My focus for today's article is like something off of a certain Iron Maiden album. The Islanders are 6 games into the season and I’ll look into the 6 reasons that they improved and the 6 areas in which they need to focus on to be keep it going. 666 may be the number of the beast, but it’s also the subject of my team analysis. Scream for me Brooklyn!
Your New York Islanders are 3 & 3 after 6 games. They have 6 points and currently sit in the Metro’s 4th spot (10th in east), only 2 points out of 1st. After a tough start, going 0-2 and suffering an agitating loss to the rival New York Rangers, the Islanders have been doing some good things. And those things are making them harder to play and giving them more chance to win. Mr. Eric Hornick sums it up well to those who panicked after the slow start. In the “Last 5 isles games: 3 wins, and 1-goal losses to defending Western Conference Champ and defending Presidents Trophy winner. Time to exhale.”
So let’s go over my top 6 reasons they have climbed back up to a .500 record and made some noise doing it.
1) The offense came together in game 6 and scored 6 goals, half of what they managed to tally in the first 5. And they scored 3 of them in just a 3:08 span against Minnesota. Isles Captain, John Tavares has 5 points in 6 games (along with Josh Bailey and Brock Nelson) while Alan Quine has found a spot with Brock Nelson and Anthony Beauvillier, scoring 5 points on Monday.
2) The revamped “4th” line has been excellent once again. Nikolay Kulemin replaced Matt Martin, joining Casey Cizikas and Cal Clutterbuck and the trio has netted some big results for New York. They have 8 points in 6 games, Cizikas, some big face-off wins and the line continues to get a lot of ice time in crucial situations.
3) Eric Hornick reminded us what kind of 9 game tryout Rookie Anthony Beauvillier is having. Beauvillier has 5 points (1-4-5) in five NHL games and in just 47:25 of ice time. “Beauvillier has recorded his five career points He has the highest points per 60 minutes played ratio (6.33) of any player in the entire NHL (minimum 3 games played).” He’s blocking shots, finishing checks, understanding the flow of the game and has been working extremely hard to do all he can to prove he belongs right where he is. Wow.
4) Cory Wright touched on the contributions of the Isles D adding 5 goals over the last two games, a trend that led the team to an 18-8-3 record when getting a goal from a defenseman. That’s especially big going into this season because if Isles can score throughout the pairings (has combined for 6 & 6 for 12 points -Hornick), the contributions will put other teams on notice. Especially if a game changer like Johnny Boychuk (4pts in 6 games) can continue his pace and add a few more shorthanded GWG’s. The PK is the leagues best, with an impressive 95.5% (21 of 22 on the Ssn.) and continues to preserve their chances while man-down.
5) The team goaltending seems to be picking up where it left off last year and out of this summer’s World Cup tournament. Jaroslav Halak (backed up by Thomas Greiss) kept Team Europe in every game of the tourney and helped them reach the finals against Canada. The tandem is holding the fort as the new look Isles find their groove with a combined 2.54gaa and a .909 Sv%. If an improving defense can play in front of a confident keeper tandem, the Isles can concentrate on scoring goals on the rush. While they rank 14th in goals against per game (2.83), Halak and Greiss have kept them in the mix, especially in close games.
6) The Islanders are home and making the most of it. Yes, we know the back and forth struggles about the ice at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn, but we also know that the Isles killed it at home last season (25-11-5) and with 12 of the 1st 17 games at home to open the season, they need to continue to pile up the points early and often. They are 3-1 in Brooklyn so far and will look and will look to add to the win column when they face Montreal Wednesday, on Bill Torrey Bowtie night.
The Islanders definitely have some room to improve. Here are my 6 keys.
1) Their PP once again shows shades of what hampered the team for most of last season. Currently, the man advantage is anything but. The Isles rank 29th in league at 6.7% with a single PPG to show in 6 games. This cannot continue or changes must be made anywhere they can.
2) Adding Andrew Ladd over the summer was huge. It gave JT a competent and legit scoring winger with the leadership qualities and winning experience that he has been lacking in a line mate. He got his first point as an Islander on Monday, ending a 5-game pointless streak which according to Erick Hornick, is the longest of his career to start a season. Something isn’t clicking.
3) Matthew Barzal had a tough open to his NHL career. He made mistakes, found the box a couple of times and looked frustrated in his pro debut against the Capitals. And that was only his first shift. But seriously, he had a right to be nervous and his team mates helped him laugh it off, but Barzal has an opportunity to make the squad as a regular if he improves. He may need more time with the Thunderbirds or he just may need another chance.
4) It’s still very early, but the Islanders are 0-2 on the road so far. The good news is they won’t be seeing much of it to start the season, but that will change on the back end when they will be on the road for 22 of the last 34 games away from Brooklyn, so the road game needs to come together.
5) The islanders, like many other NHL teams are much more successful when they score first. They are 2-0 with 1st goal, 1-3 without so far this year. Falling behind early will take away the team’s ability to dictate flow and control the game, so the slow starts and mistakes in the defensive zone must be minimized.
6) I mentioned the offensive punch they found in their last game earlier, but the fact is that if it wasn’t for the defense, the offensive output by the team so far has been very thin. After the moves made this summer, they need to show more than they have thus far in the season. Riding out a slim lead with a struggling PP won’t get it done and while another impact trade could still happen, the guys in the room need to find some more chemistry, learn to mesh and find a way to score goals throughout the forward core. Currently, the Isles are 18th in goals per game at 3.00.
Let’s hope they keep the flow going and at the same time, tighten up on the holes in their game while developing a better team chemistry. The last game was a hard fought win, but the Islanders need that kind of effort more consistently, game in and game out.
“Can I believe that what I saw that night was real and not just fantasy.”
The New York Islanders have signed Steve Bernier to a one year, two-way contract. Bernier is on waivers today and will report to Bridgeport if he clears. “Bernier, 31, scored six points (one goal, five assists) in 24 games with the Islanders last season. He also appeared in six Stanley Cup Playoff games as the Islanders advanced to the second round.”
D, Ryan Pulock is out 4-6 weeks (lower-body injury) suffered in the 1st period of Friday's 3-2 win over the Coyotes. It was Pulock’s first call-up pf the season from Bridgeport.
Per Eric Hornick, “Monday’s Isles win was the 1,500th in Islander regular season history.”
Nassau County Executive, Ed Mangano, arraigned on federal corruption charges.