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Islanders Puck Talk – Weekly Review

The boys are buzzin’.  The Islanders are one of the hottest teams in the NHL, winners of seven of their last eight, and minus a small blemish against the Vegas Golden Knights have knocked off some top tier teams.  Wins against the Toronto Maple Leafs, Buffalo Sabres, Dallas Stars, and Colorado Avalanche proves the Isles can play with just about any team in the league.  Let’s take a look at another great week for Barry Trotz’s squad.

New York Islanders @ Vegas Golden Knights – December 20th, 2018

Score – 4-2 Golden Knights

Player of the game – Mathew Barzal

Team Grade – C+

This Islanders team was tired, and you could tell by the end of the game they did not have any energy left to mount a comeback.  Mathew Barzal scored late in the first period on a wicked wrister, and Brock Nelson made it 2-0 even later in the first to put the pressure on Vegas.

However, as Vegas has done many times this season, they started to chip away at the lead.  Brandon Pirri scored on the PP in the second, then three consecutive goals in the third, including an empty netter by Nate Schmidt, sealed the Isles’ fate.  It was an unfortunate outcome for the Islanders but one they deserved, as they were lucky to escape with the lead in the first period.  Vegas hounded them almost the whole game, and deserved the win.

New York Islanders @ Dallas Stars – December 23rd, 2018

Score – 3-1 Islanders

Player of the game – Casey Cizikas

Team Grade – A-

It was another great defensive game by the Islanders, and another great win for Robin Lehner, who was excellent and stopped 19 of 20 shots.  It may not seem like much, but Lehner had to make a few big saves to keep the game within reach.  The Islanders eventually got some bounces, but they played well enough to deserve those bounces.

After a scoreless first period and an early goal by the Stars, the Islanders completely took over the game in the second period.  Casey Cizikas tied the contest up at 1 with a crazy shot that took a bounce off the top of the net, off the back of Kari Lehtonen and in.  Anders Lee deposited yet another crease-front goal on the PP, and Leo Komarov finished off the scoring with an empty netter to put the game away.

Ottawa Senators @ New York Islanders – December 28th, 2018

Score – 6-3 Islanders

Player of the game – Mathew Barzal

Team Grade – B-

The Islanders were extremely lucky that they were playing a third string goaltender on a very young team.  If they were playing a veteran team, there’s very little chance they would have been able to come back in this game.  They just flat out didn’t play well the first half of the game, going down 2-0 early into the second.  Josh Bailey got a goal back on the PP, but Ottawa pushed the lead back to 3-1 before the Isles came alive.

Anders Lee made it a close game with a nifty goal to end the second period, Johnny Boychuk tied it up with a rocket from the point, and then the Mat Barzal show took over.  In case you haven’t noticed, his name has been on here a lot, as it should be.  Barzal put the team on his back as he scored two goals in the third.  Casey Cizikas topped the game off with a nice empty net goal, and the Islanders started another winning streak.

New York Islanders @ Toronto Maple Leafs – December 29th, 2018

Score – 4-0 Islanderrs

Player of the game – Mathew Barzal

Team Grade – A++++++++++++++

If there is a game that could define the Islander’s season, this is it.  This was and will probably continue to be the best game the Isles have played in years.  It was a complete team effort in a hostile environment.  It was a team effort against a new enemy, and essentially a game that proved this team belongs with just about anyone in the league.

The Islanders kept the talented Leafs at bay all game, and Robin Lehner had his best performance of the season with 36 saves.  Val Filppula scored in the first period after splitting two defensemen.  That goal gave young forward Michael Dal Colle the first point of his young NHL career.  And then just like that, it turned into the Mathew Barzal show once again.

No one’s sure if it’s because Barzal just decided to finally trust his shot, some animosity for former captain John Tavares, or a little bit of both but Barzal looked like a man possessed.  Barzal scored in the second three times, including a beautiful tip on the PP.  He scored the first natural hat trick of his career, and it was all done within eight minutes.  It was a very impressive performance and the Isles never looked back.

Barzal has all the swagger to become the man for the Islanders.  What he lacks in experience he makes up for in moxie, and scoring a natural hat trick on Hockey Night in Canada against the “prodigal” son in John Tavares shows no lights are too bright for this kid.

New York Islanders @ Buffalo Sabres – December 31st, 2018

Score – 3-1 Islanders

Player of the game –  Robin Lehner

Team Grade – A-

Most fans, including myself, would have thought that after back to back games, three games in four days, and an emotional victory in Toronto that the Islanders would let up against Buffalo.  We were all wrong, as the Islanders took it to the Sabres and Robin Lehner stood on his head, making 39 saves in the contest.

The lone blemish was a Kyle Okposo snipe on the PP, but both Lehner and Carter Hutton were EXCELLENT in this game.  Without Hutton, the Islanders could have easily won this game by six goals.  Hutton made one of the best saves of the year on Josh Bailey, managing to put a stick on Bailey’s shot at a wide open net.  Regardless, Leo Komarov scored in the second, Brock Nelson took the lead to 2-0 with a beautiful wrister that Hutton just missed stopping, and Ryan Pulock scored probably the strangest empty net goal I’ve ever seen.

His goal came about thanks to Zach Bogosian trying to keep it in the offensive zone with an empty net.  Bogosian gloved it but it deflected off the top of his glove and rolled all the way down into the empty net.  Of course, Robin Lehner got the primary assist on it to cap off a great night.

 

What a week for the Islanders.  They are buzzing right now and are only looking to improve.  They are just two points out of a playoff spot with games in hand, and as the new year begins there’s no better way to start it off than with a four game winning streak.  Their next game is nationally televised against the Chicago Blackhawks on Thursday.  It’s at Nassau Coliseum, so the crowd will be lively.  Hopefully they can secure another win on a national stage.

 

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