It all started with a shootout win at home against the Florida Panthers, and since then, the New York Islanders have been the hottest team in the NHL.
They have won six straight games following a 1-3 start and have been getting contributions from all around in the month of October. After their second playoff series win in 26 years last spring, the Islanders seemed determined to make a big-time run this season with one of the best coaches in the entire NHL in Barry Trotz.
Even with the injury bug hitting the Islanders, they have found a way to overcome it all, as they currently sit amongst the top teams in the Metropolitan Division as October starts to wind down.
The Islanders have already placed three different forwards on injured reserve: Casey Cizikas, Jordan Eberle and most recently, Leo Komarov. Fortunately, Cizikas’ injury was not as bad as originally thought, as he came back Thursday in their 4-2 win over the Arizona Coyotes. However, the Islanders lost both Tom Kuhnhackl, as well as Matt Martin for most of the second period, on Friday night against the Ottawa Senators. To make matters worse, they only dressed 11 forwards and had Cal Clutterbuck in the penalty box for a large portion of the game after his misconduct offense.
While Eberle is a big loss considering he has had so much success on the first line with Mat Barzal, it has created an opportunity for Oliver Wahlstrom to get consistent minutes in the NHL. While he has yet to get on the score card, he has definitely made an impact creating quality scoring chances as well playing extremely physical.
Another player who has gotten an opportunity quicker than he probably expected is Cole Bardreau. This move probably would have been reserved for the Islanders’ former first-round pick, Josh Ho-Sang, but he requested a trade earlier this season after not making the team out of training camp once again.
Bardreau plays a very similar type of game to Cizikas. They both aren’t considered goal scorers despite the latter reaching a career-high of 20 goals last season. They both play well as a fourth-line centers who can throw the body as well as play solid defensive hockey. Bardreau’s minutes have been limited but he has not looked out of place after a strong training camp.
For a second straight season, the Islanders are showing how important it is to have two goaltenders you can trust regularly. For so long, they have had backups that routinely let in four goals a night, but that seems to have ended. After Robin Lehner split time with Thomas Greiss last season, Semyon Varlamov has done the same this season with Greiss. In fact, the Islanders have rotated goaltenders every single game.
Greiss has won four games with Varlamov winning three. Both goaltenders are allowing less than 2.42 goals per game as well as a save percentage over .920.Varlamov was pulled in a game earlier this season, but has not let that affect him, along with Greiss allowing four goals in a game against the Carolina Hurricanes. During the six-game win streak, the Islanders have not allowed more than two goals in any of those games. Trotz will likely continue to do what’s working. It was a big reason why the Islanders have been so successful in back-to-backs.
The Islanders will finish off a stretch of three games in four days before having a span of four off days for the second time in two weeks. They face the Philadelphia Flyers on Sunday before their break and then play the Tampa Bay Lighting on Friday in the front-end of a back-to-back with the Buffalo Sabres.
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.