There was a lot of optimism for the New York Islanders’ first game back from the All-Star Break. They acquired star center Bo Horvat and looked to pick up where they left off, specifically following the consecutive wins to end the first half of the season. The Islanders beat the Philadelphia Flyers 2-1 in a game where they never trailed, defeating the Metropolitan Division opponent for the second time this season.
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The Islanders played an uneventful game that had only three goals including a scoreless third period. However, they returned from the break with a much-needed win, one that allows them to start the second half of the season on the right foot and rebound in the Metropolitan Division.
Islanders Power Play Wakes Up
The Islanders’ power play was awful in the first half of the season, scoring on only 23 of their 148 opportunities. Moreover, the unit was on an 0-26 drought entering the game, making it a liability for the team. However, in the first period, Kyle Palmieri found an open shot and zipped the puck past Carter Hart’s glove to give the Islanders a 1-0 lead.
Horvat was acquired to add a spark to the offense but also to save the power play. With 11 of his 31 goals this season coming with the man advantage, he is the ideal player to inject life into an otherwise hapless unit. Horvat didn’t contribute to the goal but Palmieri reminded the Islanders of what they were missing when he was out of the lineup from Dec. 16 until Jan. 23 with an injury. The Islanders lacked a shooting presence on the power play and Palmieri’s recent goal showed how he can help turn around the unit and the offense altogether.
Varlamov’s Strong Start
The Islanders needed a strong outing from Semyon Varlamov who was coming off a 45-save performance in his previous start. With Ilya Sorokin getting the night off, the Islanders turned to their veteran to help start the second half and the first game of a back-to-back strong. Varlamov not only picked up where he left off before the break but helped lead the team to another victory.
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Varlamov saved 25 of the 26 shots he faced including 18 saves in the final two periods. The one goal he allowed came at the end of a long shift for the Islanders and the Flyers took advantage but otherwise, Varlamov put together a flawless night. The goaltending has carried the Islanders all season and against the Flyers, the strength was once again on full display.
Islanders Offense Continues to Struggle
Two goals in the first game back from the break was underwhelming. The hope was that the offense would step up and round out an Islanders roster that already has a great defense and dominant goaltending. Instead, it looked similar to the hapless unit from the previous month where the Islanders averaged only 1.93 goals per game.
The Islanders’ offense has let them down this season, scoring only 2.85 goals per game, and one game into the second half of the season, there’s been minimal signs of improvement. Yes, the Islanders generated 16 shots on goal in the first period and created plenty of scoring chances but they once again struggled to find the back of the net. Despite boasting a three-game winning streak, they’ve only outscored their opponents 6-2 and in the last eight games, they’ve scored only 14 goals. The offense continues to be the weak link and unless the unit turns things around, it could keep them on the outside of the Eastern Conference playoff picture looking in.
Dobson’s Big Play
To set up the second goal for the Islanders, defenseman Noah Dobson collected the puck in the slot and found Mathew Barzal near the net with a quick pass. The Islanders were pressuring the Flyers to start the period but Dobson finally created the scoring chance as he found an open skater near the net to give the team a 2-0 lead which would be enough to secure the victory.
The assist was Dobson’s 18th this season which is the most on the Islanders’ defensive unit. After missing the final four games of the first half of the season with an injury, Dobson returned to the lineup and provided an immediate impact. He stepped up in all three zones and proved why he is one of the best two-way players on the Islanders, helping lead the team to the 2-1 victory.
Other Takeaways From the Islanders’ Win
- Barzal scored one of the Islanders’ two goals. Despite starting the season with zero goals in the first 18 games, he now has 13 goals which is fourth most on the team and on pace to eclipse last season’s total of 15.
- Horvat won 54 percent of his faceoffs and played a big role defensively with strong play up the middle, two hits, and two blocked shots. While he didn’t provide that immediate spark to the offense, he put together a strong overall performance, providing plenty of optimism for the games ahead.
- Hart saved 28 of the 30 Islanders’ shots and kept the Flyers in this game. The Islanders had plenty of opportunities to put this game away but Hart put together a great performance in the net.
What’s Next for the Islanders
The Islanders head back home to face the Seattle Kraken, who beat them on New Year’s Day 4-1. The Kraken are one of the best teams in the Western Conference but the Islanders will have a well-rested Sorokin in the net for the upcoming game, who looks to return from his All-Star selection with a statement performance.
The recent game was a mixed bag for the Islanders. They didn’t play great, especially on the offensive end of the ice but they earned a much-needed win. The 2-1 victory was a good step in the right direction for the Islanders as they hope to climb back into a playoff position.