An independent blog on the New York Islanders, the NHL and AHL by a guy from New York.

Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Islanders Getting Offensive

Your New York Islanders had another curious start to their post-Christmas initiative.  A home at home with the Toronto Maple Leafs who sat last in the Atlantic, but with a bit of recent successes.  The Isles were 1-8-2 vs the Atlantic division including a dismal 0-6-0 record at home while going 12-0-2 vs rest of the NHL.  They came out slow and sluggish before a sellout crowd at the Barclays Center and didn’t even really start to play until late in the third period, already down 2-0 on the scoreboard.  Nikolay Kulemin (Leddy & Strome) scored to bring the game within a goal, but the Isles fell by a 3-1 score (ENG) to the Leafs in what many called a lifeless effort and blown opportunity to gain ground in the standings.

No doubt, revenge would be on their minds when they got to Toronto yesterday.  They were so fired up and in different line combinations, that they got goals from every line and managed to tally 3 goals in each of the first two periods.  13 forwards not named Okposo registered at least a point and saw the Isles match the season high in goals en-route to an impressive 6-3 win. Brock Nelson, John Tavares, Frans Nielsen. Nikolay Kulemin, Matt Martin and Anders Lee had the goals in a spirited offensive effort despite being outshot 33-21 in the game.  Thomas Greiss was in net for the Isles (Halak out do to upper body injury) and was good, going 30 of 33 with a .909Sv%.  Tavares, Nielsen and Lee were named 3 stars of the game.

The Islanders defensive game is on point and has been all season.  The tandem of Halak and Greiss (.932 and 10 wins) sit among the best in save percentage and (2.09) goals against average and 7th as a team in goals against.  Their penalty killing is an impressive 87.7%, good enough for best in the NHL.  This includes 39 consecutive kills and no goals surrendered in 15 straight games (best since 87-88).  “It’s our second year here together with [Assistant Coach Greg Cronin] and we’re kind of figuring out what he wants us to do and our routes,” Nielsen said. “We’re working hard, sacrificing and hopefully we can keep it going.”

The Isles play their best (13-3-2) when they score first and compliment themselves on defense.  Their offense has been on and off all season, but they have managed to score 2.70 goals per game (12th in NHL) and a rate 17.5% with the extra man (10th in NHL.)  The power play is a major reason for the team’s limitations.  Isles have proven that with a 10-3-3 record when scoring at least one PPG and a 10-9-2 record when they unable to score on the man advantage.  That includes a 17-2-0 record when scoring at least 3 goals and 3-10-5 record when they are unable to reach the 3 goal mark.  It all starts with the play on ice.  Tavares (27 pts), Okposo (26) and Nielsen (24) lead the team in scoring and Brock Nelson (21) has been hot lately with 3 points in his last 6 including 1 GWG.  He also recorded a career long 5 game point streak in November (5 & 3 for 8 points.)  John Tavares scored for the first time in 6 games and has started to generate more opportunities in the last few contests.  For New York to complete their efforts, the offense needs to keep pace with their defense.  Once that happens, they will be an even more dangerous team to play against.  That will require a major adjustment and consistency in their overall game.

A more complete game by both players and coaches.  They have the attention of their opponents and for all they are having trouble with, you can’t ignore the big picture.  The Islanders are 20-12-5 with 45 points in 37 GP sitting at 2nd in the Metro and 3rd in the eastern conference.

That’s what I call, “Battle Level."

Isles Notes:

Islanders are in BUF @6pm on NYE, PIT @7pm on Saturday and home against Dallas @5pm on Sunday.

Eric Hornick, “The Isles earned 97 points in calendar year 2014.  With their win tonight, they have earned 95 points in calendar year 2015 (with 1 game to play).”

Sound Tigers Notes:

Kyle Burroughs has been reassigned by the #Isles to the #BST, Loic Leduc to the #MoMavs.

Christopher Gibson (Halak Injury) has been recalled to the Islanders and Parker Milner to the Sound Tigers.


Matt Barzal has shootout winner for Canada in 3-2 victory over Switzerland.

Islanders prospect Linus Soderstrom, Sweden shut out USA at World Juniors: 5 things to know.

