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Five for Five: Chasing History

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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.

The beat rolls on for the New York Islanders.

Following Saturday night’s 1-0 win in Buffalo, the team and goalie Semyon Varlamov’s first shutout of the season, the Islanders won their ninth in a row. The Isles are defying the hockey world right now. And just as we pointed out last week, everything is falling in their favor right now.

There have been few instances during this current run too where Barry Trotz’s team has played bad. They’ve outscored the opposition during their streak 32-16. The defense and goaltending have allowed two or fewer goals in seven of the nine wins. Plus, aside from the whole second period and the first ten minutes of the third against the Blues and in Columbus, the Islanders have either been playing from ahead or just suffocating teams with their forecheck.

The rest of the league’s pundits are starting to take notice of the Isles too. Many who pegged the Islanders to struggle are changing their tune and praising how they’ve turned their season around.

“It’s been that way pretty much my entire time here,” captain Anders Lee said to ESPN last week. “We go out there and do our best. We’re used to having people doubt us, used to not having people pick us to make the playoffs and all those things — maybe because of the rough patch we had.”

Currently, the Islanders sit with 20 points, good enough for second place in the Metropolitan Division. Forward Derick Brassard, who was being lambasted the first eight games of the season, is riding a five-game goal streak; he’s got six points in his last five games; Lee and d-man Ryan Pulock have also come alive — #27 five points in his last three games, #6 with two goals in his last three games.

This week, the scene for the Islanders shifts to Barclays Center with the Senators, Penguins and Panthers on the schedule. If they are victorious in all three, they will come within four games of breaking the franchises’ all-time streak of 15 wins in a row.

Here’s the five things to think about this week:

Home Cooking?

As of late, home ice has been good to the Islanders even with the lack of attendance at Nassau Coliseum. The team has won five straight at home and have done it in convincing fashion. Transitioning to Brooklyn for the next three — and most of this month — will be interesting. The Isles were mostly good in their Brooklyn part of the schedule last season. But — and it’s a totally different situation — they were riding momentum after they swept the Penguins before they had to move from the Coliseum to Barclays to start the second round last spring. We all know how that ended. Hopefully, they don’t suffer the same fate.

Do we see the debut of Otto Koivula?

Koivula got called up the middle of last week after Matt Martin and Tom Kuhnhackl both were placed on IR. He didn’t get to play in either of the team’s wins over Tampa and Buffalo, and, was loaned back to AHL Bridgeport where he scored two goals in the Sound Tigers win yesterday. Koivula is likely to get the call again with forward Jordan Eberle still rehabbing and Leo Komarov still sick. Do we see him play his first game? After all, the organization has already seen rookies Noah Dobson, Oliver Wahlstrom and Cole Bardreau all get their first NHL game under their belts.

Josh Bailey.

Bailey has stepped his game up in recent weeks and only continues to score. Already with five goals on the year, the 11th year pro is shooting at an insane 38.5%. While that number might be an outlier, Bailey is converting on his chances. Yet to record 20 goals, Bailey is on pace to finally crack that plateau. And if not for his timely goals, Bailey’s contribution to the top-six has made the Isles’ offense even more dangerous.

The goaltending remains on point.

There isn’t a duo more on top of their game right now than Varlamov and Thomas Greiss. Both goalies are at five wins apiece and are sporting a save percentage of above .928. It doesn’t seem to matter who coach Trotz tabs in goal as well, Greiss and Varlamov are giving the Islanders a chance to win every night.  The team finally plays a regular schedule after having two long breaks between games, so how Greiss and Varlamov are rotated still provides intrigue.

Playoff Rematch.

Thursday night marks the first time the Islanders and Penguins will square off since the Isles 4-0 sweep last April. Pittsburgh has had a rocky first month of the season and been hammered with injuries. Tensions should be higher knowing that the Islanders almost singlehandedly ended the Pens’ dynasty overnight. Both clubs will be represented by the same rosters from their series, other than a few changes on Pittsburgh’s end. The game not being played at the Coliseum after what the atmosphere was like for games 1 and 2 last spring could play a factor.

Follow me on Twitter at @RTaub_

 

 

 

 

 

 

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