game winning streak.
The Islanders have looked great in the past five games, winning in high-scoring games as well as defensive battles. However, they must stay on course to maintain their strong start to the season but also remain near the top of the Metropolitan Division, which is shaping up to be one of the more competitive ones in the NHL.
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Mike Fink joined The Hockey Writers in November 2020 and covers the New York Islanders. In addition to covering the Islanders, Fink writes about the NHL at large and contributes as a weekly guest to The Hockey Writers Podcast. Follow Mike on Twitter @Finks_thoughts for more Islanders and general hockey insights.