The New York Islanders might have put together their best win of the season as they shut out the Edmonton Oilers 3-0. The Oilers might not be the same team that reached the Western Conference Final last season but they are still one of the best teams in the league and possess more than enough talented players to take over a game. Building off the 3-2 comeback win against the Toronto Maple Leafs, the Islanders looked dominant to win their second game in a row.
With a 13-8 record heading into Thanksgiving, the Islanders have looked like a good team to start the season. However, the recent win proved that they might be one of the best in the Eastern Conference that can eliminate any offense in the NHL.
Sorokin’s Dominant Night in Net
A 49-save shutout with 14 saves on the penalty kill fails to describe how great Ilya Sorokin was for the Islanders in this game. Despite playing on short rest, starting in the 3-2 win against the Maple Leafs on Nov. 22, he showed no signs of fatigue. Instead, he looked sharp and more disciplined than in any other game this season. The Oilers put together a strong offensive effort, but he kept the puck out of the net with a shutout performance.
Sorokin faced a great Oilers offense, one that averages 3.47 goals per game and possesses two of the game’s best players, Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl. The two Oilers’ forwards managed to create plenty of scoring chances, especially on the rush with their speed and playmaking ability. However, Sorokin with his strong reflexes to stop the quick shots made them look hapless. Furthermore, he made the entire offense look lost as he shut them out in the 3-0 victory.
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This game might have been Sorokin’s best of his career. It was the 12th shutout of his career and second of the season but the 49 saves were the most in his three years in the NHL. Moreover, it was a statement for Sorokin, who proved that he is one of the elite goaltenders in the league and should be a frontrunner for the Vezina Trophy.
Islanders’ Penalty Kill Fuels Win
The Islanders have been great on the penalty kill to start the season with a unit that has allowed only 11 goals on 69 opportunities. However, against the Oilers, it was playing at a different level.
Zach Parise and Jean-Gabriel Pageau forced a turnover and then started up the rush to score the first goal of the game. On a Parise pass to the front of the net, Pageau found an open shot against an Oilers power play unit out of position to score the Islanders’ first shorthanded goal of the season. Along with the goal, the Islanders also killed off five penalties in the game against one of the best power play units in the NHL.
The lack of discipline is a concern and the surplus of penalties could have cost the Islanders. However, when the Islanders needed to step up and prevent the Oilers from taking over the game, their penalty kill fueled the team to a victory.
Wahlstrom’s Big Assist
Sebastian Aho scored the third goal of the game for the Islanders to give them a decisive 3-0 lead in the second period. The goal, while impressive, was only possible from the playmaking ability of Oliver Wahlstrom, who set up the open shot for Aho. Controlling the puck in the offensive zone, Wahlstrom shrugged off Oilers defenseman Brett Kulak and skated around the net to create a shooting lane for the 26-year-old defenseman. The quick pass that followed gave the Islanders another goal in a dominant second period and essentially put the game out of reach.
Wahlstrom is one of the young players that is thriving under head coach Lane Lambert and his more offensive-minded system. With five goals and six assists, he is becoming a playmaker and a reliable top-six forward in the offense. While he isn’t the most consistent forward on the team, he has made his mark this season and looks to remain a pivotal part of the Islanders’ success in 2022-23.
Pageau’s Two Goal Game
Pageau led the scoring with a shorthanded goal but also had the Islanders’ second goal of the game which came on the power play. With more space to work with, he skated to the net and sent a centering pass to Anders Lee which was redirected into the back of the net by Oilers defenseman Evan Bouchard. While the puck was deflected into the net, he created the scoring chance and sent the puck to a dangerous area allowing his pass to become his second goal of the night.
With four goals in the last five games, Pageau is suddenly turning a corner offensively. He has five goals and eight assists on the season, giving him 13 points which are fifth-most on the team. The Islanders specifically rely on four potent lines to lead them and with him continuing to play at a high level, the offense looks like one of the best in the league.
Islanders Defense Steps Up
The Islanders’ defense didn’t have their best game of the season, allowing plenty of scoring chances including 49 shots on goal. However, they stepped up in the neutral zone and notably limited McDavid from handling the puck and taking over the game. Adam Pelech and Scott Mayfield particularly carried the defense as they led the team in ice time and stepped up at the blue line to slow down the high-powered Oilers offense. Sorokin led the Islanders to a 3-0 shutout win but the defensive unit also played a major part in the dominant performance.
Other Takeaways From the Islanders’ Win
- Mathew Barzal added an assist in the win to give him 21 assists on the season. He’s having a remarkable year as a playmaker and continues to set up scoring chances for the offense which is putting him on pace for a career year.
- Aho’s goal was his second of the season but the 17th for the defensive unit this season. A strong emphasis this year from the coaching staff has been for the defensemen to help out the offense and through 21 games, they have played a major role in its success.
- Brock Nelson, who has the second-most points on the Islanders with 20, failed to record a point in the game but he led the forwards with three blocked shots. In a game where he struggled to contribute to the offense, he still stepped up and put together a great game, notably helping eliminate a potent Oilers offense.
What’s Next for the Islanders
The Islanders will be off for Thanksgiving but will be back in action for a pivotal back-to-back against two Metropolitan Division opponents. They face the Columbus Blue Jackets on the road and then host the Philadelphia Flyers who are coming off a 3-2 overtime loss to the Washington Capitals and are desperate to snap their eight-game losing streak.
The Islanders have surpassed the quarter mark of the season with 21 games played. With a 13-8 record they are off to a strong start, and more importantly, have shown that they are among the elite teams in the Eastern Conference. They entered the season with Stanley Cup aspirations and through the first 21 games, have proven that they have a roster that can compete for the Cup.
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.