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 Islanders’ ten-game winning streak came to a heartbreaking conclusion last week. And though it stings, they are still playing their best brand of hockey since the season began.
Barry Trotz’ club responded from their OT loss to the Penguins in solid fashion, beating the Florida Panthers 3-1, and pushing their record to 11-0-1 in their last 12 games.
“Nice response from our team. We had the lead again going into the third period and knew we didn’t want to lose it there,” Mathew Barzal said after the game. “They got one back on the power play and then we got one back in the next shift. It was a good response by our group.”
Another positive for the Isles was getting back some healthy bodies. Defenseman Nick Leddy — who missed three games — and forward Jordan Eberle, who missed close to a month, both returned to the lineup and didn’t look out of place. Eberle came close to getting his first goal of the year and had four shots in the game; Leddy was back on the top pairing with his partner, Johnny Boychuk.
As for the goaltending, Thomas Greiss and Semyon Varlamov continue to excel as a duo.
Greiss was a wall in Saturday’s victory and as The Athletic’s Arthur Staple pointed out, he still has the best save percentage of any goalie in the league since the start of last season. Varlamov, despite the tough third period against the Pens, has been steady only allowing 18 goals on 237 shots against.
With just two games on the docket this week — home to old pal John Tavares and the Maple Leafs Wednesday night and a quick trip to Philly Saturday night — the Isles get the chance to extend their point streak. They can also keep on inching closer to the division-leading Capitals, who have won six straight and are 10-0-1 in their last 11 contests.
Here are five things to look for this week:
Brock Nelson regains his scoring touch.
After his rip-roaring October, November has been a cold month so far for Nelson. Nelson’s gone eight games without a goal — the last being the OT winner on October 19th in Columbus — and has just two assists in his last seven games. The Isles’ offense has been booming as of late and it’s come with Nelson in a bit of a rut. To get him going again would help the team, especially this week where the two opponents have the tendency to turn games into high goal-scoring affairs.
Andrew Ladd returns?
It’s only a matter of time before Ladd finally makes his first appearance with the Islanders since the middle of last season after suffering a torn ACL. Ladd has been getting back into game shape over the past week in Bridgeport and yesterday recorded a goal in the Sound Tigers’ 2-1 loss. The 33-year-old’s return comes at a time where the Islanders are red-hot and he could add another dynamic to how Trotz rolls his four lines. Does he get his shot on the second line with Nelson and provide a spark? Maybe the third line with a rejuvenated Anthony Beauvillier and Derick Brassard? Some interesting things could be coming the Islanders’ way with #16 back in the fold.
Kubiak ➡️ Aho ➡️ Ladd 🚨 pic.twitter.com/zelZbCHM97
— Bridgeport Sound Tigers (@TheSoundTigers) November 10, 2019
Home ice has been quite favorable to the Islanders since from when they went on their streak, but they’ve also been fantastic on the visiting side. Since getting steamrolled in Carolina in their first road game, Trotz and Co. have won four in a row and have scored three or more goals in three of the four games. Wells Fargo Center always is a hard barn for the Islanders to play in, but with how they’re playing, they’ll have every chance to keep up their Road Warrior status.
Owning the Atlantic.
The Isles’ domination of the Atlantic Division early on this season hasn’t gotten much attention. With Toronto coming to the Coliseum, they can extend their mark to 6-0-0 against the division. This Islanders team has shown they’re not afraid to go toe-to-toe with the high-scoring clubs in the division — three goals twice vs Florida, four goals twice against Ottawa, five goals in their win against Tampa Bay.
Round three against JT.
Even with all the time that has passed, and all the good that’s come for the Islanders and their fans, seeing #91 in blue and white should raise the stakes two nights from now. The Isles made a statement in Tavares’ return last February, beating upon him and the Leafs 6-1 on Coliseum ice. Tavares and his team exacted revenge with a 2-1 win, but the bad blood was still felt among the fans. The Leafs come in dealing with some adversity — they just lost Mitch Marner for the next four weeks and have struggled defensively — which makes for a juicy matchup. Trotz’s crew will be rested and the Islander faithful should be out in full force, making up what will be another amazing atmosphere.
Follow me on Twitter at @RTaub_