New for this season, Our Rob Taub will give his preview of the week ahead for the New York Islanders. There will be what to watch for, and one x-factor for both the Isles and the opposing team they face that night.
The New York Islanders have finally hit a wall. On offense, the team has begun to slow down. Defensively and in goal, there’s been killer mistakes, yet they have played a more complete game as of late. It’s the special teams that have the Isles in a 2-3-1 tailspin the last six games. New York is still in the thick of the fight for the top spot in the Metro Division. But if they continue their sub-par play from the past two weeks, things could start to get hairy.
This week, the four games the Islanders have on tap could put them right back and have everyone feeling good as the week of Christmas comes upon us. Each game has that measuring stick feel to it. As it should. The best of the best is coming this week, and the Isles need to be ready.
Tonight: vs Washington Capitals
After a disappointing end to their four-game road swing in Boston Saturday night, the Islanders will look to get going in the right direction when the Capitals come to Barclays for a big division matchup later tonight. These two teams are separated by just two points in the standings, making this contest a four-point swing. New York and Washington met in early November with the Caps prevailing 4-3 despite the Islanders dominating the game from start to finish. The Isles went 2-1-0 last year at home against Washington.
This game will feature two of the best offenses in the league, the Islanders second best, and the Capitals tenth. It’s also a showdown between Alex Ovechkin and John Tavares, who are both in the top five in goals since the season started. These games always usually come down to the wire, so it should make for a fun, high-spirited affair.
Matchup to watch: Washington’s lethal power play against the Isles struggling penalty kill.
X-Factors: Nicklas Backstrom, Anders Lee
Wednesday: vs Dallas Stars
The Isles continue their seven out of nine-game swing at home before the New Year with a rare Wednesday night game this week against the Dallas Stars. Early last month, these two teams played in Dallas with the Stars embarrassing the Isles 5-0, in one of the worst “Dougie Blowouts” of the season. So even though it’s an outer-division game, a measure of revenge could be on the minds of the Islanders players and possibly head coach Doug Weight.
New York’s record at home against the Western Conference since moving to Barclays is dominant, and it seems that no matter what type of game it is, they always find a way to pull it out. Wednesday’s game will also feature a key matchup between two of the best blueliners in the game this year in John Klingberg and Nick Leddy.
Matchup to watch: Down the middle. Dallas ranks number three in the league in faceoff percentage, while the Isles are in the bottom three in that category. Could be the deciding factor for who comes out on top.
X-Factors: Radek Faksa, Josh Ho-Sang
Thursday: at Columbus Blue Jackets
As soon as the Isles finish with the Stars Wednesday night, they’ll hop right on a plane for Ohio where they’ll meet the Blue Jackets for the back end of two games in 24 hours. Columbus has been sort of a house of horrors for New York since last year, including opening night from this season where they were throttled 5-0. This game also will have huge implications depending on the results from the Islanders two games earlier in the week, as it could be another four-point swing.
The Blue Jackets have been in the first or second spot of the Metro since the year began, and the Islanders are one of the teams trying to chase them and soon enough jump them. If the Islanders are going to stick around and try and win the division, this is the type of game they must win.
Matchup to watch: The Islanders high-powered offense against the steadfast Columbus defense and Sergei Bobrovsky. New York is number two in goals for per game, while the Blue Jackets are in the top-three in goals against only allowing only 2.40 per game.
X-Factors: Pierre-Luc Dubois, Mathew Barzal
Saturday: vs Los Angeles Kings
Another massive four-game week ends Saturday night when the Isles welcome the Kings to Brooklyn. Los Angeles has been one of the surprise teams in the Western Conference all year, and they are one of the best teams on the road in the league this year. New York got their first taste of the improved-Kings when they met back in early October with Los Angeles coming out on top 3-2. Saturday’s game will also be the 15th game of the season for the Isles against a Western Conference opponent, their ninth on home ice.
Both these clubs are almost similar in the special teams’ department, but in an odd way. The Islanders have a solid power play and bad penalty kill. Los Angeles on the other hand, has the best penalty kill and dreadful power play. Safe to say, if this game comes down to special teams, it’s basically a toss-up.
Matchup to watch: The Islanders offense against Jonathan Quick. New York rolls four lines deep, and they will have their hands full with Quick and the frontline in front of him who rank number one in the league only allowing 2.19 goals a game.
X-Factors: Jake Muzzin, Adam Pelech