It was nice to finally see the Islanders come away with a win — especially for the rook Christopher Gibson. Now with the club still slim playoff hopes alive, can the team find a way to possibly go on a run, and make these next four weeks more intriguing. Time will tell if that’s the case. There’s always a few things during each week of the season that has an impact, and this week coming is no different.
Our Rob Taub tells us five things to watch out for through games 71 to 74:
1. Will the Caps and Canes bring out the best in the Isles?
It’s no secret, the Islanders have played much better as of late. And with their next three games all against division opponents, the Isles will have to continue their solid play. What should also help the Isles, is they will have a chance to play so-called spoiler not only to a team in the same position as them but a team looking to win the Metro crown.
Each of the games against Washington and Carolina have been hard fought for the Isles this season. But with the circumstances now surrounding their season and finally getting a win, these games could be game-changers for the blue and orange.
No team ever wants to lose to a division foe, and for New York now is not the time to give away free points. After all, it is Alex Ovechkin, and their new nemesis, Sebastian Aho.
2. Can Thomas Hickey continue his strong play?
Thomas Hickey without question is playing his best hockey of the season. Maybe it was playing in front of family and friends that finally turned the switch on for the Calgary Native. But over the past 11 games or so, Hickey has been the team’s best d-man, registering seven points.
What’s also been noticeable about Hickey, is he has seemed to find chemistry Ryan Pulock. According to leftwinglock.com, Hickey and Pulock played for 31% of the game in Calgary, and 30.3% over the last ten games.
Hickey is an unrestricted free agent in a few weeks, but unless he’s playing this well looking for a new contract, the Islanders are benefitting from his performance. If he can keep it up, maybe the Isles squeak in the playoffs or end the season on a high note. Either way, Hickey must sustain his play over the past month.
3. Will Anders Lee break his career-high in goals from last year?
It hasn’t been the most riveting second half of the year for Anders Lee. Before the All-Star break, Lee was near the top of the scoring charts in the league. As of late, his goal-scoring prowess has started to come out again.
Over the past four games, Lee has three goals and is now just one goal from tying his career-best from a season ago with 34. Him and his linemates — John Tavares and Josh Bailey — have also started to find their game again on the road trip.
With three games this week — and him continuing to put pucks in the back of the net again — Lee will have many chances to beat the 34-goal plateau. The power play, even strength, there’s no doubt Lee should find the puck on his stick.
4. Does Chris Gibson get more starts?
Well, there’s no argument that the rookie netminder deserves to be between the pipes more and more as the season winds down. Gibson was laser sharp on the road trip, despite only securing one win in three starts. But when you shut down some of the games best — Crosby, Malkin, McDavid, and Gaudreau — receiving the nod for at least two, or maybe all three starts this week shouldn’t be a debate.
Gibson has shown the poise and demeanor that the Islanders have lacked in goal basically all season with the Jaro Halak-Thomas Greiss duo. And the situation the team is in — still fighting for the postseason — riding Gibson isn’t the worst possible thing.
With three games in four nights, Doug Weight and staff shouldn’t want to burn Gibson out, but if he gives the club the best chance to win and keep them alive for another day, they need to go with him.
5. Is Andrew Ladd finally going to score a goal?
Doug Weight moved Ladd to the line with Jordan Eberle and Mat Barzal to ultimately get him going. It’s only been one game, but it seemed to have worked.
Ladd did have three shots on Sunday night but didn’t find the back of the net.
It’s been 25 games since Ladd lit the lamp. It feels like a lifetime ago. One of them is going to go in someway, somehow.