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The New York Islanders are riding a five-game point streak, and currently hold a 5-2-3 record through the first 10 games of the season.
On the surface, it’s a strong record, and the Islanders sit in a good spot within the East, tied for third in the Conference in points percentage. Over the point streak, however, perhaps two of the largest themes have been the team relying too much on goaltending, and blowing leads.
Over the 3-0-2 streak, two of the three wins have come off Semyon Varlamov’s two shutouts. New York has consistently been a team that has strong goaltending as a key ingredient to their success, but over several of the recent games, the team has been even more reliant on their goalies.
Notably in the games against the Washington Capitals and last night’s loss to the Carolina Hurricanes, the Islanders were really banking on winning the goaltending battle. Over the two games, where New York picked up three of a possible four points, the team was outshot by a combined margin of 79-46. They had also given up 47 shots in their win over the Ottawa Senators, which began the point streak.
Of course, the Islanders’ tandem is one of the best in the league, but the team can’t rely on being outshot badly but getting bailed out by goaltending each night.
Then also looking at the two losses over the point streak: first against the Detroit Red Wings, and then last night against the Hurricanes, the Islanders blew a multi-goal lead in the third period and ended up falling in overtime.
Even in games where New York isn’t playing their best, being able to protect a lead is crucial.
Last night, the Islanders just needed to hang on with a three-goal lead, but ended up being outplayed badly in the final frame, getting outshot 19-5, and blew it.
Part of this does all tie into New York’s offense as well. The Islanders are pretty consistently able to score two or three goals a game, but aren’t really generating enough offense to offset many mistakes, let alone a high volume of shots against.
Looking at the positives, the second line has cooled off a little, but has also still been a success through 10 games this season.
Bo Horvat has also gotten going with four goals and nine points in 10 games. Horvat had a pretty tough time after the trade last year, but he has chemistry with Mathew Barzal, and the duo seem like they should be a good fit long-term. He did appear to be hurt after blocking a shot yesterday, but hopefully there’s no issue there.
However, Anders Lee just isn’t the ideal solution to round out that group. The winger has really lost a step and just isn’t making the impact he once did, with only one goal and one assist to this point.
Doing anything with the top line also likely means making changes to the third line as well, though. The team has struggled to figure out who to play with Jean-Gabriel Pageau, and while we’ve seen Simon Holmstrom and Hudson Fasching on the wings and Oliver Wahlstrom in the press box for the last couple games, the line was also outshot 10-2 at 5-on-5 last night, according to NaturalStatTrick.com (though Holmstrom and Pageau did team up for a shorthanded goal).
Trying Mathew Barzal on the Pageau line also shouldn’t be something we see going forward – having Barzal on the top line gives them someone to transport and control the puck, which Oliver Wahlstrom or others simply aren’t going to be able to.
While the Islanders have been maybe a little more consistent in terms of scoring on a game-to-game basis this season, they haven’t found the ideal combinations within their lineup.
Defensively, it seems like the Islanders also really need all five of their top defensemen in the lineup. Noah Dobson has taken another step this season, but it’s clear the trust isn’t there with Samuel Bolduc, and even Sebastian Aho, to play more than a limited role. So when Scott Mayfield was injured, and now with Adam Pelech out, there’s a lot of responsibility placed on the remaining top four defenders.
But despite the blown leads and being outplayed pretty badly at times as major concerns, the Islanders remain in a good spot within the Division. Are they playing like a team with one of the better points percentages in the East? Not necessarily. Rarely have we seen a 60-minute effort. If the team continues getting outplayed like they have been, their results are unsustainable. But they have time to figure it out, and they’re still finding ways to pick up points in the meantime.
The Islanders will be back in action on Tuesday, when they host the Minnesota Wild.