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."
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:
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.