The Good, The Bad, & The Ugly – The Islanders Quarter-Season Review
While still early in season, Islanders are 14-7-2, good for third in the Metro.
We are a little more than a quarter of the way through the NHL season and the New York Islanders have found some major success thus far. The season is still young, but consistent offensive output, an improved defense over the past few games, and good goaltending when needed has spring boarded the Isles to a 14-7-2 record, good for third in the Metro. Let’s break down some of the reasons why the Islanders are where they are in the standings.
Josh Bailey has been a godsend once again for the Islanders. Bailey is currently third in the league in assists and ninth in points. He leads the team in points (28) and has 23 assists already after playing just 23 games. He is the first line winger John Tavares has been looking for for years.
Mathew Barzal is another player who has exceeded expectations for the Islanders. The first year player leads all rookies in points (23) and has been playing with a confidence unforeseen for a center that young. He, paired with Jordan Eberle & Andrew Ladd, have been the perfect second line, perfectly complimenting each other and putting up points.
Nick Leddy has been probably the most underrated defensemen in the NHL for a few years now. He’s a dynamic playmaker who uses his speed in all facets of the game. He can jump up on offense whenever he likes, he can catch up to just about anyone in the league, and he has a knack for scoring big goals. No one outside the Islanders bubble will ever consider it, but Leddy is a Norris Trophy candidate for sure this year. His game is well rounded, to the point where he is far and wide the best defenseman on the team. He just won’t get the recognition because he goes about his business in such a quiet way. That, and he plays for the Islanders.
Most of the other kids
As visible as Barzal has been game in and game out, the rest of the Islanders youth has been just as invisible through 23 games. Anthony Beauvillier has been in and out of the lineup the past few weeks and has not really hit his stride yet. Josh Ho-Sang was so careless with the puck he got sent down to Bridgeport as punishment, and while he’s looked much better he still isn’t the same dynamic player we saw last year. As I stated in my previous article, Ryan Pulock has regressed so far this season. I don’t know if it’s the high expectations, the draft position, the hype, or just his youth, but he looks out of sorts so far this year. He’s had a streak of games where he’s looked good, but Pulock was supposed to be the Isles point man on the PP and the booming slapshot they so desperately needed. Instead, he’s in and out of the lineup and can’t stay consistent with any area of his game.
Goaltending (For the most part)
While the defense hasn’t been much to write home about minus the top pair (although Calvin de Haan has been good in his own right), the goaltending for this team has been extremely disappointing. What was supposed to be a strong suit with two number one goaltenders splitting time has become a battle of who wants the starting job less. Thomas Greiss & Jaroslav Halak have an identical .903 SV %, with Greiss being 8-2-2 and Halak finally getting a win on Saturday, sitting at 6-5-0. That’s not to say that the pair has been horrible, but no one has really stepped up, especially when the Islanders need that number one goaltender.
Greiss has made some incredible saves and has kept the Islanders in many games, but he’s also let some soft ones in. He and Halak have also been the victim of bad luck, with at least four goals off the top of my head that could be attributed to bad puck luck. I personally think the two netminders will be just fine come the homestretch, but it’s a scary proposition to think that the Islanders will constantly have to win games scoring 4+ goals in the future.
Brock Nelson is an enigma. He has the best wrist shot on the team yet refuses to use it a lot of the time. He disappears for stretches at a time then will score five goals in three games. He is the ultimate streaky goal scorer, but he needs to step it up. He has been a huge disappointment this year. We all knew that he was going to be streaky, but he has one point in his last five games, is a -3 overall this season, and hasn’t done anything productive so far other than score a few goals at the beginning of the season. For someone who gets time on the second PP unit, Nelson should at least be contributing points, if not scoring more goals than he does.
Jason Chimera’s Donut
I feel bad for Jason Chimera because overall he is a much more productive player than Brock Nelson. He kills penalties, uses his speed to push pucks forward, and back checks. He does not, however, score goals, which is why he is on here. Jason Chimera is the only player on the Islanders without a goal this year. I can tell he’s laboring too, because he’s had plenty of opportunities but just has not gotten it done. I feel like once he gets one there will be a string of goals coming, but for now he just needs to relax, loosen his grip on the stick a little, and play the way he knows how to play.
Overall, it’s been a fantastic start to the season for the Islanders. They are primed for a playoff position, and minus any major hiccups along the way should be a Stanley Cup contender. I don’t think they’re ready for prime time just yet due to their lack of defense, but if they can either acquire someone at the deadline or shore up their back line, they can legitimately play with anyone.