As the calendar year switches to 2019, it’s time to reflect on some areas that need to be focused on for the New York Islanders. After finishing 2018 on a high note, beating the Buffalo Sabres 3-1 and winning seven of their last eight games of the calendar year, it is time to shift focus on 2019.
1. Finding Their Identity
The first of these resolutions would be to figure out where the team stands, are the New York Islanders going to be a buyer or a seller at the NHL trade deadline? The Isles are riding a hot streak at the moment, but find themselves a point outside of the playoffs with at least a game in hand on every team they’re within a point of.
With a roster that is filled with young players who are finally getting their shot in the NHL, such as Michael Dal Colle and Devon Toews, it is time to see what those players can do for you and if this roster is good enough to string together enough wins to make the playoffs comfortably.
One thing the Isles must do to show they can be a contender is win those games they have in hand on the likes of the Canadiens, Bruins, Penguins, and Blue Jackets. Once they do that, they’ll have the upper hand, and as long as they don’t suffer a similar midseason collapse as they did last season, they may find themselves contending for the Stanley Cup this year.
2. Mathew Barzal to Keep Shooting the Puck
During the last three games of 2018, Mathew Barzal had five goals and added two helpers for seven points, and a large part of that had to do with him starting to shoot the puck. Prior to those three games, Barzal only had five goals all season, and that was because he’d always pass the puck in nearly every situation.
Mathew Barzal looked like a whole new player once he found confidence in his shot, and it has been helping the Isles become a better team ever since, so if he keeps shooting the puck, he could find himself amongst one of the better players in the league.
Barzal’s skating and playmaking ability is already dangerous as it is, but if he continues to shoot the puck, and with confidence, he could be a whole lot more dangerous than he already is.
3. Robin Lehner to Stay Consistent
Robin Lehner has been one of the best goaltenders in the league to start the season. Going into the month of January, Lehner leads the league in Goals Against Average (2.14) and Save Percentage (93%), and also adding a 9-6-3 record with two shutouts.
Lehner posted a record of 5-1-1 in the month of December along with an astounding .962 SV% and a 1.06 GAA, along with a shutout victory against the Toronto Maple Leafs on the 29th.
If Lehner can continue to the play the way he has been playing, or at least close to it, the Islanders could find themselves something they haven’t had since the days of Rick DiPietro- a reliable goaltender.
The name of the game for all of these resolutions is consistency, the one thing the New York Islanders lacked all of last year, which was why the Islanders fell out of the playoff race last season. If the Islanders find that level of consistency and get hot enough towards the end of the season, maybe this season will be something special.