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

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

The Islanders 666


My focus for today's article is like something off of a certain Iron Maiden albumThe 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.”

-\m/      \m/-




Isles Notes:


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.





Tuesday, October 11, 2016

2016 KoC New York Islanders Season Preview


Our New York Islanders finished the preseason playing .500 hockey. John Tavares and Jaro Halak came back to play the final game of the primer along with a mostly veteran line up against Washington, but fell flat in a 4-0 loss. The preseason was a back and forth showing the potential sum of its parts, but the record was secondary to the evaluation of both vets and prospects.  Although players like Mathew Barzal, Anthony Beauvillier & Joshua Ho-Sang made a strong impression, apparently free-agent signing and “projected first liner”, P.A.Parenteau found himself of waivers, only to be snatched up by the New Jersey Devils a little later today. It’s a surprising move to many, but a good one if it makes the team better. That answer is yet to be determined. B.D. Gallof noted, “Fact that PA can't make cut on isles does speak very highly of their tracking tech new array of players plus higher expectations.” Jason Chimera is skating with Tavares & Ladd on the top line now, but Jack Capuano wouldn’t comment on the game 1 line up as of yet.


Scott Mayfield, Bracken Kearns and Ben Holmstrom cleared waivers and were assigned to Bridgeport along with Kyle Burroughs, Michael Dal Colle, Matthew Finn, Christopher Gibson, Jesse Graham, Josh Ho-Sang, Ross Johnston, Devon Toews and Stephon Williams. The club's final roster moves, prior to closing training camp today, included loaning defensemen Adam Pelech and Ryan Pulock to the AHL club in Bridgeport. Steve Bernier, Colin Markison, Tanner Fritz, Patrick Cullity and Connor Jones were released from their PTOs over the pre-season and enforcer and room leader, Eric Boulton was placed on injured reserve (along with Stephen Gionta & Mikhail Grabovski) retroactive to Oct. 4. Word from Coach Capuano is Jaro Halak (illness) may not be able to play the opener against the Rangers on Thursday. The match up will be only the 2nd time in franchise history the Isles open against the rival Rangers. A team who they swept (outscored 14-7) last season, for the first time in franchise history.


So the management and coaching staff studied their X’s & O’s, and came up with the opening day 23 man New York Islanders roster:


Forwards:

Josh Bailey
Mathew Barzal
Anthony Beauvillie
Jason Chimera
Casey Cizikas
Cal Clutterbuck
Nikolay Kulemin
Andrew Ladd
Anders Lee
Brock Nelson
Shane Prince
Alan Quine
Ryan Strome
John Tavares


Defensemen:

Johnny Boychuk
Calvin de Haan
Travis Hamonic
Thomas Hickey
Nick Leddy
Dennis Seidenberg


Goaltenders:

JF Berube
Thomas Greiss
Jaroslav Halak



My impressions coming into the season are ones of excitement and an all too familiar feeling of uncertainty.


I am certain that Andrew Ladd and Jason Chimera will add value and experience to the team and they should make up for most of what the team lost in free agency. Nikolay Kulemin will get his chances (along with a list of others) to try and fill in for the vacancy left by Nielsen, but that is a tall order to fill. Josh Bailey is a good, and often maligned player by the fans. But he does stack up points and comes through from time to time, like it or not. Cal Clutterbuck and Casey Cizikas are money as far as I’m concerned and their value is shown by their versatility and impact.


John Tavares looked solid in the World Cup and he should be hitting his stride a lot sooner than other players on team, which can never be a bad thing. I was impressed with the play of the Isles 2015, 1st round picks, Mathew Barzal & Anthony Beauvillier and it was evident that the coaches were as well. Now I’m all about an NHL ready prospect getting time over an aging vet, but only if they play up to the level the team needs.  To me, both Barzal and Beauviller have the talent and drive, but I’m not yet sold on their ability to execute regularly. That usually comes with experience and the Isles want to win now. I assume the chance is theirs as long as they continue to meet expectations.


