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Five for Five: Like a Rolling Stone

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New for the 2019-20 season for Isles Blog, our Rob Taub each Monday will give you his thoughts on five important things to key on for that week’s games for the New York Islanders.

It was just a few weeks ago that it looked like the New York Islanders were on the verge of facing an early-season crisis. Then fast forward to today, they’ve won seven straight games and are the hottest team in the National Hockey League.

Everything is clicking for the Isles right now. The offense, led by Mathew Barzal, has come alive — 22 goals the last seven games including five last night. Defensively, the team is back to playing their steady game from last year. And the goaltending has been stellar. The duo of Semyon Varlamov and Thomas Greiss have combined for all seven wins during the team’s current streak.

“We got contributions through our whole lineup”, was Trotz’s response after a dominating win over the Flyers.

That’s how good times are for the Isles even though they are missing four of their forwards. The reason why? The next man up mentality.

Whomever Trotz has inserted into the lineup, whether it’d be Ross Johnston, Cole Bardreau or Noah Dobson, they’re finding ways to make the most of their opportunities. Johnston and Bardreau actually combined for the Islanders’ third goal last night. Bardreau, who fed Johnston the pass, notched his first NHL point on the play. Dobson didn’t record any points against Ottawa, but he was a +2 for the night.

Getting back Casey Cizikas has also allowed Trotz to roll four lines again. His return has also re-enhanced the fourth line and its ability to set the tone from the drop of the puck.

With another four-day break until a back-to-back against Tampa Bay and Buffalo, the Isles again have the luxury of getting back to full strength. Leo Komarov could return from the illness that’s caused him to miss the past few games, Jordan Eberle can continue taking his time nursing a leg injury, and Andrew Ladd can hopefully keep progressing to where he can finally appear this year.

Here are the five things to look out for this week:

The offense keeps scoring.

For all the hoopla about how inept the Isles’ attack was supposed to be this year, they’re shutting everybody up right now.

“Over the course of last year and even at the start of this year, we were having trouble scoring goals,” Barzal told reporters Sunday. “The last seven or eight games, we really made a point to bear down on our chances. I think it’s just chemistry at the same time.”

And they’re doing it in a variety of ways. In the last three games, the Islanders have scored 13 goals and its coming from all four lines. They’ve scored playing with the lead, coming from behind, penalty shots, power plays, etc. Sunday was their most complete performance offensively this year with eight of their 12 forwards dressed on Sunday recording at least a point. Facing two of the better offenses in the Lightning and Sabres, the Isles could find themselves in some high-scoring affairs. But over the last two weeks, they’ve shown they’re up for the challenge.

Brocktober lives on.

The first month of the year has always been good to Brock Nelson, and it was no different this time around either. Nelson, following three points in his last three contests, ended October tied for the team lead in points with ten. The calendar now turns as the Isles’ next game is November 1st. Over the years, Nelson’s hot starts are usually followed up by him going missing for a number of games. But the Islanders need Nelson to build off the opening month and really kick it into high gear. It’s definitely realistic with the recent chemistry he’s begun to develop with the re-energized Anthony Beauvillier and newcomer Derick Brassard.

The penalty kill.

One of the underlying factors in the Isles’ recent run has been an improved penalty kill. During their seven-game winning streak, the Islanders pk units have allowed just three goals on 19 attempts. The last three games they’ve been extraordinary — 12 of 13. Adam Pelech and Scott Mayfield have been rock solid and continue to be ultra-aggressive. So has Cal Clutterbuck and the re-emerged Casey Cizikas. When Cizikas returned last Thursday against Arizona, he and Clutterbuck’s forecheck 5-on-4 resulted in a few dangerous scoring chances.

Devon Toews.

Toews has been exceptional after he got off to a slow start. The team leader in points for a d-man with eight thus far, he heads into Friday night riding a three-game point streak and having recorded five assists in his last seven games played. What’s more noticeable is he’s jumping up in the play more and more. Toews has shown he’s not afraid to join the rush and chip in offensively and the Islanders are seeing positive results from it.

Keep racking up wins.

Backing all six points in a three-game in a four-day span is always more than the fans could ask for. But even with room to improve, the more victories the Isles have, the more they are going to separate themselves in the Metro Division. Nothing is going to come easy against Tampa or Buffalo, but confidence and swagger are beginning to really show from this Islander club. This might not even be the best this club is capable of.

Follow me on Twitter @RTaub_

 

 

 

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