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

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Islanders Start A Wild Ride

Our New York Islanders have played 13 games under the direction of Doug Weight and have clawed their way back into the hunt for a wild card spot with an 8-3-2 record. And they have definitely improved as a team in all zones and managed to mount a more complete effort on the ice. Now we can certainly ignore the 7-1 (Chimera, penalty shot goal) drumming in Toronto last night, but overall, we all have to be happier with the snarl they have played with recently, currently 3 points out of the 2nd wildcard spot. With the news of Claude Julien being fired, many fans had the team asking for permission to talk with him like they had done with Gerald Gallant, but Montreal had rehired Julien a short time later at about $5M per for 5 years according to Pierre LeBrun. To me, you don’t change the chemistry that Weight has been able to cultivate after the toxic inconsistency that swirled around the team behind Jack Capuano. At times, they played well, improved in areas, but never found a way to rise up and take the next step under his leadership. Weight will most likely be given an opportunity to see what he can do this season, especially with the team in the thick of the fight for a playoff spot. 

Things don’t get easier with the Rangers at home on Thursday, a home-at-home with the Devils this weekend and on the road to visit Detroit, Montreal and Columbus to finish out the month. They need to continue generating PP opportunities (15-76 at 19.7%) and keeping their man-down situations (7-55 at 87.3%) to a minimum, just as they have in their last 24 games.  The differential is the best in the NHL per Eric Hornick.  How does Jason Chimera feel about the rivalry to be renewed tomorrow night? Staple quoted him as saying, “I’ve only been here six months and I hate ’em,” Jason Chimera said. “It’s not just the team, it’s the people that cheer for them. You hear your neighbors talking about the Rangers and you want to beat them even more.”

The trade deadline is 20 days away and fans have Duchene, Landeskog, Sharp or even Vanek (who is known for hating the idea of playing in Brooklyn) penciled in to join the team via trade. To get any of those guys will take a lot of assets, especially right now because the rumors of deals that have been making the rounds are clearly to the advantage of the seller. The Avalanche have Duchene under contract and although they are firmly entrenched at the bottom of the league, GM, Joe Sakic is in no hurry to move an asset like him without premium assets in return. And with the Isles so deep on defense right through the Sound Tigers roster, wouldn’t be so quick to compromise that depth without due cause. AHL All-Star, Devon Toews leads the team with 24 assists and Ryan Pulock leads the defense with 10 goals and 22 points in 27 games. Especially with Travis Hamonic injured, they would be ill advised to make a trade of a defensive commodity at this time. Jaroslav Halak (11-1-2) has been making the most of his time in Bridgeport, where he has a team record, ten game winning streak and has helped the Tigers push out to a 30-16-1-1 record. If he isn’t in the long term plan and although expensive at $4.5M cap hit per through next season, he might be just what a team like the LA Kings would need to stay in playoff position.

Some say without a major acquisition to play on the first line, John Tavares will sour on the idea of resigning. Publically, Tavares (20 and 26 for 46pts) has stated his intention is to play in New York and isn’t looking ahead to free agent at all.  Anders Lee has 20 goals (2nd to Tavares on the team with 21) and 12 assists in his last 26 games and is playing like a bonafide 1st liner, ranked 3rd in points on the team with 34. And let’s talk about Josh Bailey. Bailey has 11 and 27 for 38 points in 55 games and is playing like the high 1st round pick he was back in 2008. The isles scoring depth has helped the first line get a little less attention and that has translated in goals, and by extension, wins. Brock Nelson, Jason Chimera, Ryan Strome and Andrew Ladd have played much better as of late and the defense has made big contributions as well.

Adam Pelech and Scott Mayfield are still keeping pace and Nick Leddy is an amazing player to watch under the Weight regime. 1st in D ice time at almost 23 minutes a game, Leddy has .57 pts. per game rating and 2 ppg. “As a team, we changed a few things. We’re having the puck a little more,” Leddy said. “We’re moving our feet a lot more in the offensive zone, using the D more, having a five-man attack, and it’s providing a lot of offense for us,” per Staple in Newsday.  “Thomas Greiss has started 17 of the last 20 games (9-5-3) and 19 of the last 25 games (11-5-3).  He has allowed two goals or less in 13 of his last 19 games,” per Eric Hornick.

The meter is running and their fate is in their own hands.  They play 22 of their last 34 away from the Barclays Center. Hornick mentions they “do not have a homestand longer than two games. Following this 10-game stretch the Isles will play nine straight road games for the first time in franchise history.” They need to tighten up at the start of the game, where they have started to return to the ugly habit of surrendering the first goal over the last 4 games and improve their 7-12-4 road record if they have any hopes of doing some damage in the playoffs. Additions, subtractions, whatever.

The damage should start against Michael Grabner and the New York Rangers.

Isles Notes:

Shane Prince, Cal Clutterbuck are still out due to injury. Travis Hamonic remains on the IR.