Islanders Weekly is my series that looks at the performance and outlook of the New York Islanders. Every Thursday, we will take a look at the week that was for the Islanders, highlighting key players and trends while looking at the road ahead.
Related: Last Week’s Islanders Weekly
The Islanders had their sights set on continuing a strong home stretch with three matchups with the Buffalo Sabres followed by a date with the Boston Bruins. After waiting nearly two weeks between his previous two starts, Ilya Sorokin was awarded two starts in a span of just four days, both against Buffalo. The rookie goaltender extended his personal win streak to four straight contests and kept his team rolling as well. Semyon Varlamov started the other Buffalo contest, picking up his 11th win of the season, followed by his 12th against Boston on Tuesday.
The Isles have yet to lose to either Buffalo or Boston, and now have won six straight games and picked up points in nine consecutive contests. New York has also yet to suffer a regulation loss at home, posting an 11-0-2 record through the first 13 home games this season. Their home presence should be improved by the inclusion of fans starting with Thursday’s game against the New Jersey Devils.
New York closes out its long homestand with a home contest with the Devils on Thursday, followed by two more matchups with the Devils in Newark on Saturday and Sunday. New York has won two of the three meetings so far this season and now faces New Jersey three times in a span of four nights. Expect to see both Isles goalies in action once again, with a back-to-back taking place Saturday and Sunday.
Nelson Finding the Net
After struggling to get going early on this season, Brock Nelson appears to have found his stride during the Isles’ recent run of success. The veteran center has goals in three straight games, and recorded four goals and an assist in the four games this past week. Nelson’s line with Josh Bailey and Anthony Beauvillier was arguably its most consistent last season, especially in the bubble, and appears to be regaining its form as we approach the midway point of the campaign.
Nelson and Bailey were scrutinized heavily at the start of the season, as the two veterans were struggling to produce and were without Beauvillier for a short time. The duo and the entire second power-play unit have been clicking of late, especially with the standout performances of rookie Oliver Wahlstrom. A confident Nelson could propel the team’s scoring touch even further as it looks to extend its lead atop the MassMutual East Division.
Welcome Back, Fans!
Nassau Coliseum will once again be welcoming fans, beginning with Thursday’s matchup with the Devils. This week’s attendance will be limited to Northwell Health frontline workers, as the team announced 1,000 tickets will be used for these guests. Season Ticket Members will then be able to attend games beginning with the March 18 matchup with the Philadelphia Flyers. Fans have responded to the availability of tickets, as the first seven home games have already been sold out.
The Coliseum will only be filled to 10% capacity, but the return of real crowd noise to the arena will surely help the home team. In what looks like the last season for the Isles at the barn, it isn’t surprising to see such a rush to get tickets now that they’re available. After selling out until early April, the Isles will have significant fan support as they continue their push to return to the Stanley Cup Playoffs.
The Islanders have somewhat surprisingly been one of the most balanced scoring teams in the NHL this season. After spending most of last season starving for goals and having scoring often labeled as one of their key weaknesses, the Isles have impressed with a very balanced scoring punch. They have five players with at least nine goals, the only team in the NHL that can say that. Nelson, along with Mathew Barzal, Anders Lee, Jean-Gabriel Pageau, and Jordan Eberle have each notched at least nine, with Lee leading the way with 12.
The team’s fourth line has also returned to form, with Casey Cizikas and Matt Martin each sitting at four goals, as Cal Clutterbuck has added three. When they’re not scoring goals, the identity line is winning battles in the corner and tiring out the opposition’s best defenders. Getting timely goals up and down the lineup has allowed the Isles to build leads, and they don’t give those up very often.
Top Performers and the Week Ahead
- Mathew Barzal: 1 goal, 3 assists
- Brock Nelson: 4 goals, 1 assist
- Jordan Eberle: 1 goal, 3 assists
The Week Ahead
- 3/11: vs New Jersey Devils
- 3/13: at New Jersey Devils
- 3/14: at New Jersey Devils
- 3/16: at Washington Capitals