Even though the New York Islanders have only played 22 games, there’s a lot to be thankful for. Their recent 17-game point streak showed the rest of the league that they have truly arrived, the goaltending and team defense continue to be the backbone of their success, and Mathew Barzal has taken his game to another level. But there are two things, in particular, the Islanders should be thankful for heading into American Thanksgiving: it’s still very early in the season and the complete team buy-in the players have to head coach Barry Trotz’s style that has helped build a winning attitude on Long Island.
It’s Still Early
The Islanders’ point streak is over after 17 games; a historic run for a team that not many believed in heading into the season. They’ve built a nice lead for themselves very early in the season, but now with the streak behind them and two consecutive road losses their most recent memory, the Islanders are now presented with their first real test of the season on Wednesday night against the Los Angeles Kings.
After an easy first period against the Anaheim Ducks, the Islanders appeared to take their foot off of the gas pedal. In Trotz’s post-game comments, he simply said, “It’s hard to be hungry if you’re full and I think we had a lot of guys who were full.”
That comment is important, specifically because it’s still so early in the season. There’s a lot of time for ups and downs and it’s critical that they’ve built themselves a cushion to face some adversity, something that will allow the team to recalibrate, come together, and come out the other side with a new hunger for success.
Good teams – true contenders – understand what it takes to win not just from learning how to win, but through losses. For a lot of reasons, Trotz’s 100 games behind the bench is an important milestone for this club. However, a lot of teams are together much longer under the same leadership before they have a long playoff run, let alone win the Stanley Cup. This early-season setback, five consecutive games without a regulation win and a number of games allowing three or more goals, may be a blessing in disguise.
A Winning Culture on Long Island
Trotz’s leadership and accountability have been a major part of why this group has grown as quickly as it has. He’s been open and honest with the media about his team’s play – good and band – meaning he’s probably even more honest with his players behind closed doors.
That attitude has also spread to the players themselves. After a loss or a tough game, the Islanders don’t seem down and out. Instead, they appear to understand the mistakes made and truly make an effort to correct them the following game.
“It’ll be a lesson for us,” Nelson said last night following the loss to the Ducks. “It wasn’t our best effort on the road against a good team in a tough building. We’ll have to respond on Wednesday and try to start another streak.”
Additionally, a theme that became a little too familiar towards the end of their streak, the Islanders found ways to win despite being down two or three goals with under 10 minutes to play in a game. That should instill confidence in the locker room knowing they are in every single game as long as they stick to their gameplan. Building a winning culture and seeing what it takes to win has been a key part of the Islanders’ quick rise under Trotz.
Luckily for the Islanders, there is still room to grow despite the long streak to start this season. Anders Lee and Jordan Eberle, two players feeling this comment the most, are ice cold so far this season. While they’ve not been able to find the back of the net as much as anyone would like, a number of other players, like Barzal, Brock Nelson, Anthony Beauvilier, and Derick Brassard, took the heat off of them during the first quarter of the season. However, from here on out, the Islanders need their best players to contribute on a regular basis if they plan on positioning themselves for another playoff run.
Jon Zella is a 30-year-old Long Island native currently living in Syracuse, NY. Outside of hockey, he enjoys motorcycles, beer, coffee, and his dog Olive.