The month of April was certainly an interesting one to say the least. As the New York Islanders started to struggle, the New York Rangers defeated the New Jersey Devils in four straight games to get back in the hunt for a playoff spot. However, behind great goaltending and some other key contributors, the Islanders earned themselves a playoff spot for the third straight season. Despite being swept in a two-game series against Boston Bruins and then losing three straight to Washington Capitals, the Islanders have played well of late in their last 16 games and are 9-6-1. Here is a look at the three players that have stepped up of late for New York.
Semyon Varlamov has been as hot as just about any goaltender in the entire NHL over the past few weeks. After allowing three goals against the Boston Bruins on April 15, Varlamov went on and has won three games. The veteran also had a terrific start to April as he earned a win on April 1 and then a 29-save shutout five days later against the Capitals.
Even while splitting time in net this year with Ilya Sorkin, Varlamov leads the league in shutouts and has emerged as a potential Vezina Trophy finalist. He recently recorded three straight shutouts and set a franchise record of 2:48:00 without giving up a goal. It was the third-longest streak in the expansion era and 12th-longest all time. While head coach Barry Trotz has yet to officially name a starter for the postseason, Varlamov’s numbers this year and his success in 2020-21 make it seem like he will be the man in net in the playoffs.
Nearly 14 months ago, the Islanders made a surprising move to bring in veteran defensemen Andy Greene from the New Jersey Devils. He ended up seeing plenty of time at the end of the season as well as in the playoffs and re-signed with New York. While coming in as a potential seventh defenseman, Greene played in every game this year and was terrific this past month.
Despite not being a defenseman that is going to rack up many points, he did score his first goal of the season against the Rangers. Greene even registered a pair of assists though was most noticeable with his defensive style of play. He has been a big part of the Islanders penalty kill that ranks in the top five in the league. Greene continues to develop great chemistry with Noah Dobson and even saw time with Braydon Coburn this month. After a plus-4 in a game in March, Greene was a plus-3 against the Washington Capitals and was a plus-1 at the end of April.
Considering the Islanders played the Rangers four times in the month of March, it is not surprising to see Anthony Beauvillier shine. Not only has he been able to dominate against the Islanders’ rival, but Beauvillier also had a terrific last couple of games with five goals and four assists.
In total, he scored three of them against the Rangers and also had a two-goal game against the Philadelphia Flyers back on April 3. Even with the shakeup of the lines toward the end of the month, Beauvillier continues to play with Brock Nelson and Josh Bailey. The young forward has spent time on the first power-play unit along with Mat Barzal, Jean-Gabriel Pageau, Jordan Eberle, and Noah Dobson. He also generally starts off overtime play as the Islanders have begun to play better in overtime as they earned a win against the Rangers in the extra frame and is always a weapon in the shootout.
As the Islanders head into the postseason, they will need these three players to be a big part of making a deep run. In the meantime, they will spend the rest of the regular season fighting for home-ice advantage in the playoffs. They let a 2-0 lead get away against the league’s worst team in the Buffalo Sabres, but will face them again on Tuesday as they currently sit in fourth place in the East Division.
Matt Rothman is a 2018 graduate from Florida Gulf Coast University receiving his bachelor degree in journalism. Originally from Long Island, he moved to Parkland shortly after high school. Matt worked as the assistant sports editor for his school paper, eaglenews.com in college becoming just one of nine students in his graduation class to serve over 1,000 community service hours. His goal is to travel to every Major League Baseball stadium, and has been to multiple US Open finals.