The past month has been one to forget for the New York Islanders as they went 4-8-3 and fell to sixth place in the Metropolitan Division. That said, they found a way to head into the All-Star Break on a high note with a 2-1 overtime win against the Vegas Golden Knights, allowing them to sweep the season series against the Western Conference opponent.
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With the win, the Islanders have won back-to-back games. While the past month has made it easy to think that the Islanders won’t make the playoffs, the recent games were a reminder of how they can turn their season around. The Islanders have a talented roster, and a hot streak can catapult this team back into the playoff picture in the Eastern Conference.
Varlamov’s Remarkable Performance
The recent win was a reminder of the dominance of the Islanders’ goaltending. A night after Ilya Sorokin helped lead them to a 2-0 shutout win against the Detroit Red Wings, Semyon Varlamov stepped up in the net and put together one of his best performances of the season. Varlamov saved 44 of the 45 shots he faced with some remarkable saves that allowed the Islanders to win the game, including one of the best saves of the year.
In the second period with the Islanders leading 1-0, the Golden Knights looked poised to find the back of the net. Reilly Smith shot the puck on an open net, but Varlamov managed to get his paddle to the puck and kept it from crossing the goal line. It wasn’t an acrobatic save but one that required great instincts and quick reflexes from Varlamov.
Varlamov helped carry the Islanders to overtime and appropriately capped off the night with a save on a penalty shot to allow the team to win the game. The Islanders’ goaltending has carried the roster all season and while they haven’t been able to lead them to a playoff spot, both Varlamov and Sorokin give the team a chance to win every game. If the Islanders turn their season around, it will be on the backs of their goaltending duo.
Palmieri Add Spark to Forward Unit
Kyle Palmieri’s return to the lineup has been pivotal to the team’s success in the last two games. He’s one of the best forwards on the team and provides a much-needed spark when he’s on the ice. Against the Golden Knights, he was impactful in all three zones and applied pressure with his puck-handling and quick shots on the net.
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Palmieri assisted the Islanders’ only goal in regulation on a play where he crashed the net on the rush and created an open shot with Golden Knights’ goaltender Logan Thompson out of position. In overtime, Palmieri helped seal the win with a crucial pass breakup as he slid into the passing lane on an odd-man rush to eliminate the scoring chance and create a turnover in the process.
He’s been a great forward who not only contributes to the offense but also makes a strong impact in the defensive end of the ice. The recent game was a reminder of what the Islanders were missing in the past two months and his return is a sign of optimism when the team returns from the All-Star Break.
Barzal’s Game-Winning Goal
Mathew Barzal has struggled throughout the season to find the back of the net despite shooting the puck on the net more often. He generated six shots on goal in the recent game, which was tied with Brock Nelson for the most on the team, but struggled to score in regulation. In overtime, Barzal carried the puck into the offensive zone and with a top-shelf shot, scored the game-winner to secure the 2-1 victory over the Golden Knights.
The goal was Barzal’s 12th of the season, which is the fourth-most on the Islanders this season. Barzal hasn’t emerged as an elite goal scorer and has gone through multiple scoring droughts this season, including an 18-game drought to start the season. However, he has been one of the best playmakers on the Islanders, contributing 43 points to the offense, second-most on the team behind only Nelson.
Islanders Offense Continues to Struggle
The Islanders managed to win in overtime but the offense once again looked hapless. They scored only one goal in regulation and have only scored 12 goals in the last seven games. Since Jan. 1, the Islanders are averaging only 1.93 goals per game, and the struggles offensively singlehandedly derailed the promising season. They head into the All-Star Break with a win, but the offense has continued to be a weak link and something the team must improve on when they return to action.
Other Takeaways from the Islanders’ Overtime Win
- Anders Lee scored the Islanders’ only goal in regulation. The goal was Lee’s 19th of the season, which is tied for the most on the team with Nelson.
- Defenseman Adam Pelech had a big night. He led all skaters with 26:41 of ice time and assisted on the game-winning goal. Pelech’s return to the lineup has been pivotal to the Islanders’ recent turnaround as he’s helped them win the last two games.
What’s Next for the Islanders
The Islanders head into the All-Star Break and won’t play their next game for eight days. Nelson and Sorokin were selected for the All-Star Game but the rest of the team will receive a much-needed break to help them return to action stronger and make a push for the playoffs.
The Islanders’ season so far has been a mixed bag. In the first 23 games, they looked like one of the best teams in the Eastern Conference. Since then, the injuries, offensive struggles, and difficult schedule have affected the team and caused them to fall to the bottom of the Metropolitan Division. Halfway through the season, the Islanders have shown that they have a talented roster and led by their goaltending, can finish the year as a playoff team. However, they need the entire roster to step up in the second half of the season for the team to the playoffs.