What’s bigger news than Matt Duchene finally being traded last night after only 3 shifts on the ice in Brooklyn to a team that’s not the Rangers? I would say that our New York Islanders have been winning games. They are currently 4th in the eastern conference (8-5-1 with 17 points) and two points out of first place with two games at hand. After a decent, but mostly lackluster start, struggles to score, hold leads, apply pressure, tighten up defensively and a PP that was a dismal 0-20, New York put a few things in line to start their trend towards the top of their division. They’ve also been impressive in some problem areas and have showcased some big-time performances by Vets and Young Guns along the way. Tonight, I want to share my 5 keys to the Isles latest surge and talk about the assets that have finally clicked all at once helping to aid the surge.
John Tavares: When asked once again about a contract extension, the trade deadline and the chances of relocating, he answered the same way he always does. “Not from my standpoint,’’ he said. “I don’t expect to be traded or want to be traded. I want to play here. That’s my goal, it hasn’t changed . . . I’m here as an Islander, really enjoy being the captain and try to give these guys everything every day.’’ Tavares had a slow start, but has come on to lead by example as expected with 18 points (12 & 6 with a +3 rating, a 25% S% and a 50% rating in the FO circle) in 14 games.
Mathew Barzal: Mathew Barzal has 13 points in last 9 games and is the first Isles rookie to score five points in a single game since John Tavares (2-3-5) did it on Mar. 16, 2010. Barzal had 5 assists against the Avalanche last night and it was the first time an Islanders player accomplished that feat since LaFontaine did it in 1990. Per Eric Hornick, Barzal “is the first Isles rookie in at least 30 years to have 13 points in the first 14 games of a season.” Barzal also now has a 5-game point streak (2-8-10). Barzal spoke to reporters after last night’s win. "It's a pretty cool thing to do," Barzal said. "I'm growing more confident every day and nights like tonight don't really hurt. I'm just trying to fit in and make an impact." Barzal continues to be a standout rookie and asset for New York. I forgot to remind everyone that Avs GM, Joe Sakic wanted Hamonic, Barzal, Sorokin and a 1st for Duchene.
Coaching Staff: Per Eric Hornick, “Doug Weight is now 32-17-5 as an NHL coach. On October 28 in Nashville, he reached 30 wins faster than any coach in Islander history.” His new look staff has the Isles keeping it together and starting to make some significant noise in the east. Whether it’s shuffling lines, working on face-offs, special teams (PP 8th at 22.4% and PK 13th at 81.3%) or just pushing for his players to play a more disciplined game that had been lacking before, Weight has made a difference after taking over as coach & doesn’t hesitate to call them out as a group and make the difficult choices to support what he wants from his team on the ice. Demoting Josh Ho-Sang was not a popular move among fans, but Ho-Sang has 5 points in 5 games (2 & 3) with the Tigers and is a +2. Exactly what he needed to work on and he has responded so far. The Islanders have gone 3-2 since Ho-Sang was sent down and the turn overs continue, but they have played better as a unit and their PP has vastly improved. But they still have some major challenges to work on. The goal-tending could be better overall and if they could just buckle down on a league high 6 SHGs (4 for Halak and 2 for Greiss) surrendered and 4th worst 0.5 takeaway/giveaway rating.
Offensive Depth with a newly effective Power Play: The Islanders are 3rd in the NHL for goal scoring (54), scored in 17 straight periods and the 3rd has been the most impressive for New York, with 16 goals for in their last 7 games. The offensive attack has been varied and balanced. Tavares and Bailey have 18 points, Lee (50% FO%) and Barzal (48% FO%) with 13 and Eberle, 11 and Nick Leddy has 10 after just 14 games. Josh Bailey (3 & 15 for 18 pts) is on pace for another huge season. Bailey was named 2nd star of the week (1st time being named an NHL star in career) and is riding an NHL high 9 game point scoring streak. Josh Bailey is the first Islander with 15 assists (currently 2nd in NHL) in the first 14 games in the last 30+ seasons; he now has 3 consecutive multi-assist games and has tallied 11 assists in the last five games. – Hornick. Per Arthur Staple, “Since the start of 2016-17, Josh Bailey has 56 assists. Only 10 players have more — McDavid, Backstrom, Karlsson, P. Kane among them.” As a team, the Isles have scored 6 goals for the third time in 4 games. More importantly, it appears they have finally found their PP touch. “The Isles' power play scored on both of their opportunities and is now 9-16 (56.3%) in the last four games after starting the season 2-33 … They are 5-1-0 when they score at least one power play goal and 3-4-1 when they dont. The Isles are 5-2-0 when they allow at least one power play goal and 3-3-1 when they do not.” – Hornick. They have scored 2 PPG in each of their last 4 games. Wow. I pinned the success of the team on the PP this year. Lets hope this is for real. And maybe they can find a way to win a few more face-offs throughout the line up.
Home Ice Advantage: Despite the constant complaints about the poor ice at the Barclays Center, wavering attendance and enough off-ice Arena uncertainty to make most fans crazy, Our New York Islanders are 52-23-13 (5-0-1 so far, this season) since moving to Brooklyn at the start of the 2015-16 season. After last night’s “mostly” thrilling win against the Avalanche, The Isles hold a 25-5-4 record against western teams who come to Brooklyn and the Organization still can’t wait to leave. Long standing rumors have the John Tavares extension based on a stable relocation that includes a custom-built NHL compatible arena, in which the Islanders would be able to hang their many proud banners. There is no official time table for the Belmont approval, but Isles co-owner john Ledecky has set his sights there and nowhere else. After a $7M upgrade to their practice facility, Ledecky and Isles brass have started an infrastructure to make the Isles a first-class organization that will attract fans and free agents alike.
The Isles face Edmonton at home on Tuesday at 7 pm in front of the New York Isles faithful.
Shane Prince practiced with the Isles today.
VGK, Griffin Reinhart was put on waivers 10/29. Reinhart trade turned into Mathew Barzal and Anthony Beauvillier for garth Snow and the Islanders.
Per @Zeb_Habs, “Linus Söderström, Isles goalie prospect gets the nod for the National team in the Karjala Cup tournament.”
Former Isles Captain, Mark Streit announced his retirement on Oct.30th and is returning to Switzerland.
The BOAHC, @Section_329 need your support: It's time once again for their annual food drive, from now until 11/19. A collection to donate to those in need will take place at any Isles home games. Go to section 228/229, to any of their posted viewing parties or contact Craig Richardson, James Francis Fess or Tom Ballantyne for more details. #BOAFoodDrive
Calgary Flames place Travis Hamonic on injured reserve, retroactive to Nov. 2.
Sound Tigers Notes:
“Sebastian Aho scored four times last weekend and goaltenders Christopher Gibson and Kristers Gudlevskis each recorded a shutout as the Bridgeport Sound Tigers (6-5-0-0), proud AHL affiliate of the New York Islanders, swept a three-game series against the Providence Bruins and Springfield Thunderbirds.
The Sound Tigers outscored their opponents 10-2 over the weekend, including Aho's three-goal performance on Sunday, which put the 21-year-old into Bridgeport's record books as the first Sound Tigers defenseman to ever record a hat trick. It was also the first time Bridgeport has registered a hat trick against the Bruins and team's first overall since Alan Quine did it on April 2, 2016.”
Per Christian Arnold, Islanders Insight, "NEGOTIATIONS ONGOING BETWEEN SOUND TIGERS AND CITY OF BRIDGEPORT."