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Isles Christmas Goals

Your New York Islanders scored 3 goals in a 4:49 span of the 1st to overcome a 1-0 Anaheim lead yesterday at the Barclays Center.  The series was en-route to a 5-2 victory and a sweep of the Ducks on the season.  After a Matt Martin tilt against Josh Manson, Cal Clutterbuck, Travis Hamonic, Brock Nelson, Josh Bailey and Martin (ENG) scored for New York with 2 assists and a noticeable fight (Ryan Getzlaf) from John Tavares to help keep things moving in the right direction for the Isles.  With the team on their longest PK streak in team history (29) in 13 straight, the Isles defensive game is becoming their strength.  Jaroslav Halak made 27 saves (10-6-3 with a 2.09gaa and .923Sv%) in the victory and made several key stops to preserve the offensive surge, especially in the second period.

Most importantly, the win ended a 3 game skid in which the Isles managed to score a total of only 3 goals (11 goals in the prior 3 wins.)  The 5 goal effort was a good way to enter the Christmas break and possibly build momentum from another game in which they were able to take control and contain their opponent.  They showed versatility in their scoring depth and were led by JT’s example on the ice.  While the defense needs to improve their scoring output by continuing to jump into the play, Ryan Strome (3 & 8 for 11 pts), Brock Nelson (12 & 8 for 20 pts) and Anders Lee (4 & 11 for 15 pts) have been better for New York to help create offense.

The Isles are 6-3-1 in their last 10 games, but still need to find a way to score on a PP (0 for 3 in game vs Ducks) that ranks 16th in the league at 18.4%.  Once some offensive consistency evens out, the Isles will be close to where they need to be as a team.

Isles Notes:

The Islanders welcome the Toronto Maple Leafs on Sunday, 12/27 at 6pm to start a home at home series (12/29 in Toronto at 7pm.)

The Islanders are 19-11-5 in 35gp with 43 points good enough for 3rd in the division and 4th in the eastern conference.

Kyle Okposo (lower body injury) & Eric Boulton were scratched for the game.

Barzal & Beauvillier make Team Canada, Missouri starts new streak. 

Per Eric Hornick, “The Isles have lost 69 games this season due to injury/illness.”

Monday, December 14, 2015

The Improving Play Of Calvin de Haan

Your New York Islanders are now 18-8-5 with 42 points after 31 games played and have extended their non-losing streak to 8-0-2.  After a solid 4-0 win against the rival Devils at the Barclays Center in front of 13,259 screaming faithful last night, the Islanders showed how they can play a methodical and complete game.  They were so good, they chased Corey Schneider from the net and overtook second place seat in the Metro from the Rangers following the win.  The Isles are 7-0-2 in the Metro and are the only NHL team to earn a point in all their division games this season.  Against the Devils, Zidlicky book-ended 2 and Tavares & Martin scored the middle 2 goals in the game.  Thomas Greiss (9-3-2) got his 4th career shutout, his first as an Islander and as Eric Hornick points out, it’s the only shut out by an Isles keeper not named Halak in the last two NHL seasons. Your Isles are only 1 point off their pace from last season and haven’t lost in regulation since before Thanksgiving.  You remember those dark days, right?  That was way back when the very same New York Rangers held an 11pt lead over them.

Just think of when the first line gets back up to speed with the other 3, how dangerous their offense could be in time for the playoffs.  It will lend itself to how well the team has been playing their defensive game in front of the only top 10 (Sv% & gaa) goaltending tandem in the NHL.  Johnny Boychuk, Nick Leddy and Travis Hamonic are elite NHL defensemen game in and game out.  Marek Zidlicky is a skilled journeyman highlighted by his memorable game against NJ and Thomas Hickey’s return has been a big improvement to the blue line.  But the play of Calvin de Haan (12th overall in the 2009 NHL Entry Draft) goes well beyond the stat sheet and his game has been noticeably improved this season.

de Haan is 1 & 4 for 5 points and a +6 in 31 GP for the Islanders.  He averages over 20 minutes of ice time a game and has been counted on in many key situations by Coach Capuano and his staff.  de Haan’s special teams play has improved along with his standard defensive game.  And with his strong skating and improved veteran D game falling into place, It feels like it’s only a matter of time before his juniors offensive output could start to reach his pro game performance.  Especially watching a veteran player like Marek Zidlicky do his thing day in and day out.  de Haan has been limiting some of the bad decisions and turnovers that he seemed to commit over the past few seasons.  I think a few fans might be noticing that he has started to make a difference.  What do you think?