Eric Hornick reminds us that Barzal was drafted by Garth Snow and the Islanders after the Bruins passed on the 13th, 14th & 15th picks from this summer’s draft. The Isles traded Griffin Reinhart to the Oilers for the 16th (Barzal) and 33rd picks. Reinhart hasn’t really developed the way the defensively starved Oilers had wanted him too and was sent down to their AHL affiliate on October 7th. Snow followed up that same round by flipping the 33rd pick along with his 72nd pick for the 28th (Beauviller) first round selection. So heading into the season, Barzal and Beauviller are still here and Reinhart has been sent down and seemly not in Edmonton’s future plans. Advantage, Snow.


Several players will have the spot light, but need to contribute more. Shane Prince will have his opportunities, but is coming off a lower body injury to start the season. He made quite the impression after being acquired from Ottawa in March of last year and will need to do more of the same this season. Alan Quine is another guy who I love to cheer for. The former BST has all the drive necessary to stay on this team and makes the most of his limited size by playing a quick and hard checking game. More will also be expected from the likes of Anders Lee and Brock Nelson, but I assume they are happy with that challenge. Much like Ryan Strome, who recently re-upped with New York, the trio of young vets need to consistently find their offensive touch and become better all-around players to help the Islanders take the next step.


The renewed commitment of Travis Hamonic is some of the best news Isles fans had experienced in quite same time. The fact is Hamonic is probably the most valuable player on the team not named Tavares and his defensive game is matched only by his grit. Nick Leddy is just a consistently good, all around blue liner who fits well with this team and adds veteran skill to any top D pairing. Johnny Boychuk is an elite defenseman who should be poised to ramp it up again this season and deliver an offensive punch so needed on the PP. Thomas Hickey is another solid player who gives you his best in any role he plays. Calvin de Haan is good when he limits his mistakes and had his best, longest & most healthy season with the team last season. The arrival of Dennis Seidenberg is probably the reason that Ryan Pulock was sent back to Bridgeport. I am not alone in wondering what benefit the minors will serve Pulock, but management added Seidenberg to add quality veteran depth and that is what he will bring. Pulock will probably have his chance due to injury and may never go back after that.


The islanders once again carry a third goalie on their roster instead of a 7th defensemen. Jaroslav Halak & Thomas Greiss will mind the net for New York and J-F Berube will add that 3rd goalie security. Halak wants to be the starter and was until his health gave Greiss an opportunity to shine last season. I expect much of the same again and for the team’s sake, one of them needs to step up and lead by example into and through the playoffs. Berube will have his chances and is obviously valued by the team, but may find himself traded later in the season if the right opportunity presents itself, especially with expansion looming next season.


The team has a few question marks and a few guys who need to fill the voids they were always intended to fill. There is a dire need for consistent special teams play, a strong checking game and clean defensive play if they have any chances to compete with a Washington or a Pittsburgh this season. And the opportunity for error is slim with 12 of their first 17 games at home in the Barclays Center. While home ice can serve them well, facing 22 of the last 34 games on the road including a brutal 9 game road trip from February 21st through March 11th isn’t the time they want to find themselves struggling to get make-or-break points.


I think the Islanders have the potential to finish 2nd or 3rd in the Metro and may even add an impact player as the season goes on. I expect their bar to be raised and pressure to be felt from the ownership on down, to win now. I also expect that anyone in the organization who doesn’t share that mind set will see how badly they want to win. And at their own expense.


John Tavares agrees. “Some may have more talent, but there is no excuse for anyone working harder than you.”





Isles Notes:


Per @generalfanager, “New York Islanders Cap Space: $1,387,859, Total Cap: $71,612,141 Active Roster: 14F/6D/3G.”


John Tavares and Team Canada defeated a strong performance by Jaroslav Halak (with Thomas Greiss) and Team Europe to win the 2016 WCH tournament.


Tony Stabile, “Ilya Sorokin has played 39 KHL games the past 2 seasons for CSKA Moscow during that time he has given up 39 goals and has 13 shutouts.”



NHL Notes:



Former Isles D, Brian Strait was waived by the Winnipeg Jets after signing as a free agent this summer.