Isles Notes:

The Isles have killed all 22 opponent power plays in their last nine games. It’s the second such streak this season.

Sound Tigers Notes:

The Islanders AHL affiliate, Bridgeport Sound Tigers are 16-10-1-1.

Wednesday, December 9, 2015

Frans Nielsen: The Great Dane

Your New York Islanders are 16-8-5 with 37 pts in the NHL standings.  That puts them 3rd in the Metro at just 3 points behind the first place Capitals, and sitting 4th in the eastern conference.  Their play hasn’t been perfect, but they are 6-2-2 in their last 10 games and on a 6-0-2 non losing streak.  The Isles are on an 8 game point scoring streak and are at a season high 8 games over the NHL .500 mark.  It is a bit concerning that they have blown leads and have been subjected to 4 consecutive O.T./Shootout games (Including a victory against the Rangers) while being out-shot by a 16-8 margin in those extra sessions.  Per Eric Hornick, they are now the winning-est NHL team (67 wins) in the shootout.  Their recent defensive game and particularly from the net out has been the primary reason for their success with Jaroslav Halak winning his last 2 shootout appearances. Halak made 43 saves in the last win against the Flyers, his most as an Islander, and improves to 8-4-3 on the season.  Although offensively, while their primary scoring has been struggling, the Isles secondary scoring has improved. But their tendency to take the sloppy and untimely penalty (like 2 too many men penalties in last 2 O.T. periods) has made closing and winning games much more difficult than it should be.  But they are getting points and staying close to the top of the division.  I wrote about the goal-tending tandem being the primary reason for the team’s success in a prior article, but there is a particular player who is making a major statement on the offensive side of the ice for the Islanders this season.

Frans Nielsen will be an unrestricted free agent heading into next summer and is sure to get a raise from his current $2.75M salary from the Islanders or anyone else.  When they selected him 87th overall in the 3rd round of the 2002 NHL entry draft, they probably didn’t realize that he would be one of the most consistent players for the modern day Islanders franchise.  He is certainly reaffirming his quality as one of the standout players for his team with 11 & 10 for 21 points and a +4 in 29 games on the season.  As a complete two way threat, Nielsen seems to be getting better each and every season.  In last night’s win, Nielsen scored twice and was a major component in the team preserving the win.  That puts him one goal behind John Tavares for the club lead and one point behind Kyle Okposo & John Tavares for the team lead in points. 

Whether it’s his fan dubbed, “Danish backhand of judgement,” his five-hole shot or are n improvisation of the moment, Nielsen has all hockey fans eyes glued to the ice when his number is called in the Isles shootout rotation.  And it doesn’t seem to matter that goalies know what shots are coming.  Nielsen’s proficiency in the shootout (33/60) has also been a major contributor for his team’s success in that area and their ability to hold on and win when it counts.  His success rate remains as the NHL record holder in shootout goals (all-time), and game deciding (shootout) goals.

How Frans Nielsen will finish the season and what will happen over the summer isn’t known to us at this point.  But his character and commitment to his craft is beyond question and out of anyone who has worn the orange and blue in the last 13 years, I hope he can stay with this team for a long time to come.

Isles Notes:

From a historic standpoint (Hornick), Frans Nielsen’s 110 goals has him 25th all-time for the NYI, and just 6 behind Ray Ferraro.  He tallies 208 assists, good for 16th all-time and 29 behind John Tavares.  That’s a total of 318 points.  19th all-time for the Islanders, 9 behind Kyle Okposo and 13 behind Ziggy Palffy in 554 games played, ranking him 15th among Islander skaters and 40 behind John Tonelli.

Sound Tigers Notes:

The Sound Tigers are 15-9-1-0 on the season, beating Hartford by a 4-2 score on Sunday.

NHL Notes:

NHL exec committee member says no discussion on when vote on expansion will happen. There was only information passed on to board during Monday’s meetings.

The range on next year’s salary cap was given out, with high number of $74.5M.